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Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor (Review)

How do we get down there? Jump?

Don’t be silly. We fall.

– Clara and the Doctor set things straight

Like The Wedding of the River Song, The Name of the Doctor suggests that Moffat might be better served by reverting to the Davies-era model of two-part season finalés. The strongest season ender of the Moffat era (and probably the best season finalé of the revived show) was The Big Bang, because it felt like Moffat had enough space to allow his ideas to breathe. The Name of the Doctor is a lot sharper and a lot more deftly constructed than any of the closing episodes from Russell T. Davies’ seasons, but it feels a little too compact, a little too tight for its own good.

To be fair, Moffat is has very cleverly structured his season. The mystery of Clara was seeded as early as Asylum of the Daleks and hints have been scattered throughout the past year of Doctor Who. Even the build-up to the final line of the episode feels like an idea that Moffat has been toying with since The Beast Below. Despite all this, it still feels like The Name of the Doctor could do with a little more room to elaborate and develop the concepts at the core of the story.

Journey to the centre of the Doctor?

Journey to the centre of the Doctor?

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Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks (Review)

You’re going to fire me at a planet? That’s your plan? I get fired at a planet and expected to fix it?

In fairness, that is slightly your M.O.

Don’t be fair to the Daleks when they’re firing me at a planet.

And more wacky structural hijinks ensue.

The sixth and seventh seasons of the revived Doctor Who are strange beasts, for a number of reasons. The decision to split the seasons stands out, but there is also a sense that they are structured in a counter-intuitive manner. The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon served as a two-part season finalé, despite opening the sixth season. In contrast, Let’s Kill Hitler played like a frothy season premiere. (The Wedding of River Song is perhaps the most difficult to place; while certainly not a light run-around season opener, it was nevertheless a bit light for a finalé.)

Things are looking up...

Things are looking up…

The seventh season arguably streamlines the structure a bit. The Name of the Doctor plays almost like a season premiere, revealing the origin story for “the Impossible Girl” and teasing ideas like the War Doctor and Trenzalore relentlessly. In contrast, Asylum of the Daleks feels like a season finalé, teasing a new companion as the existing companions struggle to get on with their real lives, featuring fleets of Dalek ships destroying planets and massive amounts of continuity.

Indeed, the biggest problem with Asylum of the Daleks is that it has not enough time to establish all its core elements. Plot points come out of nowhere. Character beats are established in the same scenes that resolve them. Asylum of the Daleks is a big episode in keeping with the “blockbuster” aesthetic of the anniversary season, but it also establishes the limitations of that approach.

Moffat’s crack at writing a Dalek episode…

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