Five Questions Raised by the Doctor Who Finale

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In a nutshell, the finale was highly unsatisfactory. But I don't want to drown in negativity, as there seems to be plenty of that going on around the internet. Instead, I bring you 5 questions, along with theoretical answers. And like Jeopardy, many of the answers will come in the form of more questions.

1. Who is Madame Kovarian?

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She came, she giggled maniacally, and she died, and yet we know nothing of her but her name. They made far too big a deal about her to just kill her off without a second word. We didn't even get the obligatory "when the Silents rule the Universe, I will be their sheriff!" scene.

2. Now that I mention it, what do the Silents actually want?

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They seem to roam the Universe menacing people without any actual purpose in doing so. Do they really want to kill the Doctor just so he won't say "Doctor Who?"

3. Can asking "Doctor Who?" really be the question?

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Methinks Dorium is pulling a fast one. As you may recall, the question has been asked MANY times, especially in Moffat episodes. One might say the question was both asked and answered by Reinette in The Girl in the Fireplace, we just weren't privy to the answer. Also, it's a really stupid question. There's no answer to be given that doesn't completely pull the rug out from under 50 years of continuity and character building. Making some grand statement would be incredibly cheap.

Steven Moffat needs to ask himself the same question that the Doctor asks himself when faced with the opportunity to prevent the Daleks from existing: "Do I have the right?"

4. If the Doctor's death is really a fixed point, how could he not die?

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The answer is simple: it's not really a fixed point. To put it another way, the rumors of his death are greatly exaggerated, and always have been.

The only way this resolution isn't mind-numbingly pointless is if someone has been playing an extremely long game, convincing the entire Universe that the Doctor's death is a fixed point in time. Maybe it's the Doctor who's playing the long game.

Of course, as this is a time travel show, the only way that faking his own death could work is if he actually does manage to disappear forevermore. Perhaps he just travels around in various Tesselecta bodies henceforth. Well, that's one way of getting around the regeneration limit.

Also, according to the internal mechanics of this episode, the sudden "flattening" of time can't actually have anything to do with the Doctor's death, especially if he just has to fake his own death for time to be set right. That almost definitely proves there's another party involved who actually caused the flattening of time.

It could even be something as simple as River's astronaut uniform setting off the flattening of time if River fails to kill the Doctor, so he just needs to fake out the suit.

5. Who are the Ponds?

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Post-episode, my fellow watchers were extremely confused by the timeline of the Ponds.

My problems with these two as characters are well documented, and I'm not going to rant about it further here. Instead, I offer an alternate explanation.

But to quickly recap: these characters either die, have their memories erased, have their realities reset, forget every lesson they've learned in previous adventures, and generally do not behave consistently like human beings.

So let's apply Occam's razor. Maybe they aren't human beings.

I offer an alternate theory: perhaps they've been assigned by some interested third party to keep an eye on the Doctor and follow his many manipulations of time. After all, only Amy and Rory (though now it seems like only Amy) remember the various erased and reset realities apart from the Doctor (and maybe River?). Perhaps the Timelords are returning and have ordered the Ponds to keep track of the Doctor's crimes against time. Or maybe they've been assigned as guardians to keep him safe (which seems more probable, and explains how they could magically create a military base in the middle of a pyramid).

If such a thing were true or possible, I'd further propose that the Ponds are Eternals, a race introduced in Enlightenment and mentioned to be hiding out in the void in Doomsday. The race are a bit like the Q Continuum, in that they've long ago lost touch with their humanity and engage in "petty amusements" to distract them from the eternal nothingness of their lives.

So perhaps these two are like intergalactic immortal Emma Peel and John Steed, charming their way through the Universe and resetting their relationship to new fantasies of romance whenever possible. It's just their way of keeping things fresh, switching around who's the needy one, switching out who's got the upper hand in any given episode.

Maybe the Doctor has even cottoned on to who they are, and it's the Ponds he needs to convince of his death, so he can escape their watchful eyes.

River, of course, would be an accidental by-product of the "today we're going to pretend we're parents!" roleplay. Which would explain why they aren't overwhelmed with parental concern.

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I accept that these theories might be complete bollocks.

Play in the comments!

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56 Responses to “ Five Questions Raised by the Doctor Who Finale ”

  1. When I first heard your theory of Amy being an alien on Twitter, it sounded a bit out to lunch, but you've explained it quite well. I would actually love for this theory to play out, because it would be an awesome case of Doctor Who pulling a fast one on us viewers once again. I'm curious - if I pressed you, what sort of ranking would you give the episode?

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  2. Or alternatively Moffat could be doing exactly as he set out to do in describing his era as a dark fairy tale i.e. ignoring character development.

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  3. Great post.  There's a lot of great comments that are similar to my post about the finale (http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=8115) but touch upon other areas.
    I thought that using the Tesselecta as a way around the Doctor's death would be too easy a way out, and darned if Moffat took it. 
    I hope my not liking this season (or series, as they call them in the UK) isn't because of any shortcomings on my part, and this is coming from someone who's watched The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, and Lost. 

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  4. theoncominghope2 October 2011 12:00

    did he specifically say he was going to ignore character development?

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  5. theoncominghope2 October 2011 12:03

    Hmmm good question!

    While I wasn't bored for even a second, there was just way too much going on. There was no coherent narrative to speak of, and I suspect that would irritate me more with each passing episode. While individual scenes were dramatically terrific, there wasn't adequate context for the super-emotion of River or the general gravity of the situation.
    so i'm giving it a 3/5.

    In context of NuWho finales, it's definitely one of the better ones I'd say. I'd rank it #2 after Parting of the Ways.

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  6. Just a comment on Point 4. The fixed point was River shooting (and seemingly killing) the Doctor (or something that looked like the Doctor). Just because the rest of the Universe thought he had died, doesn't mean that is what everyone there thought they saw.


    It was never the Doctor, it was always the Tesselecta. The flattening of Time was caused by River not doing what she was meant to do and not by it not being the Doctor.At least, that is the way I saw it happening :-)

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  7. theoncominghope2 October 2011 12:45

    Interesting! But for everyone to believe that's the day he dies (including the Tesselecta, who have everything in their databanks?) then he must never be seen again by anyone, surely?

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  8. Great questions! I'm a little more upbeat than you on the finale - I thought as an episode it worked well enough, but in the context of the season it just reminded more of what was wrong with this year instead of what was done right. Some thoughts to your thoughts:

    1. I think Madame Kovarian being revealed as a pawn/lackey of the Silence was supposed to answer the question of who she is, but I agree that it's totally unsatisfactory. She's a baby-stealing baddie all season and then a whimpering mess here. Blah. 

    2. We needed to learn something about them other than them being cool looking and creepy. Tying in with Kovarian, I think what we really needed to see was the Wizard, or at least the next face behind the curtain that's pulling these strings.

    3. I had a different take on this. I didn't see it as Moffat setting up a question he was going to answer as much as it was Moffat reaffirming that there are some questions that shouldn't be answered. I hope I'm right and you're wrong on this one. :)

    4. I think the "fixed point" is actually River shooting "the Doctor" and not killing the Doctor. Everyone just thought the fixed point was the Doctor's death because the Doctor goes into the shadows after this - he's still out there, people just think he's dead.

    5. I hadn't heard this but I like your theory and explanation.

    I've greatly enjoyed reading your thoughts these past few weeks! Over at the Anxiety, I'll be digging into the "Dr. Who and the Daleks" movie later this week, and then getting back to my rewatch of the Pertwee era. Your thoughts are always welcome, and you're always free to use my comments to link to your related posts. Have a great "off-season!" My thoughts on The Wedding of River Song are right here:

    http://atomicanxiety.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/doctor-who-bring-your-eye-patches-to-the-wedding-of-river-song/

    Cheers! 
    - Mark

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  9. theoncominghope2 October 2011 13:13

    Thanks Mark!

    I've loved your writing on Doctor Who as well, and will definitely be sticking around for the pieces on Classic Who :). Maybe we can do a couple of conversational pieces about old classics in the off-season :)

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  10. Below
    is an attempt to answer some of these questions.
    It's long and ranty, so unless you have patience, don't read. Also,
    since I'm quickly typing this, there are grammatical and spelling errors
    along with not-so-detailed explanations.
    Question one has a point. Question two I believe assumes that The Silence
    is that race of aliens, even though they are instead the entire
    movement that was created specifically to kill the doctor so that he
    doesn't answer the question. The third answer is that while
    Doctor Who? has been asked many times before, it's when the doctor
    answers it that everything goes to hell. The real problem comes at the
    time and place that the question is answered, and not so much the
    question itself. Answer four is that the Doctor's death that
    is a fixed point in time isn't the Doctor's death, just the moment when
    he starts laying low and the time-point that everyone believes he dies.
    Also, the flattening in time wasn't caused by the Doctor not dying so
    much as River Song simply not shooting the Doctor. Now, as for question five: First off, it's believed that time-travelers have an expanded
    perspective of the universe and time, and because of this they are
    capable of seeing things that normal people can't. Also, it's been
    stated that Amy's long exposure to the rift in time has given her the
    ability to remember things that others can't, including events and
    things from the previous universe before it was destroyed. As for the
    pyramid base that you bring up, it was mentioned in the episode that
    River Song was able to get it created by pulling some strings with the
    U.S. government and Cleopatra.

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  11. He has a time machine, so no-one has any way to know where he is in his own timeline.  Whenever he pops up it would be assumed to be before his death, no that he's still alive after it.

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  12. I agree about the fixed point in time. A fixed point in time is where whatever happened there is fixed. So all through the episode we thought that what had happened and then didn't (therefore causing the formation of the holy pterodactyl empire) was River Song shooting the doctor to death, when actually what she changed but shouldn't have was river song shooting the doctor-tesselecta. She still changed a fixed point in time by not shooting!

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  13. Excellent post. I was pretty happy with the finale, although it wasn't without its faults.

    I do wonder about the Silence's motivations, and whether the Doctor faking his own death will really fool them. I suspect they will be back, and also that Kovarian isn't actually dead at all.
    As for the Question, it clearly isn't just "Doctor Who?" and Dorium (i.e. Moffat) is being somewhat duplicitous here. Is it a question about the Doctor's true identity, or perhaps his role in the universe? Clearly all is not quite as it seems.

    Certainly I'll be glad if the reboot is what it seems. Less Time Lord Victorious, more the random meddling traveller should result in more character-driven stories rather than arc-heavy ones about universal conspiracies against the Doctor.

    I've cobbled together my thoughts on the season as a whole here:
    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/10/02/doctor-who-season-6-review/

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  14. I liked the episode, I think it shared with the previous episode the characteristic that all the problems with it are actually inflicted upon it by annoying things that occurred elsewhere in the season.

    If the ponds had not been unceremoniously dumped in a random time with a sports car and then shown up with the whole Petrichor thing in eps 11 + 12, their timeline would probably still be puzzling, but it wouldn't be so restricted, and they wouldn't be so oddly disappointing if we hadn't watched Amy be so mysteriously not herself recently.

    Also, if I had watched this episode without watching the rest of the half season, I would assume that I had missed an episode where the Ponds discussed with each other/River their issues, and I really think the way their relationship is shown in that episode almost demands that that did happen, offscreen. We're just annoyed because we reckon we deserve to see it.

    I disliked the ridiculous hyperbole and one-upmanship of the size of threat in many of the previous Doctor Who finales, that is just a personal thing, but it means that I have really enjoyed the tighter, less scary-enemy-focussed last two finales. I really think I needed that rest from trying to big up the next bad creature/person to be badder than the one before.

    So,yeah summary: Somehow, almost every episode of the second half of the series DETRACTED from my enjoyment of the finale rather than built it up, by throwing in niggling things that it was hard to ignore later on. But I think the finale was an excellent and entertaining solving of the problem Steven Moffatt set himsef in episodes 1,2 7+8.

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  15. Ok, completely dig your Ponds theory, that is awesome.

    I had the same problem with whole "tricking" aspect. Who is being tricked, exactly, into thinking the Doctor is dead? Time? It's just not clear.

    Madam Kovarian could return, it's possible we're not done with her yet, since "silence will fall" and all that jazz.

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  16. #4 - The moment of the robot Doctor's death CAN still be a fixed moment in time if that's the way it always happened. 

    You're assuming that the real Doctor ever actually died. But if the Doctor figured out the plan to kill him before he was ever killed, and it was always the robot that River killed, then nothing was changed. It remains a fixed point.

    Everyone thought the fixed point was the Doctor's death, because he let them believe that. But maybe it was always the robot Doctor. Which means that when Canton Everette III said that it was definitely the Doctor, technically it was true, since the Doctor was there inside the robot Doctor.

    When River didn't kill the robot Doctor, it messed up the fixed point and everything flattened out.

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  17. Sounds great! There's so many interesting, and well thought-out opinions on WHO floating around just in the links offered in the comment section over your last few posts that it'd be a shame to lose touch with everyone until next fall.

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  18. The reason why Amy always remembers is because of the crack in time/space she had in her room while growing up... the military base inside the pyramid isn't "magically" there either, River explains that she used the hallucinogenic lipstick on JFK (hence Area 51 and the US flag on the outside of the pyramid)

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  19. Hmmm.  You consider having your mind completely blown "disappointing"?  Well, ok I guess.  I'm going to let this one percolate before I have any theories.

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  20. Area 52.  And JFK WAS our first tripping President, according to Mary Pinchot Meyer.

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  21. Alien Amy?  Then where did her daughter get her human DNA?  Not buying it.  They've expanded the possibilities so all kinds of weird stuff can happen to the Companions:  Rory was real, then he was plastic, then he didn't exist, then he was real again.  Amy's gone out of existence at least once, and remember what happened to Rose.

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  22. Your Alien Ponds theory is an interesting idea, but surely it would have been noticed if something were amiss when Amy was locked in the futuristic hospital under the watch of Mme Kovarian? As for questions 2 and 3, I think it will be a case of Moffat copping out of both.

    In case that last comment didn't make it fairly clear, I was less than enamoured by the finale: too much going on, too many loose ends left unanswered, too many cheap answers to the stuff that was dealt with. Hopefully Moffat, whose work has deservedly been acclaimed in the past, will exert a little more self-control next season.

    My review: http://xandermarkham.blogspot.com/2011/10/in-another-reality-doctor-who-review.html

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  23. theoncominghope3 October 2011 01:19

    I have been so impressed with the commenters, honestly. It's fascinating how different people observe different things in the episodes, and it's definitely improved my viewing experience :)
    Are you on twitter by any chance?

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  24. theoncominghope3 October 2011 01:20

    That's fair enough in the first place.

    But the crack was never there in this version of Amy's reality, or the previous one?

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  25. theoncominghope3 October 2011 01:23

    It was mind-blowing in the sense that it didn't quite make sense, and figuring it out is a bit headachey.

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  26. theoncominghope3 October 2011 01:24

    Lol. I can believe that.

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  27. theoncominghope3 October 2011 01:24

    It's just a theory to account for the inconsistent timeline and characterizations.

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  28. theoncominghope3 October 2011 01:26

    You're right, my theory doesn't quite hold together, but nor does the canonical lack of explanation.
    There really was way too much going on though. The architecture of the "smashed time" reality doesn't really make any sense whatsoever, and rather than a series of vignettes, I would have liked to see the Doctor set his plan in motion.
    I would like a return to two-parters next season, I won't lie.

    And thanks for the link!

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  29. I apologize for my previous comment, it got all messed up. Another thought I had in mind is... who else other than the Doctor doesn't want the question 'Doctor Who?' answered? Probably nobody, only him, that could mean it's a future incarnation of the Doctor who prevents himself from answering the question and thus, interacting with himself in the past creates the original explosion in 'The Big Bang', note that River mentions that if the Doctor interacts with his own past it would rip a hole in the universe in 'The Impossible Astronaut'.

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  30. Tell me again how we know Madame Kovarian is dead?

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  31. theoncominghope3 October 2011 02:48

    That's fair enough> I guess I don't like the rug being pulled out like that.

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  32. theoncominghope3 October 2011 02:49

    Yeah, good point! I would prefer that she DIDNT return, to be honest, but I suppose it makes sense that she might.

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  33. theoncominghope3 October 2011 02:51

    Really good points! I actually told Michael and Jackie that I would have enjoyed this episode a lot more had it come immediately after Good Man Goes to War. Yes, there would still be plot holes, but at least there wouldn't be so many character holes.

    I have no problem with finales being "who is the doctor" type episodes, but you can express that just as clearly without it being about the fate of the entire universe and time itself (see Human Nature, or any of the classic finales). 

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  34. theoncominghope3 October 2011 02:52

    Thanks for the link!

    Let's return to fun/scary/dramatic two parters and standalones!

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  35. theoncominghope3 October 2011 02:56

    My thing with Question 3 is that what could we possibly find out about the Doctor? Is he suddenly not a Timelord anymore? Is he Steve Urkel? Is he Vishnu? This is my problem, there's no way of answering this question, it seems to me, without undercutting everything we've ever learned about him.

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  36. theoncominghope3 October 2011 02:58

    Thanks!

    If you have shortcomings, than sadly, so do I.

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  37. theoncominghope3 October 2011 03:03

    Your two cents are worth many times that!

    1. Good point.2. Why don't they want the question asked? The show seems to have separated Silents from the Silence. It would help to know their relationship to each other.
    3. Spot on

    Do you really think it's a proper TARDIS in the suit? Or just a few elements of it? Either way, they could easily have stolen the spare parts from the TARDIS junkyard in The Doctor's Wife.

    Don't forget, Colin Baker did fix the chameleon circuit for a time (then he had to trade it with the Master in Trial of a Timelord? Can't remember exactly).

    I don't think River dies. If nothing else, they can transfer her consciousness into a Tesselecta body.

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  38. theoncominghope3 October 2011 03:05

    No problem, it was a great comment. Sometimes Disqus doesn't agree with line breaks...

    I can't imagine anyone else would mind an answer to that question. To everyone else, he is just what he appears, a doctor, a warrior, a savior, a murderer and so on.

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  39. The suit is not a TARDIS, in 'The Impossible Astronaut' when they go to Florida they find the empty astronaut suit on a table, the suit has lots of tubes plugged into it that are coming from the tunnels underneath, when River and Rory explore the tunnels they find the other TARDIS down there.

    I guess I'll have to watch Colin Baker's episodes, I haven't seen all the episodes from the classic series yet :)

    She dies... but she can probably come back. It won't probably happen anytime soon, she might stay as some sort of recurrent personage in the series like the Master, but obviously in a different way...

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  40. Feel free to put one on my blog in return, by the way - it always disappoints me when people don't, especially since I self-promote everywhere I can!

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  41. Physical contact between River and the Doctor, who are two of a kind, is what restarts time.  I thought it was an enormous problem that River is not in physical contact with the Doctor, but only with the robot?

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  42. theoncominghope3 October 2011 08:30

    Great point Rory. You can add that to the list of things that definitely don't make sense.
    Unless it is robot Doctor she had to touch to make time right?

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  43. theoncominghope3 October 2011 08:33

    your wish is my command.

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  44. Well I suppose one could argue that robot doctor not being shot is the cause of the time-shenanegins, thus it would still work?

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  45. I'd just like to say I'm really glad that there are other people still confused by there not being an explanation for WHY the TARDIS blew up!

    I thought for ages that it was the Silence's big plan, which seemed really silly from a suspense point of view since we already saw it thwarted! But I really hope there is an explanation, it's never once been mentioned again.

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  46. No on Twitter. I mean, I have an account but I literally never use it. Every few months, I decide I'm going to, and I add some people to follow, but then I just never do. You?

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  47. Well, considering it was robot Doctor who he was killing, it would make sense that it would be robot Doctor she had to touch

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  48. I keep seeing what I believe is a big misconception about the Doctor's "death" at Lake Silencio all over the interwebs, and it's bugging the hoot out of me that nobody is getting what seems so obvious. The boards are saying that somehow the Doctor fooled Time or something into thinking he died like he was supposed to (ridiculous notion, and would be stupid and lame of the Moff), but hello! The Doctor didn't change, cheat, or "fool" Time, because he never died in the first place. It happened the way it always had happened/would happen. When Amy and Co. watched the scene and burned the body in "The Impossible Astronaut," it was the Teselecta, just like it was in the final episode. Older!Eleven didn't fool Time, he fooled his previous /self/ and everyone else. It was only later that his previous self realized this (just in time, lol) and borrowed the Teselecta so he could do it again. Easy peasy, no?

    That, by the way, is the answer to #4: it wasn't the Doctor's death that was the fixed point in time, it was the destruction of the Teselecta by River in the suit - that whole scene - which River interrupted (causing Time to flatten or whatever) because she didn't understand what was really going to happen. Everyone /thought/ it was the Doctor's death (including Younger!Eleven) that was the fixed point, but it was just Older!Doctor /faking/ his own death, which he succeeding in doing.

    It's so hard to talk about things when everything is out of order according to each person's perspective or whatever... timey wimey, argh. ;)

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  49. 1. She worked for the silence she took Amy's baby to  make her kill the doctor.

    2. They don't want doctor to die  for saying (doctor who?) but answering it also!

    3 Again the question must be answered. Of course many have asked the question. That,s why its hidden in a plain sight.

    4  I don't know about this. Maybe you are right but its a fictional story we are watching there many things are impossible and dont make sense

    5 no comment :)

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  50. THE_SUPREME_DALEK27 October 2011 04:27

    The Doctor's name is Bob Steve McKashreen Smith. Everybody knows that, God. Also, THE DALEKS REIGN SUPREME!

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  51. theoncominghope27 October 2011 04:31

    LOL. That reminds me of the silly names for the Daleks. DALEK TAYE!

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  52. THE_SUPREME_DALEK27 October 2011 04:34

    It's not a TARDIS, stupid, it's just a spaceship. It's console is fundementally different from any of the Doctor's TARDIS consoles, and in Impossible Astronaut it was just in a room, ie, it was the console from the spaceship in The Lodger. Also, THE DALEKS REIGN SUPREME!

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  53. THE_SUPREME_DALEK27 October 2011 04:41

    The Silence are being tricked, the Doctor says that at the end of 'The Wedding of River Song.' Also, THE DALEKS REIGN SUPREME!

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  54. THE_SUPREME_DALEK27 October 2011 04:52

    Rory was plastic, but then the Doctor rebooted the universe, and he's human again- that's where River got her human DNA if Amy's an alien or a timelord or a tesselecta or an Eternal or Doctor knows what else. Also, THE DALEKS REIGN SUPREME!

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  55. distressedviewer2 September 2012 01:13

    I think all in all, the inconsistencies and poor execution of series 6 are because of Moffat trying WAY to hard to impress viewers but instead biting off more than he could chew and injecting the show with a big serving of self-indulgence.

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