1. The mystery of the impossible girl is solved.
And it’s actually pretty straightforward. In classic companion style, Clara sacrifices herself for the Doctor by throwing herself into his time stream after the Great Intelligence, who is attempting to kill every incarnation of the Doctor. She gets ripped to shreds by the time winds, and different echos of her save the Doctor throughout time and space. It’s a touching and wonderful moment that I immediately wished I cared more about. As heartfelt as the scene was, Clara’s bravery impossible to ignore, we still knew next to nothing about Clara by the time she threw herself into the mercy of the Doctor’s time stream. It felt like Moffat throwing some poor red-shirted piece of cannon fodder in the line of the Doctor’s fire. It’s disappointing and telling that the episode started with Clara saying, “I was born to save the Doctor,” implying that yet again she doesn’t have value outside her relation to the him. At least the Doctor went after her and saved her, some variation of her, and with this impossible girl mystery solved and out of the way, we might get a chance to see who she really is in the 50th anniversary special and the season beyond that.
Side note: Can we take a moment to talk about the fact that there’s a version of Clara that’s a time lady?
2. The Great Intelligence was a disappointing and boring enemy.
It was mostly because we only got to see the Great Intelligence twice this season (“The Snowmen,” “The Bells of St. John”) before the season finale, but Dr. Simeon’s hate-filled speech about wanting to destroy the Doctor to the point where he was willing to sacrifice himself felt a little extreme. The GI clearly also has issues with many early reincarnations of the Doctor, but dragging the Doctor to his grave, killing him in every moment in his time stream, and (unintentionally) making him face a version of himself that he had locked away so tightly we didn’t even know that regeneration existed? That’s a plan of a deeply entrenched enemy, and a little more season development and arc to that story would have gone a long way to give this season finale the much needed intensity to the very low stakes this episode played with. The lack of development this season, both with the villains and Clara, made what should have been a very exciting season feel flat and boring.
Side note: If Trenzalore is a graveyard for warriors, why did the Doctor say there’s no way River could be buried there? Girl. Is. Fierce.
3. River says her final good-bye.
And it’s in a very heartbreakingly underwhelming way. Post Library River, who is a copied digital download, is psychically linked to Clara throughout the episode after a nifty little telepathic conference Vastra called. After providing some helpful hints and saving the day by speaking the Doctor’s name, River finds out that the Doctor has been able to see and hear her the entire episode. And in a typical selfish way, he has kept from speaking to her (after abandoning her for centuries to live limitedly and mostly alone in CAL) because he was afraid it would hurt him too much — as if he doesn’t owe her at least a greeting and a fervent thank-you. But the one thing he did do for her in this episode, which admittedly broke my heart, was show her that he did in fact love her. After he says good-bye as if he’ll see her again, River gives him one last piece of hope, that Clara is definitely still alive, before simply disappearing like the rest of the Ponds. It’s the end of an era, and while River didn’t get a chance to go out in style, she did at least get some small amount of comfort and closure.
4. John Hurt is the Doctor.
The entire episode was mostly just a way to set up the ‘John Hurt is regeneration of the Doctor that we’ve never seen’ reveal, and incidentally was the only moment of the episode (and season) that we saw any real forward movement. It looks like that rumor that The Sun reported on last week is most likely true.
“John will play the real Ninth Doctor. Christopher Eccleston has always been thought of as the Ninth Doctor but now that John has been revealed as the Ninth Doctor, it shuffles Eccleston’s Doctor to be the Tenth Time Lord, Tennant the 11th and Smith the 12th.
The reason the Doctor has forgotten his ninth incarnation will become clear but it’s to do with the Time War and his shame over his behaviour in it.”
Despite the controversy surrounding Christopher Eccleston’s refusal to join the cast of the 50th anniversary special, fans can at least be reassured that Eccleston’s adventures won’t be rewritten, and we’ll find out what happened during the Time War to make the Doctor the way he is today.