‘The Name of the Doctor’ does not improve with repeated viewings.
I’ve said before, no one retcons Neil Gaiman. Clara was not there when the Doctor stole the TARDIS. In my headcanon, in fact, neither was Susan. I imagine the young Doctor had been tinkering with her for some time, dreaming rebel Time Lord dreams. Maybe he’d even gotten her going, taken a trip or two. It wasn’t until he recognized himself in his troubled young granddaughter that he decided to invite her to run away. Maybe she was the only thing binding him to Gallifrey in the first place. When she agreed to go, then they got in the TARDIS and went. And there was no impossible girl to help them along.
But that’s all beside the point.
I like the classic series references, including the Valeyard name-drop. I like Clara’s past-era looks. (She does especially well in the eighties I think.) But that’s really it for this episode. The major plot point is the impossible girl: “I was born to save the Doctor,” Clara tells us, “and now my story is done.” But every companion saves the Doctor. And every companion – and every human – has their own story independent of him. Moffat’s choice to entwine them all together irritates me to no end.
In the same vein, the emotional arc comes from River, the long-dead, finally-confirmed wife he never visits. Why should River pine for him from beyond the grave? Where did this love they speak of come from? I liked the dropped hints in ‘Library;’ at that time even the Doctor had no sense of who she was or what she would mean to him. But this Doctor is supposed to know, and yet we’ve seen nothing. We are expected to accept this grand love story taking place behind the scenes. As I’ve said before, it’s a choice, but not one I agree with or even respect.
What else? Where did the Great Intelligence get its acrimony? Simeon is almost Master-like in his bent for revenge. What’s up with the Doctor being “blood-soaked?” The latter series keep trying to sell the idea of the Doctor as a great warrior, and I don’t buy it. I never have, and from Pandorica on this idea has annoyed me. Never mind the danger of visiting one’s own grave or the plausibility of the whole timeline situation. (We never do find out how they got out. Shades of Sherlock?) It’s a mess of an episode, and at no point was I engaged or enticed to suspend my substantial disbelief.
To make myself feel better, I will now go watch ‘The Night of the Doctor,’ with the inimitable Paul McGann.