Doctor Who Face the Raven Series 9 Episode 10
I hate spoilers, but I like Twitter. I really do. I’ve met lots of great people from all over the world on Twitter, but I’ve also had lots of things spoiled because of time zone differences, posts, reviews, or whatever. This morning as I was waking up, I checked in to Twitter on my phone, as I do everyday, and yup, something about tonight’s Doctor Who episode was spoiled. It was announced — possibly by the BBC, I can’t actually remember who posted it — that tonight was Jenna Coleman’s last episode. That sucks. That means that Clara is leaving somehow tonight. It has been widely speculated and foreshadowed all season long that she will die, but you never know. It was also announced before the season began that this would be the actress’ last. Probably everyone expected that her swan song would be in the season finale, but WOW, what an incredible shocker to end her character two episodes early! Well, it would have been an incredible shocker if the Internet hadn’t been blabbing about it all day long. (It may have actually been announced earlier than today, but by some stroke of luck, if it was, I missed that! Too bad my luck didn’t hold….)
I’ve stayed off the social networking sites all day now (I have no idea what sort of food my friends have eaten or what their cats have done, I did however finish raking my leaves….), but I don’t think that’s really fair. I have no problems with fans posting reviews after the episodes have aired. It’s fair game then. I have problems with the spoilers coming from “official” sources like the BBC or their publications. For my part, I know that if people are going to “live tweet” a show that I should stay away, but if something is spoiled for me, that’s my own fault. Even though the show airs five or six hours earlier in it’s native England, most of the fans (or at least the ones that I know/follow) are respectful enough and cognizant of time zones and air times. My new Twitter/Blog friends The Whovian Complex are in California, which is an extra three hours behind even me, and they post their episode reviews sometimes a week later. I can just imagine how frustrated they are trying to avoid spoilers, but applaud them for not inadvertently revealing any themselves. Alright, enough preamble, what did I think of tonight’s episode, as the Doctor and Clara reunite with Rigsy (from last season’s excellent Flatline episode) and visit Diagon Alley….well, or somewhere that appears to be the Doctor Who equivalent of the Harry Potter locale.
Before this episode, I watched The Whovian Complex’s recap/review of Sleep No More…maybe I should switch to video reviews instead of all this typing…. Anywho, Nate brought up an incredibly interesting point: we don’t know when the last episode took place in the grand timeline of things. It was found footage after all, so it could have happened in between the Doctor’s trips to Skaro (I did notice that he changed pants mid story in either Magician’s Apprentice or Witch’s Familiar) or it could have happened right after the Zygon stories. Anyway, his hypothesis was that Clara’s already dead and the Doctor has been making waves in time by visiting her in the past to “keep” her around. Interesting.
We’re off to a great start as the Doctor and Clara rush into the TARDIS fresh from some off screen adventure, and with my mind racing on these new theories it’s even more obvious that Clara’s acting more reckless than usual, and enjoying the danger of their adventures more than she should. Rigsy calls Clara in the TARDIS to tell her that he’s got a tattoo….but not just any tattoo, it’s a tattoo on the back of his neck that he doesn’t remember getting (in fact he has no memory of the last day) and the tattoo is changing, in fact it’s counting down. Time to call the Doctor.
The Doctor, Clara and “Local Knowledge” (Rigsy) discover a mysterious hidden street in London that has been masked from view. It turns out that the street is a refuge camp for aliens, there they can hide from whatever they’re fleeing, and from the indigenous human population, unlike the Zygons and others throughout the years. Sometimes humans do stumble upon the hidden street, and they’re given the retcon drug (remember that from Torchwood?) to erase their memories of what they saw there. Rigsy was one of those people, but he apparently murdered an inhabitant of the street, which has earned him his “countdown to death” tattoo. The tattoo is a quantum manifestation, and it was handed down to him by the “mayor” of the street, Ashildr (I’m not going to call the character “Me”). The Doctor is wary of Ashildr, and has been for a while especially after he saw her in the background of a photo from one of Clara’s students, apparently stalking his companion.
Racing against time to clear Rigsy of murdering an alien to save him from his death sentence, the trio begin to investigate, but first, suspecting a trap, the Doctor makes Ashildr promise that no harm will come to Clara while they are there, and that she’s under her personal protection. Ashildr agrees, and Clara runs recklessly off. She learns from one of the inhabitants that Rigsy could pass on the death mark to someone else, so Clara convinces him to pass it on to her. She figures that since she’s been guaranteed safety by Ashildr that this will just allow them to buy time to solve the mystery and save Rigsy. Clara claims that she’s just doing what she and the Doctor always do and convinces herself that everything will just be okay, because it always is. Unfortunately there are more traps than you would think here in this “trap street” and in clearing Rigsy of murder (because the “victim” is actually still alive and in stasis), a trap is sprung on the Doctor by an unknown adversary. To release the seemingly dead alien from stasis the Doctor must use the TARDIS key to unlock the device which triggers another device that clamps a teleport ring onto his arm, as well as takes the TARDIS key. Was it all a plan of Ashildr to gain access to the TARDIS? No, someone else wants the Doctor separated from his ship and to be delivered to them on their own terms. With the trap sprung, Clara reveals her deception to both Ashildr and the Doctor, but she’s miscalculated and now that she’s inserted herself into the equation, Ashildr can no longer revoke the death sentence, and so the Raven (the quantum shade that kills the lawbreakers of the street) now comes for Clara.
Of course Clara and the Doctor have their chance to say their goodbyes, and Clara dies bravely, but she does die. The Doctor delivers another series of great monologues tonight which reminded me of the “fury of the Time Lord” that we were shown at the end of Human Nature/Family of Blood. He’s angry, and rightfully so, but Clara had made him promise not to get revenge, because she knows how her death and how is vengeance and anger will affect him. It was quite touching watching these two say goodbye to each other and the “countdown” plot device really made it work. The Doctor teleports off. Alone. And we cut to the credits……but wait, there was a “next time”, it was after the credits, and we see the Doctor in a stone castle like structure, digging graves, but we never see who he’s talking to. Now, my memory is fuzzy at best these days, but does this castle, and the Doctor’s outfit, not seem to match with those we saw in The Witch’s Familiar when Missy was telling Clara the story about why the Doctor never loses?
• Clara died. It was time for her to go. Too many of the stories focussed on her instead of the Doctor and she was just horrible and stupid.
• Clara died. She was my favourite character on the show, and the best companion to the Doctor EVER! I can't imagine the show without her!
• Clara really did become a divisive character, and some people will agree 100% with one of the above statements. I personally don't agree with either, though I do agree with some parts of each of them. I did write them after all...
Was it time for her to go? Probably. Did she need to die? I don’t think so. I would have been very happy if they had just let her wake up from the dream crabs as an old woman in last year’s Christmas special. I think that would have been the perfect sendoff to a very strong character. I like Clara; I like Jenna Coleman, she was fresh and a great actress for the role. The first thing I liked about Clara was that she wasn’t Amy Pond. Amy was a character I did not like at all, so I would have welcomed anyone who came in after her, even Adric. Did the Clara character overshadow the Doctor a lot lately? Yes, in Series 8, I think she did, and I didn’t like those stories, but I thought she was great in the second half of Series 7. Right up until the finale of that season (Name of the Doctor) where the insertion of herself into the Doctor’s timeline didn’t make any sense at all, and seemed to mark the beginning of the “overpowered” Clara that a lot of fans didn’t like. Did she die bravely? Yes. Did she need to? No. She didn’t die in a moment of self-sacrifice to save the Doctor or humanity or to stop the villain like Adric (Earthshock) or even Astrid (Voyage of the Damned), she died….I’m not really sure why she died. I can think of several ways it could have been avoided right now. Ashildr, the immortal, could have taken the quantum curse herself and not been killed. The Doctor probably could have taken it too, but that would mean regeneration. She could have entered the stasis device (that was right in front of them) and avoided the Raven of death too. Also, how did Ashildr (or whoever is pulling her strings) get a copy of the TARDIS lock to put on her stasis machine to trap the Doctor? Certainly trying to unlock it with the sonic specs would have been a better first move? But what is done is done and we can’t change it, we can only wait to see what happens next week.
Other quick things from tonight: I loved the aliens in the street, seeing Judoon, Cybermen, Ood, Sontarans and others again was great. But, who among them were the Doctor’s “deadliest enemies” that he should watch out for? I’m glad the Doctor’s dressing up for the part again. I don’t like the hoodie and t-shirt look, maybe because I never wear them myself; I’m a shirt and tie guy….every day. I liked the tribute Rigsy painted on the (now abandoned) TARDIS after the credits, nice to recall that he was originally a graffiti artist. Jenna Coleman was great in what looks to be her swansong as Clara Oswald, and gave probably her finest performance just before she died. Peter was great again, and you could see the pain on his face during those scenes. At a recent Doctor Who festival Capaldi had this to say about his co-star:
We wanted to say thank you for being the most wonderful companion. For giving us the gift of your talent, your time, your friendship and for being Clara. But more important than anything else, for being Jenna.”
It will be interesting to see who replaces her as the Doctor’s travelling companion. I’m surprised that people keep thinking that Maisie Williams’ Ashildr could be the next companion. I think after tonight’s actions that’s completely ruled out, plus, sorry, but I personally didn’t find her performances that good. Ah well, we have two weeks and a Christmas special to go, before we find out anything more for Series 10. Until next week….
I took out my usual subscores of humour, sci-fi, action and fear factor, as they didn't really apply tonight.