Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Doctor Who,Season Nine, Episode Twelve: Hell Bent

The finale begins in the middle of a desert area in Nevada.  The Doctor gets out a truck carrying his guitar and enters a greasy spoon diner.  The diner is empty except for the waitress - Clara.  Neither the Doctor or Clara seem to know each other.  The Doctor says that he doesn't have any money but offers her a song as a form of payment.  The Doctor plays a song named Clara that sounds like a lament.  Clara asks to be told about herself.

Back on Gallifrey, the Doctor walks across the barren land and makes his way back to the farmhouse from his childhood. It seems that when there is a significant moment in the Doctor's life on Gallifrey the barn will feature largely. The President is informed that all the bells are ringing in the whole cloister.  The President announces that they are facing great danger and asks where the Doctor has gone.  It is the sisterhood of Cairn who suggests that the Doctor has returned to the beginning. The president is about as pleased to see the sisterhood as he is to see the Doctor. It's not long before the Doctor is confronted by a woman whom when she recognizes him, informs the Doctor, "they'll kill you." The Doctor nods in acknowledgement and sits to eat a bowl of soup.

The High Council is taking the arrival of the Doctor seriously. The Doctor has barely taken a seat to eat his lunch when a spacecraft appears. The crowd is ordered to step away from the Doctor but they do not budge.  The Doctor angrily drops his spoon, gets up from the table and walks up to the ship.  Using his foot, the Doctor draws a line in the sand and then returns to the table to finish his meal.  Apparently, the Doctor is still not inclined to take orders from anyone.

The Doctor is next confronted by the Commander of the High forces of Gallifrey but he has no time for them as well, and returns to the barn without saying a word. In the barn, the Doctor dresses in his black coat. Clearly at this moment, he is no longer the Doctor.  This time when the Doctor leaves the barn, the Gallifreyian soldiers bow to him.  An irate President asks the High Priestess of Cairn if the Doctor wants revenge and is told that the Doctor only blames the president for the horrors of the time war. Apparently, no one on Gallifrey is considering what the death of Clara must have done to the Doctor. The president finally makes an appearance and so this time the Doctor leaves the barn.  The president offers his hand and in response, The Doctor drops his confession dial on the ground and demands that the President get off his planet. The president tries to explain that they needed to know if the Doctor had information about the Hybrid, who is a danger to all Gallifreyians.  The Doctor simply repeats that the President is to get off his planet. The President orders the soldiers to take aim at the Doctor and fire. The Commander of the High Forces tries to intervene, pointing out that the Doctor is a war hero and that some of the men who are being ordered to kill the Doctor served with him.  Does that strike anyone else as odd?  The thought of the Doctor as a war hero even though in the end he did bring the end of the war and saved Gallifrey does not sound right. Furthermore, I always thought of the Doctor as doing his own thing during the war simply because he has never been the type to follow orders, which a military setting would necessitate.  The soldiers take aim and the Doctor doesn't even blink as the order to fire is issued.  All of the soldiers miss.

Back in the diner, the Doctor talks to Clara about going back to his hometown - "space Glasgow".

The president asks a soldier to explain and he says, "the first thing you notice about the Doctor of War is that he is unarmed and for many, it's also the last."  One by one, the soldiers cross the line and join the Doctor.

At the diner, the Doctor tells Clara that every story ever told really happened. He adds that "stories are where memories go when they are forgotten."  Is that all Clara and the Doctor are to each other now - a true story?

The President ominously points a weapon asking the Doctor how many regenerations they granted him. If you recall, when the 11th Doctor became the 12th, he was actually out of regenerations. The Gallifreyans gave the Doctor more regenerations so that he could defeat the Daleks at Trensalor. More ships show up and it seems that this time, it was the Doctor who summoned them.  The President is then disarmed and told by the Commander of the High Forces to get off the Doctor's  planet.

Onto the capital where The Doctor is informed that Gallifrey is located at the extreme end of the time continuum for it's own protection.  The Doctor declares himself the President and says that he has barely started.

The Doctor talks to the Sisters about being trapped in the confession dial and he is still full of rage. He is asked why he banished the president but he doesn't explain.  In a meeting with the High Council, the Doctor  is told that the Hybrid will unravel a billion hearts just to heal itself.  The Doctor still holds his cards close to his chest.  If the Gallifreyans had just asked River, she would have told them that the Doctor always lies.   The Doctor's next trick is to pull Clara out of her timeline one heartbeat before the raven crashes into her.

A stunned Clara joins the Doctor in an extraction chamber on Gallifrey.  The High Commander tries to interrupt the conversation to ask about the Hybrid.  The High Commander tells Clara that once they get the information they need, they will pop her back into her timeline to die because her death is an established event.  Clara is frantic and all I think is that The High Commander clearly doesn't know the Doctor very well if he thinks for one moment that the Doctor is going to send Clara off to die after everything he went through to get to this moment.  The Doctor grabs a gun and is told that if he tries to change Clara's death he could fracture time itself.  Though Clara pleads that she doesn't want this, the Doctor simply questions how many regenerations the Commander has had before shooting him, grabbing Clara's hand and taking off running. How do you know the Doctor is not himself? He uses a gun.

The two head to the cloisters and the Doctor assures Clara that on Gallifrey death is code for man-flu when she expresses concern for the Commander. In the chamber, the High Commander regenerates into a Black woman. If you're keeping track, that's at least two Timelords who have regenerated as the opposite sex. Is this Moffat's way of setting us up for a female Doctor by proving that it can indeed happen. The Doctor leads Clara through the cloisters.

In the diner, the Doctor reveals that the only way to keep Clara safe was to wipe some of her memories of him.

In the cloisters, it seems that the guardians only attack if you try to leave.  The guardians are a weeping angel, a Dalek and a cyberman.  Apparently, since the cloisters are essentially a big database, the Dalek has been filed. The database is where Timelord minds are uploaded when they die - a living computer of sorts.  Clara asks the Doctor to look her in the eye and then questions how long it's been since he last saw her.  The Doctor avoids answering and says that he was stuck in a place because the Gallifreyans wanted information from him.  Clara then asks about the Doctor's velvet coat and he says that he changed it because you cannot be the Doctor all of the time. Clara is beginning to clue in and asks what happened to the Doctor.

The High Commander enters and Clara  orders her to stay back.  Clara asks about the Hybrid and the Doctor responds that it doesn't matter what it is but that what matters is that he convinced them (read: the Gallifreyans) that he knew because otherwise, he would have nothing left to bargain with.  The Doctor is adamant that he had to find a way to save Clara and had to hang on for a bit.  It's the High Priestess of Carn, who reveals that the Doctor was trapped in the dial 4.5 billion years. Wait, did the Doctor suddenly get bad at reading the stars?  This is twice as long as the Doctor said that he was trapped last week. Apparently, the dial would have released the Doctor the moment he said what he knew.  Clara is astounded and asks why the Doctor would do that to himself and he explains that he had a duty of care.  Clara has something to say to the Doctor but it happens off screen.  I must admit that I feel cheated not knowing what they had to say to each other in this moment.

Clara then decides to confront the Sister of Carn and the Gallifreyian High Council. They are so focused on Clara that they don't notice that the Doctor has disappeared.  When the Doctor appears again, it's in a Tardis with the design of the first Doctor's tardis.  The High Priestess of Carn calls out that the Doctor has broken every code he has ever lived by.  Clara is astounded that the High Priestess refers to the Doctor as boy. The Doctor counters that after everything, the universe owes him this and perhaps, it does.

Now that they have broken free of Gallifrey, The Doctor expects that Clara's heartbeat will return but it does not.  When he checks her neck, the countdown tattoo is still in place.  The Doctor is adamant that time will heal and that Clara will get a heart beat again. It's clear that the Doctor has come unhinged. He decides that they need to head to the last hours of the universe, way past where the Timelords can find them.  Once there, Clara still has no heartbeat.  Clara asks what happens if the universe needs her to die and an angry Doctor yells that the universe is over and that they are standing on the last ember. The Doctor yells that as of this moment, he is answerable to no one. Yeppers, another Timelord Victorious moment.

Cue the ominous four knocks.  The Doctor asks Clara to wait in the Tardis as he deals with what is out there. Unsurprisingly, the Doctor finds Ashildir waiting for him. It seems that Ashildir is the last immortal and has been watching the stars die.  Ashildir confronts the Doctor for trying to change Clara's fate, saying that he has no right to change who Clara was.  What neither Ashildir or the Doctor know, is that in the Tardis, Clara is eavesdropping on her conversation. Ashildir asks who the hybrid is and the Doctor claims it is Ashildir.  Ashildir argues that the hybrid is half human and half Timelord and questions why the Doctor spends so much time on earth. The Doctor does not confirm that he isn't half human which is suppose is a confession of sorts.  Ashildir asserts that this is why the Doctor ran away from Gallifrey. The Doctor for his part refuses to answer.  Ashildir then says that the hybrid isn't one person but two: A Timelord and a human.

The Doctor admits that he went too far and is going to take Clara back to earth and wipe away Clara's memories of him.  Clara grabs the sonic sunglasses and turns off the screen a moment before the Doctor re-boards the Tardis. The Doctor tells Clara his plans and that the image of him in her brain could be used to find her.  Clara then says that she reversed the polarity of the device that he plans on using her.  Clara explains,  “Nobody’s ever safe. I’ve never asked you for that, ever. These have been the best years of my life, and they are mine. Tomorrow is promised to no one, Doctor, but I insist upon my past. I am entitled to that.”

The Doctor says that they should push the button together and see whose memory gets erased.  It takes a moment but the Doctor falls to the ground.  His final bit of advice to Clara is to "Run like hell because you always need to. Laugh at everything because all is funny. Never be cruel and never be cowardly and if you ever are, always make amends.  Never eat pears; they're too squishy." Clara apologizes and the Doctor assures her hat it's okay because he went too far and became the hybrid. The Doctor asks Clara to smile for him one last time but with tears running down her face, Clara cannot grant him this last request. The Doctor promises to remember Clara and then passes out.

The Doctor awakes in the desert and is told by a man that Clara asked him to look after the Doctor.

Back in the diner, the Doctor remembers a few details about his time with Clara and that she told him something important but that he cannot remember what.  The Doctor does not remember what Clara looked like, how she talked or how she laughed.  The Doctor is adamant that if he met Clara again he would know.  Clara turns her back as the Doctor wonders if he was in the diner with Clara. It comes to him then that it was Amy and Rory.  The Doctor is putting together some pieces and says that the diner wasn't always located where it is now.  Clara heads towards the door and pauses to tell the Doctor that memories become songs when we forget them.  Clara walks through the door onto the Tardis where Ashildir is waiting for her.

The Tardis de-materializes around the Doctor, leaving him in the desert.  When the Doctor looks around, he finds his old Tardis waiting for him still covered in the Clara shrine.

On Clara's Tardis, Ashildir says that she cannot get the chameleon circuit working so the Tardis is stuck as a diner.  Clara's pulse has still not restarted which means her death is a fixed event.  Clara tells Ashildir that she is not scared and will simply take the long way around back to Gallifrey to be put back in her timeline.

The Doctor enters his Tardis and it powers up quickly at his arrival.  On the chalkboard is a note from Clara, "run you clever boy and a be Doctor."  Next to the chalkboard is the Doctor's purple coat and so he puts it on.  The Tardis creates a new sonic screwdriver and hurtles through the air into the Doctor's hand. With a snap of the finger, the Tardis door closes.  The Doctor starts the Tardis up and when it de-materializes the shrine to Clara disappears.  In space, the Doctor's Tardis and Clara's nearly cross paths.

That was quite a season finale.  Though Clara actually died in episode ten, her departure from the Whoverse didn't actually end until this episode.  In fact, it was written in such a way to leave an opening for both Clara and Ashildir to return at some point if it fits the story and the actresses are interested.

Part of the reason that Clara died is that she tried to be the Doctor.  Clara wanted to create multiple avenues of escape and missed Ashildir saying that the death is locked in.  In this final scene we see that she has become the Doctor of sorts. In the normal course of events it is the companion who would lose their memory while the Doctor struggled to find a way to move on without them. In this case, it's the Doctor who loses his memories of Clara. Clara even has her own Tardis and companion to keep her company and just like the Doctor she is on the run from something she doesn't want to face - no matter how much bravado she asserts.  It's a fitting end for Clara, even if it makes me want a Clara/Ashildir spin off that will never happen.

This is the second time in NuWho that the memory wipe device has been employed, the first being with our beloved Donna Nobel.  When Clara talks about keeping her memories like Donna, it's about so much more than that.  The memories inform how Clara has changed since she first met the Doctor.

One of the questions that this series sought to explore is who the Hybrid is and why the Doctor started running in the first place.  Ashildir and the Doctor bandied about explanations but it makes sense to me that the Doctor was told that he had something to do with the Hybrid. That would be enough to scare anyone into running, even if the act of running created exactly what he was running from.  The Doctor is still running though he no longer remembers Clara but it does make me wonder if he remembers himself now why he ran in the first place?

I do have one burning question.  How the hell did Clara know about the diner because the Doctor is right, he was there with River, Rory and Amy?  Is that why she put it down in the wrong location because it had only ever been one of his stories?  Can I just say how much I love the idea of a Tardis diner floating around in space.

I wasn't completely sold on Capaldi in season eight.  It wasn't so much that I missed Smith but that something about the actor didn't feel like a fit.  Right from the very first episode of this season however that changed drastically. I think that after this season, Capaldi will absolutely go down as one of the best Doctors.  He may be a right bastard at times but he is compelling to watch, even when he is telling people not to take a selfie.  I cannot wait to see where this is going.  The Doctor essentially has a fresh start now that he has forgotten Clara which should open him up to a new companion and a new set of adventures unencumbered by the past. There is a part of him though that is sad and so it's bittersweet. Capaldi's Doctor may not be charming in the way that 11 was but he is every inch the Doctor.