Doctor Who Recap - The Name of the Doctor
By Edwin Davies
May 21, 2013
Yes, Trenzalore is the last place The Doctor would want to go, because it is the last place he ever will go: it is the site of his grave, and as such is the one place that a time traveller should never go. (If nothing else, this episode does wonders when it comes to revealing the dangers of ambiguous phraseology: turns out the "it" that has been discovered is not The Doctor's secret, but the grave he will take it to.) Go he must, though, along with Clara and a psychic projection of River which, Great Gazoo-like, only Clara can see. The two/three reach Trenzalore and discover The Doctor's tomb, which is shaped like a giant TARDIS, and confront the Great Intelligence, whose incorporeal form makes it a difficult enemy to defeat, but one with the unsettling ability to reach inside peoples' chests to stop their hearts. Faced with the imminent deaths of his friends, The Doctor is given a choice: say his name, and thus open his tomb, or let his allies perish.
The Doctor - and the show - is spared from revealing his real name when the psychic River says it off-screen, which was slightly disappointing because I thought for a moment that The Doctor's real name was "Please," the last word he says before the door opens, and which would have lent a weird feeling to every other episode of the show in which he used that word. Once inside, the Great Intelligence reveals its plan: the tomb contains The Doctor's own personal timeline of everything he has ever done, and if someone were to enter it they could completely rewrite his history and that of everyone he has ever affected. Doing so would mean certain death, but it would be a sweet victory for the Great Intelligence to so utterly destroy The Doctor.
It's at this point that the show both dispensed with a villain that I actually felt could have been interesting if more had been done with him, since the Great Intelligence does enter the timeline and start re-writing all of existence, and revealed the true nature of Clara. Having been plagued with half-remembered thoughts from the erased timeline in "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" she realises that she has appeared to The Doctor at multiple times in the past, and that this must be because she is destined to enter the timeline to set things right, even if it means her own death. Her prior appearances were echoes of the real Clara, strewn throughout history to help guide The Doctor in all his prior incarnations.
What's interesting about this revelation, apart from the fact that it is only a slight variation on the resolution to the Rose Tyler/Bad Wolf storyline in the first season of the revived series, is how strong of an emotional impact it has when considered in isolation as an example of someone nobly sacrificing herself for the greater good, yet how little it resonates in terms of the show as a whole. This cuts to the heart of the problem of this run of episodes, which is the character of Clara. There's nothing wrong with the performance - I've said from the beginning that I think that Jenna-Louise Coleman is absolutely brilliant in the role since she displays the kind of quickness, verbal dexterity and depth of feeling to inhabit Steven Moffat's Who - but almost everything has been wrong with the way she has been used by the show.