belles of saint john

Remember the time Clara talked about falling in love with the Doctor?

One thing that drives Clara haters mad - and Doctor-Clara deniers insane - is the fact that we have on-screen evidence that the romance between them was real. It wasn’t something invented in retrospect. Nor was it (as some suggested) shoehorned in to make the finale of Series 9 more interesting. No, it was there from the start.

Of course those of us “in the know” realize this already. It was pretty clear that Clara (Prime) fell for the Doctor when she saw him in her driveway guarding her in “The Bells of Saint John”. Eleven of course fell in love with Clara Oswin Oswald in “The Snowmen” (and was strangely drawn to unlucky Oswin Oswald before that) and luckily for him the original Clara - though perhaps a bit more world-weary than her counterparts - turned out to be just as amazing.

And then came “She Said, He Said: A Prequel”, the surreal minisode released ahead of the Series 7 finale, “The Name of the Doctor” in which first Clara, then Eleven, deliver similar monologues in a room full of props from Season 7B. Is it canon? From a purely narrative “this happened” perspective, of course not. The room is full of stuff the Doctor couldn’t possibly possess, and both monologues break the fourth wall. From a character perspective, however, this is Steven Moffat giving us an insight into the minds of these two characters that he created (semantics: Moffat didn’t create the Doctor, obviously. But he created this incarnation of him). This is the point of view he followed as a writer, and as a showrunner he guided the other writers to keep in mind. And even though he threw a spanner into the works by having Clara and Twelve step back from one another in Series 8 (to the point where Clara turned to Danny for the companionship the Doctor now denied her) - obviously Clara’s feelings for the Doctor would not have disappeared simply because he looked older and had a different personality. Yeah, she had a wobble in “Deep Breath”, but she would have been an incredibly shallow person - frankly unworthy of being a companion, never mind “the Doctor’s girlfriend” (to paraphrase Matt Smith at NYCC 2016) - if she really threw out her feelings for him simply because he changed. Do people who are truly in love dump one another because of a few grey hairs or one puts on some weight, etc?

So these are her words as the minisode begins:

“One day you meet the Doctor. And of course, it’s the best day ever. It’s just the best day of your life. Because, because he’s brilliant, and he’s funny, and mad, and best of all, he really needs you. The trick is, don’t fall in love. I do that trick quite a lot, sometimes twice a day.”

And these are Eleven’s. Again, just because he changed does not mean these opinions changed. The Doctor is always the same man just with a different wrapping.

“We’re running together, and she’s perfect. Perfect in every way for me … Clara. My Clara. Always brave, always funny, always exactly what I need. Perfect. Too perfect.”

Of course the Doctor had to inject a bit of menace at the end. That’s for drama, plus there was a “too good to be true” mystery aspect at the time. But still, this is the Doctor laying it on the line. He says right out that Clara is perfect in every way for him. He’s not even couching it in language like “she’s the best companion.” He’s got a far more personal point of view here.

Although it’s on DVD, “She Said, He Said” has fallen into a bit of obscurity since it wasn’t a full-length episode. But it puts things out there plain as day. Doctor x Clara was real, it was intentional, it was sustained for three full seasons (if you count from “Asylum of the Daleks”). And, as those two brief moments in “The Pilot” and the first episode of Class proved - the embers of Doctor x Clara haven’t died out yet.

6

There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors… You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.

As a new era starts, we’ll never forget Doctor-Clara

Later today, a new era begins. Of course, the Doctor-Clara era technically ended some 16 months ago on TV, about a year ago in other media like comics and audio books, and we’ve already had two post-Clara specials since she left in her TARDIS in “Hell Bent”, but, as we enter into the Bill Potts and Nardole era (which I’ve seen referred to on Twitter as “Life After Clara” 😢 ), this is one of my last opportunities to post an appreciation of this remarkable, and I think we’re going to have to start calling it underrated, pairing before this new era begins.

Right now, we do not know if we’ll ever see these two together on screen again before Peter moves on. It should happen. It may happen. Or it may not happen. There are just as many reasons why it might not happen as it may happen. Some are creative - Jenna herself has said she doesn’t want to pick away at Clara’s finale and Steven Moffat may not be able to come up with a suitable return scenario; some may be logistical - Jenna also may simply not be available due to her Victoria commitments (timing, her contract may not allow it, etc).

But even if it doesn’t happen, we will still have had close to 40 amazing episodes of the Doctor and Clara (including minisodes). Were they all perfect? Of course not. I feel Twelve and Clara were separated far too much in Series 9 and I think the powers that be did make a few mistakes. I am of two minds with regards to Danny, for instance. On the one hand I think it was a mistake attempting to break up the Doctor and Clara in this way; on the other hand - Danny was a catalyst for two of the season’s most remarkable episodes, “Listen” and “Dark Water,” and was indirectly responsible for Whouffaldi shooting into high gear at the end of “Mummy on the Orient Express.”

There were also moments that I felt at times the powers that be displayed a bit of a tin ear to what the fans wanted - and despite the attempts to rewrite history by the media and some fan critics, a lot of people were pulling for them - such as building up Clara and Eleven into a full-fledged romance and then seemingly falling victim to ageism attitudes and taking that away with Twelve. Remembering that at this point as far as everyone was concerned River’s story was done, with Eleven even agreeing to River being described as his ex in “The Name of the Doctor” - the show all but had Clara on the fast track to become for all intents and purposes the Doctor’s next wife. (Watch the “She Said He Said” prequel and listen to what Eleven says about Clara.) It took them to Series 9 to start building that back up again, just in time for Clara to leave. In his interview with Wil Wheaton, Capaldi said depicting the romance this way was “more fun”. Perhaps, but it was “more frustrating,” too, remembering that once Danny was out of the way there were only six episodes, out of the 13 including Last Christmas, in which the Doctor and Clara were actually together for a substantial length of time: Last Christmas, Under the Lake, The Girl Who Died, Sleep No More, Face the Raven and Hell Bent (even if that wasn’t Bonnie in the Zygon story, the two would have only been on screen together for about 5 minutes out of the 90 not counting the speech). The rest of the time they were split up.

But that’s yesterday. Today, we look back on things like the Hammer pastiche “The Crimson Horror,” the modern-day remake of “The War Machines” that was “The Bells of Saint John,” the uber-romantic holiday specials “The Snowmen” and “Last Christmas,” “Listen,” “Mummy on the Orient Express” - which even had skeptics saying “Get a room, you two!” - “Dark Water’s” amazing volcano scene, “The Caretaker” and “Robot of Sherwood” showing the Doctor in full green-eyed monster mode, the Second Doctor throwback “Under the Lake”/”Before the Flood” (except Zoe never challenged the Doctor to prove his love for her by changing history), Jenna’s BAFTA-worthy villain turn in the Zygon storyline, and of course the Raven Trilogy which needs no further introduction.

And I could write forever on the towering chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, and between Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman. This wouldn’t have worked if Steven Moffat and his team hadn’t chosen perfectly when they cast Clara, who clicked so well with Matt that I remember the rumours back in 2013 that they were dating, and they later found in Peter an actor who managed to match and exceed the chemistry shown between Matt and Jenna, to the point where if you didn’t know he was married, they could easily have been mistaken for a real-life couple.

So in some respects for me this is a “final” goodbye to Whouffaldi, Whouffle, and any of the other shipping names associated with these two, and to Doctor x Clara in general - the best pairing this show has seen since Tom Baker and Lis Sladen were in the TARDIS, but only because as of tonight it becomes the Doctor and Bill (and Nardole) show. Which is as it has to be as this is Doctor Who, where even the lead actor is only around for a few years. But of course it won’t be the end. Just as Steven Moffat couldn’t let River Song rest in peace (with the repeated references to her sounding more and more forced as we go along), I have no intention of letting Doctor/Clara fade away. Even as I watch and hopefully enjoy the Bill Potts era, I still hope to find more things to write about here on Tumblr about Twelve and Clara, and I have no less than a dozen Whouffaldi fanfic stories in some form of progress for eventual uploading to AO3. And I know the fan artists, the gifset makers, and others will continue to find new ways to commemorate this pairing. Whouffle/Whouffaldi is going nowhere.

And who knows, maybe sometime in the next 12 weeks - or 8 months from now as the Christmas special approaches - we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I mean, after all, John Simm, a well-known actor, apparently managed to film his return as the Master without anyone knowing about it, right?