OK, if you haven’t actually seen the series finale yet, look away, read another post, look at some of the pretty pictures, but don’t read this, as it does contain spoilers.
Right, still with me?
It takes a lot of confidence in both your show and its audience to do what Steven Moffat just did. Previous series of Doctor Who have had themes or ideas running through them, which have fed into the big, bold finale, but each story has generally made complete sense on its own. There have been plenty of two-parters, and the occasional sneaky three-parter, but never before has there been something like this: a series opener that left everyone (a) wondering what the hell just happened and (b) wondering how the hell the Doctor was going to get out of this one. Then to follow that up with a range of stories, some of which fed more detail into the overriding Big Story, and some which didn’t. And some which did in ways that wouldn’t be apparent until the finale.
In short, Steven has made sure that Doctor Who has become something you really have to pay attention to. And contrary to some of the more idiotic newspaper allegations, the audience seems to be following along quite nicely – more people are choosing to record the show to watch later, more people are watching (and perhaps re-watching) on iPlayer, either to make sure they can watch it without interruption, or to watch that scene again to make sure of what they thought they saw.
So in essence, the opening two parter never made complete sense – it was crying out for resolution. How did the older Doctor come to be not only 200 years older, but also in that place at that time? Why did he send those blue envelopes to his friends, and himself? What was the whole deal with the Impossible Astronaut? Where did the little girl come from and how the hell was she regenerating in true Time Lord fashion?
And gradually, some of those questions were answered, leading up to this closing single episode, which managed to squeeze in more madness, fun and emotion than most two-parters could dream of.
Time has gone very wibbly-wobbly indeed. As Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill complains that it’s always 5:02pm on 22 April, which is the date and time of the Doctor’s death, it’s apparent that something very odd is happening. The pterodactyls in the park are a bit annoying, the cars suspended by hot air balloons are a bit odd, but I thing we should keep the steam trains running through the Gherkin – that was cool.
So, Churchill has his soothsayer dragged out of his dungeon and asks him to explain what is going on. The soothsayer is, we’re not at all surprised to learn, the Doctor in a tatty toga and a disreputable beard. And he begins to explain, in a series of flashbacks…
Which I’m not going to tell you about, so there. You should be watching it.
But we pass through some interesting scenes – there’s a fun chess game with an unrecognisable Mark Gatiss as a viking-style alien, Area 52 in a pyramid full of imprisoned Silents, Amy showing a ruthless side, and River Song breaking Time, Life, the Universe and indeed Everything to avoid killing the Doctor.
And so we see that scene at Lake Silencio played out again. This, err, time, the Doctor doesn’t die, which leads to all the fun with Churchill, Pterodactyls and so forth. Then the Doctor finally convinces River that the whole of space and time is more important than he is, and what with his death being one those Fixed Points in Time that can’t be changed even by him, he has to die at that time in that place. And so they get married and as they touch, we see the Doctor die one more time, and the Universe is restored to some semblance of normality.
Which leaves Amy with a Doctor-shaped hole in her life. Until one day, River Song comes to visit her parents. For her, it’s just after the fun with Angels on the Byzantium, for Amy, it’s more or less now. And River reveals her wonderful, glorious secret…
Yes, of course the Doctor got out of it, and the clue to how he did it has been staring us all in the face since Let’s Kill Hitler, but I totally failed to predict it. Points to anyone who got there before me. Yes, the Doctor borrowed a Tesselecta and it was that which married River Song and went to its apparent death…
Now the Doctor has decided that he’s become too widely known, and that it’s time to lie low. I can’t see that lasting long…
And that whole “Silence Will Fall” thing that’s been echoing around since The Eleventh Hour? Well, we now know what it means, more or less. The Silence believe that Very Bad Things will happen if a question is answered. Which is why they wanted to kill the Doctor, so he couldn’t be at another time and place where the Question would be asked and he might just answer it. And it’s a big question. The first. In plain sight, where we’ve all been able to see it for so long:
I think we’ll be hearing more of that in the run-up to the 50th anniversary in 2013. Sounds almost like a reference back to the later part of the Sylvester McCoy era, when hints were being dropped that the Doctor wasn’t just any old Time Lord, but perhaps something else altogether. No doubt all will become much less clear in time…
 Note to people of the American persuasion: when we say “series” in UK TV terms, we mean “a run of episodes” rather than the whole thing forever. The use of “season” is creeping in, but it’s not what most of us say
 A nice reverse spoiler had him listed as playing Fenric on IMDB. While bringing back one of the Doctor’s old foes would have been interesting, and seeing that he was playing chess and looking a bit Norse made it plausible, once he’d been eaten it seemed less likely
 A leaked bit of information that makes you think you know what’s coming
 Details omitted on grounds of leaving some details unspoiled
 The clever shape-sifting, time-travelling Justice Machine that tried to kill Hitler before being rudely interrupted by the Doctor