Monday, December 07, 2015

My Review of Doctor Who's 9x12: "Hell Bent"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay

Clara (on a chalkboard, to the Doctor): "Run you clever boy and be a doctor."

It might have taken the show three series, 37 episodes, various echoes and two Doctors to do it but Clara Oswald has well and truly left the building (and the show). Hang on a minute, wasn't she supposed to be dead? Yeah, kind of seems that Steven Moffat might have had other ideas on that one instead.

Playing with some technical cheating, Clara got pulled a moment before her death on Trap Street, so the Doctor could use her services to help with solving something on Gallifrey. Except he didn't. Instead he just manipulated his people into saving his friend, nicking a TARDIS (when he wasn't causing the General from The Day Of The Doctor to regenerate) and doing his best to get Clara as far away from his own people as possible.

I'm not gonna lie. I do think Moffat should've left well alone and that Clara's death in Face The Raven should've stood. Even Clara considered the idea as well when the Doctor was being so violently out of character but in the end, a little subversion on fates previously visited on Jamie, Zoe and Donna became the order of the day instead.

The idea of the Doctor sort of forgetting Clara but telling an English waitress in a cafe in Nevada about her was an interesting enough outcome. The reveal then of Clara and Ashildr (yup, she resurfaced again) now having their own TARDIS and flying about across the universe is the sort of thing that Big Finish will undoubtedly capitalise on in a couple of years time. It's a neat enough concept and having Clara running from her death in a way draws some parallels to the Doctor running from his people but I'm not totally feeling it either.

As for Gallifrey and the Hybrid saga, this was where the episode worryingly fell short. So much hype was generated around both events and neither of them generated any more urgency than the Doctor's determination to save Clara. I'm not even sure if this episode actually resolved the Hybrid thing properly. Was it Ashildr? The Doctor himself or the dangerous combination of him and Clara travelling together? Did it even matter in the end?

Similarly, the Doctor returning to Gallifrey deserved some better treatment too. Sure, he managed to exile Rassilon (this time played by Donald Sumpter), visited his old barn, causing the General to regenerate back into female form and generally ignored any advice given to him by Ohila as well. As for the Cloister Wraths/Sliders in the Matrix - pretty much a great, creepy concept that wasn't given enough screen time to be truly effective though.

It sounds like I'm ragging on this episode but I'm really not. There was a lot of emotional beats that worked and while I maintain my stance about Clara lasting a series longer than she should've, this episode did however have her go out with a bang though. It'll be interesting to see who Capaldi is paired with next and how that chemistry with the one he had with Coleman as this last hurrah really did demonstrate how well they worked together.

Also in "Hell Bent"

The design of the diner was somewhere the Doctor previously visited with Amy and Rory, both of whom were name checked here.

Clara: "Is it a sad song?"
The Doctor: "Nothing's sad til it's over, then everything is."
Clara: "What's it called?"
The Doctor: "I think it's called Clara."

Is it me or did it seem odd that this episode didn't include Missy or Davros in it? The former was at least mentioned but I would've rather them in some capacity than the pointless Cybermen and Weeping Angels cameos we had instead.

President (re Doctor): "What's his plan?"
Ohila: "I think he's finishing his soup."

President (re Doctor): "Who does he think he is?"
The General: "The man who won the Time War, sir."

We know that Time Lords can change gender and race and this episode alone showed Ken Bones regenerate into T'Nia Miller.

Clara: "I should be dead."
The Doctor: "Forget about that, it doesn't matter."

Clara: "Four and a half billion years?"
The Doctor (re Ohila): "If she says so."

Banishing Rassilon off Gallifrey is inevitably going to have some consequences for the Doctor down the road.

Clara (to the General): "You are hated by everybody and by nobody more than me."

The Doctor: "Clara is my friend."
Ashildr: "I know and you're willing to risk all of time and space because you miss her."

Standout music: Foxes "Don't Stop Me Now" and the Doctor strumming "Clara's Theme" on his guitar.

Clara (to the Doctor): "We all face the raven in the end. That's the deal."

Ashildr: "Where are we going?"
Clara: "Gallifrey. Like I said, Gallifrey...  the long way around."

Chronology: From where Heaven Sent effectively left off. Oh and the Doctor finally got himself a brand new sonic screwdriver in time for Christmas.

We've had stronger finales and there were elements of this that could've been handled far better but as an end of series episode, Hell Bent did hit some of the right moves with both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman bringing their partnership to a memorable close. Now with the imminent return of River in The Husbands Of River Song, it'll be interesting to see what is next for Capaldi's Doctor.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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