“The Doctor has a secret he will take to the grave. It is discovered.”
Warning: this article contains major SPOILERS for the series 7 finale. Everybody stay calm–explanations and speculations to follow.
The seventh series of Doctor Who ended on a high note this week as writer Steven Moffat churned out a fantastic finale that saw the return of some favorite characters (and Doctors) as well as the unveiling of the answers to several questions (but the introduction of several more). Clara’s secret is finally revealed as the Doctor, River Song, and others venture to stop the revived Great Intelligence for the most riveting and climactic episode of the season.
We are treated to a brilliantly executed opening featuring all 11 doctors and the answer to Clara’s mystery: she was born to save the Doctor. If the sight of the First Doctor stealing the TARDIS on Gallifrey “a very long time ago” wasn’t enough to give you a Whoniverse-induced heart attack, the tension-building scenes that followed were sure to leave you writhing in your seat.
Our favorite Victorian-era trio is back, and they call an immediate psychic conference with Clara and River Song after discovering that the Doctor’s “greatest secret” is in danger. This doesn’t last long, however, as their physical bodies are attacked by Walter Simeon (from “The Snowmen”) and his gang of “Whisper Men,” who are attempting to open the Doctor’s tomb, an engorged TARDIS on the planet of Trenzalore. When Clara breaks from the psychic conference and informs the Doctor of this, he makes a path for the planet–much to the TARDIS’s disapproval–even though he knows that it is the place of his death.
River Song remains mentally linked to Clara, guiding the Doctor through her, invisible to all but the Impossible Girl. She saves the Doctor’s party from Simeon and his eyeless bodyguards by saying the Doctor’s name to open his tomb (which thankfully no one else can hear), and they all file into the main control room of the future TARDIS for the episode’s climax. In the center of the room, where the core of the TARDIS would normally reside, is an angry white mass that seems to exhibit electrical properties. As it turns out, this is the Doctor’s literal time stream, and Simeon intends to step into it, destroying himself but in the process disrupting the Doctor’s life and scattering himself throughout it. Why exactly he is doing this remains unclear, but it has something to do with the Great Intelligence (called it), and will hopefully be explored in later episodes. As soon as Simeon steps into the time stream, the pieces begin to fall into place. I know what’s coming.
Clara realizes that the only way she will be able to save the Doctor and restore his timeline and those of whom he has affected is to step into the rift herself. Moffat keeps the explanation of Clara’s multiple deaths and rebirths simple enough, which I was grateful for. We have been strung along all season, and it was nice to have a (mostly) clear cut and understandable solution to the mystery of the Impossible Girl. After Clara is gone, we are rewarded with a touching scene (and hot kiss, oh my!) between the Doctor and River. If I had one complaint about this episode it was that River wasn’t featured enough, but hey, how much can you do as a hologram, even if you are River Song? He still can’t manage to say goodbye, and I feel it is safe to say that we will be seeing much more of Professor Song in future episodes. Her projection disappears, and the Doctor takes the risk of stepping into his own time stream to find Clara.
The episode ends with a heartwarming (albeit short-lived) reunion between the Doctor and Clara, but a mysterious man stands on the horizon. Someone Clara didn’t see before. Is it the Master? Is it David Tennant? Is it a new Doctor? The tension is unbearable as the man turns and the ominous caption reads: “Introducing John Hurt as the Doctor.” The fandom might as well have jumped after Clara into the Doctor’s nebulous time traveling remains.
Were we ever actually told the name of the Doctor? Thankfully, no. I am confident most Whovians would agree that some spoilers are better kept spoilers in the mind of River Song. But now fans have a six-month wait until the 50th Anniversary special to speculate on the role that John Hurt (V for Vendetta, Alien, Harry Potter) might play in the special and in the rest of the series.
There have been circulating rumors that neither Matt Smith nor Jenna-Louise Coleman are leaving the show for the next series, but according to the BBC official blog, while Moffat will be returning as the head writer, there’s no official word on whether Matt and Jenna will be back. Either way, series 8 filming is scheduled for the end of this year or early 2014. Is Moffat trolling us yet again? If he is, what was the point of announcing John Hurt as the Doctor? Stay tuned for more Doctor Who details on Nerdophiles as the 50th Anniversary special approaches, set to air November 23, 2013!