Oops. I should have posted this one a while ago…
There are two ways Doctor Who appears to be in danger of disappearing up its own fundament in this story. One is that trope where the villain, rather than seeking money, power or universal domination, decides instead that the prime objective is to destroy the hero. The show becomes to conceited it elevates its hero’s importance above any other bounty imaginable (in this case above any world, or even any time period). It’s something you can perhaps get away with when it’s The Master, given his history. The inconvenience The Great Intelligence has suffered at the Doctor’s hands is trivial by comparison. The other danger, is, of course, too much continuity.
I will admit to having the previous Doctors appear “for real” did give me a little thrill (especially that Hartnell exchange – it looks so good) and I don’t normally like multi-Doctor stuff (at least that’s out of the way now…oh, hang on…). And the cliffhanger has got me really quite excited (all these questions… is he The Valeyard, or another future ‘potential’ Doctor or is there some way he can be crowbarred into the Doctor’s past…?) But ultimately, the excitement of it is entirely to do with The Doctor himself. It’s not just inward looking – he’s climbed inside his own time-line where, apart from Clara, there’s only him. Albeit lots of him.
It was also an episode with lots of answers to provide: primarily how the impossible girl died twice. The answer to this appears to be that Clara “Bad Wolfed” herself because the GI had “Turn Lefted” the Doctor scattering Claras throughout the Doctor’s history. Which seems a disappointingly sledgehammerish development in order to address a beautifully crafted and well-defined nut of a problem – as so pleasingly teased in Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen. Moreover, if those Claras were copies of this ‘present day’ Clara, how come they were so much more witty/sexy/fun than regular present-day Clara?
It’s no surprise that we don’t get the Doctor’s name. River’s final scenes were a highlight of the episode, and I guess it’s still possible she will reappear, but it seems likely that we will never find out how she knows the Doctor’s name either. But generally, the episode seemed a bit of a jumble, with the pacing off, and the jokes (Strax on form: “bring out your women and your intellectuals”) crashing the melodrama (Jenny’s death). It makes more sense on second viewing, perhaps knowing that it is merely part 1 of a two-parter with the 50th special makes it easier to understand as build-up (or even a teaser).
So enjoyable enough, and a great teaser for the anniversary episode, but certainly one of the weakest of this series.
A few more comments from me on the answers we get in this one in Fusion Patrol at 52’45”
Image: Another fractals experiment with Gimp by Carlos CC BY-SA 2.0