Spoilers for the Name of the Doctor
“The Soufle isn’t the Soufle the Soufle is the recipe.” Clara Oswin Oswald.
“I said he was me, I never said he was The Doctor. My name my real name, that is not the point, the name I chose is The Doctor. The name you choose is it’s like, like a promise you make. He’s the one who broke the promise.” The Doctor.
The Name of the Doctor aired just a few weeks ago. The episode was packed, chalked full of revelations, world shattering events, great characters, and the culmination of a series running arc while at the same time setting up the events for the fiftieth anniversary special this November. Steven Moffat pulled off a masterpiece of writing, it was a cool celebration of fifty years of Doctor Who with its own cool twists and turns.
But more importantly it was a testament to who the Doctor is as a person. The episode didn’t end up being so much about the name of the Doctor, but the Identity of the Doctor. And in so doing provides an example for all of us to follow in our interactions with people.
In short the episode comes down to the quote by Clara Oswin Oswald, the Soufle is not the Soufle, the Soufle is a recipe. Any individual is not the individual but a smattering of physical and mental traits ‘a recipe’. Characteristics that define us, and often do not look anything like they do when they put into a complete package. It is hard to see bone and sinew below the skin, it is hard to see intelligence and brains, especially if someone is shy about it.
This episode proved and showed a lot about the Doctor and Clara’s respective characters. They both shared they are willing to care, and sacrifice themselves, for the individual.
One of the most powerful scenes in the episode, aside from the River Kiss and the big reveal at the end, was when Clara was figuring it out, who she was to the Doctor and his life. But also what it would mean for her, that she would have to sacrifice herself to save his life.
Now here the universe was falling apart because of the Great Intelligence’s manipulations, because he was rewriting the Doctor’s timeline. The Doctor was falling apart and dying on the floor in tremendous pain over and over and over again. Thus every good deed, every world he saved, all of that was coming to an end, and the universe was ending as a result. And yet he did not care about any of this, only caring about the life of one woman. Pleading with her not to sacrifice herself. Pleading with her to live and continue on, to not kill herself for his behalf again. All he could see was the individual, the woman, in front of him.
And then after she had accomplished her task, after the Doctor was alive and well, he was going to throw himself into the time stream. An action which would likely kill him and force his time stream to collapse on itself. Probably causing the very actions that she had just prevented.
Nothing is a more powerful indication of who the Doctor is as a man, or at least who he tries to be. Someone who never looses sight of the small picture. Of the connection to the individual person. The line he gave from the Christmas Special, a Christmas Carol, “You know that in Nine Hundred Years of time and space and I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important…”
The Doctor at the heart of it all is an individualist. Someone who does not, or tries not to, lose focus on the smallest parts of life, the individual. Never looses his focus. It did not matter, really, if the universe was falling apart, he was going to save one woman. And when things were in the balance, when the lives of hundreds of people were at risk because of death from above, he balanced the scales, taught a greedy Scrooge of a man to love, gave a woman the proper death she deserved, and saved every one else.
Which is why, though, I think he needs Companions because this is a man who often deals with species waging war against one another and universe and world shattering events. This is a man who has wiped out whole races and has had to stand firm in difficult choices. It is hard not to lose perspective. And when he does this is when he is at his worse.
Perhaps this is what happened to John Hurt’s Doctor? Perhaps this truly is a testament to not only what the Doctor’s name is, but more importantly who he is as a person.