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Monday, 20 May 2013

The Name of the Doctor (Seth's Take)

It goes without saying that I loved it.

Oh dear! I must stop spring break at once!
There was never going to be any doubt. It had footage from previous Doctors. It had Richard E. Grant as the Great Intelligence taking, for the first time, full advantage of his lack of physical form. It had great gags, high tension, a chilling atmosphere, and tangible stakes. And it featured a big reveal that actually made sense--in your face, Davies! (And John Nathan-Turner, I guess.)

 In hindsight, I can't help but wonder if maybe it was just the heat of the moment, and my opinion will deteriorate upon rewatching. Even now I'm having trouble recalling bits I actually liked, my brain overloading with nitpicks and irritations. I mean, Trenzalore, the giant TARDIS and the decaying console room were striking as hell, but those are setpieces. And the Great Intelligence didn't actually do anything that didn't get immediately reversed, so so much for his air of menace. (Though really, he's lucky he ever had one. His primary weapons are giant teddy bears and snowmen, for zark's sake.)

More after the cut! Didn't want to spoil anything.

Unlike Ley, I didn't see this as the redeeming feature of a middling series. Series 7.2 has been all around great, with the only episode I totally abhorred being "The Crimson Horror", so this was really just sealing the deal for me. But so long as I'm bringing up "Horror", lemme just take a moment to whine about Vastra and Jenny, who have finally dispensed with the "isn't it hilarious we're lesbian" jokes only for the writers to find they have no personality beyond that. And with that in mind it's really, really hard for me to care the two times Jenny dies, especially since the second time it's pretty clearly not going to stick. There's just nothing to her. There are single-serial characters I've given more craps about.

Let's focus on the positive. I said that this finale makes sense, so let's see how all the puzzle pieces fit. The Silence made the TARDIS go boom because no TARDIS, no tomb. And if his enemies box him up he can never go to Trenzalore. So that's series five resolved. If the Silence kill him before he can deteriorate into the time-stream thing, there's nothing for the Great Intelligence to jump into. And it's entirely possible that they don't know the details beyond this vague prophecy, so they would totally buy the Doctor leaving a body. Certainly there's no indication otherwise. So that's series six resolved. All these loose ends tied up so neatly! And people thought Moffat couldn't pull it off. Pshaw.

But beyond that, this whole episode is also kind of about giving River the closure she needs, rather than the closure the audience expects. We know she dies and then gets plugged into a computer, and we've always expected that's her natural end point. But it stands to reason that River couldn't be satisfied with that. And so she gets, insofar as is possible, a happy ending. I'll be honest, that was so perfect that I think I'm good with never seeing River again. Nothing's gonna top that, and anything that tries will just be milking it.

With all that big important stuff out of the way, let's get to the bit you all expect me to talk about. Because I came onto this blog declaring myself the classic-series guy, and there's all this classic-series stuff going on. Stuff that, um...don't get me wrong, there's an initial thrill to it.

But for one, it's poorly edited. Clara and the GI are clearly in a higher resolution than the footage they're in. And the footage itself hasn't been worked enough. The widescreen stretching is blatant and the whole thing looks grainy and washed-out. It was never going to be in HD, but I've seen YouTube videos with higher resolution. (As a side-note, the choice of footage is also occasionally baffling. You're using that McCoy clip? Really?)

That, and this is clearly intended to be some sort of substitute for not getting classic Doctors in the fiftieth, or at least to make us think the quota's been filled, which just so spectacularly misses the point of why we want them back to begin with that it's sickening. Mere appearance isn't enough, especially when it's all old footage and stand-ins.

Moreover, this is a premise that demands new footage, because the GI's idea of undoing all the Doctor's victories is evidently just standing around glowering at him, and Clara's idea of fixing them is just yelling the Doctor's name. (Wait, if Dalek!Clara and Victorian!Clara didn't know they'd been splintered, why did all her other versions know to help the Doctor?)

Now, it'd be understandable if they did it for Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee. Hell, seeing as this takes place in the past, pulling this for the two Bakers could be justified too, as they're far more rotund these days. But Davison and McCoy are still looking pretty good, and we don't know how old McGann's looked when he regenerated.

The Hartnell bit is evidently unused footage. Funny, that that should be lying around but eleven of his serials have missing episodes. And I honestly can't see the First Doctor prioritizing "fun" like that. Still, better than what the rest of the Doctors got. I retain hope that Moffat's just screwing with us and we'll be getting at least a few cameos in the 50th. Certainly the presence of Coal Hill School and Totter's Junkyard suggests that Ian and Susan will turn up.

Oh, right, John Hurt. I'm reserving judgment. But "not in the name of the Doctor" was a clever twist. Quite liked it.

Minor points:
  • The Great Intelligence, as Ley mentioned, gets the Valeyard completely wrong by suggesting the Doctor will someday become him. That said, I don't think the Valeyard is the Hurt Doctor. "In the name of peace and sanity" is just not his MO. 
  • Ley also said I took issue with Bessie having side-view mirrors, but further investigation shows she did have them in The Five Doctors, so never mind. (I mean, she shouldn't have had them there, but whatever. The time for bitching about that was thirty years ago.) 
  • Man, Troughton and McGann were running past each other at that one point with the palm trees! What was happening? Were they teaming up? Never have I so badly wanted something that can never happen. Maybe we could get a book about it.  
    • Also, I will concede that Two being 'shopped into wherever that was was...decent. 
  • Where exactly was Clara when she saw Seven dangling off a cliff like an idiot? 
  • Between this and "The Snowmen" it appears that the Great Intelligence's only weakness is doors. 
  •  "Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor" was cheesy as hell and I don't think I was supposed to find it as funny as I did. Just totally killed the mood. I mean, the titles alone were cheesy but the fact that it's immediately preceded by Eleven being all "that's not the Doctor" just made it worse.