Saturday, September 13, 2014

Doctor Who Weekend: The Oswald Factor

Hi there, Whovians all! Welcome to another Doctor Who Weekend. And its another two day two punch whamaroo! (Whamaroo?) Tomorrow I'll post a review of the 4th new episode of Series 8, Listen, and this time I'll try not to miss any important plots points. (Yes, last week I really did not make the connection to who the woman in the dungeon was, OK?) 

But today I want to post about an observation of Series 8 so far. Of course its always a fascinating time watching a new Doctor get settled in, doing Doctor stuff. So far Peter Capaldi has not disappointed in his role as the Doctor as Peter's unique style and voice take the Doctor into a new direction.

Clara Oswald (as portrayed by Jenna Coleman) is moving in a new direction as well. In the three episodes aired so far, Clara has become a stronger character. Without the flirtatious chemistry she had with Matt Smith's 11th Doctor. Jenna has to adjust Clara to a different relationship with this edgier Doctor. While the older Peter Capaldi may look more the grown up than Matt, there's a certain childlike petulance to him as well. it’s Clara who has to truly be a grown up and stand as a partner with this Doctor. The 11th Doctor kept Clara around because of the mystery of the Impossible Girl and also because it was fun. Now Clara is in the TARDIS with the Doctor because the Doctor truly needs her.
In Deep Breath, the Doctor needs Clara to see that he’s is still the Doctor and he needs her to stay because he’s frightened of this new journey he has begun. 

In the 2nd episode, Into The Dalek, Clara is described as the Doctor’s “carer”; as the Doctor says, “She cares so I don’t have to.”  If this Doctor is a bit more alien than before, he needs Clara more than ever to help stay in touch with humanity in the lives of others and in himself. The Doctor sees Clara as vital enough to his well-being that he is incredulous he doesn't pay her but Clara says, “You can’t afford me.” 


Let me take a moment to discuss Clara's response to the Doctor's question, "Am I a good man?" How can she say "I don't know" after watching the Doctor do so many good things? Well, consider the person asking the question. The Doctor wouldn't ask unless he was having doubts about himself. If Clara answered "yes", the Doctor would've brushed it off as the kind platitude of a devoted companion. She surely could not answer "no" because that just wouldn't be true. So Clara answers "I don't know". Later at the end of Into The Dalek, Clara expands on that: "I don't know but I think you're trying to be and that's what really important." 

Robot of Sherwood is a flight of fancy that happens at Clara’s urging. It’s a bit of a whimsical wish on Clara’s part to see Robin Hood but it is also an effective counter-balance to the Doctor’s more serious persona. No matter the face or form, the Doctor has in the past found a way to have fun in his travels and that’s what Clara guides him toward here.  But she’s not above being serious and taking control of a situation. When the Doctor and Robin Hood won’t stop hurling insults at each other, it’s Clara who makes them shut up and take turns. In fact, she is so effective at being in control that the guard outside their dungeon cell assumes Clara is the leader of the three.


Away from the Doctor, Clara has had some pretty impressive moments: confronting the Half Face Man, crawling through a tube at great personal risk to reawaken Rusty the Dalek’s memories and wrapping the Sheriff of Nottingham around her little finger to get him to tell her information. 
The main criticism I've seen of Clara has been her reaction to the Doctor’s regeneration in Deep Breath. How can someone who travelled up and down the Doctor’s timeline and witnessed the different versions of him be freaked out by this change?

First of all, what (if anything) does she remember from the adventure in The Name of the Doctor? It wasn’t just one Clara along the Doctor’s timeline but different versions of herself splintered throughout time. How much the core Clara Oswald would remember from the actions of her other selves is hard to judge but I would assess it wouldn't be much. For example, one of those versions of Clara got turned into a Dalek in a very frightening and painful way. If Clara had any memory of that, she may have been very skittish about finding herself inside of one those murderous pepperpots again. 
Yes, she should remember the events of Day of the Doctor where she met the 10th Doctor and the War Doctor. She even looks into the War Doctor’s eyes and recognizes the Doctor. So why is she so disturbed by this Doctor’s new face?
It’s one thing to have knowledge of something; to experience that thing up close and first hand is a different matter. The 11th Doctor was HER Doctor. It was that mad face who showed up at her doorstep. She had formed a bond with the Doctor not just in this form but in this persona. The Doctor’s prior selves were a more abstract concept to Clara compared to watching this Doctor change from someone she fancied to someone…different. He went from his old “young” face to a new “old” face. Is that supposed to happen? Really? And the Doctor may have always been a bit of a madman but this Doctor has a different kind of crazy going on, a scary kind of crazy.
I think Clara’s responses to the situations in Deep Breath, from the negative (her bias over the Doctor's appearance) to the positive (her determination that the Doctor still has her back), were well handled in the script and in Jenna Coleman’s performance.  

Just like the Doctor, companions change and rumors abound that Jenna is leaving Doctor Who by this year's Christmas special. I think it may well be likely. Jenna will have played Clara for 2 years and tracking Jenna's appearances on Doctor Who back to Asylum of the Daleks, she's been involved with the show for 3 years. Still, I'm enjoying this new dynamic between the Doctor and Clara and I'm not anxious for it to end. Whatever the length of her time on Doctor Who will be, I've enjoyed Jenna Coleman as our Impossible Girl, Clara Oswald. 


Tomorrow: LISTEN! It's a NEW review of a NEW episode of Doctor Who. Steven Moffat's back at the keyboard for what looks like a particularly scary tale, Listen

Until then, be good to one another. 

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