For all my doubts, this time I think Moffat did pull off a satisfying end to his season arc. Well, the hype about “this will change everything” was somewhat overblown (but see below), but even if we have to wait till November to find out what the very end of the episode is about, I think we still got a proper conclusion…
SPOILERS AHEAD! Hover mouse over text to read, or read on entry page:
So “this will change the way you’ll see the Doctor” … and well, kinda? I mean, yeah this means there’s always a Clara off-screen “saving the Doctor”. Mostly from the Great Intelligence’s henchmen I imagine, but obviously not always (cf Asylum of the Daleks). And I guess she helps out the TARDIS in her stealing of her Doctor, too. But really? This doesn’t change much, it just gives them a canon deus ex machina to trot out in the future if they want to. I wonder if they did a bunch of green screen stuff with her for potential future use? After all, she says the Doctor doesn’t often hear her, so it doesn’t need to be interactive.
While I’m nitpicking about meta/hype did anyone else apart from me & J think it was a bit daft to have a whole “he’s me but he’s not the Doctor” thing and then have “John Hurt as The Doctor” come up on screen … The rumours I’ve seen are that Hurt fits between 8 & 9, which would make the stuff he did not in the name of the Doctor something to do with the Time War I guess. Which would make sense as a period of time where he might well do stuff that he wouldn’t want to contemplate or acknowledge later on (and Nine was pretty traumatised by the War and his part in it).
I liked the opening of the Doctor stealing the TARDIS, and Clara with all the other Doctors who couldn’t see her. And the fakeout where it looks like she’s telling One he’s making a mistake in stealing the TARDIS but then at the end we see she’s just making sure he steals the one who wants to steal him.
The conference call was neat – and I particularly like Madam Vastra’s practicality where she gives Clara the chance to light the candle but knows she probably won’t so impregnates the letter with the soporific too. The awkward with River meeting Clara was suitably awkward, and feeds into why I think the River Song story might be completely done with – the Doctor is doing his best to move on, not mentioning River enough to even point out she’s a woman, let alone that this is his dead wife. And on that subject – the Doctor really is rather selfish, isn’t he? He’d rather hurt River than acknowledge her and hurt himself. But in the end he does say goodbye, when circumstances force him to.
I liked that the reason the Doctor can’t go to his grave isn’t coz that’s when he’ll die (which seemed the obvious reason to avoid it to me), but that he will learn things about his future via this scar in time which is what his tomb actually contains. (And I shall just wave my hands about and accept the whole scar in time thing.) Obviously we don’t find out his name or why it’s a secret, and I hope we drop this again (after the 50th anniversary special, maybe?).
And the universe was in danger again – but this time it felt more small scale, if that’s possible. It’s like what the Doctor was saying to the little girl in Rings of Akhaten – she’s unique, there’s no-one else like her, and no-one can be who she is. And the same with the Doctor, he’s unique and despite his fears and his enemies rantings he’s done so much good in the universe that if he had never been then worlds would die.
The relatively personal disaster is also part of what made Clara’s arc feel satisfying, I think. She did what she did to save the Doctor, because he is her friend and she’s the sort of person who takes care of what needs to be done. And I liked the way her memories of the day that had never been (Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS) came back, and then once she knew she’d died to save the Doctor twice that he remembered she knew what she had to do. And did it even if she didn’t think she’d survive (dying to save the Doctor by dying to save the Doctor).
I was assuming that they got back out of the time scar at the end and so Clara will carry on being a companion, but I guess that’s not certain – we don’t see it happen, anyway. Roll on November to see what happens there … on which subject, interesting we got most of the Doctors appearing in this one. I’d’ve expected cameos in the actual special (and there’s no reason why there won’t still be some but I’d think it’s less likely now).
I’m sure I had more I was going to comment on, but this is probably long enough 🙂