Monday, November 23, 2015

Doctor Who: Season Nine, Episode Ten: Fear the Raven

Fear the Raven brought the return of Me (read: Ashildr)  This time we find Me, as the acting Mayor of a refugee camp for aliens hidden in pockets of London.  When we first met Me, she was a Viking whom the Doctor decided to bring back to life because he saves people.  Even in the act of saving Me, the Doctor knew that he was messing with time and fate. He knew that there would be consequences to saving Ashildir but was just so happy to have saved lives. The Doctor begins Fear the Raven by playing with fate again when he decides to save Rigsy.  I know, he's the Doctor, and he saves people but had he ignored this impulse, Clara would be alive today. The Doctor is always talking about the rules he cannot break and yet time and time again he does so, as if the rules don't apply to him. Ashildr is the result of the Doctor's hubris and Clara pays the penalty.

When we next meet Ashildr, we learn that there are some very personal consequences from the Doctor's actions.  Ashildr is forced to keep a diary to remember her life because while she has an infinite lifespan, she doesn't have an infinite memory. The Doctor reads an entry from Ashildr's diary which details the loss of her two children - an entry she saved to remind herself to never ever have children again.  It is absolutely painful to watch as she mourns her babies.  The reoccurring theme of The Woman who Lived is that the Doctor is an absentee father.  The results of the Doctor's absenteeism is that he is at least partially responsible for Clara's death.  Had he kept better check on Ashildr, or mentored her, or even not saved her life, it's possible that Clara might still be alive. Then there is the issue that even after seeing what happens when Ashildr is left to her own devices, the Doctor once again losses track of her and only remembers or even notices Ashildr's existence when she appears in the background of a photo of Clara.

From the very beginning of Fear the Raven, it is obvious that Clara's recklessness has reached a ridiculous level. Rigsy, who we first met in Flatline, states that Clara enjoyed hanging outside of the Tardis far too much.  Throughout the season, Clara has made it clear that she is more than a pretty face and has repeatedly shown her intelligence but unfortunately, this has been coupled with an increasing desire to take risks, certain that if she messes up that the Doctor will pull her out of the fire. The Doctor's purple coat served as a warning that this might be the end of the Impossible Girl because purple is regarded in many cultures as the colour of death and mourning.

 Rigsy calls to inform Clara that a countdown timer has appeared on the back of his neck. It's interesting that Rigsy was brought back for this episode given that in Flatline, Clara took on the role of the Doctor and Rigsy her companion.  Rigsy's appearance is a completion of a metamorphosis for Clara. In season eight, Clara spent a lot of time being critical of the Doctor's decisions and actions and even at one point sent him away.  This season, we have watched as the Doctor and Clara have become closer and as Clara becomes more Doctor like in her behaviour.  When Clara tells Rigsy, "never tell anyone your whole plan." she is channeling the Doctor and confidant that her belief that she cannot be defeated will result in a victory.  You see, the Doctor always wins because he knows he is going to win and therefore looks for a way out.  When Clara chose to take the chromonitor without even telling the Doctor, or thinking about the phrase, "the death is locked in," it's the ultimate sign of her overconfidence and recklessness.  Like the Doctor, Clara is ready to take an incredible risk to save a life even if the decision makes no sense and will come with a consequence.

In the end, Clara is finally alone.  Clara walks into the street to meet her fate, after telling the Doctor that this is the one thing that everyone must do alone.  In that very moment, Clara gives up her status as a companion.  Clara became the first companion to die on screen in Nu Who and the first to die in the Whoverse in thirty years.

Several times this season, the Doctor thought that he had lost Clara and he was very much destroyed. When he realised that there was nothing he could do to save his companion in this episode, I could not help but remember Me's earlier taunts to the Doctor about Clara's short lifespan foreshadowing Clara's date with the raven.  The Doctor threatens Ashildir as only the Doctor can, only to be told not to seek vengeance in Clara's name because she knows that the Doctor is not good with being alone. Clara orders the Doctor to remain the Doctor and to not become the warrior, to ensure that no one else dies and though the Doctor tells Ashildir that this is about saving her, he is wrong.  Clara did mean to save Ashildir, but she also sought to save the Doctor because she knows that he is already a haunted man and to continue, he cannot and must not become the warrior again.  The Doctor does promise to try and keep this promise but warns Ashildir that the universe is a very small place when the he is angry with her.

It's telling that now that he has lost Clara and is filled with rage that he will remember Asihldir.  It took a tragedy to end his absenteeism.  Somehow I doubt that the Doctor has learned a lesson about breaking the rules which is ironic given that the Doctor constantly tells his companions to stay put or to do exactly as he tells them. It's the failure of Clara to listen or to at very least heed his warning that only one of them can be a loose cannon that leads to her death. In the episode to follow, I am sure that we will see the Doctor's anguish at losing Clara and it is only fitting because Clara is the longest serving companion in NuWho to date.

In the end, The Doctor is alone to face the mysterious "they", whom Ashildir created this trap on behalf of.  Could it be the Daleks?  Is Missy involved somehow?  The Doctor is forced to hand over his confession disk and he doesn't even have his Tardis.  The one thing we know for sure, is that given that theDoctor is grief stricken whoever orchestrated this will most certainly pay in some way. Poor Rigsy is left alone to create a shrine to Clara.

When Peter Capaldi became the Doctor last year, I must admit that I was not sold on him at all.  This year however, he came to embody the character fully.  With each look, hand gesture and turn of phrase Capaldi brought life to the Doctor in a way that we haven't seen since Tennant.  When the Doctor tells Ashildir, "you will save Clara and you will do it now, or I will reign hell on you for the rest of time. I can do whatever the hell I like. You've read the stories. You know who I am and in all of that time, did you ever hear anything of anyone who stopped me?", we saw the Doctor with all of his rage and all of his pain; the Doctor in his purest form.  It was brilliant, terrifying and yet beautiful.
The goodbye between the Doctor and Clara was bittersweet.  Their goodbye embrace marked cemented a  relationship which has gone full circle. In Deep Breath, The Doctor  told Clara that he isn't the hugging kind anymore and when he resigns himself to Clara's death in Fear the Raven it become clear that he would anything to keep holding onto her.  Capaldi and Coleman played this scene perfectly. Though Clara's death was tragic, it had a balance to it.  Goodbye Impossible Girl and may you find Danny Pink.