Monday, November 23, 2015

My Review of Doctor Who's 9x10: "Face The Raven"

Written by Sarah Dollard
Directed by Justin Molotnikov

Clara (to the Doctor): "Let me be brave. Let me be brave."

And the moment came at last. I've been unable to shake off the feeling this series that perhaps Clara Oswald lasted a year longer than she organically should've done and given that there has been a heavier emphasis on the character's growing recklessness, this episode felt inevitable as well as sad to boot.

Clara, whether you love her, hate her or are simply indifferent towards her is a defining companion. It's not a hyperbolic statement but a cold, hard fact. I've seen some people on social media react in a myriad of ways to the character for the last three series and her death also stirred another myriad of reactions to boot as well. For me, this was something of an interesting note to end on.

Like Amy and Rory before her and certainly eschewing the preferred method of Russell T. Davies companion departures, Clara's demise happened not only two episodes before the actual finale itself but also at the hands of fate's cruelty and her own recklessness. Clara might have saved the life of a young man in the returning Rigsy but she also doomed her own by taking the chronolock forced on Rigsy by Ashildr as well.

I have to admit, under maybe some further scrutiny, the mystery and general plot might not stand up that well to scrutiny but for a debut episode, Sarah Dollard had bigger fish to fry and the use of the trap street concept was something I thought the episode actually executed pretty well.

The street itself was well lit and creepy and the central idea of Rigsy having a tattoo counting down his death for a crime that never happened added a certain momentum to proceedings. Rigsy was merely a message from Ashildr in order to get the Doctor's attention. Clara's recklessness was the ultimate price for that message though.

Proving that even a companion who has scattered herself across the Doctor's timestream can be breakable, Clara chose to face the raven (that was what the Quantum Shade, controlled by Ashildr would morph into) and ended the episode by actually dying but not after we got something of a heartfelt performance between Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi.

Whether fans like it or not, Clara Oswald will ultimately be a defining companion for the series and in particular Capaldi's era. I still think the character might have stayed a series longer than needed and in spite of the fact that Coleman herself will factor into the last two episodes in some capacity, this was certainly a memorable exit for the former nanny and English teacher.

Speaking of the Doctor - we've seen him react with grief, sombreness and regret with previous companion departures but the manner in which Clara died brought out his anger and it was Capaldi at his most intense as well as he vowed vengeance on the people responsible for his companion's demise. Given what's already been revealed about the finale, it's not much of a spoiler to say that Ashildr had her own hand forced by the Time Lords to get the Doctor to a certain place as well, now is it?

I have to admit this was another interesting episode for Ashildr and the character certainly has an unpredictable quality that will make her an interesting recurring player for the rest of Capaldi's era. Rigsy did admirably enough in this episode too but I kind of felt that in spite of being framed for a crime that didn't happen, he was a little underused compared to Ashildr though.

Also in "Face The Raven"

Since the last time we've seen him, Rigsy has a partner named Jem and a daughter named Lucy. He was the Craig to the Doctor's Clara, wasn't he?

Rigsy (re Clara): "She enjoyed that way too much."
The Doctor:"Tell me about it. It's an ongoing problem."

In the trap street (yes, I got the Harry Potter comparisons), we saw a Cyberman, an Ood, a Sontaran and some Judoon as well as an Ice Warrior.

Ashildr: "Infinite lifespan, finite memory. It makes for an awkward social life."

The Doctor: "Still saving the world from me then?"
Ashildr: "It's still here, isn't it?"

Ashildr took on the name Mayor Me and demanded the Doctor's confession dial as well in this episode. If that wasn't a hint she was working for the Time Lords, then what is?

Ashildr (to everyone): "Peace on this street depends on one thing. To breach it is to face the raven."

The Doctor: "Can I not be the good cop?"
Clara: "Doctor, we've discussed this. Your face."

Once again, this episode referenced Clara and Jane Austen. I can't help thinking if Clara were bisexual that Steven Moffat would've been a lot more blatant about it, wouldn't he? Also a Danny Pink mention in this episode.

Ashildr (to the Doctor): "Please no resistance. You've already lost."

Clara: "We can fix this, can't we? We always fix it."
The Doctor: "No."

Although scrapped for timing, Sarah Dollard revealed that Rigsy later informed Clara's family of her passing. The episode should've been allotted some extra time for that moment.

Clara: "Goodbye, Doctor."

Chronology: 2015 London and Trap Street I guess.

Well, this was certainly a memorable episode, wasn't it? Face The Raven certainly lived up to it's promise of death and I have to admit, in a way, Clara got a slightly better exit than her predecessors did and with the threat of a vengeful Doctor and Gallifrey looming (along with the hybrid stuff), the last two episodes are certainly going to end things on a memorable note.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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