In the words of the Dalek trapped by the Cloister Wraiths near the Matrix, “Exterminate … me …”
This week, on “Hell Bent” the season finale of Doctor Who, we see The Doctor return to Gallifrey — the world he thought he destroyed but ultimately saved — with the fire of wrathful self-righteousness. It is in the deserts of the outside of Arcadia that the common Gallifreyans, the people who were not fortunate enough to become Time Lords, celebrate the hero of Gallifrey’s salvation. As The Doctor comes home, the Chancellery Guard — still militarized with Time Lord-destroying stasers — surround him: demanding that he go meet the Lord President and High Council and reveal what he knows about the Hybrid.
After telling the multitude of Gallifreyan denizens to stand down with a wave of his hand, he leaves with the Guard: without any weapons, unnerving them all with his presence and the stories of what he has done. They respect him. They are afraid of him. It is there, at the Council that both the Councilors and the Sisters of Karn stand in attendance. The Doctor puts on his glasses as Rassilon, still Lord President of Gallifrey, comes into the chambers and both congratulates and threatens The Doctor. The Doctor asks why the High Council has not been disbanded, and Rassilon executed for attempting to destroy all of reality and betray their sacred oaths to watch over all of space and time. Rassilon makes a whole lot of self-serving remarks about how he is Time Lord society’s founder, creator, and liberator. He blames The Doctor for trapping them all in a pocket dimensional purgatory in which they cannot get out and for using The Moment to summon the Hybrid: to kill them all.
It is then that out of the shadows that Rassilon reveals the person who managed to get him here: by “revising” his confession dial. It’s Missy. In exchange for the repair of her destabilized body and another batch of regenerations, she lured The Doctor here through the manipulation of Lady Me: for the Council to interrogate him about The Hybrid. This and Missy’s “methods of persuasion” are why there are sections missing from Me’s books of memories. Of course, The Doctor is not fooled. He knows why Missy really brought him here. It turns out The Doctor had used his glasses to broadcast this whole interrogation to all of Gallifrey. The Chancellery Guard comes in. Rassilon orders them to kill The Doctor. But they ignore him. The General comes in after them.
Then the Guard surrounds Rassilon and point their stasers at him. The Doctor reveals that during this entire time, he also erased all of Rassilon from the Matrix and the Dark Matrix. He mentions that something that is dead and obsolete should remain dead and obsolete: that he cost him the life of his best friend. Rassilon tries to use his gauntlet, but The Doctor reveals that he has negated that too with his glasses. Rassilon commands the Guard to stand down, but eventually realizes they won’t. He pleadingly reminds them of who he is. The Doctor turns away as the General condemns Rassilon to death.
The Doctor exiles the rest of the High Council. Missy and The Doctor reluctantly work together in order to get Gallifrey out of its pocket dimension. This leads to The Doctor calling his graffiti-decorated TARDIS back using Gallifrey’s command functions. But they have some work to do first. They have to travel back in time just to help the other Doctor incarnations save Gallifrey during The Time War. And right after, he works with Missy and the other Time Lords on Gallifrey – many of whom he knows and trusts from his many incarnations – to bring the planet out again.
The Doctor, as Lord President, commands that Clara Oswald be brought back for her part in helping them save Gallifrey during “The Day of The Doctor.”
And it is then that The Doctor realizes the truth about The Hybrid. There are flashbacks to every interaction he had with all iterations of Clara: and how they met. They are at the Chamber: where someone can get called back from their time for just a few minutes. He realizes that Clara had been in his time stream. She had been introduced to him by Missy. Missy has done something to her. Even as he calls her back to save her, as Clara almost manifests again – changing this fixed point in time – she begins to destabilize time at the centre of Gallifrey. They just have a few moments. Clara tells The Doctor to let her go and something else we don’t hear.
The Doctor heartrendingly returns Clara to her death and turns on Missy who, in the confusion of the time displacement energy Clara was making as The Hybrid, has escaped. The Doctor’s glasses have broken. He leaves Gallifrey: utterly disheartened. But he sees the blackboard on his ship with Clara’s words: “Be a Doctor,” and a sonic screwdriver on the control panel of the TARDIS. The TARDIS then wheezes away out of reality to parts yet unknown.
This was an excellent season finale of Doctor Who …. that never happened.
What actually happens in “Hell Bent” is The Doctor came back to Gallifrey. Then we have a segue where he meets someone who looks like Clara at a diner. We think that she is just one of Clara’s echoes in Arizona. The Doctor goes back to the shack where he was raised. And it’s interesting because, as Lady Me says later on, why would a Time Lord from the high society of Gallifrey spend so much time around humans on Earth? Certainly, from “Listen,” we have to wonder just where The Doctor came from, and his origins as part of the family that is the House of Lungbarrow in the books was ultimately a pleasant and noble lie.
But the rest of it is true. The people, including the woman who raised him, meet him and celebrate. And then the Time Lords simultaneously praise and threaten him: particularly Rassilon who is still Lord President for some reason. There is some epic and foreboding music and you think: Oh, this is on now. But then they do turn on Rassilon, but instead of executing him for his crimes, The Doctor tells him to “Get off his planet.”
Rassilon whines so pathetically that you almost feel sorry for him. Almost. Then The Doctor goes to Arcadia and banishes the High Council as well. From this point on, and before, we are given the mystery of the Cloister Wraiths — that are very reminscient of Rassilon’s Time Lord Interstitials from the novel Engines of War — that guard the Matrix and why they are now active. Leave it to Moffat to create yet another monster of the week.
And then … and then … as Lord President of Gallifrey The Doctor calls back an … old friend: from moments before her death.
Yep. You guessed it.
Then he runs off with her, and the secret in the Matrix of this episode — a fascinating place of ghosts guarded by more ghosts utilizing Wraiths and enslaved Daleks, Cybermen, and giving Weeping Angels something to really weep about — being that there is an old TARDIS hidden in the tunnel under there. Granted, there is a touching scene where Clara actually asks The Doctor and the other Time Lords there what they actually did to him in the confession dial whereupon she tells them that the reason they suck is that they are “hated.”
Pot, kettle, black, but I digress.
They run off to the end of the universe where The Doctor meets Lady Me and we discover that The Hybrid is neither of them, but actually two people of similar temperament and hobbies: namely, Clara and The Doctor because The Doctor is willing to risk fracturing all of space and time to keep her alive.
But apparently The Doctor’s plan is to erase all of Clara’s memories of him specifically so that the Time Lords or reality can’t harm her: so that she can’t be tracked. Basically it’s Donna Noble all over again. So Clara doesn’t like this and they both decide to flip the memory-erasing device to see whose memories of whom will be erased instead.
And guess what happens? No seriously: guess. The Doctor’s memories of Clara are erased and Clara and Lady Me have a new TARDIS that looks like an Arizona diner. Clara has no pulse because she is still dead even though they travelled to the end of time itself so she has to stay on … her TARDIS in order to survive. I mean: at least Bill in Kill Bill had the decency to walk five steps afterwards, no?
So The Doctor isn’t talking to an echo of Clara, or a mind-wiped Clara at the diner that is a TARDIS, but rather Clara herself as he can’t even perceive her anymore. Then she and Lady Me leave: dematerializing around him and having not question it at all. And surprise: Clara brought back The Doctor’s TARDIS, with the blackboard’s inspirational message and a new sonic screwdriver that just happens to pop out and be waiting for him.
The blue box TARDIS and the diner TARDIS happen to pass each other in the night of the universe as they travel and … exeunt!
That’s “Hell Bent,” gentle-beings. No Missy. No Time War timey-wimey. No getting Gallifrey out of the pocket dimension because they already did it. Nothing more.
Honestly, I don’t really know what else to say here. It makes me wish that someone would go find Rassilon in his exile where he is totally not going to be plotting revenge against The Doctor, and beg him to destroy reality. To all the people out there that were hoping to see something spectacular about Gallifrey returning, well congratulations. You remember the Clara Oswald show that mercifully got cancelled? Well, we got a whole new bonus episode of that program instead.
At this point, Clara Oswald is a character that goes beyond being a Mary Sue. She is actually, more aptly, Steven Moffat’s Untempered Schism Sue or – more accurately – a Black Hole Sue. Google it: or better, yet, you can find what a Black Hole Sue is on TV Tropes: namely a character that the author likes so much and ascribes so much importance to even if there is no evidence of this importance aside from being told they are important to the point of warping all characters and plot around them.
“Hell Bent” was a terrible episode. If “Last Christmas” was one middle-finger to many Whovians, then this was easily two middle-fingers: especially when you consider that this was the finale of an otherwise better season. And if I had to rate this episode, that is precisely what I would give it.
“Hell Bent” can get bent with two middle fingers up.
At the very least, right now, The Doctor will no longer have to remember the Clara Oswald Show. If only the rest of us were so fortunate.