Doctor Who ‘The Name of the Doctor’ – Series 7, episode 13: John Hurt reveals his dark side

Neela Debnath

docotr who 300x208 Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor   Series 7, episode 13: John Hurt reveals his dark side


SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen ‘Doctor Who’ episode 13 of series 7/33

What a wonderful way to end this momentous series in the 50th year of Doctor Who. From the start of the episode you know this is going to be a good episode that will make the audience forgive past mistakes such as Dinosaurs on a Spaceship or the so-so Ring of Akhaten.

Words can barely express my surprise at seeing William Hartnell in colour and Clara talking to him. As a contemporary viewer who has been re-visiting classic Doctor Who, it put a smile on my face to see that the show’s long history has not been forgotten. The flashbacks were done well, even if the CGI in the Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee bits looked a tad dubious – I suppose the makers could only work with the existing footage which is nowhere near the HD quality that we are used to in this day and age.

And then there was the ending where John Hurt is introduced as the Doctor which will be picked up in the 50th anniversary episode in November. Fans have been told that this episode would be setting up the story for the 50th anniversary special and it certainly does that. There are so many questions to be answered.

But back to the rest of the episode. We discovered why Clara was the impossible girl and it all made sense. It was a noble act to splinter herself into a million pieces across time and space for the Doctor, and perhaps that is why we should cut her a bit of slack as a companion. Saying this, I’m still waiting for Oswin to show up.

Despite the misleading title, this story was strong and most importantly simple. I struggled to follow the River Song/Melody Pond arc back in 2011 but Clara’s story was all fairly straightforward and I wasn’t left discombobulated by the end – the timey wimey stuff worked in this instance.

Alex Kingston’s guest appearance was scintillating and the chemistry between her and Matt Smith was fizzing away. The Doctor’s kiss with River Song felt real and his love for finally came through. Before it seemed like a flirtatious, timetravelling fling but in that scene the love between the pair was unmistakable.

This week Smith showed the Doctor’s vulnerability in a new way. The moment when he started crying and had to dart out of the room to avoid Clara’s gaze conveyed a fragility to him. The Eleventh Doctor can hide his emotions but there are times when something breaks through and really affects him – like River. This Doctor is so emotionally complex and has more layers to him than some of his past incarnations.

As usual, our dependable trio Vastra, Jenny and Strax provided comedy and entertainment to lighten the mood. But moving from the heroes to the villains, Richard E. Grant was back as the Great Intelligence. This episode makes up for The Snowmen where his appearance felt fleeting at best.

Along with all the old faces popping up, The Name of the Doctor introduced a new monster: the Whispermen. These shadowy creatures remain something of a mystery but they can kill with just a whisper. Just like the Weeping Angels and the people with gas masks fused to their faces in The Empty Child, Steven Moffat employs psychological horror to make the audience shiver in dread. To kill someone with a whisper is a deliciously sinister idea and there is something very sophisticated about this Doctor Who villain.

While watching this episode I noticed that the Whispermen seem to have some panache to them, from their rather dapper outfits to their method of execution, there is nothing clumsy about these creatures. Not since the Master have we seen a villain on Doctor Who that manages to make evil fashionable. The look is so simple and yet so effective, which just goes to show that expensive CGI or prosthetics do not need to be employed to create something so scary. They look like an illustration out of an Edward Gorey book but you wouldn’t want them to caress your ears with sweet, deadly nothings. The action of whispering is so intimate and requires getting up close and personal with a victim, taking their life in such an insidious manner.

Overall, The Name of the Doctor has everything that you could possibly want from a good episode of Doctor Who. It was an utterly brilliant instalment, from the performances to the aesthetics. The archive footage was a big surprise but a welcome one. Those who say that Moffat has forgotten the classic series or suggest that the show is not what it used to be should watch this episode; it is a wonderful precursor to the 50th anniversary. The question now is: who is John Hurt’s Doctor and what does he want?

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  • molesey_,ole

    Programme, not “program”

  • rouguesquadron2000

    What difference would his orientation make anyways? Except in a couple of rare instances that Doctor has never loved his companions, he’s just been very close friends with them.

  • Chris Hughes

    Sorry – but who are ‘the Gentlemen from Buffy’?

  • Chris Hughes

    Eh? What ghost was that? There was a ‘ghost’ who wanted to get home,,,

  • cbinTH

    Yes; I think they’re based on the same 19th century poem about Cornish smugglers (“the Gentlemen”) which was once commonly told to children. The poem warns you to be asleep when tye gentlemen come by. The Buffy writers obviously thought it would be cool if this poem “really” referred to a type of demon, and the Dr Who writers were maybe going for a Victorian taste, by introducing a similar poem.

  • BigFatAl

    So where does Peter Cushing fit in?!

  • Andrew

    I loved this episode but I’m kinda sad that the doctor didn’t get the thing he always wanted to be, a ginger!

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