So I’ve caught up on the current season/series of Doctor Who. First, to paraphrase something I read elsewhere online, the only real way to describe the Neil Gaiman-penned episode of Doctor Who is "It’s very much as though Neil Gaiman wrote a Doctor Who episode."
About says it all.
Beyond that, the first half of the season is over, with the second half not to air until September-ish. (Those of you who read my rant on season-ending cliffhangers on TV can guess how I feel about that.) Despite my irritation, however, I’ve been giving what we’ve seen so far some thought, and I have a theory.
Do not read any further if you haven’t watched everything this season up to, and including, "A Good Man Goes to War." No, seriously. (Anything about what happens beyond said episode could be construed as a spoiler only if my guess happens to be accurate. I don’t know anything.)
So, the big mystery so far this season (or at least one of them) is whether we’ve actually seen the true and final death of the Doctor in the events of the first episode. I’m pretty sure most of us don’t believe that they’ve actually given us a peek at the end of the entire series. But then, what is going on?
Well, everything that’s happened in terms of Melody Pond/River Song has happened because of various factions who really (really, really) fear the Doctor. Nor is this the first plotline we’ve seen where that’s an issue. Heck, the entirety of last season’s finale was based around the idea of enemies coming together against the Doctor for the good of the universe.
We also know that the current showrunner, Steven Moffat, is a fan of original-series Who, which lacked much of the "I’m the Doctor, empires crumble at my name, I suggest you run away now" aspect of the current series. (That’s not to say he necessarily prefers the old to the new; I have no idea. I’m just pointing out possibilities, and he is more of an old-school Who fan than Davies was.)
So, we have a Doctor who may be coming to realize that people–and not just people, but entire cultures–are going to keep coming at him through the people he cares about. People who would be much safer if the whole universe believed the Doctor was dead.
We have a body that was burned before anyone could examine it.
We have a season that’s introduced autonomous artificial entities who are near-perfect duplicates of real people, down to their memories.
We have the Doctor’s supposed death take place in front of, in addition to his friends, a lurking member of the Silence.
I’m only semi-certain that he used the flesh to do so (it feels almost too easy, given Moffat’s twisted mind), but I’m pretty sure that the death we saw was a deliberate fake to fool, well, pretty much everyone in existence. (I’m not positive, of course. See above, re: Moffat’s twisted mind. But I think there’s a good chance.)
As to whether he’ll ever let Amy and Rory know he’s alive, or whether they’ll leave the series thinking he’s dead (in order to protect them), I wouldn’t dare guess.
Of course, all this ignores the fact that killing the Doctor is meaningless, because–as a time-traveler–him being dead won’t stop him from popping back up later. But then, that’s something the show has always basically ignored (and with good reason; storytelling requires some reliance on cause-and-effect).
Like I said, just theorizing, but I think it fits (at least given what we know so far).