The Name of the Doctor
Production Code: 3.13.
Doctor Who Season: S33 (Ep13).
Story Number: 239.
What is the story of Doctor Who?
One popular myth regarding the television programme Doctor Who is that the lead character isn’t “Doctor Who”. Within the fiction of the programme itself, it’s correct to say that is not an appellation the Doctor uses, preferring to bestow upon himself “the Doctor”.
However, when Doctor Who began, the role was credited as “Dr. Who”. That is the role William Hartnell played. “Eh, Doctor who? — what’s he talking about?” – Hartnell’s Doctor spoke those words to his first companions.
What is the story of Doctor Who, then?
It began with the Doctor, and the TARDIS. Along the way he was joined by companions. A fourth iconic element was added in the second serial – the Daleks.
This past season (and the last episode of the previous season which was a kind of prologue to the next adventures) have actually made a gigantic thing, literally, of these four icons. The Wedding of River Song – a gigantic Doctor, in comparison to the Doctor himself. The Doctor as a larger-than-life figure.
The season began proper with a gigantic Dalek, a landmark on Skaro, a building that the Doctor peers out of. It closes with another gigantic landmark of a Doctor Who icon, or rather a grave marker.
What of the fourth icon? Gigantic? Well maybe it’s appropriate to say gigantic when the scale of the Claras is considered – thousands of them across Space and Time. Is Clara “the Companion” as such though, isn’t she merely… Clara?
The wonderful sequence that begins this story – actually, Clara was shown to be: The Companion.
Beyond these 45 minutes is an epic scale of story – all those Claras, we’ve seen Oswin in her own Doctor Who story already, the Governess too, though it’s great to see more. (Intriguingly that’s Oswin standing with the Tenth Doctor in the foreground – at River’s Library!)
We see ’60s Clara, ’70s Clara, and ’80s Clara. A curious question is raised by these Claras – we recognise ’80s Clara running to the Doctor, and the stories she’s running within are Dragonfire then Arc of Infinity. Running to save the Seventh Doctor, running to save the Fifth Doctor. So at first glance (and this sequence is repeated once we have a greater understanding of what the Doctor’s grave contains) a viewer may assume she’s part of the events of these stories just as two other Claras (Oswin, the Governess) have been this series.
What is the story of Doctor Who, then, and does it have an end?
It’s the story of Doctor Who that Clara leaps into.
“The path I carved through time and space, from Gallifrey to Trenzalore. My own personal time tunnel, leading back to every moment I ever lived”.
Doctor Who himself. Doctor Who itself.
Clara becomes entangled in Doctor Who, and echos of her are scattered from the start (Gallifrey) to the end (Trenzalore).
The Gallifrey Clara sequence is another Clara sequence such as that represented by the appearances of Oswin.
We see ’80s Clara. It’s the process of entanglement we’re seeing.
The ’80s Clara represents more than simply another Clara experiencing an adventure. Look again at that Clara looking at Dragonfire and you’ll see she’s running along a TARDIS corridor to tap at the window to the Seventh Doctor – this moment isn’t a potential companion for the Doctor like Ray from Delta and the Bannermen (although the costume of ’80s Clara is a combination of Ace and Ray), it’s Clara as The Companion, across three decades of Doctor Who she is The Companion.
II. River Song.
The story of River Song has been a long and complicated one, and mainly told backwards.
By starting at the end of River’s story – when the Doctor first meets her – Moffat was then spinning the yarn to its logical “endpoint”, that of the story of how she first meets the Doctor. The backwards-narrative lasts for six stories across 2008, 2010 (two), 2011 – the third River story of that year 2011 is the “endpoint” of how River meets the Doctor.
The season finale of 2011 (the fourth River story that year) is when the two personal timestreams of the Doctor and River begin to weave around each other like a cat’s cradle instead of simply being the opposite direction.
After that episode – The Wedding of River Song – there’s been a story-episode each year: the Weeping Angels story of 2012, and now this story for 2013.
If that New York-set story of 2012 was about how the Doctor “hates endings” then this story The Name of the Doctor is about the love Doctor finally shows for River – and what could quite possibly be her “final chapter”.
Not only is this episode about the untold story of the Claras, and a closing chapter for River song – then astonishing end of the episode is the revelation of a whole missing chapter of the Doctor’s lives.
III. The Great Intelligence.
First the Snowmen story.
Then the Web story.
Now the Multi-Doctor story.
IV. The leaf.
Originally seen in The Bells of Saint John, then seemingly lost in The Rings of Akhaten, it returns here as an anchor for Clara – her own personal mythology, to tether her back to her self so she isn’t swept away by all the dizzying never-ending other stories of all those other Companions and all those Doctors.