Salutations, faithful viewer. If you’re looking for your good ol’ chipper Chance, I’m afraid to say you won’t find him here. Nope, she’s currently sunk in the depths of her bed, tapping desultorily at her keyboard, posting this recap through sheer force of will. You see, we’ve arrived at the series finale, and your intrepid recapper isn’t quite willing to accept the fact. It seems like we just started the series, doesn’t it? Thanks to that dratted hiatus we had from September to Christmas and then from Christmas to April. Just think about all the things that’ve happened over the course of this series! We bade farewell to two Companions and welcomed a new one; we cavorted with the Paternoster Gang (I’m thrilled that they officially have a name, incidentally); we met some wonderful new enemies and squealed with delight over the return of several older ones. After such a serial, jam-packed as it is and was with such marvelous adventures, it’s only fitting that we close out the serial with a Big Damn Show. I mean, it’s the rules: When you say good-bye to something awesome, you celebrate it with an awesome party. And that’s exactly what we’ve got here…except, of course, this is a Doctor Who party. The cake may be lovely, but the only party favor you’re likely to get is a broken heart.
If you’ve been following the show at least since Series 6, you no doubt are familiar with the name Trenzalore (and no doubt get cold shivers up your spine at the mere mention of it). But ever since it was first mentioned on the show, it has remained shrouded in mystery. Shrouded, that is, until now. In this serial, we find out the real significance of Trenzalore and the reason why the Doctor must never go there. Naturally, he goes anyway, and it’s up to Clara, the Paternoster Gang, and (in a stunning return) Professor River Song to save the Doctor and the Universe from being destroyed by the Great Intelligence and Its gang of Whisper Men. And in the process of doing so, we finally manage to solve the secret of Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl.
One thin that puts us at an advantage over other more casual/moderate Whovians, faithful viewer, is that we have more than a passing familiarity with classic Who, and so can reap more satisfaction from references to the old Doctors, with which this serial is rife. Now, when I say this, I do not mean to imply that casual Whovians (those who are only familiar with Matt Smith’s episodes) or moderate Whovians (only familiar with New Who, starting with Christopher E.) are less valid fans than we are: no matter the degree to which you know/love the show, the only thing that matters is that you do know and love it, because that’s what makes you a Whovian. I simply mean to say that a casual or moderate Whovian will probably not experience the same frisson of excitement at watching the First Doctor and Susan stealing the TARDIS (or any of the other myriad references) as we, the
manic rabid obsessive extreme Whovians, do. Because let’s be honest: we did. We jumped up and down in our seats, we screamed and shouted like we were watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in February ’64. Myself, I did such an enthusiastic jig that I sent my coffee all over the carpet. I suspect that I shan’t get the stains out anytime in this decade. Worth it!
Incidentally, all those images we saw of past Doctors were, for the most part, actual footage from actual serials from the classic era! Oh, the show-runners treat us well, faithful viewer, don’t they? Except for when they tear our hearts out and use them to season their afternoon tea.
The latter half of this Seventh Series has been spiced up noticeably by the return of the Great Intelligence, that most classic of Who villains, dating from the Troughton era. Understandably, the GI has been gunning for the Doctor ever since his Beatle-haircut-and-recorder-playing days for screwing up all Its plans for world domination. This time, the GI is properly vindictive against the Doctor, and the hackneyed phrase “this time, it’s personal” couldn’t be more appropriately used. As a result, the GI has, I think, gone completely insane. The actions of the GI demonstrate that It is perfectly willing to destroy Itself and the whole Universe just to torture the Doctor. That’s right, faithful viewer, the GI is willing to disintegrate all of causality in a fit of pique. From where I’m standing, that seems to be a royally stupid thing to do, and all over an injury to pride? Tsk tsk tsk. Ah well, at least the GI managed to find some decent henchmen this time around. The Whisper Men are deliciously creepy, whereas the Yeti were just clumsy. (It must be said that the Snowmen and the Ice Lady the GI used in “The Snowmen” were also very cool).
Now, faithful viewer, as much as I would love to continue ragging on the GI, I must address something quite sad in nature. As I mentioned before, this episode sees the return of the sassy and serendipitous River Song. I was overjoyed at her return, needless to say; things are always just a bit more interesting when River’s around. However, my joy was swiftly turned to sorrow when it became apparent that this is River’s farewell episode, her swan song. I knew it would come eventually, but that did not prevent me from spilling several thousand heartbroken tears at her departure. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, River will always be one of my very favorite characters. She’s quick, confident, sassy, scandalous, and above all, strong. And yet, there’s always a part of her that is vulnerable and sad, which we only see when she’s alone with the Doctor, the man who she loves and who loves her. Forced to grow up too tough too soon, there will always be a part of River that represents the childhood she never got to spend. That’s the reason why I love her so much. As Whitman wrote, she “contains multitudes.” She inspires me every day to be the best at whatever I do, and also to be the most human human being I can.
Farewell, River. Good-bye, sweetie.
Truly, however, the Big Thing in this episode (besides finding out more about the nature of Trenzalore) is solving the mystery of Clara, the Impossible Girl. Since I still wish to be true to River, I won’t divulge any spoilers here. However, I will say that, right from the beginning, our Clara has always been two steps ahead of the Doctor, and for a very good reason!
Before I sign off, I want to address something troubling that several of my Internet friends have been saying lately, regarding the lovely Miss Clara. They are of the opinion that the next Companion on the show (heaven forbid Clara leaves any time soon and with any gratuitous level of tragedy) should be utterly ordinary. No mystery surrounding them, no special relationship to the space-time continuum, nothing of that sort at all, in the hopes that the Doctor remembers that ordinary people can be intriguing too. This, faithful viewer, strikes me as a very hurtful and untrue statement, and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, I can’t think of a single Companion the Doctor’s ever had that can be described as “normal” or “ordinary.” Secondly, the statement presumes that the Doctor has, for some time now, been selecting his Companions based on the big dramatic mystery surrounding them, when in fact (apart from River and Clara), the Doctor has been doing no such thing. He travels with the people he chooses because he thinks they’re clever or special in some way. From Susan to Clara, that has always been his main motivating factor. And remember: if Clara was insufferable, rather than as brilliant as she is, you can bet the Doctor would’ve dropped her like a hot Sontaran (pardon me, I meant potato) and found another way of solving her mystery. Just because a girl’s impossible, that doesn’t mean she gets to be the Doctor’s Companion.
Additionally, I just love how Clara chose her impossible nature. (I hope this isn’t creeping into spoiler territory). By creating the mystery that surrounds her, she shows an agency that is rarely seen in female characters. Thus, she shows that my English teacher (who is of the opinion that Steven Moffat is incapable of writing decent female characters) is dead wrong. Well really, I think I could pick any one of Moffat’s female characters on this show to prove my teacher wrong, but I think Clara Oswald is the final proof. Oswald for the win!
And that’s it for me, beloved viewer. Join me again this November, when we celebrate Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary (!!!) and hopefully find an answer to the question that the Harry Potter and Merlin fandoms are no doubt screaming at their television sets. What question is troubling the Potterheads and Excalibites, you ask? This: what does Ollivander and the Slash Dragon have to do with the Doctor?
Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, where we celebrate fifty years worth of flying in a blue box and running through corridors…Geronimo!