As witnessed in the somewhat messy Journey to the Centre of the Tardis, an episode that hints at solving the mysteries of The Doctor can often find itself bogged down and get somewhat lost. It is testament to Steven Moffat that The Name of the Doctor avoids all these traps, as well as working well as a season finale and setting up a genuinely surprising cliff hanger.
Instead of veiled Easter Eggs the references to the classic series and previous Doctors are not only clearly in show but also hit the viewer right from the start. There is much in the pre-credits sequence to make older fans of the series smile and the slightly abstract nature, as narrated by Clara, ties the eras and themes neatly together in style.
When the story itself begins it is with a mystery that asks the questions that have surrounded the series since An Unearthly Child. The story then naturally draws together the cast from different places and times, sending them logically to the only place they really shouldn’t go. Some viewers may consider the logical jumps required to be a little too far, however for a series with such a huge canon of mystery this is false criticism.
River Song in neatly bought back from the dead, or at least a database, and working with the Paternoster Lane trio and Clara, they set about trying to save The Doctor not only from the Great Intelligence but also himself.
All the cast are on top form, with Jenna Louise Coleman putting in one of her best performances at the Doctor’s companion and Richard E. Grant relishing his return as the Great Intelligence. Also of note is long time Doctor Who fan, Dan Starkey, as Strax, who has great fun with the role. The revelation of who Clara actually is makes sense and doesn’t feel forced and the actual name of the Doctor is beautifully side stepped in Moffat’s sparkling script. Despite all the disparate elements the whole narrative hangs together extremely well.
Arguably the greatest trick that Moffat pulls off is the resolution. Not only was the genuinely surprising reveal at the cliffhanger kept a closely guarded secret the viewers are also left with a feeling of resolution and questions answered when in fact many key mysteries are left unsolved. A fitting finale.