In terms of Doctor Who‘s “Last Christmas” episode, I’ll tell you later — I mean, it’s a long story.
Actually, the episode itself was very good. On the surface, you have The Doctor and Clara at the North Pole with a science team dealing with some creatures attached to people’s faces, and Santa Claus coming to the rescue. Of course, as with any Doctor Who episode of any kind, nothing is ever as it seems: especially if it is completely and utterly insane.
My introduction at the beginning of this recap is not a coincidence. The science team’s response to The Doctor of “It’s a long story” is very reminiscent of the line “I’ll tell you later” in Moffat’s Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death. The dream crabs were interesting creatures, though I’m not sure how they coincidentally found all of those people scattered across space and time: a detail I might have missed or something put aside for the emotional impact of the entire story.
Think of the dream crabs as beings that feed off of your mind and give you pleasant dreams of safety or reality until you grow weaker from an ice cream headache at the right side of your skull as they drill into it and feed off of your existence until you die. They also create a scenario where if you die in this state they placed you in, you will die in reality: or, if you’d like: if you die in the game, then you die in real life.
The rest of the episode was combination of Miracle on 34th Street, Aliens, and some Inception and The Matrix for good measure. Everything is basically a dream. As for Santa Claus … think of it like this: the dream crabs have a collective consciousness that networks all of their victims together in order to feed off of them properly. Santa Claus and his elves are, at least at this time of year, a large portion of humanity’s collective unconsciousness attempting to help these victims resist the feeding and potentially wake up and therefore kill the creatures.
Think of Santa as something of a meme that exists in a considerable number of humans: even those that don’t believe in him. He is an ultimate archetype, and has a great sense of humour to boot. And as The Doctor, Clara and the others wake up from dream to dream there is an excellent festive, almost transcendent moment where they are on Santa’s sleigh after he rescues them from the entities in the final dream and you actually see a rare occurrence: the Twelfth Doctor actually driving dream-Santa’s sleigh and, dare I say it …
Actually looking happy.
It all flowed almost seamlessly together and even the ending where the Twelfth Doctor finds … Clara.
Well, it’s no secret that I am really disappointed with how Clara has been portrayed for this past while. But seeing her old and frail, realizing The Doctor left her for sixty-two years, and pulling apart a Christmas cracker with her much in the way that she did with his elderly Eleventh incarnation on Trenzalore … I actually felt sorry for her. It was artfully done, this parallel between “Last Christmas” and “The Time of The Doctor” and I’d heard rumours of this scene happening but seeing it was actually emotional: especially when Clara flat-out states that there were actually two men in her life that no one could actually match.
I even liked the dream scene with Danny and the realization that Danny — whether he was a dream or not — was very real. Poor Danny. I would have really liked to see more with him but I knew he wouldn’t be coming back. And for the first time we see Clara even apologizing to him for the lies. It’s like even she knew that he was just too good for her. No so much The Doctor, as he lied to her too, but there you go.
So … readers and Doctor Who viewers. Did you see the real end coming?
Did you know what I was going to happen to Clara Oswin Oswald?
I know I did. Or at least I wasn’t surprised. The fact of the matter is “Last Christmas” was self-referential, with some funny and terrifying moments, but also pretty clever and relatively put together. But when you look at how it ended, and what was teased — both Clara’s apparent end and the degrees of separation between The Doctor’s and Clara’s faces — and Santa coming back one more time …
Honestly, we’ve seen Moffat’s writing and his responses to the press before.
Just what did you think was going to happen?
Honestly: a teaser towards the episode of an episode and even some tear-jerking manipulation with a “too bad everyone, I am writing what I want at the end and Clara Oswin Oswald stays” at the finale. She even got to look at her face, at one point, in a tiny mirror.
It was some well-played trolling on Moffat’s part.
After we watched the episode, a friend of mine noted the Christmas tangerine on the snowy windowsill in the final scene of “Last Christmas.” He hoped this was all a dream. But here is where I think that tangerine is fascinating. You’ll notice that it is neither Clara nor The Doctor that sees it. It’s the audience. It’s us. Just as the dream crabs facilitated an interactive dream between its victims, between its members of its captive audience, so too — in a generally less grim and cynical way — does Doctor Who exist as a communal dream which we all participate in: some of us as long as sixty-three years. That tangerine — representing hope, the human imagination, the promise of Spring, and a Midwinter Night’s Dream — was well shown: well said.
And that being said, I don’t think I’m having any icy pains on the right side of my skull. I don’t think anyway.
I really wanted to like Clara Oswin Oswald. And I suspect that a lot of Doctor Who fans did, while others still do.
Between her introduction in “Asylum of the Daleks” as Oswin the brilliant and somewhat snarky Soufflé Girl and her assertive, plucky, and empathetic incarnation in “The Snowmen” as Clara Oswald — governess by day, bar maid by night — we had the makings of not only a mystery, but a fascinating character in her own right.
Imagine: a person that can simultaneously exist in different areas of space and time. She has no time machine, or special powers, or any other kind of anomaly. What’s more is that, starting with “Asylum” she is a genius in a grim science-fiction story while, in another time of “Snowmen” she is a woman seeking a troubled Doctor seemingly out of no other impulse but sheer curiosity: a force that inspires her to ascend into the clouds to find a blue box in a fairytale.
Then consider the premise that Clara exists in many other timelines and that even if they are all echoes of one person throughout time, they are nevertheless part of an individual’s entire existence. Just imagine what each iteration of Clara has gone through: how many skills, experiences, and lifetimes she gathered. It would stand to reason, after all, that she did something in space and time beyond waiting for The Doctor to show up so that she could be with him: you know, beyond the overall plot arc assigned to her.
Perhaps we might have gotten a character who was a combination of Oswin:
So what did we get instead? We initially got a hapless Mary Sue stalked by the Eleventh Doctor and a mentality divided between skirting around the issue of what a strange conundrum Clara Oswald is, and yet more unconsummated romantic tension between The Doctor and another Companion. Because, you know, we haven’t seen that before. And for all there are even hints that Clara gets greater access knowledge from her time interfaced with the Great Intelligence’s “Spoonhead” network she is mainly a human female extension of The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.
But there was evidence that Clara, and her dynamic with The Doctor was still salvageable. Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith managed to show some chemistry, or at least evidence of a strong emotional bond between these two characters. Perhaps if The Doctor had spent less time trying to unravel her mystery and realized that she was just Clara Oswald, and was more important because of that thought alone, they could have moved on.
Instead we finally discover how Clara can exist in other times and still be human, a realization come to at The Doctor’s personal time-stream when she states, in some of the most poorly thought out words ever:
For me, though I didn’t want to admit it to myself at the time, that was the beginning of the end of my hopes for Clara Oswin Oswald. Unfortunately, it pretty much summed up everything she had been after her previous incarnation’s death in “The Snowmen.” She is just a character that revolved around The Doctor, just a part of him: a woman dependent on a male character’s existence as opposed to also standing up in her own right. And while it is true that Companions are judged by their relation to The Doctor in any season, this was a moment that could have been written a lot better had there been more character-development on Clara’s part.
And never mind the fact that this wasn’t even followed up on: that there wasn’t an episode or a minisode dealing with the fall-out of Clara realizing what happened to her and coming to terms with it, or even addressing the fact that The Doctor had an incarnation she never saw before that point. For that matter, we don’t really even get to see the consequences of what happens when she falls through, scatters in, and survives The Doctor’s time-stream. I mean, you would think there would be some psychological effects of some kind. These are issues that could have been dealt with or at least touched upon at the beginning of “The Day of The Doctor”: to actually show some flow and continuity instead of a jarring situation where the characters seem to have moved on and found themselves in a different situation.
But now I’m digressing into plot as opposed to what I really wanted to see: character-writing. Perhaps, in the end, these two elements are not that far removed from one another.
So between “Day of The Doctor” and “Time of The Doctor” we, again, get little show of continuity save in a “tell, but don’t show” situation. Matt Smith, before his departure, has said that he could have done another year of Doctor Who. And I can’t help but wonder if another year of the Eleventh Doctor with Clara Oswald — in which he wasn’t trying to figure out what she was — and where they both figure who they are — might have made something of a difference in their character dynamic. Or not.
And then we have the regeneration.
After The Doctor’s regeneration into Twelve, Clara can’t seem to get over the fact that he looks like an older man now. Remember: she just went through the Time Lord’s personal time-stream, met previous incarnations of him, saw him actually age on Trenzalore, and actually existed as different people with other experiences. The parallel was right there. Had there been some more organic character development, maybe Clara having always in some way been able to draw on the memories of her other selves — or echoes — or only been able to after “Name of The Doctor,” his transformation might have taken some getting used to, but she could have seen The Doctor she had always really known beyond appearances and mannerisms.
Unfortunately, again, in “Deep Breath” Madame Vastra seemed to all too correctly deduce that Clara pined for her lost young boyfriend.
Moffat might have you believe that this was never intended, and Peter Capaldi himself wanted to portray a character that wasn’t involved romantically with his Companion. But the groundwork had already been laid out. Between Clara’s previous “milady doth protest too much” claims that he wasn’t her boyfriend and The Doctor’s proclamations of “Clara, my Clara!” that romantic bond already existed. It was there: or at least portrayed as such by the actors. So this subtext was either retconned away, the Eleventh Doctor always thought of her as something of a fascinating object, or the Twelfth Doctor’s feelings had changed and this — again — wasn’t really explored.
In addition, I think the show writers began to realize that once they revealed the true nature of Clara’s existence and pretty much eliminated that mystique, they now had to do some actual character development beyond its suspension in the 50th Anniversary and Christmas Specials.
All right. So the dynamic changes. Moffat and his crew decide, at this point, to give Clara more of a life outside of The Doctor. They began it when they gave her a job as a schoolteacher in “Day of The Doctor”: which is a natural extension of her work with children as a nanny. And she even gets a love interest in the form of Danny Pink. None of these things negate her relationship with The Doctor either. She has her time-travelling interest in The Doctor and her romantic arrangement with Danny while also having her own career where she actually learns how to take responsibility for her own actions, and realize that her students depend on her.
But of course, because of all this, Clara suddenly develops a potent case of shallowness and insensitivity. When she isn’t taking pot-shots at Danny’s military past, or constantly brushing him off to go sailing into the stars, she never even bothered to tell The Doctor about Danny, or wondered if this might actually change something in their dynamic. She becomes abrasive and rude when she’s not being outright entitled or completely self-righteous about Danny calling her on her behaviour, or The Doctor not acting the way she wants him to act.
Because, you know, apparently it would taken too much time and effort to show Clara struggling between these relationships, thinking about others, and actually having some honesty occur: where she, Danny, and The Doctor actually talk about what is going on. Moffat could have worked with this tension and conflict. Remember “Kill the Moon” where Clara delivered what was probably hoped to be an epic verbal beat down on The Doctor’s behaviour complete with the threat of actual physical harm?
Remember how before that, when The Doctor left her to decide what happened to the creature in the moon and it just seemed as though, after all of Clara and the other characters’ arguing with him, that he just got fed up with it all?
They could have talked about that because, from what I saw, that conflict was partially due to the fact that Danny Pink was brought into their relationship without Clara really talking about it with The Doctor, or asking him how he felt about that. Instead, The Doctor is portrayed as genuinely not understanding why Clara is so upset: and not being affected by this one way or another. It just feels disingenuous: because there is what Moffat and his team want to happen, and then there are the places where the character dynamic wants to go, or at least adapt itself into going.
And that would have happened if we saw Clara and Danny actually befriending each other and get to know one another. I’m not saying that there wouldn’t be conflict, but a sense of chemistry instead of that forced feeling of Danny being added onto Clara so that we, the audience, would know that she is “over” The Doctor.
Then we have Clara’s lies and hypocrisy. She lies to Danny about who The Doctor is, then she lies to The Doctor about Danny supposedly being all right with their travelling after she tells Danny that they are done. And even though The Doctor is “a part of the Earth” and Clara seems to think she has the power to tell him to leave it, when he quotes her words right back at her “In The Forest of The Night,” apparently this doesn’t take away from the fact that she still thinks he should leave to save himself: because those words only seem to work when Clara wants them to do so.
But, for me, I think the death-knell came with “Dark Water.” You know the sequence: where, instead of asking for The Doctor’s help, she decides to betray him and force him to help her by threatening his age-old home to get a man back, whom apparently she is love with and “is the only person she will ever love” …
Steven Moffat has stated that, in this iteration of The Doctor’s and Clara’s relationship — as journeying with a time-traveller, that there should be actual consequences in doing so. Yet what consequences did Clara suffer as a result of her actions: especially in “Dark Water?” The Doctor kicked people out of his TARDIS for less than what she did in that episode. And barring that: The Doctor is Clara’s friend. She was there in all parts of his life. In fact, the only episode that I truly respected her in this iteration was “Listen” where she was there at both Danny and The Doctor’s very beginnings and provided them insight, inspiration, and strength while, in turn, she gained a whole other understanding of them. You know: character-development … or so it seemed at the time.
So why, realistically speaking, could Clara fall in love with a man she clearly doesn’t respect and then suddenly betray her best friend and threaten everything that made him who he is?
And even here, there was promise. We saw that Clara was part of Missy’s plan: that Missy had brought her and The Doctor together from the very beginning. Hell, we even saw that nice snippet from “Death in Heaven” where Clara tells a a Cyberman that “Clara Oswald doesn’t exist.”
But nothing happened with that, aside from it going to an extremely obnoxious and derpy place that doesn’t even convince a basic Cyberman.
It’s just like Moffat teasing that Orson Pink, the time traveller in “Listen” was just from a branch of the Pink family and not necessarily Danny and Clara’s descendant. Both have tension built up and both end with equally disappointing conclusions.
All of this is just downright frustrating to watch and I have to admit that while I was losing patience with Clara after “Kill the Moon” I lost all respect for the character after “Dark Water”: and the fact that she seemed to have learned nothing from her actions and that even after that she continued to bully The Doctor into other decisions.
Clara and her character dynamic has become more convoluted than any “Timey wimey, wibbly wobbly stuff” and I can sympathize with just why some Classic Doctor Who fans cannot stand the romance written into the program. In fact, I think it’s no coincidence that Steven Moffat, the very writer that created the “Timey wimey” idea of time-travel to explain away all temporal inconsistencies, would apply this same philosophy to character creation and relationships in his own run.
But, ironically, with time and patience we could have seen a very different Clara Oswald. As I said before, the ingredients were all there. The Doctor could have met her in more timelines. He might have tracked her down to 2013 where she was in a mental institution after being overwhelmed by all of her other memories. Perhaps he takes her out of there and, together, they explore how she can integrate those memories and just how this was all possible. Maybe The Doctor could have actually been Clara’s boyfriend because heaven forfend that he have a different relationship with a new Companion. Imagine how the rest of those events could have played out: with River Song wanting her husband to actually be happy and live on, and the impact of Clara saving The Doctor — again — by using her own sense of agency to jump into his time-stream without those very unfortunate words.
Or maybe Missy created Clara. I mean: just how did Missy know about Clara to begin with? Perhaps Victorian Clara died and Missy took her essence in the Nethersphere and used her hypnotic powers, which are canon, to re-engineer her into a new personality that would be The Doctor’s worst enemy. After all, Missy seemed to like violating the human dead for her ends. I mean, imagine The Doctor travels with Clara for all that time and even thinks he’s figured out how she existed in other times, only for her to betray him and claim that she had been Missy’s agent the entire time? It might have explained why the TARDIS was so dead set against her being there.
And just think of one sequence, modelled after the minisode “Clara and The TARDIS” where the TARDIS forces Clara to see all the echoes of herself: her past selves at different emotional points, her molten undead selves from “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” and even her iterations in other timelines to seemingly hurt her and protect her Doctor, but also to snap her out of that malignant, treacherous self and get her to accept those parts of herself, and take control of her own life.
Perhaps Clara dies to save The Doctor and every time he goes to another timeline or world he has to be reminded of the fact that he will never see her again. But if you don’t want to go all potentially Women in Refrigerators on this, maybe she just leaves after finishing her own A Game of You: discovering her own sense of identity separate from The Doctor and both her and him realizing that he is not the person she fell in love with any more and she has to move on.
At the very least, when she betrayed the Twelfth Doctor he should have helped her get Danny back while telling her that there was a price for her actions: namely, never being allowed to travel with him again.
When I first started thinking about all this, I thought that Clara Oswald shouldn’t have been the Twelfth Doctor’s Companion. If anything, she felt like more a part of Eleven’s life and could have fit into that dynamic a lot more efficiently. But after a conversation with a friend of mine, I saw that she was just a reflection of both incarnations of The Doctor. Eleven’s Clara represented all of his wonder and his need for her. Twelve’s Clara is all the former in addition to his angst, conflict, and uncertainty magnified a thousand-fold: the ephemeral breath on Virginia Woolf’s mirror instead of the refracted crystal of herself that she could have been.
I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that Clara Oswald’s main problem is the fact that she just isn’t written well. There were so many storytelling and character-driven possibilities that just weren’t even explored. The attempts to develop her character have been awkward and jarring to say the least and just thinking about some of her more lucid moments and what could have been just makes the experience all the more painful.
I will admit: when I heard that “Last Christmas” might be Clara’s last show, I felt a tremendous sense of relief: even as I feel some dread that due to rumours about Jenna Coleman wanting to return, she will be back. Despite some particularly touching moments, the character of Clara has gone from being a sonic screwdriver supplement to an attempt at a haphazard marionette portrayal of an actual human being.
It’s just sad. Clara started off with a lot of potential but it became clear that no one really knew what to do with her. Clara Oswin Oswald deserved much better than what she got, and I hope that Steven Moffat gives her at least the dignity of “Last Christmas” being her final adventure and letting us, and The Doctor, remember what could have been and finally move on.
In the case of Doctor Who‘s “Mummy On the Orient Express”: five lives and sixty-six seconds each.
And now: beware spoilers.
From the beginning of the episode, on a futuristic space vessel bearing the name Orient Express, when you see that mummy lurching towards the old woman, a horrible spectre that only she can see and you look at the timer at the corner of the screen you think that you know what you’re going to be dealing with. It’s a monster: a rotting and dessicated creature of the horror film genre in a futuristic Agatha Christie murder mystery novel.
Of course, given the nature of Doctor Who, it is never that simple. In fact nothing is simple in The Doctor’s universe. I mean, there are mysteries, and then there are non-surprises. I suppose I really shouldn’t have been all that surprised to see Clara coming with The Doctor on this cruise: for what is supposedly going to be their last trip before she stops being his Companion… or so the plan goes.
You know that sexual tension we were told about? The one that wasn’t going to be happening between Clara and The Doctor? Well, it’s true: you can take their initial time together on the cruise as something of a father and daughter arrangement but it just doesn’t ring true. Perhaps sexual tension is the wrong term. Perhaps it is a tension of an uncertain relationship: of not really knowing where they stand after everything that happened in “Kill the Moon.” But there is just a way that, when Clara tells The Doctor she thought she hated him but realized she didn’t and never could while nestling herself on his arm that made, at least me, wonder what is going on here? Is this the final moment before a breakup as two people go their separate ways?
I admit I really did like the interplay between them: though I personally think Clara came back far too quickly. In my last review I totally thought they would be separate for at least one episode. That said, I’m glad there wasn’t a scene where he had to apologize to her or vice-versa. We got thrown right back into them being together. But I suppose it’s something we all should have seen coming: that this is not over yet and that this “last voyage” is not as it seems.
Just like everything else in this episode.
Here is what I’ve noticed about Doctor Who episodes should I ever want to write one. Basically, you start off with a weird premise of two ideas that ordinarily wouldn’t go together, but eventually blend well and do. You focus on interpersonal relationships and working dynamics as the characters realize something is strange and try to navigate their way through the situation. The Doctor, in the immortal words of the musician Voltaire “makes some shit up” after a while or throughout the episode while making weird references and banter, the situation becomes inverted and you discover what is really going on. The Doctor tries to reason with “the monster” who becomes relatable as a selfish, pitiable, or misunderstood being, whom he either saves that being or lets it destroy itself, while sometimes he is confronting with his dark side in the process. He ends up resolving some crisis through taking a major risk, there is some wrap up with regards to the other characters, and he and his Companion go off to a new place like “Barcelona” or he leaves alone to deal with his demons: all of which to emphasize just how important a Companion is to getting him to relate to existence. And this doesn’t even include the strange moments of workable paradox that you get by including time or time travel in some of these scenarios.
Does this sound about right to you? I suppose that transdimensional “mummy” only comes for you in sixty minutes instead of sixty-six seconds, but “Mummy on the Orient Express” pretty much follows that strange, weird, and wonderful formula: the invisible mummy on the space liner, the relations between Clara and himself, Clara and Danny on the phone, Clara and Maisie, the suspicion that he and Clara both come to as they sense something is wrong, the reveal that the liner is actually a hidden laboratory to gather scientists (who have been gathered there as guests) to seemingly replicate the effects of the mummy for war-like purposes, the sarcophagus that Clara finds is supposed to be where they put the mummy after successfully capturing it for their kidnapper and jailer, the horror and cruelty of the fact that the mummy attacks those who are sick or have psychological trauma, The Doctor brushing with his dark side in letting all those people die just to find out how to stop the mummy, finding out that the mummy is very pitiable (what is with this theme of soldiers fighting eternal and horrific wars?), and then The Doctor risks his life to deal with the situation.
I will leave the rest to your imagination if you haven’t watched the episode. But let me just add this bit. There is a reversal from “Kill the Moon.” This time, after almost putting Clara in another difficult place and making her think he is using her, while revealing some information that may have been pertinent for Clara to know beforehand, he decides to take it all on himself and put himself on the line. The episode ends where The Doctor is genuinely expressing regret for his seemingly callous actions. And for all he criticizes Clara for displaying two emotions at the same time at the beginning of the episode, he does the same through displaying both clear self-doubt and grim certainty over how he would have attempted to save as many lives as he could: even if some had to die for him to do so.
As for Clara: she still needs to find a healthy medium between her relationships and work on her honesty. A lot. In addition, we are left with more questions as to who arranged this entire situation: especially considering that he seems to have received a call about it at least once on the TARDIS when he was with Rory and Amy as The Eleventh Doctor. Is it Missy and her servant that arranged this? Or someone or something else entirely?
And I wonder if every climax and moment of crisis in Doctor Who has resolved itself in at least sixty-six seconds? Well, look at it this way: at least I didn’t make the obligatory mummy joke.
It’s hard to resist titles like that: even when they’re misnomers.
This weekend, on Doctor Who, we got to see “Kill the Moon” and the mess — the real mess — that came from it. And I’m not talking about the moon crumbling in 2049.
For me, the episode started off fairly slowly and, quite honestly, in a very predictable manner. The Doctor, Clara, and the young girl from “The Caretaker” episode Courtney Woods decide to travel onto the moon: so that Courtney would feel like she’s special and not just the misbehaving young girl that threw up on her first time in the TARDIS.
Then we find said company on a space ship where scientists have gone to the moon to blow it up with explosives because it is endangering the Earth below. Of course you have your obligatory monsters and a truth about the moon, that is the moon and yet not, that you begin to glean almost right away when The Doctor calls the aforementioned monsters — the spider creatures — bacteria.
Then humanity has a historical decision to make and …
The Doctor says screw this, leaves Clara, Courtney and the scientist Lundvik to decide whether kill a potentially innocent in order to save the Earth or take their chances with its survival, and leaves them. Just like that.
You could already tell that there was a conflict coming to a head in this episode and, as I said before, it is not the moon: unless you consider The Doctor’s ego and Clara’s self-righteous indignation as small orbital satellites in and of themselves.
The episode begins with Clara wanting to make The Doctor confront the fact that he made Courtney feel like she was “not that special.” Of course getting The Doctor to do anything, even on a good day, is slightly less difficult than herding a thousand cats. It also presents another conflict. Clara is not a tutor or babysitter any more. She is not a character is “born to save The Doctor.” She is a teacher and she has a responsibility to her students, including Courtney. The issue is that The Doctor does not, in fact, have a responsibility to Courtney or anyone despite Clara’s relationship with him: save for being captain of his own ship and being in charge of the safety of everyone in it. It is this tension between them that only gets worse as the episode progresses.
Much like The Doctor perceives Time and its eddies at the best of moments, and with further description of this Time Lord sense in the episode, you can see this moment coming a mile away. Courtney being exposed to danger is a failing on both The Doctor and Clara’s parts: The Doctor not being aware in this incarnation of what a child can perceive and Clara for, frankly, not telling Courtney to stay on the TARDIS sooner after they landed on the moon and she got what she wanted: being the first woman on it. Certainly, when straits look dire Clara gets another reality check when, in asking Courtney to call her by name, Courtney prefers to keep calling her “Miss.”
Make no mistake: Courtney is a child and Clara is supposed to be her teacher. They are not friends in that way. Clara is the adult and has to make her own decisions and take her own responsibility. And it seems as though that, by extension and according to The Doctor, so does all of humanity.
But let’s not kid ourselves here. While I do believe that The Doctor genuinely thought humanity should consider the moon’s fate, and that Clara exemplifies humanity in his eyes, there is a fairly large part of this that was the result of him being quite fed up with Clara’s attitude: at least in regards to their dynamic. The events that reached their crux in “The Caretaker” with regards to Clara, Danny Pink, and The Doctor, as well as Clara’s professional and traveling lives definitely affected The Doctor’s decision here.
The fact is, it’s quite clear that The Doctor is tired of babysitting children and, by extension, humanity. He may even be resentful of how Clara tried to hide Danny Pink from him and initially involve him in their dynamic against his knowledge and will. Perhaps he thinks that Clara still unfairly compares him to the Eleventh Doctor who, let’s face it, coddled Clara quite a bit or at least comparatively so. Perhaps he is fed up with Clara thinking he should take responsibility for sorting out her own priorities.
And Clara, at least how she has been written since The Doctor’s Regeneration, is also fed up. She can’t seem to deal with this new change of personality. In addition, what he does to her in “Kill the Moon” is just a large scale version of what he did to her in “Deep Breath”: seemingly abandoning her and breaking their trust. Her angry monologue at the end of the episode hits a lot of points home as to how this Doctor treats humans and what his place should be on Earth: at least from her perspective.
It’s painful to watch. Both characters seem to have regressed into immaturity and misunderstanding. I remember once thinking that The Doctor had grown up a lot since his early travelling days, but he is now more of a throwback to those more immature times. That said, I think that Clara has had to grow up for some time now. Travelling with The Doctor isn’t all fun and games and indulging his Companion’s whims. He asked her to act like an adult on behalf of humanity. And she did.
And it cost them.
Perhaps, in the end, it’s best that The Doctor travel alone for a while. He clearly has things that he needs to do and others seem to just be getting in his way at the moment. And as for Clara, she knew to some extent the potential consequences of traveling with The Doctor. She could have left him any time when she started her career and her relationship. I think that she has to ask herself just what she wants from him just as, conversely, The Doctor should give her some space to make those decisions.
It’s not a one-sided situation and I hope that when it comes up again, it’s dealt with in a mature manner without one side expecting the other to simply apologize.
That said, I think Danny Pink has been the only character who has been acting even close to rational between the three of them: becoming the voice of reason for this episode and I want to see more interaction with him. Even though the relationship between Clara and The Doctor was the highpoint of this episode for me, I truly appreciated that Bechdel moment where three women: a school teacher, a student, and a scientist decided the fate of the Earth and for some time talked only about the consequences.
I can be snide and make a reference to the title of a Heinlein book and state that “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” but sometimes it is something simply that heralds the end of the day and the promise of an interesting night.
According to an article for Mirror written by Simon Boyle, the actress playing Clara Oswin Oswald will exeunt from The Doctor’s time-stream after one last role in a Christmas Special. If true, it wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Aside from the fact that there have been rumours of Coleman’s leave-taking for some time, it already seems clear that Clara’s relationship with the Twelfth Doctor will be much different from the one she had with Matt Smith’s Eleventh.
Gone will be the flirting and skirting around the edges of mutual affection. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, we are told, will be more random, cantankerous, and far less patient and open about his priorities. Still, for me personally it rankles a bit. I have a confession to make. The truth is, I didn’t really like Matt Smith’s Doctor completely. I mean, he wasn’t a bad Doctor and he definitely had his moments. I suppose I truly appreciated Christopher Eccleston and, of course, the epic David Tennant. And I will also admit to you that I have something of a romantic streak and I really appreciated the relationships that Nine and Ten had with Rose Tyler. Back when the Time Lords were extinct and he only had so many lives left to him, I felt for him and hoped that he would find companionship with what time he had left. There was this great dichotomy of his physical age not matching his chronological or even intellectual capacity.
For me, Clara Oswin Oswald was built up to be this great mystery and in the beginning a very compelling and strong character. I admit I was fan-shipping them. I won’t lie: there was an excellent parallel between Clara existing in different historical eras and The Doctor traveling throughout all of them. I actually wanted to believe that she could have been that Companion that not only had the romantic love that Rose did, but could have been the first one that The Doctor actually consummated a relationship with. It’s true that he has had other romantic relationships, such as the one he had with River Song, but his relationships with his Companions have always been different. I personally hoped that with Clara there would be that interlap and, for the first time the man who was never involved with his Companions in that way, might have truly found something else in his Impossible Girl.
I know many Whovians would like The Doctor to keep his other relationships separate from those that he has with his Companions or, indeed, not have any relationships but Platonic and asexual associations but there were so many hints, or I believed there to be some, that Clara — who has been in his time-stream and seen all of him — might have stayed much longer and created a different dynamic.
I also admit that while I’ve had issues with Steve Moffat’s writing style and how he portrays relationships, but at least this would hopefully not be like an otherwise brilliant writer such as Russell T. Davies and the cop out that was Rose Tyler and the Meta-Crisis Doctor. I do find it odd that someone who has been that close to him, indeed knowing him his entire lives, would just leave him. But, nevertheless, the prospect of seeing just what happens to Clara intrigues me and though whether or not we will all get to see Jenna-Louise Coleman’s final performance as The Doctor’s Companion some Christmas soon — or if this is just more conjecture and rumour — remains yet to be seen.
I am not upset that my possible theories were wrong, not really. I went into watching “The Day of The Doctor,” on Space at 2:50 pm with no other expectations save for the fact that we were going to see how Gallifrey died. I mean, this is what we’ve been told since 2005. Gallifrey is no more. Gallifrey falls. The Doctor is the last of his kind and he keeps losing his Companions over and again. As the last of the Time Lords, The Doctor is alone. From 2005 to the present, this is the story that we have been told and that we have seen play out time and again. But just as we all had our theories about how this would all go down, there was what we thought and then there was what happened, what will happen, or what is happening right now to those of you watching this for the first time.
The episode begins with the original 1963 Doctor Who introduction sequence, complete in black and white, and so close to the junkyard owned by one I.M. Foreman where the adventures of The Doctor began. After Clara leaves from her new work at a school, where The Doctor’s first Companions may have once taught his granddaughter, to go see him and U.N.I.T. is in so much of a rush to get The Doctor to help him that they basically tow away him and his TARDIS by helicopter, The Doctor finds his past catching up with him.
U.N.I.T., led by the Brigadier’s daughter Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, brings The Doctor to their Under-Gallery, where Queen Elizabeth the First placed all paintings deemed “not fit for public consumption” to see a sample of Time Lord-painting. This painting is a depiction of the last day of The Last Great Time War and the fall of Gallifrey’s second city Arcadia. Suddenly, The Doctor remembers that incarnation of himself that he doesn’t like to think about, the one he and Clara saw again in “The Name of The Doctor” when he crossed into his own time stream. We are treated to a look at the three-dimensional painting, which is bigger on the inside, of a golden, blood-red ravaged Gallifrey…
And then we are right in the War.
Murray Gold’s “The Dark and Endless Dalek Night” plays grandiose and horrifying in the background as Dalek saucers and Time Lord defences battle it out. But we see something new on Gallifrey’s surface. In “The End of Time,” all we saw was the Time Lord High Council in fascist red and gold proclaiming what would be the Ultimate Sanction, or the obliteration of the universe to assure their ascension as beings of pure consciousness. The Doctor made it clear that the Time Lords had been completely corrupted and irredeemable by battle lust and war. I mean, think about for a few moments. Imagine a whole people that can Regenerate and manipulate the laws of Time itself. Now think about Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society and the inventor of much of their technology, removing the thirteen Regeneration limit and with modified Battle TARDISes dying over and over again. The Time Lords and, by extension, Gallifrey were basically deemed as bad as the Daleks and this was the reason for The Doctor’s terrible decision. This was the reason he used The Moment to destroy all of them.
In my own Mythic Bios article, I saw it as an act of euthanasia, of basically putting an entire people that had gone rabid with a hunger for power to sleep out of mercy for them and the Universe. I saw it as a hard, but necessary thing. But we had hints that just as the Time Lords had done terrible things, they also weren’t all monsters even at this point in this game. Look at the mini-episode “The Last Day” for instance. Those soldiers were just people. They were just trying to defend their home. You see from the perspective of a Gallifreyan or Time Lord soldier another giving you a helmet and he has this look of empathy and shared suffering on his face. This is not a madman or a monster. They are the front-line that has to defend their home and their families.
Yes, Time Lord society has families. Despite earlier versions of the Doctor Who mythos where Time Lords were Loomed or artificially woven and grown into existence, Time Lords and Gallifreyans have parents … and children. And this is where the episode punches you in the stomach. You assume that all the Time Lords were engineered adults, even if they were once children. I even had the belief that an elder race like the Time Lords would have few, if any children at this stage in their evolution. But you see them. You see the Gallifreyan children cowering with their protective and very terrified parents. All of that over-exaggerated Gallifreyan fashion that we have seen over the years is tattered and clothing essentially war refugees that die by Dalek and friendly-fire. It is truly awful and perhaps that is the reason why Moffat does not show gratuitous Regeneration scenes. First of all, I am pretty sure that the Daleks could have replicated something like staser fire, one of the few weapons that can kill Time Lords instantly, and second of all it illustrates that there are no take backs in war where innocents die.
Then we see The Doctor, The War Doctor, who has frankly become my favourite. He is a worn, haunted, sad old man who has seen and dealt more death than any self-conscious being ever need to. Even as he rescues some refugees by having the TARDIS smash into some Daleks, he uses a gun to carve the words “No more” into a wall. It is as though he is writing his own name as the artist of the Time Lord painting we see from Doctor Eleven’s perspective. He might as well be.
After some very concerned Time Lord soldiers, who are fed up with the High Council for doing essentially nothing (which is another indication that not all Time Lords were aware of, or even agreed with the Ultimate Sanction) realize that The Doctor has stolen the most powerful super weapon in existence we think we know where this is going. It is The Moment.
We find The Doctor in an isolated spot, having left his TARDIS miles away, either because she won’t have to see him detonate the device or watch him die. Despite the lack of hope in his eyes and his weathered, unkempt face he is still The Doctor. He is tinkering with The Moment and trying to puzzle it out like he does any other toy he comes across.
And then we see Rose.
No. We actually see The Moment, as the device’s sentient program, taking on Rose’s Bad Wolf incarnation and deciding to make The Doctor fully aware of the consequences of what he intends to do. She is beautiful and golden in the feral way that her moniker suggests. The Moment has taken the image of someone from The Doctor’s past, or future, to attempt to relate to him. It is her that confronts him about the children. And you can see in his eyes even before he says anything that he intends to die with The War. It makes too much sense. After all the horror and the loss even later in his life, it is a miracle that The Doctor has never committed suicide. But The Moment, Bad Wolf, or Rose will not make it that easy for him. For some reason, The Moment has decided to make him face his decisions and his future by opening warps through the War’s time lock. Talk about an excellent piece of Ancient Time Lord technology huh?
These warps are how Doctor Eleven, Ten, and The War Doctor end up meeting in 1562 England. Despite the grimness of everything I’ve described so far, there is your typical Doctor Who silliness. Doctor Ten continuously mistakes Elizabeth the First as being a shape-shifting Zygon imposter (I’m thinking his shape shifter device kept getting confused by his own energy), while Doctor Eleven threw a fez through two of the warps that brought them all together. Even The War Doctor is exasperated by these younger, future versions of himself. In the scene where he meets them for the first time, convinced by The Moment to talk with his future selves, he actually mistakes them for The Doctor’s Companions. At first, I thought he was totally messing around with them, asking for The Doctor and calling them Companions until I began to realize that he genuinely didn’t know.
I will say that at this point in the venture, I thought Eleven would react much more angrily to The War Doctor given his denunciation of him in “The Name of The Doctor.” But he and Doctor Ten just seemed shocked. And after they are captured by Elizabeth’s guards, seemingly under the Zygon imposter’s command we see them pretty much face each other down. The War Doctor asks them if they ever thought about how many children there were on Gallifrey. There is another punch in the stomach for everyone in the audience. But whereas Doctor Ten does, in fact remember, Doctor Eleven claims not to and there is this very real, very angry moment between him and Ten about how he could “move past” something of that kind. Basically, even in a jail cell The Doctor is still running from his past and what he did that one time during The Time War. Meanwhile The Moment, who is still Rose and can only be seen by The War Doctor, is feeding him lines and asking him to consider matters. I was thinking about all those Doctor/Rose fan-shippers that were crying inside about how close this approximation of Rose was to Doctor Ten and Eleven, and yet so far away.
Then each of them is led by The Moment, through The War Doctor, to realize that despite the different appearances of their sonic screwdrivers they all still have the same software. They are about to use them to break out when Clara, who the Zygons underestimated rather stupidly, just opens the unlocked door. Yes, all three Doctors are that absent-minded: constantly searching for complex solutions, when the answer is right in front of them. It happens to us all. But then what seems to be the Elizabeth imposter leads them out to show them how the Zygons are planning to conquer Earth. With their homeworld having been destroyed in the beginnings of the Time War, the Zygons somehow reverse-engineered Time Lord art technology (perhaps through the presence of the Time War painting that is somehow at some point in Elizabethan England) send themselves into other paintings to release themselves in Earth’s future. All of these events are components to another, greater Moment that comes up very soon.
So after realizing that Elizabeth I is the real one pretending to be her imposter (that she stabbed to death in the forest) and her impromptu wedding with Doctor Ten, all three Doctors come into the TARDIS and find a way to go back to 2013 into a “TARDIS-proofed” U.N.I.T. Black Tower and stop the mutually-assured destruction of London situation happening between the Zygon infiltrators and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. It is here that we see Doctors Ten and Eleven taking their regret over what happened in The Time War and using it and craftiness to get both sides to agree to peace-talks. Clara then has some alone time with The War Doctor, a far cry from the young energetic man she has been travelling with and says that his eyes “look young” while those of his counterparts look so terribly old.
It is here that The War Doctor comes to his decision. He realizes that his “necessary mistake” in destroying Gallifrey is the only way to get his future incarnations to “grow-up” into the people that they have become. He plans to be the force that they learn from. And I know that I, as part of the audience watching this commercial-less simulcast, braced for what was going to come.
But even though this was not a Christmas Special, a 50th Anniversary counts for something. Even as The Moment makes him pause again, the other two Doctors with Clara in tow come to where he is now. It is heartbreaking to see The War Doctor want them to leave him so that he can do what he, albeit doubtfully now, still believes is necessary and Regenerate alone. But they accept that he is a part of them, after denying his memory for so long and they are all about to activate The Moment’s Big Red Button when…
Clara comes in and reminds The Doctor why he named himself The Doctor. The Moment too takes the opportunity to show all of them Gallifrey’s families and children. There have so far been two reoccurring themes in this episode. The first part of the episode starts at a school house with children in an English public school with its old private-school trappings. It is not unlike the Time Lord Academy in which The Doctor and so many others grew up. We see the children in the War. We see them at play in the sunlight of The War Doctor’s dusty memories. And then we see them hanging up colourful ribbons and streamers despite the destruction around them. We see something that we have not seen so far in this whole episode.
We see hope.
We also see women. It is no original idea or trope for a female archetype to be the helper or saviour of a male character. The Moment does everything she can to lead The Doctor to an informed decision not determined by despair. Clara reminds The Doctor of his purpose and is always his Companion. Elizabeth the First flat out states that arrogance typifies all men. Even the TARDIS, Sexy, won’t leave The Doctor in any incarnation. She even smashed down some Daleks like a Battle TARDIS. Where The Doctors act, these characters ask and question. And yes, they help save The Doctor from the spiritual damnation we’ve seen him struggle with since 2005.
In them, we see life.
And then a potential catastrophe becomes a eucastrophe: a happy-ending.
Between the three Doctors and all of their other incarnations–including the Thirteenth Doctor–they use the time-freezing technology used by the Zygons–the “cup of soups”–to capture Gallifrey and deposit it into another pocket universe.
In this way, it looks like Gallifrey is destroyed along with the Daleks. But Gallifrey is not destroyed. Through loops and contradictions and layers of Space and Time Gallifrey doesn’t rise, or fall, or die. It lives.
In the words of the Ninth Doctor, “everybody lives.”
The ages-old and weary War Doctor leaves, finally at peace and although his later incarnations lose all memory of this crossover event, he Regenerates. We don’t see Doctor Nine, which is a little disappointing, but this is not unexpected. Ten also leaves knowing that he will not remember, but stating that they need a new destination aside from the doom of Trenzalore. But Doctor Eleven remembers.
I am almost finished. Like a TARDIS, this 50th Anniversary Special is “bigger on the inside.” As Doctor Eleven wonders if they succeeded in saving Gallifrey, and ponders embracing Elizabeth’s role to him as the curator of the Under-Gallery he … meets or reacquaints himself with someone. At first, I wondered how this was possible and who the elderly Curator could possibly be. But after re-watching the episode to write this review, I realized that The Doctor can actually decide what face he takes on in his Regenerations. He can even take on old faces.
So when an elderly Tom Baker all but confirms that Gallifrey is saved and that the painting in front of them is called Gallifrey Falls No More. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not The Curator is a future version of The Doctor, or a possibility, or someone else entirely. Ending the episode with that gentle, wise lighthearted moment, with a potential Doctor without bitterness and regret and filled only with a kindly acceptance, changed the whole tone of the series in that one moment. And Doctor Eleven taking his place alongside his other incarnations with the First Doctor standing in back of them with his arms crossed is positively inspiring.
There is so much I know I’ve missed in this review and I have tried to capture all of it in something like a Time Lord-painting. There are those who would say that this whole Special was a cop-out: that it negated all of The Doctor’s experiences and that it leaves plot holes and weaves itself with clichés. But I think that now, this Special leaves a whole other level of possibility and paths yet to travel. I asked a question in the title of my Mythic Bios post. I asked “When does The Doctor stop running?”
The answer is that he doesn’t. The Doctor will never stop running. It is his nature to run. But he has changed. Because now, for the first time in ages The Doctor won’t be running from something. Rather, The Doctor will be running to his destination, to his end and Gallifrey and all the possibilities beyond it. Everybody lives, gentlebeings and now perhaps we can see The Doctor do that as well. Perhaps we can now see him truly live.
This article and its contents will be time-stamped, but they certainly won’t be time locked … whatever that means anymore.
So in the immortal words of River Song, “Spoilers.”
After May 18, 2013 there was, if you will pardon the pun, a large moment of silence. Then, on September 28 after “The Name,” there was a name. For a while, after that, there were murmurs until, on October 19 Time itself became suspended as though holding its breath in a debris of lives and, from a mountaintop a green-hued sonic screwdriver is pointed at the skies. And like a released elastic band, Time speeds up on November 9 and war and chaos come spiraling towards us with the “premonitions” that a soldier claims do not exist. But I am getting ahead of myself because, before that on the same day, there is one more moment of silence before a plunge into the epic music and story of a man known to his foes as the Oncoming Storm.
And then we go back. Yes, we shall go back. We go back to November 14 from a countdown of Eleven, Ten, Nine until Eight on The Night of The Doctor when we see the fateful decision that forever shapes the numbers that come after. And just when we think it’s over, just when we think that perhaps we will only see fragments of a war and nothing beyond what will be seen, on November 20th we witnessed The Last Day of the Time Lords.
These are the main trailers and mini-episodes leading up to the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who episode “The Day of The Doctor.” So as “The Day of The Doctor” awaits us tomorrow on cable, in movie theatres and even on its own global simulcast, what do we already know about this episode?
Well, trying to predict Doctor Who is a lot like attempting to predict God in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, because like The Doctor “God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”
The above pretty much sums up my feelings on trying to forecast the Oncoming Storm’s episodes, never mind the 50th Anniversary Special. However, based on various clips, trailers, and the two web mini-episodes here is what we can put together so far in something like the strange Doctor Who puts, well, anything plot-wise together. First, let’s look at what BBC released with their hashtag:
“The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure in this 50th Anniversary Special: In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion.
All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him. World, are you ready? #SaveTheDay”
Now, it seems likely that Doctor Eleven and Clara got out of his own time-stream and based on the small clips, such as their time at the museum, they are the ones in 2013. We also know, based on past episodes, that Doctor Ten was once romantically involved with Queen Elizabeth I (apparently married to her) and something happened between them that made her so angry she ordered his death. Finally the ancient battle coming to its conclusion, based on what little we know of temporal war and the fact that The War Doctor, played by John Hurt and identified as such in the credits of “The Night of The Doctor,” aged from a young man to a very old one seems to be evident, or at least to me. What is also interesting is that the Zygons, classic shape-shifting Doctor Who monsters, are also making their appearance in the 50th Anniversary Special along with the Daleks.
Whether or not they are a part of the Time War or they are after it is unknown. The fact that the TARDIS is being lifted however seems to indicate that Earth is aware of The Doctor again, or that U.N.I.T. is getting involved in what will most likely be a potentially cataclysmic event. Rose Tyler is also going to be with The Doctor, at least the Tenth one as his Companion before she is taken to an alternate reality, and she seems to be present with The War Doctor at The Moment where he destroys both Time Lords and Daleks in her manifestation as Bad Wolf.
And now we go further into conjecture, if we aren’t there already. I certainly know I am. For me, the fact that the white rift opens in the museum in front of Clara and The Doctor reminds me of “the cracks in time” that occurred with the TARDIS’ destruction back in “The Eleventh Hour.” At the same time, this is not the first instance in which Time has conspired to place The Doctor with his past incarnations when the need arises.
But I think what disturbs me the most is that, on Trenzalore The Doctor jumped into his own time stream. This is apparently something that no one should do, and most people do not survive it. For me, I suspect that there are consequences for The Doctor entering his own time-stream at the point after his own death and I think that the presence of The War Doctor is indicative of this. He is an incarnation that The Doctor does not like to acknowledge based on his actions during The Last Great Time War.
Yet I wonder if perhaps The War Doctor is in some ways a gate onto himself due to his psychic trauma and influence over Time past the apparent time lock around the events of the War and if by entering his own time-stream, in a similar way to how the Time Lords used The Master to bring Gallifrey and the War to 2010 in “The End of Time,” he has unlocked something incredibly terrifying. It would not be the first time that The Doctor has inadvertently unleashed a horror on the universe out of curiosity or a sense of compassion. After all, the Daleks were once trapped in their own City on Skaro and weren’t even aware of life on other worlds before The First Doctor decided to pay them a visit.
Aside from all this speculation as to how we can even see The Time War with the time lock (without going insane like Dalek Caan) and what is going to happen is beyond me and, frankly, I am overjoyed to see how this will all fit haphazardly and gloriously together. But there is one thing I would definitely like to see in this 50th Anniversary Special. I would love to see the Tenth Doctor’s response to seeing The War Doctor which will hopefully be different than Eleven’s response. Yet more than that, I want to see Bad Wolf Rose interact with Doctor Eleven and see her show The War Doctor a little more compassion because, if anyone deserves it, it would be him for doing what none of his other incarnations could ever do.
I am fascinated by one rumour however. We have already seen Paul McGann’s return in “The Night of The Doctor,” but apparently Tom Baker, who once played the jelly-baby eating Fourth Doctor, is going to make his own appearance as well. Whether he is coming back as the Fourth Doctor or in another role is a different story entirely.
Time always brings with it surprises … and this is especially true for Time Lords. And please, post your speculations and comments down below so we can predict how The Doctor’s day will go. We’ll see you in Utopia.