Review: Doctor Who – 9.10 – ‘Face The Raven’

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long

Well, ok then Moffat. You crazy, power mad bastard.

The weird thing about Clara Oswald is just how long she’s been around. Like when you stop to actually think about it she’s not only been in the role since 2012 but just how much story she precedes.

She was in the first episode of season 7, which was split up for what seemed like an eternity across 2012/13, before making her ‘proper’ debut in September of that year. She was pre and post Ponds, shared the 50th anniversary, shared the 11th Doctor’s last stand, the return-return of The Master, the return of the Timelords, had a long-term boyfriend, lost a boyfriend and is probably the only character in Who-history aside from The Doctor himself to be the first fully formed case post-traumatic stress disorder and manic depression.

Season 9 being billed as ‘The Doctor and Clara enjoying themselves’ was fun for the kids, but really was all about Clara’s thinly veiled death wish that most adults saw past. Even The Doctor noticed it and if he didn’t outright fan the adrenaline danger rush toward it, he certainly didn’t stop it because he probably enjoyed the flattery and adulation.

So, she’s dead. Really? New-Who hasn’t knocked off a main character before a series finale and if this really was it for old Clara then bravo. It was the zenith of Capaldi and Coleman’s chemistry; the maturity of a relationship that was never romantic as it was with the 11th, but rather two wounded souls on par and the connection that came out of that.

It was a triumph of an episode for Capaldi as much as Coleman. He got the muse to which his reaction at her demise was just and heartfelt. His anti-war Zygon speech was trumpeted, particularly by me, as the finest of Who and certainly his best to date. This one on the other hand was brutally scary; you really do believe that The Doctor will burn Maisie Williams’ intolerably smug and aloof Ashildr/Me/Mayor Me out of time.

Last season The Doctor grumpy and maniacal with little context; he regenerated as a fully formed grouch with little reason to be so (a second lot of lives would surely bring some joy). His joie de vivre in series 9 has naturally built this season right up from the finale last year and its gut-wrenching to see him lose it and for Clara to nearly have to physically restrain his temper.

It’s the last bit which was the best of this episode, of course. The Doctor should be dangerous, but you could never imagine Moffat giving over an entire season over to Tennant or Smith wrecking lives. You could with Capaldi; vengeful and pissed. And it would be great TV too.

I’m not one for awards as signs of quality but he deserves a BAFTA to do the event any justice. I wasn’t convinced about him, as I’ve made clear in earlier reviews, but the show, and he, have settled into fine form and an equilibrium of tempers and moods and dispositions that it is fun and sarcastic in just the right way.

Much of this is due to Jenna Coleman and if this is her finale then it was a good one. Murdering a companion? A plain and simple execution? It’s damn good TV, but is Who so cold? I at once think Clara deserves just this; an entirely senseless end would be a human conclusion to the most human of companions without the melodrama and cliché of a happy ending.

Yet, we do have the prospect of a future with Danny Pink? There was the never-explained descendent, Orson Pink, in last year’s ‘Listen’ so there’s a niggling hope that we see them together. If so, how? We’ve had parallel universes; going off to live their lives after being militarised, the brain wipe and the stranded in the past departures. Yeah, let’s go with this hope then.

I’m reluctant to commit to an obituary for Jenna Coleman on Who until this season is over. Just to be sure. I will say this though: she has jelled much more realistically with Capaldi than with Smith. Being a normal young woman caught up in The Doctor’s lifestyle has made for much more interesting plots than having her as ‘the impossible girl’ of Matt Smith’s era. It’s given her more to do than be the Amy Pond sequel and she has performed the part ably and confidently. Which brings me back to my thought that if this is the end for her, then it’s in the hard realism that Coleman has brought to the show, and for that she should be commended.

PS

New costume! And a natural introduction, too. I was maybe hoping that he smartened up to meet River at Christmas…but nice red threads.

PPS

Damn your eyes Moffat, is there anyone you won’t kill? River Song, the Ponds, Clara. I’ll still never forgive you for River (oh, but Christmas!).

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Alastair Stewart 275 Articles

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer, journalist, and teacher based in Edinburgh and Almería. He regularly writes about politics, history, and culture for magazines across Europe.


He was formerly a press officer at the Scottish Parliament. He graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in International Relations.


Alastair founded DARROW in 2013 to support new and emerging writing talent in Scotland around the world.

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