Last week, the Doctor and Clara fought off a hoard of Cybermen. This week – the fields of Trenzalore.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this episode to be any good. I felt like the episodes were just getting worse and worse as the season continued, and I was utterly terrified that Moffat was going to reveal the Doctor’s name, ruining the entire premise of the show being Doctor Who… but I was wrong, in the best possible way.
The episode begins with a mash-up of Clara in period outfits, flitting throughout the Doctor’s life, in each of his incarnations, chasing after him and being completely, utterly lost. She was born to save the Doctor. It then cuts to Victorian London, a place we are all familiar with, where Vastra and Jenny prepare a conference call – a telepathic meeting with various people throughout time. They call Strax, Clara and River Song into the meeting, and discuss the words of a murderer who knew about the Doctor. He said that the Doctor has a secret that he would take to his grave, and it would be at Trenzalore. River, who we know is the one who was saved into the Library database due to the outfit she is wearing, knows exactly what Trenzalore is. Jenny begins to freak out, because she left the door unlocked and there are people in her house… and she gets murdered. River quickly wakes everybody up; Vastra and Strax are taken by the ‘Whispermen’.
Clara wakes up to hear the Doctor downstairs, and tells him what she has learned about this secret and Trenzalore. The Doctor, like River, knows what is waiting for him at Trenzalore… the big secret. Doctor Who? The first question in the universe, the one that must never be answered, at the fields of Trenzalore on the fall of the Eleventh, the prophecy that Dorian had given the previous season. The Doctor tells Clara what is waiting for him at Trenzalore: his grave. The one place in the universe you must never find yourself, he says, is your own grave. But he knows that he must go there to save Vastra and Strax, possibly Jenny too, and although the TARDIS puts up a fight, he manages to land somewhat safely on Trenzalore; a battlefield of gravestones and death. The Doctor’s “grave” is the TARDIS – not just a stone that looks like the TARDIS, but the actual one, who has died and her compressor has malfunctioned, making the ‘bigger on the inside’ become bigger on the outside.
River reveals herself, telling Clara that she is still mentally linked with her due to the conference call, but the Doctor cannot see or hear her. Clara and the Doctor find River’s grave, but that’s impossible, isn’t it? Because River Song doesn’t have a grave, she’s dead and has been saved into the Library system… so obviously, it’s a secret passageway into the Doctor’s tomb. The Doctor and Clara travel through the TARDIS, and Clara begins to remember things she shouldn’t, the day that never happened, about how she is the impossible girl and the Doctor keeps on seeing her throughout his life and how she keeps on dying… meanwhile the Great Intelligence we met from The Snowmen has Vastra, Strax and the newly revived Jenny hostage. The Doctor arrives and the Great Intelligence demands the Doctor to say his name, as it would be the only way to open up his tomb (he also mentions the Valeyard, which I let out a little squeak at, this episode had so many Classic Who references). The Doctor refuses, and everyone is attacked, but luckily River, who can’t be heard by anyone (including us), says his name, and it opens.
Inside the dying TARDIS is a beautiful glowing column, the Doctor’s tear through time, the results of all of his time travel. A rip in the universe that leads to every single moment of the Doctor’s life, and the Great Intelligence has the power to go in and destroy the Doctor, turn all of his victories into losses, to make every single second of his life unimaginable pain… which he does. The Doctor writhes on the ground, screaming as his life is torn apart and he himself is being rewritten, while Jenny disappears from existence, the stars are going out and Strax attacks Vastra, no longer remembering their acquaintance. Clara realizes that she has to go in too, to scatter herself throughout the Doctor’s life and save him, like she did at the Dalek Asylum and in London, and despite River and the Doctor’s insistence not to, she launches herself in. Throughout time she is scattered, pieces of herself are reborn and die again, all the way back to the first Doctor on Gallifrey. The Doctor’s timeline is fixed, Jenny and Strax are okay again, and the Doctor realizes that he has to go in and save Clara. River yells at him, unable to be heard, and in the heat of the moment she goes to slap him – and he catches her wrist. He can see her, hear her, always has been able to, and gives her one final kiss. She can’t let go because he hasn’t said goodbye, so he does, and she finally fades away… whether we’ll be seeing her again, we aren’t sure.
The Doctor manages to track down Clara in his timeline with the leaf that is representative of her, but they also find an unknown man, who the Doctor explains to Clara as him. Not him, not the Doctor, but his real self; choosing the name Doctor was like a promise, and he was the one who broke the promise, the one who we figure destroyed Gallifrey, the one who ended the Time War. He’s a lost regeneration, and he’s certainly not the Doctor. This, my friends, is the newest plot twist for the 50th anniversary… John Hurt, as the lost regeneration of the Doctor.
This episode was absolutely brilliant, it wrapped everything together perfectly and although I had doubted Moffat’s writing, and have been for a while, I completely forgive him for everything. The inclusion of all the Doctors was perfect, the way that Clara had been slipped into his life all along, the time jumps and Trenzalore and the Classic Who references… everything came together so beautifully, and I cannot wait until November 23rd, the 50th Anniversary Special.