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 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 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.

Bits and Pieces:

-- 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."

Paul Kelly is sad. Can anything good truly come from this life? Quoth the Raven "Nevermore".

For mor peaces eye rote, sea hear.


Mark Greig said...

24 hours later and I'm still fighting backs the tears.

rebecca_s921 said...

I'm still in the bargaining phase. What if Ashildr uses her spare alien restoration device on Clara? But that would not only undercut the power of the whole episode, it'd also be something both Clara and the Doctor wouldn't want. So long Clara, we're lucky to have seen your adventures.

migmit said...

Ashildr used her remaining restoration device on Sam Swift. But I'm mildly curious about what would happen if she let the chronolock be passed to herself. As the Doctor said, she literally can't die.

I never liked Clara. And I'm probably the only one here like that, but I really welcome her departure. If it's really a departure.

FlopHairedWuss said...

That was great in a...really heartbreaking way. Despite liking Clara, she's not one of my favourite companions but even I was in tears for pretty much the last 10-15 minutes. I thought her death was handled really well. Some people are complaining about how low-key it was compared to many other companions exits, but I thought that fit her character really well. Considering her arc this season, it's fitting she died in a way reminiscent of many previous Doctors (including regeneration pose). 5 died protecting someone he'd just met, 10 died to save Wilf, 11 died saving one town. All of these involved sacrificing himself for so-called 'little people'.

While Clara argued that she did it to buy time, etc, she still put her life on the line to save one seemingly insignificant.person and accepted her death with courage despite being afraid. It doesn't get more Doctorly than that.

"Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway"
"Fear doesn't have to make you cruel or cowardly."

She did all that in a way that still remained completely her, which is the important part.

It did occur to me that The Doctor could have offered to take it off her (not that she'd accept that), but then I remembered there was a line about how it was locked in some way.

It had a interesting premise, great characters, fantastic performances and a killer (literally) ending. Definitely bring Sarah Dollard back for next year.

And there's still more to come. I don't know how I'm going to get through the next two episodes in one piece.

FlopHairedWuss said...

migmit, I'm pretty sure it was confirmed in TGWD/TWWL that while Ashildir (I'm not calling her Me, that's stupid) is immortal, she's not invincible and can therefore probably would have been killed. I'm assuming either The Doctor wouldn't be able to regenerate, the raven would kill him before he could ala Impossible Astronaut, or the raven would just keep killing him each time which sounds a bit hilarious.

Also I thought the implication was that the people behind the curtain are most probably the Time-Lords. Although why their doing it I have no idea.

Juliette said...

By pure coincidence, I re-watched the 50th anniversary special the night before watching this (Mum and Dad, put off by last week, refused to watch the new episode, but agreed to the special when I promised it was good!). It was perfect timing, because so much of Clara's last words to the Doctor was about what she knew of him, seen in the special. She's seen his darkest moments and knows that side of him better than any other companion (apart from maybe Bad Wolf Rose, according to my headcanon anyway!).

I was bothered throughout by the fact this didn't feel like science fiction though. The street was clearly Diagon Alley, the set-up was Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and as the black beastie came for people whose time was up I kept thinking 'But I've seen this episode of Supernatural'. I know there were vaguely science-y justifications, but really, this was fantasy. I love fantasy, but I feel like Doctor Who should try to stay vaguely in the realm of science fiction.

Juliette said...

I was impressed Clara was actually killed off though (assuming she is going to stay dead this time)...


Sara Kingdom was only in one serial, I think Katarina was as well, K9 has new models, there was that other one that was a robot, but I can only think of two living, regular companions (who were in more than one story) who've been properly killed off, Adric and now Clara. (Amy and Rory live to their 80s and 90s so they don't count, just because they were doing it in the past! And memory wipes or going to other dimensions doesn't count either).

FlopHairedWuss said...

I agree that it did feel a bit more fantasy than SF and that Doctor Who is better when it doesn't stray too far into the other direction. although I thought they did justify it pretty well with the scientific mumbo-jumbo.

Also I wish they'd established the rules a bit more clearly, as that and the slightly contrived way she died, did take away from the death a little. It's a testament to the writing of the Doctor/Clara scene that it didn't really matter as much, for me at least.

I think her death in some way or the other, is going to be spread over the next two episodes. Hopefully that doesn't mean they're gonna bring her back


You missed out Leela and Peri. (Peri died in Mindwarp, Leela died saving the universe, and neither of them got married to people they'd only just met. And no one can convince me otherwise).

jenallday said...

I haven't been a fan of Clara for quite a while now and this still wrecked me. I loved her because the doctor loved her and him asking "But what about me?" when she ordered him to make no one suffer for her death broke my heart.

I will miss Jenna, my issue with the character was never her fault, I just didn't like the way they wrote the character. I always think I'll be able to handle the turnover in this show because it's promised and frequent, this episode hit the nail on the head for how sad it always is.