One day, my thoughts will be coherent enough to have a proper reaction to “The Name of the Doctor”. Right now, I’m in a hazy fog of fangirly glee, confusion, and awe. Things won’t be perfectly clear for another six months, until we see exactly what this is setting up.
What this episode has done is remind me of exactly why I adore Moffat Who. Sure, it’s not perfect. Maybe certain plot points are barely tied together by hazy half-sentences of explanation. Maybe you have to watch an episode twice to figure out exactly what happened. But that’s the beauty—it doesn’t just flash past your eyes and let you move on with your day. It forces you to think about it, and in the midst of puzzling out muddled plot points, you stumble into an ocean of ideas.
Other shows have episodes you can watch. Moffat Who has episodes you can swim in.
Moffat Who is full of Themes and Ideas and Allusions that make the episodes so much more than 45-minutes of goofy sci-fi. In “Name of the Doctor” alone, we had musings upon Fate, Mortality, Identity, Life After Death, Regret, Revenge (Monsters, Swordfights, True Love, et cetera). We followed up on at least three different story threads. We explored the Doctor’s relationships with his wife, his companions, his friends, his foes, the universe and his past. There are a thousand different angles from which to examine this story.
The most fun angle, and easiest one to explain, is this. You all think you watched “Doctor Who”, a modern sci-fi show. In reality, you were watching “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Think about it. Clara goes into a dream, where she attends a Mad Tea Party (Eleven as an absent Mad Hatter?). She falls into a hole that seems to go on forever, and changes so much and so often that she no longer knows who she is. She runs into strange creatures that speak in rhyming couplets—poems are practically a greeting ritual in Wonderland, and everyone who’s read any portion of Grimm’s Fairy Tales knows that Magical Things speak in rhyme. The whole plot seems to work upon dream logic (though nowhere near the drug-haze insanity that is Carroll’s original), which places it firmly in the realm of fairy tale, where monsters whisper in dark corners and true names can end a world.
“Doctor Who” has thrived upon change. But it also thrives upon a timelessness that comes from being a children’s story, and this era embraces that facet of the show like no other. Children’s stories are the ones that endure, because everyone has been a child. Children’s stories get to be truly imaginative, because children are aliens who still marvel at the new things presented by this strange planet. Adults are natives, who have grown bored of the things they see everyday, who know how reality works and who are quick to be confused by Impossible Things. Children accept all sorts of wild happenings in their stories, because their reality is so strange and exciting that a few more strange and exciting things are par for the course. Children know that the world doesn’t make sense, and are willing to explore. To fall down the rabbit hole, go through the looking glass, step into the wardrobe, jump off a windowsill, fall into a chalk drawing. Or run inside a little blue box.
And I am forever grateful that I, a great grown girl, am allowed to follow along.