Doctor Who season finale breaks all the rules, some good and some bad
We reached the thrilling conclusion to the “Doctor Who” ninth season this week, with the series basically reseting back to square one. The season finale was titled “Hell Bent” and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should, and a few spoilers are ahead if you are looking out for them.
This final episode of the season concluded with what had been a terrific three-part storyline circling the death of Clara Oswald. A fan-favorite and ever so lovable, it’s now the end of the impossible girl’s timeline on the show. It’s a sad twist of fate but fans knew that Clara had leave her spot as companion after Jenna Coleman confirmed that she would be leaving the show following the conclusion of this season. We’ll miss you Clara.
After the fall of Clara in “Face the Raven” we were then taking to the heartbreaking tale of the Doctor’s prison in the “Heaven Sent” episode. One of the best episodes of the entire season and one that no one should miss. The final episode, “Hell Bent,” brings Clara back for a bit to finish off her storyline, as well as a few others, but it’s the foray into new territory that will probably have fans talking this weekend.
There were a ton of “Doctor” rules that were broken this week, some for the betterment of the story, some that came off like shoddy plot-devices.
Let’s start with the first major rule that was broken this week, the Doctor shot someone. Let’s just let that sit there a bit, because unlike the other rules that were bent this week, this one really bothered me. This was so shoehorned into a scene and so pointless to the overall conclusions, that I’m not sure why it was even written into the story to begin with.
To be clear, the Doctor was trying to save Clara. The Time Lords, working with the Doctor, brought Clara back using an “Extraction” device at the time of her death. They did this so that they could question her and the plan was to have Clara answer a few questions, go back to her timeline and die like fate had planned. Although conscious and interacting with the Doctor and the Time Lords, Clara wasn’t alive – she was more like frozen outside of time. After her extraction to Gallifrey, Clara didn’t have a heartbeat, she still had the mark of the Raven and she wasn’t technically breathing. She was “alive” outside time but had to go back and die because of her fixed-point death.
Instead of letting her go back to her timeline and die, the Doctor instead grabs a gun and shoots the guard. Now the Doctor did make sure that the Time Lord guard would regenerate first, and you could say it was all part of the “desperation” of saving Clara, but it’s a major rule in the Doctor’s handbook to be so offhandedly written into the story. It just didn’t get the dramatic treatment it deserved for such a brazen change in the Doctor’s form. Mind you, this scene happened just minutes after a previous one that praised the Doctor for always being the man “unarmed” on the battlefield. The Doctor shooting someone with a gun would normally be a season finale on its own and instead it was written in just to spring Clara from a room. It was an odd choice and I just didn’t agree with it but your results may vary.
This brings us to rule two, fixed time-points. Now in the series there are a lot of moments that these “fixed” points in time don’t really make any sense. In the Doctor Who universe you might remember that these “fixed” points in time are moments that can not be changed, not even by a Time Lord that does whatever he wants. If they are changed, then time may fracture and nothing can move forward and the universe ceases to exist. At least that’s what the Doctor says when “fixed points” are convenient to the story.
It’s a great plot device to have in any story about time-travel because it prevents the protagonists (in this case the Doctor) from just going back in time to fix every wrong ever created in the Universe. So I’m going on record as saying that I like the “fixed-points” idea and I’m ok with them being broken for dramatic effect. In this episode the Doctor ignores Clara’s fixed-point death, which again was motivated by the Doctor’s need to save Clara. This one ended with a bit of a grey area though, since Clara isn’t exactly alive at the moment. The problem is that the rule of fixed-points is more muddled than ever now. I would have settled for any half-reasonable sci-fi explanation of this workaround but the episode just glossed over the whole process to save time. Time, ironically, was the real problem with the episode all around.
One of the downsides to this finale was that there were way too many subplots that got thrown into the mix. Going into the final episode the writers had to fit in Clara’s death and goodbye, the newly introduced “Hybrid” prophecy, all of Gallifrey returning, the Doctor’s need for revenge and Maise Williams’ “Me” character being immortal.
Overall the series tends to do worse the more that is going on and this episode seemed to suffer for it. The previous episode just had the Doctor escaping a prison and it was fantastic. Other episodes like the Weeping Angels, or an appearance by Daleks tend to be much more simpler and often times incredibly rememberable. So the show had to get rid of Clara and “Me” in the same episode and it did so with another twist.
The Doctor had his memory wiped of Clara, to protect her from the Time Lords. To stop the possible destruction of time and space it was decided that they could no longer travel together and had to be separated. In a bizarre twist, the writers gave Clara and “Me” their own T.A.R.D.I.S. As we speak they are now traveling across all of time and space on their own adventures, assumably forever since neither can die at the moment. Their T.A.R.D.I.S came with an instruction manual and it was disguised as an American 50’s Diner, so they should be just fine.
The Diner was part of the episode’s many callbacks to earlier episodes, a treat for any Doctor Who fan really. The diner and location of the Diner was the same used in the popular episode “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon”. In “Hell Bent” the Doctor and Clara escape in a T.A.R.D.I.S with its interior designed all in white, just like the original one was. Fans also got a few shots of Cyberman, Weeping Angels, a really depressing Dalek and a few popular Time Lords (but no Timothy Dalton I’m sad to say). There were also a few scenes in the same barn that was used in the “Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Special”. The camera even sat around the same spot that the unstoppable Rose appeared in the episode.
The finale ended with everyone reseting basically but in a rush to the finish line we missed out on the touching moments that tend to linger on well after a finale has aired. Clara is with “Me” somewhere in time and space, the Doctor may or not remember all of Clara and is back in his T.A.R.D.I.S. and we know that River Song will appear in the next episode on Christmas. Speaking of which, didn’t anyone thing it’s strange that no one thought River could be the Hybrid? I’m not saying she is but she didn’t even get a mention. In any case a lot of rules were broken and bent this year and the Doctor will return in a few weeks time to give us one more adventure before our long break.