So… what did everybody think of The Name of the Doctor? Were you impressed? Disappointed? Confused? Did it do an adequate job of tying up all the loose ends of this season?
Ben: I was actually really blown away by The Name of the Doctor. It was for the most part really restrained and well thought out, and it didn’t have that sort of slightly gross epic feel that a lot of the finales have had. I think we can also say that they’ve worked out how to use Matt Smith, because he was really brilliant in this. I’ve said before that his Doctor is very close to being held together entirely by affectations but, and maybe I’m being too generous here, but it felt like this episode was saying “yeah, and that’s the point.”
Alex: I loved it. I’m a Moffat fangirl and I thought this was Moffat doing what he does best. I feel like he’s been a little bogged down lately (I’m a little worried the show runner job is affecting him a bit) but The Name of the Doctor was great.
One of my favourite things about Moffat as a writer is that way that he can make you laugh between sobs. This episode had a lot of that, it was sad and it was funny all at once. It reminded me of Press Gang in places which was really nice.
Kyle: The episode was great (I’ve watched it twice now) and I thought it was excellently paced. I enjoyed the lightbulb moment when the Great Intelligence was talking about confetti, and thought Clara’s story arc was a lovely thought well executed. There were two main things that confused me. I don’t know what the kids added to the storyline, and I’m happy to let that comment sit as is, and I can’t understand why Clara behaved the way she did all of this season. There were two mysteries I wanted solved: how has she appeared so many times throughout history, and why is this character so obsessed with her unrestrained loyalty to the Doctor? I almost expected both questions would be answered in one “she was born as your pair” kind of deal and I’m terribly glad that’s not the case.
Ben: I totally agree with you about Clara. I’m just stoked that it wasn’t another “don’t you see? The answer is feelings!” explanation. I’m also getting pretty tired, as are a lot of people, with this “everybody lives” stuff. Jenny dies in this episode. She’s the perfect character to do so. She’s well liked, has had good character development this season (beyond lol gay) and, really importantly, her death would mean a lot of change for quite a few characters.
Imagine if Mofffat hadn’t brought Jenny back. Imagine what that would have done for the relationship between Vastra and the Doctor. That would have been amazing. A person with a grievance with or vendetta against the Doctor that’s actually legitimate, rather than “I don’t like you because I’m a goo monster”.
Alex: I think that’s a valid comment. On the one hand, it’s going to be a pretty hard habit to break: Moffat is yet to actually kill a significant character ever in his whole career. On the other hand, that only works if we always believe that he might just do it. I agree that with Jenny I never really felt like she was dead and that was a shame. It lacked the emotional punch it could have had and was then swept under the carpet.
Ben: Also it was good to see the Great Intelligence wrap up, for no other reason than now we don’t have to deal with that character ever again. Am I the only one who had no idea what the Great Intelligence was doing or what it wanted or why it was there?
Patrick: Well, the Great Intelligence is a villain from two 1960s stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear (hence its first two appearances in the new series being The Snowmen and a story about the World Wide Web, ho ho ho), but it’s pretty much the not-embodiment of a villain who is EEEEEEEVIL without any great motivation.
Ben: Yeah that’s the sense I get. Sinister top hat + permanent scowl ≠ character.
Patrick: And being played by Richard E Grant didn’t help.
How about the season as a whole? What were the highlights and lowlights?
David: The Rings of Akhaten! The more Doctor Who sheds the shackles of the terror-in-the-mundane the better. Akhaten had splendid scope, realising the mores of a whole culture in a deft thumbnail-sketch of an episode. How common are season-long metaplots in old Doctor Who? The device of Clara the Impossible Girl probably isn’t as intriguing as Moffat hoped. I’m perfectly happy to watch a plot that runs over two or three episodes, but I certainly find it hard to pick up on subtle delphic hints stretching back to the start of the season, even if they’re all neatly catalogued in helpful flashbacks when it’s revealed.
Patrick: In fan circles, the “terror-in-the-mundane” aesthetic is known as “Yeti-on-the-loo” theory. I completely agree with you on Akhaten, it was one of my favourite episodes since 2005. Season-long plots have been a mainstay of the series since the return, but I think we’re really approaching the limit of their effectiveness.
Alex: As far as the whole season goes, it actually took me a few episodes to get into it this year. The first episode that really grabbed me was Cold War. That episode stayed with me all week in a way Doctor Who hasn’t for a while. I kept thinking about it. It was a story about the Cold War from the perspective of the Russians! How cool is that? It also has added rewatch value if you pretend that the Ice Warriors hands are actually the feet of a GIANT CHICKEN.
My favourite episode though, was Hide. I know it was problematic in places and there were some holes. And the weird love story. Whatever. I loved it. I thought it was a beautiful period episode.
I also really liked the way that the monster turned out to be just misunderstood. I think we sometimes forget that Doctor Who is actually a show for 5 year olds. Screw all the rest of us arguing about it on the net, it’s about the kids hiding behind the lounge. Without them there’d be no one to grow up and argue about it on the internet. I liked the way this episode took the monster under the bed and turned it into a star-struck lover.
I think it’s interesting how much this season has divided people. Take The Crimson Horror, for example. I know a lot of people who loved that episode and have said it’s one of their favourites from the block. I thought it was terribad. So terribad it was almost a work of comic genius.
Ben: You’re right, because I have the exact opposite reaction to you! I thought Crimson Horror, while high camp and silly, was streets ahead of Cold War, which I actually reckon was one of the low points. The idea of seeing things from the Russian’s perspective at first is pretty much the opening scene of The Hunt for Red October, and beyond that, it seemed to be to be a bottle episode in the style of Davies’ excellent and claustrophobic and super clever Midnight, but far far worse.
Kyle: For me the highlights were Asylum of the Daleks (incidentally my first Doctor Who episode) and in watching it I loved the Doctor and Clara immediately which is probably why it stands out. I believed their chemistry and even thought I saw the twist coming, I found it awfully sad as it played out.
Alex: I like Clara a lot. I think she’s surprisingly well developed, especially considering she’s only really been around for eight episodes (plus Asylum and Snowmen). It feels like her and the Doctor almost have a sort of mentor/protégé relationship. She isn’t as in awe of him as the other new companions have been. And she insists on being dropped home after every adventure. I like that.
How do you feel about Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor has been this season? Better or worse than in previous seasons?
Ben: His reaction to the news about Trenzalore (in The Name of the Doctor) was fantastic. All the whizbang fun affectation drops away, and you see it’s a show.
Kyle: This was my first season with the Doctor, so for me this is more a “what do you think of the idea of a quirky, infinitely confident, patronizing yet kind, alien Time Lord?” And to that end I thought he was amazing.
Alex: I am a pretty avid fan of Matt Smith as a human being to be honest. I enjoy his face. I’ve enjoyed the darkness that has crept in lately. He’s going from strength to strength, and been very good this season. He does OLD so well; none of the other have felt quite as 900 years old as Matt does.
And that brings us to the end of the discussion. Any closing remarks?
Kyle: In Back to the Future 3, the Doc’s girlfriend is also called Clara… coincidence? Homage? More? Less? Who knows!? Moffat? Probably.
Ben: This season has finally shown that Moffat can actually deliver on a promising idea. Let’s hope it’s true of next season because, boy howdy, it looks like it’s got a lot of promise.
Alex: Bring on November 23rd!
Ben Jenkins is a freelance writer and performer who works for The Chaser. He is the founder of Story Club, a monthly storytelling event in Sydney, and blogs at A Baffling Ordeal.
Alex Neill is a freelance writer from Newcastle. She blogs at Adventures in TV-Land.
David Cunningham is a comedian who despite his best efforts will probably be known forever as the genius behind A Royal Day Out.
Kyle Solomon is an excellent chess-player. This is the first time he’s ever watched Doctor Who.
When not gathering more talented writers than himself to talk about Doctor Who, Patrick Magee is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. More of his ramblings can be found here, and you can buy his novel As Baile: A Story here.