Secrets & Surprises – Recap & Review of ‘The Name of The Doctor’, Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 13

Summary – spoilers from the start
I had to wait to until the morning after the airing to watch week’s finale episode. I avoided online news, twitter and Facebook to make sure it wasn’t spoiled for me, and thank god I did. This episode was almost perfect and had two stonking reveals; the solving of Clara’s ‘impossible girl’ mystery and the introduction of John Hurt as the Doctor.

I may have avoided spoilers for the episode but I did look at information about John Hurt and the 50th anniversary afterwards. There are leaks that look like they explain who Hurt is and the secrets he represents. I’m not going to talk about them here but if want to find out more, here is a link.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Recap – huge spoilers
This week’s opening really was for the true TARDIS-blue Whovians. It began in a workshop with an alarm sounding. One of the workmen (Work-Lords?) asked the very sensible question “What kind of idiot would try and steal a faulty TARDIS?” The first Doctor and his niece Susan of course! We panned out to see Gallifrey ‘a very long time ago’ and were then treated to a fast and furious journey of Clara trying to interact with the previous incarnations of the Doctor. This as intersected with her falling down a fiery tunnel and explaining “I’m breaking into a million pieces and I know only one thing, that I have to save the Doctor”.

After the credits, we saw Madame Vastra find out something intriguing about the Doctor from a murderer and then call a ‘conference call’ with Jenny, Straxx, Clara and Riversong. The conference was held within Vastra’s dream with people participating from across time and space. Before Riversong has time to explain the murderer’s words, they were attacked by the Great Intelligence (Richard E Grant) with his ‘The Whisper Men’, and Jenny is killed. The Great Intelligence tells them he wants the Doctor to go to Trenzalore and he is keeping the trio hostage until he does.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Clara woke and told the Doctor about the conference. He explained that Trenzalore must be his grave and it is somewhere that he, as a time traveller, must never go. But of course, he went anyway. Once on Transalor they saw a gigantic TARDIS from the future, the Doctor’s tomb. Unseen by the Doctor, Riversong then appeared to Clara and revealed a secret entrance to the tomb.

Outside the TARDIS-tomb, Straxx restarted Jenny’s heart before the Great Intelligence and his Whisper Men turned up. Underneath the tomb, Clara’s memories of when the Doctor explained his ‘impossible girl’ mystery returned to her before they reached the entrance to see the Great Intelligence waiting for them. He wanted entry to the tomb but needed the to Doctor to speak his real name as the password. Within the tomb we saw the wasted future console room with the Doctor’s ‘scare-tissue’ suspended as glowing blue energy in the centre. The Great Intelligence entered the ‘wound’ in the universe to rewrite the Doctor’s entire timeline and ‘turn his victories into defeats’.

Source: The Telegraph

Source: The Telegraph

Clara then figured out the source of her ‘impossible girl’ nature and entered the wound to save the Doctor. We saw an expanded repeat of the start of the episode including Clara advising the Doctor on which TARDIS to take. Back in the TARDIS-tomb, we saw that Clara’s action had saved them all and then the Doctor revealed that he has always been able to see and hear the echo of Riversong. After they kissed the Doctor entered his own timestream to save Clara.

Before the Doctor pulls her out, Clara spotted a figure who is a previous incarnation of the Doctor that she did not recognise. The Doctor reveals that the figure a regeneration who broke the promise that comes with the name ‘The Doctor’.

Clara then conveniently passed out before the figure turned around and said “I did what I did, without choice, in the name of peace and sanity” and the Doctor retorted “But not in the name of the Doctor.” The figure was then revealed to be John Hurt and “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor” was stamped across the screen.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC


Bad bits
Only two small flaws this week: 1) The terrible digital placements of Clara into old episodes felt like they were done by an A-Level student. How bad they were distracted from the fun of seeing her dotted throughout the Doctor’s past. 2) The souffle and leaf references felt very forced. I understand why Moffat had them in there but maybe they could have less corny.

Best bits
The funny parts – This episode was full of laughs, mainly coming from Straxx. Our favourite Sontaran was on top form and the highlight was his bar fight in Glasgow – a place where he now goes when he has some time off so he can spend it with the ‘pleasant primitives’.

The mystery – the explanation of why Clara was the ‘impossible girl’ was surprisingly satisfying. Ignoring the souffle references, her entrance into the Doctor’s timestream to try and all of his incarnations was exciting, made sense (enough for Doctor Who anyway) and left enough unsolved for us to still find Clara interesting i.e. why was Clara lurking in the depths of the TARDIS as a lava-zombie in episode 10?

The shock – the appearance of John Hurt in the show as the Doctor was kept impressively quiet and took me by complete surprise. It was the perfect set up for the 50th anniversary episode that comes out in November. Which takes me on to…

Next episode

We will have to wait a little while to see the trailer for this episode but so far we know that David Tennant, Billie Piper, John Hurt and Jemma Redgrave will all star and that we will see Daleks, Cybermen and Zygons. It will be shown in both 2D and 3D and will also air in cinemas across the UK and the US. It is not yet known when the tickets will go on sale, but when they do they will be the hottest geek-gold in the Universe. Expect a tough race against your fellow Whovians – it will be bloody.

Politics, Uncategorized

Still Waiting: A day at the Progress Annual Conference

I have been feeling quite gloomy about the Labour Party recently. I have been frustrated that the party has failed in the public’s eyes to provide strong leaders, and is not ready to be trusted on the economy. This was the mood I was in when I walked into Progress’ Annual Conference yesterday morning.

Source: Progress

Source: Progress

I arrived with a tax-dodging Starbucks coffee to wake me up and maybe jolt me out of my negativity. After chatting to some of the people I met at Progress’ political weekend, I took my seat 2for the opening speech.

Andrew Adonis gave the usual attack on the Coalition and the expected plug for his new book, ‘5 days in May’. He got applause for an increase in the minimum wage and called for action not austerity, but the speech was an introduction rather than a rally so it wasn’t a surprise to not hear anything new or particularly rousing.

The post-intro opening panel summed up the tensions that the Party seems to be feeling at the moment. Peter Kellner of YouGov and Phil Collins from The Times talked of the public’s, and their own, discontent with the Party’s leadership performance. They warned that the polls are not promising and we are still not where we need to be to win. These two speakers reflected my own low mood and I find it worrying that at the moment I tend to agree with journalists and pollsters far more often than Labour MPs. Their two big messages were that the public still need to be convinced of Ed Miliband’s ability and Ed Ball’s trustworthiness on the economy.

On the other side were Harriet Harman and Andrew Harrop (general secretary of the Fabians), who were both more defensive. Harriet was passionate and compelling when she argued for continuing to increase the diversity of the Party and MPs, but it didn’t feel as though she successfully rebutted the negativity, and the session ended in stalemate.

For the breakout session I chose ‘Economic competence: Have we earned the public’s trust?’ because Margaret Hodge was on the panel. The other panelists were economists who were united on their Keynesian analysis of how to get the economy moving and the opinion that we need to escape from the narrative of being blamed entirely for the recession.


After lunch it was time for the day’s keynote speech from Ed Miliband. I was really hoping that this would be the speech to force me out of my pessimistic attitude but unfortunately I will have to wait a bit longer for this to happen. There was no need for this to be a great speech and it did exactly what it needed to do to keep the room happy but it was a shame, with the growing negativity in the party, that Ed didn’t do something special to silence his critics. He started well with a joke about driving around the block looking for cyclists and his general theme seemed to be that the old certainties that were true in ’97 had broken down. The message I thought could be built upon was that living standards are falling; this theme has the ‘kitchen table’ appeal that the One Nation message lacks. In the end I felt that I have heard this speech a dozen times before. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t hear much that would have the cut through with the public that would aid Ed’s credibility and affability.

Ed did better with the post speech Q&A but failed to answer the question so many were thinking – “The party is doing well in the polls but you and Ed Balls are not. What are you going to do about it?”

In the afternoon I went to the discussion on ‘One Nation appeal: How can we win across Britain?’ PPC for Norwich North, Jessica Asato and Alison McGovern MP did well and illustrated a point that Phil Collins made in the morning; that there were people in the Party who could propose interesting policies to start convincing the public, but they don’t get the cover from the leadership that they need.

The final panel in the main room was very entertaining but summed up what had become the unfortunate theme of the day; the growing discontent with the Party’s performance. The panel was an echo of the first of the day – journalists versus politicians, and again I agreed with the journalists. Peter Mandelson, one of the founders of Progress, gave what he knew would be the naughtiest quote of the day – “I agree with One Nation Labour because it is a good New Labour theme.”

David Aaronovitch of The Times spoke angrily that we still haven’t seen ‘Baldric’s cunning plan’ that the leadership is plotting, but remained hopeful (just barely) that the plan would be a good one. Aaronovitch then put the nail in the coffin of the day by asking the question that he called the ‘elephant in the room’ – will the Party win with this leader? At that point everyone realised how interesting their shoes were because they were still waiting for Ed to ‘wow’ both them and the country. We do wait in hope but if we are still hoping by next year’s conference, the mood won’t be gloomy, it will be hostile.


“We are going to the North!” Review of ‘The Crimson Horror’, Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 11


Unexpectedly fantastic episode. From last week’s trailer I was worried that The Crimson Horror would be just be hammy and silly. However, I had forgotten that it was from the beautiful pen (because I can only imagine him to have beautiful pens) of the wonderful Mark Gatiss. Although by no means perfect, it was chilling, entertaining, funny and well just about everything you want from a Doctor Who episode. This is one that I will enjoy going back to watch as a standalone episode that also helped to move the story arc along. I doth my bowler hat to you in gratitude Mr Gatiss.

Source: BBC
Source: BBC

Summary – huge spoilers

This week’s romping mystery saw Vastra, Straxx and Jenny being hired by the brother of a victim of the crimson horror, a strange affliction that somehow kills you and makes you look like you have really bad sunburn. The victim was himself investigating the disappearances of believers who had joined a religious factory commune in Yorkshire called Sweetville. The commune is lead by the charismatic doom-monger Mrs Gillyflower (Diana Rigg) who use her own blinded daughter Aida (Rachel Strling) to demonstrate the consequences of sin. Jenny infiltrates the commune, discovers that the factory is fake and the Doctor has somehow caught the crimson horror but it has failed to kill him and he is locked in a cell.

After the Doctor cures himself he explains that he and Clara had teamed up with with the threesome’s client’s late brother to investigate Mrs Gillyflower. He reveals that Sweetville preserves its most fit and beautiful applicants and the ones who fail the preservation  process get the crimson horror and are thrown “in t’ canal”. They rescue Clara and set about stopping Mrs Gillyflower from, with the help of Mr Sweet, killing almost everyone on Earth. Mr Sweet, it turns out is a gross prehistoric red leech who lives symbiotically on Mrs Gillyflower’s chest (thank you Mr Gatiss, that really was lovely). With the help of Aida, who saved the Doctor from being thrown in to the canal and who was experimented on by her mother, they stop the apocalypse in time for some lovely Yorkshire tea.

This episode also contained a postscript that was a set-up for next week. The children who Clara is the nanny for discover her time traveling secret and force her into promising to take them with her. I am really not fond of the idea of children in the TARDIS but I will remain open-minded until I see the episode.


I always complain about boring side-characters that are hard to care about – this is one of the reasons why this episode made me so happy. The return of Vastra, Jenny and Straxx, combined with the appearance of Diana Rigg and Rachel Stirling as the love-to-hate villain and her blinded daughter,  meant that the episode was compelling even though the Doctor and Clara didn’t feature in much of it. The Victorian threesome are always fun to watch but the tragic relationship between Mrs Gillyflower and Aida added a depth that had been missing from this series so far.

The plot itself weaved wonderfully around mysteries that kept me guessing and pleasantly surprised. Things that I did not expect were the vacuum sealed Adams and Eves in waiting, the fake factory with gramophone noise effect, the stomach churning appearance of Mr Sweet and just how close he and Mrs Gillywater really were. I also really liked the religious zealotry in the motivation of the villain’s desire to destroy the world to create a paradise. This both alluded to the Eugenics movement that begin in the year this episode was set (1883 was the year Eugenics was given its name) and the horrors of fundamentalism.

I mentioned before that the episode was not perfect and what I didn’t like was the unnecessary Thomas Thomas/TomTom joke,  the grainy effect that was used for the flashback and the  fact that it wasn’t well explained how the red leech could show Mrs Gillyflower how to build a huge rocket with only a handful of helpers. However, these are only minor points that don’t spoil what was definitely the best episode for a long time.

Next week

‘Nightmare in Silver’ – Neil Gaiman is back and so are the Cybermen. I have picked up an interest in cybernetics and body modification recently so from the trailer it looks like this episode will feed my current obsession. It is also set in a creepy dilapidated theme park world – in the hands of Mr Gaiman, I’m struggling to see how this could go wrong.


Geek gathering – An evening at the Arthur C. Clarke Award

Last night was the first time the Clarke Award was open to the general public. Tickets sold out fast so here is a review of the night from a fan’s perspective for those not lucky enough to get one.

The night started with 250 geeks, nerds, writers and boffins filtering themselves into a large lecture hall in the beautiful Royal Society building off Pall Mall in London. I went just as a fan with some of the members of the Science Fiction Book Club and Postapocalyptic Book Club and we chatted through our excitement of the upcoming night.

When the event itself started it was with an intellectual bang – a panel discussion that glided around designing the ecology of a living spaceship, detecting gravitational wave direction, mathematically modelling visual illusions and virtual reality torture from experts in these unusual and fascinating fields.

We then had speeches to build the tension. At some points that tension was a little drawn out but once the head judge stared his run through the book descriptions the room went silent everyone felt the climax of the prestigious award was close.

Professor Ian Stewart of the science of Diskworld fame came to the stage with the envelope that felt like the most important piece of paper in the galaxy for the 10minutes he took to expound upon be importance and meaning of the award and Clarke himself.

Quite abruptly, Professor Stewart opened that pregnant envelope. And the winner was … Chris Beckett for ‘Dark Eden’. There was a screech from the audience at the announcement and Chris came up to collect his award. His speech was wonderful and included the memorable “I was a solitary child who spent his time reading and writing indoors. The other children might have got other things like healthy fresh air but [brandishing the award] have they got one of these? Probably not!”


The post announcement drinks reception were an interesting affair filled with mainly people from publishing houses, writers and organisers of geek groups such as the Sci-Fi Society. As someone who was there just as a fan this was an odd experience as networking events are when you lack a networking motive.

There were murmurings of displeasure from the literary agents about the panel discussion that they might normally appreciate but not when they give up their evening for what for them was work. However, overall there was a positive buzz as the free wine was downed in the hallowed halls surrounded by portraits of the great scientists of old.

After being very politely thrown out of the Royal Society a hundred strong party left for the pub and I got to spend time speaking to the winner, his lovely wife and the editor of the book. I hadn’t thought I’d get this opportunity to talk with these guys at such length but hey, when you throw yourself into the Clarke Award evening, odd things can happen.

I’m confident that next year they will find a stronger balance between appealing to the literary agents and the general nerds so when the 2014 Award comes around I would advocate every sci-fi fan try to get a ticket. It will be a tough race and you will have to beat me to one first.