Doctor Who Season 9





Ron glanced at Hermione, then said, “What if pure bloods and half-bloods swear a Muggle-born’s part of their family? I’ll tell everyone Hermione’s my cousin–” Hermione covered Ron’s hand with hers and squeezed it. “Thank you, Ron, but I couldn’t let you–” “You won’t have a choice,” said Ron fiercely, gripping her hand back. “I’ll teach you my family tree so you can answer questions on it.” Hermione gave a shaky laugh.

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One of the popular arguments against the renegotiation of Clara’s fate in Hell Bent, against her immediate and tragic death in Face the Raven is that there weren’t any reparations for her recklessness and sheer hubris throughout Series 9, that she was robbed of a tragic and fitting end, that irrefutable death was necessary because she was aiming to be someone bigger than herself, and because death would have brought her back to the more humbling grounds where she belonged. And I find this opinion highly disconcerting.

First thing that I’ll say is that I never witnessed her cross the line; I never saw any trace of conceit or narcissism clouding her judgment. Sure there was vanity, and a small dollop of hypocrisy, but I think that was simply a consequence of her privilege. Clara’s hero complex,  that need to feel special, is a big part of her character but she’s never that at the cost of others. And yes, she did let too many victories get to her head, and yes, she was out of her depth in Face the Raven, but the simple motivation to do that came from act of extreme selflessness and kindness. She put the happiness of a small child above her own life, and that counts for something even if it came from a place of self-assured victory.

Secondly I personally believe that holding such an opinion just goes on to show the double standards that people hold against the companion and the Doctor. I say this simply because by the aforementioned reasoning, the Doctor should die too, as he also possesses the same qualities as Clara. No exactly, but in the same vein. But no, he shouldn’t or can’t simply because he has the titular role. With him, all logic should be just thrown out of the window.

The plain and simple thing is that there’s nothing wrong with the egoistic traits held by the Doctor and Clara. That simple speckle of pride and confidence goes a long way in how they work their way out of problems and dangerous scenarios. It suppresses the self-doubt and makes them do what needs to done. Of course when pushed it also takes them to darker places a la “Time Lord Victorious” but that’s a discussion for some other day.

A simple question that needs to be asked here is that why didn’t just Moffat make the Doctor find a way out of the situation, why did he have to kill her and then bring her back? I am not saying that one should always agree with his reasoning but cases like these do demand a peek inside the writer’s mind. According to Moffat, Clara’s journey was always going to end up with her becoming a Doctor, and if so then that should also ensure that she gets the whole package, and by package I don’t mean the TARDIS and works, but the defeats that he endures. That was the point of all those victories. We’d already seen her in control in the most dire of circumstances, with Missy, with Cass and Lunn, with Odin and with Bonnie. What she desperately needed was a big defeat and I’ll tell you why.

By killing her and then bringing her back, Moffat gave her the one thing that Doctor always gets, that one privilege that will always be his due to his titular role, even after the most devastating of defeats,  that is ‘luck’ and the chance to move on from those defeats. Just like Clara, the Doctor has been out of his depth multiple times, he has endured death and defeat but he always survives just because he gets lucky. Take for example the episode Midnight, where the Doctor despite claiming to be special and cleverer than the rest is stumped and cornered by a creature that goes far beyond his own understanding of this universe, and in that moment if the hostess hadn’t sacrificed herself, then the Doctor would have died. What was that if not luck?

Another good example is A Good Man Goes to War. The Doctor here once again, too self-assured of his own abilities, underestimates the opposition and consequently, ever after winning the war, loses the battle. What counts here are the lives that were lost, a big defeat and another burden on his conscience! Amy’s child was still taken, and all his efforts amounted to nothing. In that weakest hour, if River hadn’t popped up in the end to reveal her true identity, the whole scenario would have transpired as one of his biggest defeats. It still was, but there was a “wiggle room”. What was that if not luck?

“You’ve made yourself essential to me. You’ve given me something else to, to be.”/ You do not leave me.”

-Clara Oswald in Before the Flood

Last and most important example is The End of Time. A regeneration story. Why and how you might ask? I say this because Face the Raven and Hell Bent together, in a way,  intertwine to form Clara’s own regeneration story. A new beginning and a sigil of Clara’s own renewal. She’s come out a different person compared to the Clara that went in. There’s the same pensive sadness, pathos and reluctance that entailed when Tenth Doctor had to accept his fate, and there’s the same Doctor-y decision to do what’s right, even if it comes at the cost of something you love. For Ten it was his own sense of identity, and for Clara it was her bond and friendship with the Doctor, something she had grown to be highly dependent on. Finally even after the most tragic of revelations, there’s the will to carry on with more maturity and more experience but with the same continued sense of awe and wonder for the universe, which puts these two characters in the same boat.

I guess the question I want to ask is that if the Doctor can have this privilege then why can’t Clara? Why does death have to be a consequence of aspiring to be something more than you are, aspiring to be a Doctor? On bad days even the Doctor fails to live up to that promise, so how is death suitable on the one day when Clara was perhaps the most Doctor-y of them all. By giving her a new beginning Moffat broke the double standards that separate a companion aspiring to be a Doctor and the Doctor. If after all the flaws that dictate the Doctor’s own victories and defeats, he can have a go at “a new beginning”, then so should Clara, and with Hell Bent Moffat gave her just that ‘luck’ that the Doctor often needs to storm past his own downfall.