Hey everyone! Time for the series 7b finale! What exciting things are in store for our favourite time traveller? Mostly horrible ones! Yay! Let’s begin!
Remember how they’ve been building up Clara’s relevance for the entirety of series 7b? Welp, so much for a dramatic reveal, because in our introduction (peppered with oddly green-screened shots of classic Who) we discover that Clara Oswin Oswald, the impossible girl, was born to save the Doctor. Don’t worry, they’ll elaborate.
London: 1893. Madame Vastra gets a vaguely alarming warning from a good ol’ fashioned Victorian-era serial killer. She initiates a conference call among the Doctor’s most recent posse- her human lover, Jenny; the Scot-fighting Solataran, Strax; the current companion, Clara; and the one and only Professor River Song- whom Clara had always thought was a man. Womp womp. Vastra shows them the space-time co-ordinates that the murderer had shown her, and says they’re the location of his greatest secret. When Clara protests, Vastra asks if she even knows the Doctor’s name, which, of course, River smugly declares that she does. River also asks how she knew the information was legitimate. When Vastra replies that the man said the word “Trenzalore,” River freaks out, knowing the information to be misleading and dangerous. But it’s too late; Vastra, Jenny, and Strax wake up surrounded by hostile forces. Clara, however, wakes up to the Doctor playing blind man’s bluff with Angie and Archie (spoilers: they’re at the theatre).
Clara relates the group’s discussion to the Doctor, who begins crying and runs into the TARDIS. When she asks what’s wrong we learn that Trenzalore isn’t the resting place of the Doctor’s final secret; it’s the resting place of the Doctor himself. He realises he will have to travel there to save his friends who were there for him in his own personal Darkest Timeline. Clara, of course will be joining. The TARDIS, however, is less enthusiastic about the trip; she tries to thwart it, but the Doctor has them crash land on the last planet he’ll ever visit. By the way, Trenzalore isn’t a pleasant What Dreams May Come type afterlife; it’s a burnt planet entirely filled with graves. One of these graves is River Song’s, which as you might recall is basically impossible. River appears to Clara through the mind link, and as some Bad Alien Dudes close in on the Doctor and Clara, River’s mind-holo-projection tells them her grave is actually a secret entrance to the tomb.
The tomb of the Doctor, by the way, is the TARDIS grown large from a space leak. Madame Vastra and Strax wake up there, and Strax manages to revive a very nearly dead Jenny. The Bad Alien Dudes (BADs…that was accidentally a perfect anagram. The scientist in me is thrilled!) walk up to them… lead by Dr. Simeon (recall: Christmas episode.) Of course, it’s really just the Great Intelligence taking over his body. Aww, no Ian McKellan? Well, really taking on his appearance. The GI is incorporeal, and his BADs are empty shells he can take over at will and morph into the appearance of Simeon.
The Doctor and Clara dash through a wrecked TARDIS, eliciting memories of the last time they’d done this (so like, three weeks ago). Though the Doctor had wiped her memory of him desperately asking her how she could exist, they return to her; she remembers learning that she’d died before, and the BADs whisper the portent that she’ll die again. When the Doctor reaches his other friends, Simeon threatens to have their hearts stopped unless he utters his name, opening the grave. The Doctor refuses, his friend’s hearts are in danger, and… the doors open. River’s hologram could still be heard by the TARDIS, even the old dead leaky TARDIS, and she said his name to open the doors. Yay! I’m just glad they didn’t try to make us hear his name. It’s probably like Hershel or something.
Inside we find the Doctor has no body, just a magical light show. The defunct TARDIS control panel holds what is basically the “scar tissue” resulting from his time travel across the fabric of space-time. The GI, after monologuing a bit about revenge for all the baddies the Doctor has dispensed, steps into the Doctor’s total time line and corrupts all the good deeds he’s ever done in his extensive lifetime. Jenny and Strax die; the lights go out; the Doctor suffers. Clara realises her destiny in all this- if she steps into the timeline as well, she can fix what the GI has done. River’s hologram warns that she’ll be fractured into a million little pieces (couldn’t resist) and that the true Clara will die. Of course, when has fractionation ever stopped a companion from doing something selfless yet reckless for the Doctor?
The Doctor, natch, can’t stand this sacrifice. He presumes to walk into his own time stream, even though holo-River is yelling at him. Of course, turns out he could hear her pretty much the whole time. They have a touching good-bye scene (not sarcastic, it actually was pretty emotional) and he steps into his own lifespan. He reaches through to help Clara out. As he’s set to carry her back to the real world, he sees a shadowy figure looking out across a less-than-scenic valley of red rocks. Our Doctor says that man is his true secret, his true name, not the name he chose to be. That man (John Hurt) is… the Doctor.
To be resumed November 23rd! This was the first episode in this series (well, the second half of it, anyway) that I actually cared about. I’m still pretty tepid on Clara, though I like what her ultimate relevance here was. Maybe now that we figured out her past relevance, if she sticks around in the future she can develop a little more of a personality. Plus, who doesn’t love a dark version of the Doctor running around? No doubt we will delve into the mysteries of whatever terrible things this nth Doctor has done, and it will hopefully be exciting. Seriously, it had better be an upgrade on the rest of this series…