Originally written for TV Pixie
If you heard that all of history was happening at once, what would you expect to see? A chaotic maelstrom of whirling energies as the Universe is born and subsequently dies? Continents whizzing around like boats at a regatta, merrily bumping coastlines? A bone whirling up into the air to become a spaceship?
Or would it be Churchill living in a Roman palace while steampunk cars attached to hot air balloons wafted overhead dodging pterodactyls?
If you chose option 2, chances are you’re either a) unfamiliar with the concept of history, or b) Steven Moffat, who doesn’t shy away from showmanship even if it is at the expense of sanity or logic. The BBC interviewing Charles Dickens? A steam train running through the Great Pyramid? It’s all very silly, but we can forgive him anything: after all, he did dress Amy in a badass, Dana Scully power suit and gave her a machine gun.
Luckily for anyone tuning in under the influence, the initial ‘what the flippity heck’ effect of our sudden plunge into this crazy Universe is cleared up by a bit of backstory.
Backstory delivered, of course, by a handily placed, beardy, Doctor-like soothsayer that Emperor Churchill happens to have lying around, and who spells out a lot of things we should probably have been able to guess.
Of course the Doctor wouldn’t just have resigned himself to his fate. Of course he’d have lurched around the Universe investigating the Silence like the opposite of a council funded noise pollution warden. Of course he’d have interrogated a Dalek and removed its eyestalk: we couldn’t have a finale without a cameo from the ex-baddies (even if they’re now about half as scary as K9).
And of course, as part of the investigative process, the Doctor would end up playing electrified chess with a Viking version of Scary Spice from Bo Selecta (played by Mark Gatiss) in an attempt to discover why the Silence and co. want him dead
Yes, actually in hindsight that bit wasn’t that obvious.
Neither was the Doctor’s subsequent discovery of a crypt full of living, carnivorous skulls: it was like a live action version of Trap Door, especially when you factor in the fat blue man who also lived down there…although at least Burk had a body. Characters lose a certain je ne sais quoi when they’re just a head in a box.
Digestive functions, mainly.
It’s Head in a Box, a.k.a Dorium Maldovar (last seen in A Good Man Goes To War being decapitated by the Headless Monks) who is tasked with finally revealing why it is the Silence want rid of the Doctor.
“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature may speak falsely or fail to give answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never, ever be answered.”
No, it’s not ‘should we do a remake of Keith Chegwin’s Naked Jungle?’ (although God help us if it is). As we now know, it’s ‘Doctor…who?’ Perhaps the answer is his name, perhaps its secrets from his past. Whatever it is, Dorium warns that the revelation will have disastrous effects. And it’s that – along with news of his old friend the Brigadier’s death- that finally makes the Doctor accept his fate and head to his doom at Lake Silencio.
It also seems to indicate that Matt Smith’s exit from the programme has already been written: that the ‘fall of the Eleventh’ has been used- very impressively- as a multiple series arc foreshadowing, well, just about everything, really. Way back in Matt Smith’s first outing, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, Prisoner Zero hisses that ‘Silence will fall’.
Top marks for forward planning there.
Although we might not have been expecting the Mark Gatiss/Bo Selecta Viking; one thing we really should have been expecting was that the ‘Te Selecta’ (with its Numskulls inspired crew of tiny people) would make a reappearance. It was far too handy not to show up again.
Yes, the series long conundrum – how will the Doctor escape his certain fate?- is fairly conveniently answered: he’ll hide inside a ship that can impersonate anyone, living or dead, allowing him to lurk inside himself peering out of his own fake eyeholes while his brand new wife uses a remote controlled Apollo era astronaut suit to pretend to assassinate him.
But of course.
Despite the fact that the end reveal – that the Doc isn’t really dead- is almost a deus ex machina: the surrounding scaffolding of the episode is one of such exuberance and joy in its own cleverness that it’s hard to feel too cross or cheated. The plot’s just so much fun.
Come on, after all, everyone loves a wedding, right? Even if it is a rushed one on top of a pyramid filled with murderous aliens with electricity spilling from their hands in a frozen, static Universe.
That River loves the Doctor so much she defies the fixed point of time that is his death at her hands- shattering history into pieces in the process- is undeniably romantic: though the idea that time can only come back into being through physical contact between them is slightly more on the kinky side.
“And River Song? In prison all her days?”
“Her days, yes. Her nights…well, that’s between me and her…”
It was all just so damned, explosively good: despite its Time Bandits silliness and convenient Get Out Of Death Free card. After all, if you’re writing a programme about a time travelling, 1000 year old alien who ponces around in a 60s era police box, why not pull out all the stops? Hell, why even have stops in the first place? Just give the Doctor a dinosaur to ride, make Jesus his sidekick and have done with it.
One thing’s for sure, the story of the Silence is far from over. They’ll probably back off for a while now they think the Doc is dead (hey, it worked for Elvis after all), but it seems we’ve all got a mysterious date with the Doctor at the Fields of Trenzalore at some point in the future…and if that doesn’t give your old spine a bit of a tingle then you’re probably a Dalek.