[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 7 finale of Doctor Who. If you haven't watched yet, read no further or we'll be forced to sic our memory worm on you.]
One mystery down, and an infinite number more to go on Doctor Who.
Saturday's finale explained the season-long mystery of the Impossible Girl, aka Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman). And as for the secret teased in the episode's title, "The Name of the Doctor"? Well, let's just say this show isn't going to change its name anytime soon. But we did get an introduction to a very special person who will figure into the 50th anniversary special!
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To save his kidnapped friends, the Doctor (Matt Smith) is forced to go to the one place a Time Lord shouldn't: his tomb, which happens to be on the planet Trenzalore. There, he finds this glowing, spinning sort of lightning-helix thing that he calls the "tracks of his tears," aka the pathways he's cut through time — past, present and future. It's through this physical manifestation of his timeline that the impossible becomes possible: Clara is everywhere and everywhen. It's quite a lot to digest, so let's break it down:
Clara Oswin Oswald When an enemy jumps into the Doctor's timeline to try and destroy him by rewriting history, Clara makes the ultimate sacrifice by following suit. This means that present-day Clara has now been shattered into a million Clara fragments throughout time. "There's only one thing I remember: I have to save the Doctor," she says in the show's opening. This explains her Souffle Girl incarnation in the future, Victorian barmaid-governess Clara, their deaths in the process of saving the Doctor and even the saying, "Run, you clever boy, and remember me!" It's also why she's the ultimate companion: She's been with the Doctor throughout time, watching out for him.
The Doctor and his true name Yes, the Doctor's true name is uttered in order to open his tomb (which is the TARDIS in the future), but he's not the one to divulge it. Nope, it's his dead but database-saved wife River Song (Alex Kingston) who says it when we can't hear. Therefore, we still don't know his name, which we didn't really expect to learn, did we? On a more fun note, thanks to Clara's adventures through time saving the Doctor, we do get to see him in each of most of his incarnations, which was a nifty jaunt through Doctor Who's 50-year history. Our fave? Seven (Sylvester McCoy) hanging by his question mark umbrella. Great homage, use of archival footage and a reason to put Clara in lots of snazzy period outfits.
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The TARDIS "What kind of idiot would try to steal a faulty TARDIS?" We love that following Clara means that we get to see that fateful moment in Gallifrey long ago when the Doctor decides to steal one TARDIS before she persuades him to take the quirky one we know and love today. Therefore, at least one version of Clara has had previous dealings with the time and space travel device, which explains why the TARDIS already has an opinion of her.
River Song Depsite the built-in bittersweetness that comes with River, we always welcome her because she makes the Doctor (and us) feel deeply, and yes, laugh. But her presence in this episode is more than just grounding for the mythology and an obvious way to tug on our heartstrings. After that trance conference call with Clara, she's now mentally connected with the companion and therefore assures us that Clara is alive after she enters the timeline. Also, the women have an interesting relationship, both having been with the Doctor throughout time in some sense, although Clara's would technically be longer standing.
Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax (Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart, Dan Starkey) Revisiting their Victorian stomping grounds in "The Crimson Horror" episode should have been our first clue about that time period's significance (when we first met the Great Intelligence). We have a feeling this is not the last we'll see of them. Not only are they damn entertaining, but they're useful as well. Can we please get a spin-off with these guys?
The Great Intelligence The disembodied sentient enemy returns! It takes the form of the deceased Dr. Simeon (Richard E. Grant) so we can recognize it, and its sock-faced Whisper Men lackeys are about as creepy as they come. Because we first met the Great Intelligence in the episode "The Snowmen," we wonder if this has anything to do with the "shard of ice" in the Doctor's heart that psychic Emma (Jessica Raine) once mentioned.
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Saving Clara The Doctor went into his own timestream after Clara made her sacrifice, which is not just foolhardy, but potentially dangerous by creating temporal paradoxes. And sure enough we meet up with someone (John Hurt) who is the Doctor but is not one of the 11 we know. He basically broke the promise ... and is Eleven's big secret. How menacing! This is the perfect setup for the 50th anniversary special, which would fit perfectly since we know it's shot in 3-D (inside the timeline stuff must be 3-D, yes?) and that Ten (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) will be back. Crossing the streams!
Post-rescued Clara We have faith in the Doctor and showrunner Steven Moffat that they'll get Clara out of the timestream somehow, someday and in some form (we'll take her any way we can get her). As for the Not Doctor, we wonder if she'll be trying to save him? We just hope that after the big drama in November, she'll be able to have more personal story lines in which we'll get to know her as a person and less as a conundrum. She's been fun and charming, but the mystery has overshadowed our ability to really connect with her on a deeper level.
As always, Moffat blends humor and heartbreak with a more epic scope in his storytelling by straddling not just episodes, but also seasons with his references. It's quite a lot to bend our minds around, much less discuss in its entirety here. But it's a start. At least until we get to Nov. 23!
What did you think of the finale? Are you satisfied with the Impossible Girl explained? Were you surprised by John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander from Harry Potter!)? Any theories on the 50th anniversary? Weigh in below!