Doctor Who does Diagon Alley.
The thing about Doctor Who, or any long-running show, is that everything eventually comes to an end. And with “Face the Raven”, we reach the not-well-kept secret of the end of Clara Oswald.
What a journey this young lady has had. The Clara we see at the end is barely recognizable to that Clara that we first met a few years ago, and it’s a great testament to Jenna Coleman as an actress that the character never got lost in all the twists and turns, which could have happened so easily. In the two most recent seasons, we’ve seen a Clara that has become the Doctor’s equal, and in fact has taken on the Doctor’s role in the story at least twice (last year’s “Flatline” and more literally in “Death in Heaven”). We’ve seen her treat TARDIS adventuring like an adrenaline
junkie would. We’ve seen her lie to the Doctor to hide something from him or to get him to do something she wants. And in “Raven” we see all of these things come to a head. Her behaviour catches up to her and undoes her.
Clara joins the exclusive ranks of Killed Off Companions, previous members being Katarina, Sara Kingdom (1965 and ’66 respectively, both in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”) and Adric (in 1982’s “Earthshock”). Each of them were given very sad, very dramatic, very unsettling endings. [I know someone will also list the Ponds in that, but they were more “indirectly killed,” in that they were only sent back to the past. Their exit was treated like a death, true, but they didn’t die directly by the Angels’ actions.] In thinking of the Ponds’ departure, I’m very glad that the show didn’t try to take the 12th Doctor down the overly weepy path that the 11th Doctor went, or the 1oth Doctor/Rose route, as that would not have fitted this Doctor at all. The quiet, burning, contained rage was the perfect reaction.
But let’s talk about that death for a moment. Upon rewatches of the episode, I just don’t feel very convinced by the whole thing. Maybe if Ashildr had tried to remove the Chronolock from Clara, only to discover that she couldn’t, it would have sold the whole thing a bit more, added more desperation to the tone of the scenes. As it is, it just feels like all involved accept the inevitability of Clara’s end far too easily. And the only reason for that is because it happens in the last couple of minutes of the show. I think it would have been far more interesting had this come earlier, with more time devoted to trying to solve the problem, Clara going through stages of fear, denial, trying to be brave in the face of impending death, acceptance, and then her address to the Doctor right before the end. As it is, it all happens kind of quickly and easily. The premise of Ashildr using Rigsy, a known associate of the Doctor’s, as bait to lure the Doctor into a trap is a good one, very compelling. I loved the angle of Clara convincing him to give her the Chronolock, and her reasoning for doing so seemed perfectly sound. And I love that it backfired on her and fatally bit her in the ass; I just think the ending happened a bit quickly and didn’t carry the emotional impact that it could have. The best moment came when the Doctor said that she should have protected her better, that he let her get reckless. Clara basically says “So what? You’re reckless all the bloody time, why can’t I be more like you?”, and he says “There’s nothing special about you me, I’m just less breakable than you are.” It’s a poignant summation of their relationship the last two seasons.
I don’t know for sure but I feel very certain that, with Clara leaving two episodes before the end, we’re going to see her again. She’s going to turn up in the final episode, in yet another splinter-Clara in the Doctor’s timeline. Actually, I wish they had filmed just some random scenes with her in various situations and in various costumes so that they could sprinkle her into future Doctors’ stories also. Nothing major, just a brief flash of her like we saw of her with the previous Doctors in “The Name of the Doctor” (2013). Sort of like the flashes of Rose we got in Series Four.
I haven’t always liked Clara. In her first season, the “Impossible Girl” thread was a bit too undefined, and so was she as a character. But one thing is certain: Jenna Coleman has been amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed her performance throughout. I do, like most people, think that “Last Christmas” with old Clara in bed, would have been a really touching, really beautiful ending. But this was nice too.
I usually spend some time in each review fawning over Peter Capaldi and what a brilliant Doctor he is, but as next week’s episode is a Capaldi one-hander, I’ll have plenty of time to do that. Next week is “Heaven Sent”, an episode featuring only Capaldi (plus one undefined character called The Veil). The synopses of the final two episodes of the season were released last week, but I’ve not read them, so I’ve no idea where this is heading. But I will say that the teleport bracelet is not entirely dissimilar to the Travel Ring that the Time Lords gave the Doctor in “Genesis of the Daleks”. Might there be some connection? We might find out next week.
If you enjoyed this review and would like to read more, order a copy of my book Doctor Who’s Greatest Hits: An Unauthorized Guide to the Best Stories From Time and Space!