Doctor Who: The Name Of The Doctor spoiler-free thoughts
What treats are in store for the Doctor Who series 7 finale, The Name Of The Doctor? Here are some spoiler-free thoughts...
Two things up front. Number one, this is not a review. It's a sort-of-review, but for a reason we're about to mention, it's not a full one. The second thing, then, and that reason? We've seen all but the last scene of The Name Of The Doctor (something we'd rather be up front about, rather than pretend otherwise), but the BBC is holding back the full ending until Saturday night. Granted, if you particularly want to, you can hit Google to find out what's going to happen, but we haven't. Please, then, even if you do know the ultimate ending here, don't spoil it for others, and please keep spoilery thoughts out of the comments below.
What we're going to talk about instead are our spoiler-free thoughts on the 40 or so minutes we saw. And what we saw was very good indeed.
We've got to inevitably tread carefully, because developments and spoilers start flying extremely early on in The Name Of The Doctor. Furthermore, this is another episode where Matt Smith takes a while to make his entrance, with the episode setting up its many characters - it's little secret who's returning, be they on the Doctor's side or not - before it properly brings him in.
There's a lot to juggle here, too. In truth, we've missed having the odd two parter in this run of Doctor Who, not least because a couple of stories of series 7 feel as though they've rushed to wrap things up (take The Power Of Three, which we thoroughly enjoyed, for 90% of its running time). The irony, though, is that The Name Of The Doctor has a lot of story to tell, with a lot of characters, and yet it all seems to fit (at least so far). Steven Moffat's writing, when firing on all cylinders, juggles an ensemble particularly well (just go and take a look back at Coupling for plenty of evidence of that), and that's certainly the case here.
Perhaps the most interesting thing we found about the 40 minutes of The Name Of The Doctor that we saw was its willingness to answer questions. Furthermore, its willingness to answer questions without over confusing things.
There had been criticisms in particular of last series' finale, The Wedding Of River Song, that it had been tricky to follow. The Name Of The Doctor, structurally, is more straightforward in that regard, although no less ambitious. It feels - again appreciating that we've not seen every minute of it - a more rounded, more satisfying and strong series finale. Crucially, it also feels like a more accessible one.
From the off, we think lots of people are going to like this one. We did. In fact, even before the credits roll, the nerd bait had begun in earnest, with a lovely sequence that had us borderline squealing with glee. There are no shortage of moments like that throughout. Apologies for being very vague, but there are things in here that you're going to have a lot of fun discovering for yourself.
There are still one or two issues, based on what we've seen. For instance, we do have one or two reservations, to do with antagonists in The Name Of The Doctor. But given that these may resolve themselves in the material we've not seen, we'll hold them back for our spoiler-filled look at the episode on Saturday.
After all, The Name Of The Doctor may yet add on an ending that makes us question every word we've just written above. There's no sign that it will, though, at least that we've picked up on so far. And assuming it gets those last few minutes right, this might just be one of the best Doctor Who series finales - be they mid- or end-season - of recent times. Hope so...