The Name of the Doctor
The Name of the Doctor was the finale of the seventh series of Doctor Who produced by BBC Wales. It explained the mystery of Clara Oswald’s multiple lives, and marked the reveal of a previously unseen incarnation of the Doctor. It featured cameo appearances and flashbacks of all of the Doctor’s previous incarnations, and for the first time on-screen showed the First Doctor stealing a TARDIS and leaving Gallifrey. More about how the TARDIS worked was explained in the episode, also revealing what ultimately becomes of the Doctor. The fate of the Great Intelligence was also shown.
The Name of the Doctor was the first installment of three episodes titled ___ of the Doctor that formed an arc pointing toward the end of the Eleventh Doctor’s life. It was followed by The Night of the Doctor (a webcast mini-episode), The Day of the Doctor (the 50th anniversary special), and finally the Eleventh Doctor’s departure in The Time of the Doctor.
In a workshop, two engineers hear an alarm. One reports that it is from the repair shop. He wonders what kind of idiot would try and steal a faulty TARDIS. The workshop is at the base of the Capitol on Gallifrey. When the technicians look on their monitors, they see the First Doctor and his granddaughterentering a capsule. Someone calls to the Doctor, stopping him. He turns to greet Clara Oswald, who tells him he is about to make a very big mistake.
Clara is seen falling through a golden vortex. She remarks that she does not know where she is, but remembers one thing: she is the Impossible Girl, and she was born to save the Doctor. She is shown meeting him in several of his incarnations, but most of them don’t even notice her. However, the Eleventh Doctor does notice her when she yells at him in Victorian London.
Also in Victorian London, a man locked in a jail cell rants in rhythmic fashion about “the Whisper Men”. Suddenly he is disturbed by a veiled figure, Madame Vastra, standing outside the bars of his prison. The man, Clarence DeMarco, says that she could save him from being hanged with a single word, but Vastra promises him only silence. She points out that he has murdered fourteen women, and is therefore doomed to be executed. As if holding a pardon from the Queen, DeMarco mentions the Doctor, saying he knows all about him. Speaking about one specific secret among the Doctor’s many, the convict says, “He has one he will take to the grave — and it is discovered.”
Later, Vastra is with Jenny, who protests that they must not let the man live. Vastra states that he will live until she understands what he told her. They’ll need a “conference call” to investigate further. Jenny leaves the room to fetch the candles, and hears a mystifying whisper coming from outside.
They send word to a fighting club in Glasgow, where Strax is in the middle of a brawl with a large Scottish man. Both toss insults; each holds a blunt weapon. However, a messenger boy arrives, informing Strax that he has an urgent telegram. Upon finding out that it’s another “conference call”, Strax apologizes to Archie, his opponent, for not being able to finish, and asks the man to render him unconscious.
Vastra and Jenny are seen sitting at a table, lighting a candle to enter a trance state. Vastra is pleased to notice that their surroundings have changed from the last “conference call”, as she was getting a bit tired of the Taj Mahal “desktop theme”. The pair begin to pour tea. Strax soon appears, anxious to return to his fight with “very pleasant primitives”. Vastra apologises, but tells him there’s an important matter concerning the Doctor that they need to discuss. When Strax asks who else is coming, Vastra says simply, “The women.”
On an April day in 2013, Clara prepares to make a soufflé in the Maitlands’ kitchen. She offers her charges a maxim from her mother: “The soufflé isn’t the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe.”
Her attention then wanders to a nearby letter, which the children say was left for her that day. Opening it when alone, Vastra’s message admonishes her to light the enclosed candle and enter a trance state. That way, she can talk to the Paternoster Gang across time. Clara is plainly sceptical, but Vastra has outwitted her. The letter itself is infused with the soporific in the candle, so Clara’s compliance is not required.
Clara promptly passes out and awakens in the same “room” as Vastra, Strax, and Jenny.
Vastra tells Clara time travel has always been possible in dreams, and that she is exactly where she was, but sleeping. She then says that they are still waiting on one more person. Strax groans, wondering if it’s “the one with the big head”, only to be corrected by Jenny that it’s “hair”, not “head”. At this point River Song appears, and is greeted by Vastra. Changing her teacup into a glass of champagne, River is then introduced to Clara. Although having heard the Doctor mention her, Clara states that she was unaware Professor Song was female. River appears to exhibit some mild jealousy when Clara is referred to as the Doctor’s “companion”; Vastra hastily corrects herself and changes it to “latest travelling assistant”.
Using some floating dust, Vastra displays and recounts the information given to her by the prisoner. It shifts into Gallifreyan symbols, which River identifies as space-time coordinates. Vastra tells the group that the coordinates lead to the location of the Doctor’s greatest secret.
Meanwhile, Jenny experiences some discomfort as a figure walks past her in their house, outside their dream. River says that the Doctor had told her his name, and that she was “a little more than a friend” of his. She also says that he hasn’t contacted her, as he doesn’t like endings.
Vastra says to River that Clarence told her one word that connected to the Doctor: Trenzalore. River asks her to describe what the old man told her, and Vastra plays back Clarence’s prophesy in the floating dust. River claims they misunderstood what he was saying. Jenny suddenly says she forgot to lock the door in their house, a factor Vastra dismisses, until Jenny tells them that someone has broken in. She discovers, to her own dismay, that she has in fact already been killed. Her form flickers and fades away. River informs Vastra that she is under attack and must wake up, and then slaps her to shock her awake. Vastra awakens surrounded by the Whisper Men and demands they tell her who they are. River wakes up Strax by throwing her champagne in his face, and he finds himself also surrounded by the Whisper Men upon waking. The Whisper Men then enter the trance with River and Clara, and order Clara to tell the Doctor something: The face of Dr Simeon appears in the dust, to say, “His friends are lost forever more, unless he goes to Trenzalore.” River protests against this, and Clara wakes up.
Clara goes downstairs, finding the Doctor walking around the Maitland house blindfolded and calling for the children. The kids have tricked him into playing blind man’s buff so that they could sneak out to the cinema. Learning this, the Doctor can only call them “the little… Daleks” in annoyance. Clara asks the Doctor about River. He calls her his ex before changing the subject to Vastra’s message. As Clara repeats it a visibly distraught Doctor asks her if it really was Trenzalore. Brought to free-flowing tears, he abruptly snaps out of it and runs off to the TARDIS.
Clara finds him below the console. The Doctor mentions he heard the name Trenzalore before, from Dorium Maldovar and a few others, and that River surely knew as she always did. He links Clara to the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits, then cryptically remarks, “When you are a time traveller, there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never — ever — find yourself”. He tells Clara that she misunderstood the message. It was not the secret the Doctor will take to his grave which was discovered, but the grave itself. The final resting place of the Doctor has been found and it is the one place he must never go. Despite this, he has to save Vastra, Strax and Jenny — if the latter is still alive — as they were there for him during his dark times.
As the Doctor sets course for Trenzalore, the TARDIS realizes what he is about to do and protests by fighting the coordinates while the Doctor forces her onward. Explosions shake the console room, and the TARDIS powers down to stop him. Coming to a stop in Trenzalore’s orbit, they open the door to look at the planet below. Clara asks him if they are going to jump, which he dismisses as silly. He proclaims that they’re going to fall. The TARDIS has powered down everything, aside from the anti-gravs. Declaring “guess what I’m turning off”, he sends the TARDIS plunging down through Trenzalore’s atmosphere to the surface.
They land in a graveyard hastily assembled during battle. The rough landing cracks one of the windows in the TARDIS exterior, which upsets the Doctor. Clara asks why the graves have headstones of unequal size. The Doctor explains that the more important the warrior, the bigger the tombstone. A giant TARDIS shell looms on the horizon — but it’s his police box TARDIS. The Doctor confirms what can be seen with one’s eyes: it’s the real deal. He explains that sometimes when a TARDIS is dying, its “bigger on the inside” qualities begin to leak out, in what is known as a size leak. A psychic echo of River Song appears to Clara, saying that only she can see or hear her and to not mention her presence to the Doctor. On River’s words, Clara directs the Doctor’s attention to a grave that shouldn’t be there, marked “River Song”. Realizing that his wife’s grave would only be there to cover up something like a secret entrance to the tomb, they enter, just as the Whisper Men are closing in on them.
During their climb up through the catacombs, Clara suddenly starts to remember wandering through a broken down TARDIS and the Doctor telling her about her lives and deaths. He cuts her short as she tries to ask him about it.
Inside the TARDIS “monument”, Strax and Madame Vastra awake, and Strax is able to revive the nearby Jenny. The Great Intelligence (using the appearance of Walter Simeon) and his Whisper Men arrive and surround them, telling them that they were taken to this place to lure the Doctor there. Shortly, the Doctor, Clara and the River echo also arrive. The Great Intelligence stands at the door to the Doctor’s tomb, hissing that only the Doctor’s real name will open it. Repeatedly asking the question “Doctor who?”, he tells the Whisper Men to stop the hearts of the Doctor’s friends if he does not answer. As they comply and the Doctor pleads with them to stop, the door suddenly opens. The Whisper Men release their victims, while the Doctor seems confused. He did not speak his name. River Song’s apparition comments that the TARDIS is fortunately still able to hear her; she is the one who opened the doors by communicating the Doctor’s name to the TARDIS, unheard by anyone else.
Inside is an overgrown TARDIS control room, with a glowing, writhing beam of blue-white light where the main console would usually be. The Doctor explains that this is his “mark” on the universe. He has travelled in time more than anyone else, and this is the “scar tissue” left from it. It is his own personal timeline, past and future, and everything that resulted from it. The Doctor collapses from the influence of being so close to his past and future in this way. The Great Intelligence reveals his plan to re-write the Doctor’s entire history, turning all his victories into failures. He knows that he will be killed, but the Doctor will surely be destroyed. The Great Intelligence steps into the light and is destroyed, the light turns red, and the Doctor falls to the floor, visibly in pain as he is being destroyed all at once. Horrified, Vastra declares that a universe without the Doctor will have consequences. She flees outside and sees the stars go dark as entire star systems are erased from history. Jenny, having been saved by the Doctor previously, is also erased, while Strax turns hostile. Grief-stricken, Vastra is forced to vaporize him.
Against both the Doctor’s and River’s protests, Clara decides to act. With the words, “Run, you clever boy, and remember me,” she follows the Great Intelligence into the Doctor’s timeline to save him. A million copies of Clara appear throughout history, each one correcting the Doctor’s timeline in her own way. On Gallifrey, one of the Clara echoes tells the First Doctor he’s about to make a very big mistake — by stealing the wrong TARDIS. She then directs him to the “proper” TARDIS, saying that even though the navigation system is broken, it will be much more fun…
With everyone restored except the Great Intelligence and Clara, the Doctor says he’s going to enter his time stream, risking its collapse to get her back. Vastra remarks that the process killed Simeon, but is answered with the fact that Clara has one advantage over the Great Intelligence: she has the Doctor.
A frustrated River moves to slap him, but the Doctor catches her hand. The Doctor reveals that he could see her all along. He was just worried talking to her would hurt too much — which it does. They kiss passionately, which the Doctor jokingly says must look strange to Vastra, Jenny and Strax, since they can’t see her. River tells the Doctor that he never said goodbye to her and he admits he didn’t know how. So she explains the only goodbye she would accept is one which promises their paths will cross again. They banter for a moment like they used to, and she reveals that she was telepathically linked to Clara, and would not still exist if Clara had died. As he asks what happened to her then, River smiles and simply states: “Spoilers.” She dissipates with a final “Goodbye Sweetie.”
The Doctor then steps into his own time stream.
Clara lands in a dark, misty and cavernous place. As she stands up, various incarnations of the Doctor run past her on all sides. She hears the voice of the Eleventh Doctor talking to her. He urges her to focus on the sight of her leaf. If she’ll follow the leaf, he promises, he will at last be able to save her in the same way she’s been saving him for centuries. The leaf successfully guides her to their welcome reunion.
As they embrace, however, he notices a shadowy figure standing nearby. His smile melts away and is replaced with intense fear. Clara notices the figure, but does not recognize him, despite having thought she’d seen all of the Doctor’s faces. The Doctor, showing great apprehension, explains that the figure is in fact him, but isn’t the Doctor. He continues that his real name was not the point; he chose the name “the Doctor” himself like a promise, and this mysterious man was “the one who broke the promise”. He is his secret. After Clara collapses, the Doctor picks her up in his arms. The figure defends himself, saying that he had no choice and that his actions were “in the name of peace and sanity”. The Doctor acknowledges this, but defiantly states that those actions had not been “in the name of the Doctor”. As the Doctor carries Clara away, the man turns around, showing his elderly face as an on-screen caption reveals his identity to be “the Doctor”…