Sunday, 22 November 2015

Doctor Who: Face the Raven

Clara: 'Let me be brave. Let me be brave.'

I was whispering the exact same thing towards the end. For a first time writer of Doctor Who, there's no way that Sarah Dollard should have been able to destroy us like that. Clara's final words were some of the finest, most emotive dialogue the show's ever produced—I can't tell you how difficult I found typing out the quotes. Even Moffat couldn't have surpassed those closing exchanges for their honestly, their pathos, and how beautifully they reflected the Doctor and Clara's relationship. They were perfect. Which is incidentally the exact opposite of how I feel at the moment.

After last week's episode—which seemed to hold more secrets than it revealed (although knowing Mark Gatiss, who the fuck knows?)—I thought tonight would be the last chance to tell a stand-alone story. So much for that idea. With Rigsy saved, the Doctor teleported to goodness knows where, and Clara dead, 'Face the Raven' instead provided a powerful lead-in to the final two-parter of the season. And since the teaser for next week's episode was maddeningly vague, we still have no idea where the Doctor is, nor who summoned him—so we'll essentially be going in blind.

After last week's journey through the latrine of storytelling, tonight's offering was one of those tales which on the surface seemed totally benign, only for it to dish out one calamitous final gut punch. Clara's been enjoying herself way too much this season. Almost falling to your death out of the TARDIS should not be a cause for hilarity. She's clearly been taking too many risks and adventuring too hard, but we've always understood that after Danny's death, throwing herself into her travels was just Clara's way of dealing with the pain.

Yet tonight, Clara was forced to contemplate the possibility that she's been subconsciously engineering her own demise. Unable to cope with the events of last season, has she been throwing herself at danger in the hope that, one day, her luck would run out and the pain would finally be over? Or has she simply been following the Doctor's example of coping with loss, by immersing herself in her 'work'? I'm tempted to think the latter. A suicidal Clara flies in the face of someone so clearly enraptured with Jane Austen.

Her question 'Why can't I be like you?' felt like a lament. She's been trying all season to emulate her mentor, but there are differences between them that just can't be bridged. The Doctor is essentially immortal—if he makes a mistake, he has a built-in back up plan. For Clara, there are no second chances. She also has but a fraction of the Doctor's knowledge and experience—and tonight she fell woefully short. Making Rigsy pass on the chronolock, hoping to exploit a loophole in Ashildr's promise to keep her safe, seemed ostensibly like the perfect solution. Yes, it was risky—but risky is what they do every week. If only Clara had heeded the inexplicably named Rump's words more closely. The chronolock could be passed on, but its effects could not be cheated—meaning that someone had to die.

That Clara spent her last moments making the Doctor promise not to go all John Hurt again, was beautiful. Virtually everything she said revealed how intimately she's come to know him. The Doctor's anger was palpable as he promised to rain down holy hell on Ashildr unless she rescinded Clara death sentence, but Clara knew that his resolve would falter, even if he himself didn't. Instead, she made him promise to heal himself, and ordered that her death go unavenged. She even managed to protect Ashildr from his wrath. My heart broke at the Doctor saying, 'What about me? With no Clara, who will be there to save him? And Clara's sadness at being unable to provide any future succour was tragic.

Both Coleman and Capaldi dug deep tonight. The dialogue was so delicious, and the situation so emotionally fraught, that both actors had an abundance of resources to work with. Jenna had by far the bulk of the dialogue and was fearless in delivering it, but Capaldi's facial responses elevated everything that came out of her mouth. Seeing Clara struggle to stay brave, and then seeing them hug one last time, just about finished me. Thankfully her death was mercifully swift—but seeing Clara lying dead in Diagon Alley was simply devastating. Is that it?  Will we never see Clara again, except via flashback? Or will the Doctor spend the next two episodes trying to reclaim her soul?

I was pleased to see Maisie Williams' return. 'The Woman Who Lived' wasn't her strongest outing, but I thought tonight's episode made up for it. She was more convincing as the pitiable Mayor Me than she ever was as Lady Me. I was likewise lukewarm about Rigsy coming back, but I rather enjoyed him in the end. 'Flatline' was an episode which saw Clara first try on the Doctor's mantle, so it seems fitting that a character from that episode should've been there to witness the final part of her fateful metamorphosis.

Farewell, dear Clara. The show's been all the richer for knowing you.

Other Thoughts:

—Diagon Alley looked like a theatre set, but the idea of using a trap street to lure in the Doctor, was decent. Its inhabitants seemed to be a combination of cowards and disillusioned rogues desiring to escape their violent pasts.

—A nice tip of the hat to Torchwood with the Retcon drug. I miss that show.

—Murray Gold's music was just stellar tonight.

—Rigsy's mural on the TARDIS was oddly moving.

—Great poster of a flux capacitor.


Doctor: 'Did you make this human?'

Doctor: 'Clara, go back to the TARDIS. Pick up my most annoying stuff.'

Doctor: 'Can I not be the good cop?'
Clara: 'Doctor, we've discussed this. Your face.'
Doctor: 'Oh, yes.'

Clara: 'Sometimes Jane Austen and I prank each other. Oh, she is the worst. I love her. Take that how you like.'

Clara: 'Well, if Danny Pink can do it, so can I.'
Doctor: 'Do what?'
Clara: 'Die right. Die like I mean it. Face the raven.'

Doctor: 'I should have taken care of you.'
Clara: 'I never asked you to.'
Doctor: 'You shouldn't have to ask.'

Clara: 'I know what you're capable of. You don't be a warrior. Promise me. Be a Doctor.'
Doctor: 'What's the point of being a Doctor if I can't cure you?'
Clara: 'Heal yourself. You have to. You can't let this turn you into a monster. So... I'm not asking you for a promise, I'm giving you an order.'

Doctor: 'The Doctor is no longer. You're stuck with me, and I will end you and everything you love.'

Clara: 'We can fix this, can't we? We always fix it.'
Doctor: 'No.'

Doctor: 'I can do whatever the hell I like. You've read the stories. You know who I am! And in all that time, did you ever hear anything about anyone who stopped me?'

Doctor: 'What about me?'
Clara: 'If there was something I could do about that, I would.'

Doctor: 'This can't be happening...'

Clara: 'Everything you're about to say, I already know. Don't do it now. We've already had enough bad timing.'

Doctor: 'Don't run. Stay with me.'

Clara: 'This is as brave as I know how to be.'

Clara: 'I know it's going to hurt you, but please, be a little proud of me.'

Clara: 'Goodbye, Doctor.'


Anonymous said...

After the disappointment of Amy and Rory's departure, this easily felt as personal as Rose and Donna leaving. I have no idea what else Sarah Dollard's written, but she's a writer I'll be looking out for in future.

Chronotis said...

Glorious send off for Clara. The show tends to shy away from killing off its companions, so seeing Clara go like that was a shock. I'd love to know who wrote the Doctor an Clara's dialogue at the end. I know Dollard is the only credited writer, but it felt more like the sort of main arc dialogue a showrunner should be producing.