Hi there, Whovians! Dave-El here and today's post is a recap/review type of thing about last night's new episode of Doctor Who, the season finale for Series 9, Hell Bent.
There's been a lot of drama and change for Doctor Who over the last two weeks. Clara Oswald met her final fate in Face the Raven and the Doctor was consigned to a place of torment for billions of years in last week's Heaven Sent. That episode ended with the Doctor back on Gallifrey, fully aware that his tormentors were the Time Lords. He is, you can imagine, not happy about that.
So what happens when the Doctor takes on the Time Lords and stakes his claim to Gallifrey itself? For what purpose would the Doctor drive himself to such lengths? We'll find out after the spoiler caution.
And we're off in 5...
We open up in Nevada. The Doctor with his guitar wanders into a diner where he plugs in to play some tunes and tells the story of Clara to the waitress, a young woman looking very much like Clara.
And we're back on Gallifrey where the Doctor is walking away from the golden spires of the capitol and towards a familiar looking farmhouse (as see in Day of the Doctor and Listen). Here, the Doctor wordlessly passes the time as a soldier comes to deliver him to the city. But the Doctor simply walks away.
The General shows up with a whole bunch of troops. But the Doctor simply walks away.
Next up, the High Council of Time Lords arrive. But the Doctor simply walks away.
Finally, the Lord President himself shows up and this time, the Doctor does not walk away. And he finally speaks, telling the President to "Get off of my planet!"
The Lord President is quite incensed over this and orders his soldiers to fire on the Doctor. But these soldiers on the ground and the ones who arrive by air all recognize who's in charge now.
Back in the city, the Doctor is a bit incensed himself over spending billions of years trapped in a Confession Dial while the Time Lords tried to pry the secret of the Hybrid out of him. The Doctor is still keeping his secrets but agrees to help the Time Lords. He will, however, need to use of an Extraction Chamber.
Guess who the Doctor extracts?
Yes, Clara Oswald, at the split second before the moment of her death in Face the Raven. But if the Doctor is cheating death by saving Clara, it is a temporary reprieve. In fact, Clara does not have a pulse, existing in a moment of time between her last heartbeats. But the Doctor is not looking for a reprieve, he's looking to completely save Clara from the moment of her death.
A retreat into a section of the Gallifrey capitol city called the Cloister Chamber which is the core of the Time Lord Matrix haunted by the ghosts of dead Time Lords as well as an imprisoned Dalek, Cybermen and Weeping Angels. It is not a fun place to be. But it is here that the Doctor does again what he did at the very beginning: steals a TARDIS and run away from Gallifrey with Clara Oswald in tow.
The Doctor is working on a theory if Clara's pulse returns, he's successfully saved her from her deadly fate. But her pulse isn't coming back. The Doctor in desperation sends the TARDIS far into the future, to the end of time itself. But Clara's pulse is still not restored. She's still frozen in a moment of time between heartbeats before her death.
The Doctor steps outside the TARDIS to stand upon the last burning embers of existence. Waiting for him out there? Ashildr. Or Me, if you will. Yep, Me outlived the hell of everybody and everything. The Doctor and Me toss about the question of "What or who is The Hybrid?" Me wonders if it is the Doctor himself, perhaps having more than just an affinity for humankind. The Doctor counters that it could Me with her human life extended by Mire technology. Me counters with another theory: the Hybrid is two people acting as one, the Doctor and Clara.
It's all a moot point. Part of the Doctor's plan to save Clara was to use a Gallifreyan device to wipe her memory of him, to save her from any future retribution of his enemies. The Doctor and Me enter the TARDIS where Clara actually overheard the whole conversation and has used the Doctor's sonic sunglasses to reverse the polarity on the device in question.
Yep, that's a very Doctor like thing for Clara to do but once more, Clara isn't really the Doctor so the mind wipe device could still work but will it zap Clara's memories...or the Doctor's? The Doctor and Clara realize that it's time for their story to end so they both push the device at the same time. At first nothing happens but the Doctor becomes unsteady. He falls to the floor as his memories are being re-written. He asks Clara to smile one last time for him; no matter what happens, he will remember that smile. And then he passes out.
The Doctor wakes up on the side of a desert road in Nevada. He makes his way to the diner and now we are at the part where the Doctor is finishing his story of Clara to the waitress who looks like Clara. Except the Doctor does not recognize her. He remembers his adventures with her, how they met an Ice Warrior on a Russian submarine and fought a mummy on the Orient Express. But he doesn't remember her, what she looked like or who she was personally.
The Doctor looks around the diner and realizes that it looks familiar. Oh yeah, that time with Amy and Rory. The waitress tells the Doctor that maybe memories becomes stories when we forget them. Perhaps they can become songs as well. As the Doctor picks up his guitar, the waitress goes to the back of the diner...
And into the recently stolen TARDIS. Me is waiting inside. It seems the Chameleon Circuit shorted out and now this TARDIS is stuck in the shape of an American diner.
A diner that vanishes from around the Doctor, leaving him alone in the desert. Alone, that is, except for a certain blue police box, covered in Rigsy's graffiti art and the photograph of Clara Oswald.
Back in the other TARDIS, Clara tells Me she still doesn't have a pulse so that means she still hasn't escaped her fate. The only thing to do is to go back to Gallifrey and have the Time Lords return her to the moment of her death. But Clara and Me have a working TARDIS. So....
So to Gallifrey they go...the long way 'round.
And in the Doctor's TARDIS, he finds a message in chalk: "run you clever boy...go be a Doctor". With a new sonic screwdriver popped out by the TARDIS console, the Doctor goes forth towards an unknown future and the new adventures that await him there.
Wow! A lot of stuff went down in this one so let's get cracking on this.
So the Doctor was trapped in Confession Dial for 4.5 billions, protecting his knowledge of the secret of the Hybrid, knowledge it turns out (or so he claims) he never had in the first place. He needed the Time Lords to think that he had knowledge of the Hybrid so events would bring him back to Gallifrey where he would seize power over the Time Lord Council, gain access to the Extraction Chamber for the purpose of saving Clara Oswald from death from the Raven.
Yes, the Doctor endured 4.5 billion years of torture to save Clara.
Yet it seemed it was all for naught. Devoid of a heartbeat, Clara is an anomaly outside of time. Her fate to die in Face the Raven is a fixed event that cannot be cheated. Sorry, fellow Whovians, Clara well and truly dies in Face the Raven.
At same time, Clara ends Hell Bent running away in her own TARDIS with a companion. Clara becomes the Doctor. Granted the dynamic is inverted: Clara is the one living on borrowed time and its the companion who is immortal.
At last, Me gets to escape Earth and go on adventures in time and space. Granted, she had to live a gazillion years to the death of the universe itself. Talk about the long way 'round.
Other stuff and things:
- Steven Moffat is really playing around with the possibilities of Time Lord regeneration. The General regenerates from a white male to a black female.
- And that regeneration was triggered by the Doctor shooting the General. Take that, Commander Maxil from Arc of Infinity (1983). Now this may upset some purists of Doctor Who, the idea of the Doctor using a gun against another living being. The Doctor's abhorrence of the weapons of war is an integral part of his character. Even the War Doctor never used a gun except against a wall in Day of the Doctor. It's a bit off-putting but at least the Doctor made sure the Captain could regenerate.
- When the Doctor talks of wiping Clara's memory as part of his plan to save her, I imagine everyone watching gasped and hissed, "NO! This is Donna Noble all over again!" The Doctor does reference that event from Journey's End (2008). Clara dying in Face the Raven, I had come to terms with that. Clara having her memory wiped as an alternative to dying? No! And thankfully Clara had some say in that.
- Another previous adventure was invoked when Me suggests that perhaps the Doctor is the Hybrid because of a more direct connection to the planet Earth. The 8th Doctor in the 1996 movie professes to be half human. Whovians really didn't care for that idea and Moffat is one of the biggest Who fans alive. Surely he wouldn't dare make that canon, would he? Maybe not but please note the Doctor neither confirms or denies Maisie's theory.
- The presence of the woman from the Sisterhood of Karn seemed a bit superfluous. Still, having her call out the Doctor as he's escaping Gallifrey..."Get back here, boy!". Oh my God, is she his mother?
- Speaking of Gallifrey... as established in Day of the Doctor, Gallifrey was shifted to another dimension in a pocket of time. Apparently they are out of that dimension and now hiding out at the end of the universe. How? Why? This gets glossed over and that's rather annoying. After 10+ years of the Doctor bemoaning the fate of poor, lost Gallifrey...oh wait, it's over there. Time Lord planets, man, they're always in the last place you'd expect.
- Missy gets name checked in her role in bringing the Doctor and Clara together in the first place. I know there was too much going on in this episode but some kind of cameo from Michelle Gomez would've been nice.
- The appearance of the classic TARDIS console room from the original series back in the 1960's was so cool. Kudos for making it look like the original set without it looking like a set. I will note that the TARDIS console room as originally presented was for the Type 40 TARDIS the Doctor originally stole...er, borrowed from Gallifrey. So the Doctor steal another Type 40? Ah, who cares? Cool to see the classic set again.
- I'm not sure why the framing sequence took place in Nevada and why Clara and Me decided on a diner to stage their intervention with the Doctor but 1) Jenna Coleman looked so cute in her diner waitress uniform and 2) um, there may be a 2nd thing. I'll get back to you on that. Maybe. At any rate, after all the drama, we got a good laugh at seeing an American diner spin through outer space.
Overall, I enjoyed the episode. It lacked the solid punch that Heaven Sent had the previous week and for the extra running time allotted to the episode, it seemed a bit overstuffed and rushed in places. But it gave us a different send off for Clara; even under the shadow of death, she's still seeking to explore and have adventures during the frozen moment of time she has between heartbeats.
Jenna Coleman owned her scenes as Clara Oswald. Jenna's Clara has grown and developed so much over the last three years, growing in confidence and skill as an effective companion for the Doctor. My favorite bit in this episode is when she shuts up the Time Lords, then winds them up with a bit of misdirection while the Doctor snags a TARDIS. Jenna was amazing, what more can I say other than she will be missed on Doctor Who.
But we still have Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and he continues to astonish as he pushes the Doctor in new and unexpected ways. Capaldi was a major get for Doctor Who and I feel sorry for whoever has to follow him. And here's hoping no one has to follow Capaldi for a long time. I'm really enjoying his time as the Doctor.
So that puts a wrap to Series 9 of Doctor Who. Next week, I will assess the standings of the last 6 episodes of this season. And the week after that, I look back at Series 9 as a whole. Afterwards, look for a write up on December 27th about the 2015 Christmas Special.
There are more posts in the week to come on a variety of topics from current events to comic books and more. So I hope you check back in to see what happens next on this blog. I know I'm never sure what's going to happen next.
Until next time, remember to be good to one another.
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You