Face the Raven Review

(103 comments)

Art by cardinalcapaldi

Dollard for showrunner.

What is perhaps most striking about Face the Raven is its studious lack of flashiness. Especially given the extent to which the denouement involves the story nearly being swallowed whole by the season arc. By the end the episode is nearly as awash in references and metaplots as the start of The Magician’s Apprentice, and yet at no point does it lose sight of its underlying goal of being a fairly straightforward Doctor Who story in the “here is a cool premise, let’s explore it” tradition.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some obvious moments where Dollard’s story gets sacrificed to the needs of the season arc. In particular, the fact that Me’s benefactors have to go unnamed (though they’re obviously the Time Lords, right?) and the entire “what the hell is going on here” is offloaded to, at the very least, Heaven Sent and one suspects at least partially Hell Bent means that this all feels a bit messy. It’s a mystery, and yet it never quite feels like it comes to a solution. Particularly awkward is the fact that the Doctor seems to more or less arbitrarily remember the whole “burn their dead” thing when it’s convenient to move the plot along.

But crucially, Dollard handles each of her two briefs here well enough that the slight awkwardness of the transition between them is largely beside the point. The first chunk of the story, prior to the Doctor turning the key, is raw cleverness. Of particular note is the deftness with which Dollard ditches one premise for another. The trap street is clever, and very Doctor Who. Similar ideas exist in other media - Danny the Street in Doom Patrol and the Wandering Shop in Discworld spring to mind off the top of my head, and I’m sure your head will provide as well. But it’s also necessarily a setup to another kind of story, and the handoff to “alien refugee camp” is well-timed and well-executed.

Moreover, though, “alien refugee camp” is a flat-out astonishing premise. And “murdery mystery in an alien refugee camp” is an even better one. Indeed, its compression into a third of a single episode has to go down as one of the most ridiculously swift disposals of a promising premise in the history of the season, and one really wonders what on Earth was ever going to happen in the parallel world where we spent two weeks on Sleep No More. But even in its ultra-compressed form it works well, with the elements fitting together in a satisfying fashion that builds ominously while also giving the audience sufficient opportunities to feel clever.

As for the second chunk, what is there to say? Not for the first, but nearly for the last time Capaldi and Coleman are given astonishingly good material, and they do astonishing things with it. Notice the structural cleverness of it: the cliffhanger is identical to The Magician’s Apprentice: Clara’s dead and the Doctor’s trapped. Equally notably, the Doctor and Clara lose for the same reason: they tried to take care of someone, and made a reckless mistake.

But unlike The Magician’s Apprentice, it is a scene written around Clara. And it is a scene that revolves around who Clara is: a deeply flawed bossy control freak capable of acting with indescribable grace. She lied and manipulated her way to death, like she inevitably would eventually, just as the Doctor inevitably does every couple of seasons. “Why can’t I be like you,” she asks, and there is no good answer. Indeed, she is. She gets a death scene, just like he always does, and it is very much hers, with numerous facets that would not appear in the Doctor’s, or in Rigsy’s, or in Ashildir’s, or in Amy’s. “Let me be brave” is easily the equal of “I don’t want to go” or “you were fantastic, and you know what, so I was I,” or “Hey.” Her conversation with the Doctor, and the things she chooses to say to him and not let him say to her, are astonishing.

But perhaps the more important thing to say is that it feels like a death. The decision to parallel it explicitly and structurally with the old man’s death at the episode’s midpoint is very smart, helping make all of the emotional beats parallel ones from deaths in real life, which is to say, from terminal illness, which is blatantly what Clara has, only sped up to Doctor Who pacing.

It’s a big scene done exquisitely well, in much the same way that the hunt for the hidden street and the mystery in an alien refugee camp were done well. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen quite so concise a case made for “fuck yeah I can do Doctor Who well”, although its concision and sense of efficiency are boosted by the two parters that surround it. It’s the third major new writer debut under Moffat in two seasons, and it’s clear at this point that he’s going to leave the show’s writing pool in better shape than he found it.

 

  • Clara, of course, has always been capable of reverse regeneration: the part changes, but not the actor.
  • The accusation of “fridging” is of course in the air. Let us not forget that refrigeration is an essential part of the late capitalist food industry, and that it’s bad enough when your sewers are revolting. More seriously, yes, they’ve fridged Clara for the second, sorry, no, third, wait, fourth time this season. They’ve certainly done an excellent job of teaching the audience how to watch the death of Clara. Who doesn’t want to do a good death scene though. Can’t wait to see what they do with Coleman in Hell Bent. I’m sure it will be astonishingly good.
  • Put another way, Clara’s fridging is not the end of Clara’s story, which inherently undercuts the “to motivate the male hero” aspect of it, which is not so much a criticism of grieving men as plot points
  • Some of you are still going to say “fridging” in the comments, and I will judge you for it.
  • No, what this actually is, and it’s here you really see the particular genius of Sarah Dollard, is already made into a gifset. The absence of Clara’s scream is an astonishingly careful decision - a conscious thought about exactly how horrifying they could make the moment. That it takes the form of contemporary fandom while it does this is breathtaking.
  • Dollard’s Tumblr reveals her as a Hannibal fan, by the way, which is reason enough to make her showrunner.
  • I’m slightly uncertain about Maisie Williams’s performance, particularly in the denouement, although it’s not helped by the fact that they’re blatantly editing around the fact that they only had her on set for part of the shooting of that scene. All the same, she seems ever so slightly out of her depth trying to add “Doctor Who villain” to the list of things Ashildir/Me can be in a way that even remotely stands up to everything else going on. Which, let’s face it, is not exactly a hard place to be out of your depth no matter how good an actor you are.
  • Lovely appearance, on the other hand, from Letitia Wright, who anchored Russell T Davies’s second best script of the year, the second episode of Banana. Hurrah for Andy Pryor, who remains a ridiculous casting wizard.
  • Speaking of Davies, Clara’s death is everything Donna’s is not in Journey’s End, which is to say on her own terms, with her wishes respected by the Doctor, and it’s by miles a more beautiful scene for it. The Doctor being forced to go off on another adventure has never been so deliciously cruel.
  • I thought the politics of the refugee camp were intelligently handled. Instead of using it to make any sort of commentary on the real-world situations it obviously parallels - and its parallels are, like those of The Zygon Inversion, more acute right now than it could have realized - it focuses on the intensity of the concept. A refugee camp is somewhere that Ashildir’s Draconian justice (and someone should really do the “no, it’s really Draconinan - this is from the 26th century” joke with a piece of alien justice tech someday) makes sense, to hold together a desperate situation comprised of desperate people. It’s an intelligent look at what an alien refugee camp in Doctor Who would be.
  • If the cliffhanger is a reprise of Magician’s Apprentice, note that the premise of next week’s is a reprise of Missy’s story at the start of The Witch’s Familiar, right down to the castle. All of which said, if Moffat’s finale has impact, it’s because he’s standing on the shoulders of giants with Clara’s death scene.
  • Looks like the Morpheus infection got totally dropped, though, which makes this a depressingly incoherent two-parter.

 

Funny Quote From The #moffat hate Tag on Tumblr

“Why couldn’t clara have just started a space school with danny for disadvantaged young aliens?”

 

Episode Ranking

  1. The Zygon Inversion
  2. Face the Raven
  3. The Zygon Invasion
  4. The Girl Who Died
  5. The Magician’s Apprentice
  6. Sleep No More
  7. The Woman Who Lived
  8. The Witch’s Familiar
  9. Under the Lake
  10. Before the Flood

 

Story Ranking

  1. The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
  2. The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived
  3. The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar
  4. Sleep No More/Face the Raven
  5. Under the Lake/Before the Flood

Comments

Max Curtis 1 year, 8 months ago

So you're counting this as a two-parter with Sleep No More? Last I checked, Wikipedia was listing it as the first in a three-parter, which doesn't seem fitting to me. I think this works well in the Utopia/Turn Left tradition, only instead of "so and so is back", we've got the companion departure serving as that turning point.

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Phil Sandifer 1 year, 8 months ago

I can't resist a tenuous and doomed critical position.

(No, mostly I just thought it would be funny to have the "Story Rankings" list tenuously insist that this was a season of two-parters.

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k.frutiger 1 year, 8 months ago

Actually, there's at least one strong (if probably unintended) thematic link between Sleep and Raven: the Doctor's willingness to be lured into dangerous situations, and even apparent traps. Gattiss isn't a strong enough writer to make this resonate the way it should, but Sleep is more or less about how the Doctor's complicity in his own serial entrapment -- I'm assuming he was enticed onto the Vernier Station somehow -- becomes part of a meta-trap for the viewer (pretty much the history of the show!). Raven goes in two directions: Me concocts a plan that is Master/Missy-worthy in its implausible embellishment to draw in the unsuspecting Doctor, then confronts him with an obvious trap which he totally fails to avoid. That's to say, the mis-misdirection that Dollard's plot is rightly being praised for totally trips up the Doctor at the most critical moment.

Now I'm seriously wondering if Moffat started in on Season 9 by exclaiming: "Traps!"

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Nick 1 year, 8 months ago

Yeah, I have to say, as a lurker and someone who enjoys the site, it seems - no offense - kind of unfair and frankly stupid to make it a two parter with Sleep No More. It clearly isn't. There was nothing in SNM to link it to this (no "To be continued" etc.), etc. Sleep No More was a standalone. But if you insist, I suppose you can die on that hill alone. I didn't like SNM as much as you did, though I didn't hate it, but this clearly had absolutely nothing to do with it. Hell, it started at the end of an adventure that was clearly not related to that last story. (And Clara's "infection" may or may not have been real since the ending of SNM was put together by an unreliable narrator and why the fuck am I even bothering with this

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Vance B 1 year, 8 months ago

I will stand on that hill with Philip by saying this is a two parter because yes I indeed have something in my eye. That's the only reason I'm crying I swear.

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Sex and Violins 1 year, 8 months ago

I really don't think that you can count it as a two parter with Sleep No More. The narrative of Sleep No More is too self-contained to fit together with Face the Raven.

Also yes, I am 100% on board with Dollard for showrunner.

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Prole Hole 1 year, 8 months ago

My only caveat would be one more story from her just to be certain. Because it would have been easy to shout "Gaimen for showrunner!" after the magnificence of "The Doctor's Wife" and then... we get "Nightmare In Silver."

But otherwise absolutely!

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theoncominghurricane 1 year, 8 months ago

I can't see this being undone. Like Amy's departure scene, I see it as all the encapsulation of all the character development she's gone through. There'd be riots, and I might be inclined to join for once.

Yes, I know Jenna's in Heaven Sent. I still don't think this will not be her end (my money is on echo). This can't be topped. Yes, she's reckless, but she's reckless because she didn't want a little girl she barely knew to grow up without a father. That's beautiful, and I don't want it messed with.

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Hafsa 1 year, 8 months ago

First-time commenter,here, because what an episode. Honestly, the "why can't I be like you?" line was such a potent summary of Clara's characterisation and the tragedy and beauty in it. Becoming like the Doctor is always framed as something dangerous within the show, and it seems rather unfair that the female companions always have to act as the empathetic and sensible one and they can't just be the reckless hero without bringing on the Doctor's intense disapproval. Yet here we have Clara, who last season even got her face in the title sequence, her Doctor-ish qualities in no way detracting from her ability to act as the emotional centre- it never occurred to her to not be the hero. But the Doctor can't avoid death, and so neither can Clara, but they can both face it with dignity and wisdom. What a wonderful moment in a wonderful episode. (I note that in intending to face death like Danny, Clara will no doubt be appearing posthumously like he did)

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T.Wood 1 year, 8 months ago

Not watched the episode yet, but from the sounds of this the episode must be very, very good if you're nominating her for showrunner. (I still think Harness should get the job myself, or Mathieson if he doesn't, grumble grumble miscellanous mumble...) I'm looking forward to it. I expect I won't like the direction as I much as did compared to Sleep No More, but I loved the direction of Sleep No More. It was everything else besides the core idea that let it down.

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Citizen_Alan 1 year, 8 months ago

If anything, this is the antithesis of a fridging story. The female character died as a direct result of her own heroic actions in a way completely unplanned by the bad guy, she accepted her death and faced it with remarkable poise, and before dying, she explicitly forbade the male character from seeking revenge on her behalf. That's pretty much a subversion of every element of the classic fridging story.

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Jimmy 1 year, 8 months ago

That was perfect. Heart breaking and so true to character. I loved that Clara went on her own terms, and even got to die like the Doctor, right down to the now-classic regeneration pose as she dies. Sad and beautiful.

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KR 1 year, 8 months ago

What a smart move for an episode that playfully underlined the idea of "misdirection" to instead do exactly what it implied it would do. I mean, as soon as the idea of transferring the death tattoo was introduced it seemed that Clara had to end up with it. The whole season- Clara's whole run- has been building to that moment. So what would the misdirection be? Even as Clara stood in the street waiting for death I thought the raven would fly past her or through her and into the Doctor instead. Because, come on, they've been signalling misdirection all episode, something unexpected has to happen, right? But no, the greatest misdirection was no misdirection at all. Well played.

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taiey 1 year, 8 months ago

Blanking the scream in music means right up until the smoke it's still possible to think they're going to cheat it.

...or was that just me?

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imyril 1 year, 8 months ago

...not just you. The slo-mo played into it too - I found myself thinking 'I can see (but not hear) her scream, but there's no black smoke - she's going to be fine'.

And then I realised how slow the slo-mo was, and that she wasn't.

Well-played. Excellent misdirection on the misdirection. Also excellent management of expectation - I knew Clara is due to exit, but I was still looking for an out (I initially assumed it would be the stasis pod).

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Jesse Smith 1 year, 8 months ago

I thought it was one of the best in a mighty good series. Clara's death worked in the sense that it follows logically on from character traits that the show has been building up for at least two seasons (I felt that Series 7B Clara never got much of a character). It works dramatically. But I'm still not sure it's fully earned. They didn't even seem to try. My wife said, "Put her in the stasis tube!" And why not? The Doctor has certainly got out of worse situations before. The raven isn't magic, even if they do seem to be in Diagon Alley. It's some sort of intelligent alien technology. There must be some way to block it.

I guess this is a problem with all of the big "doomsday" moments. That quibble aside, I hope they don't cheat Clara out of a dramatically good ending by bringing her back to life yet again.

The finale looks good too, looking forward to it.

(I guess poor Rigsy got stuck bringing Clara back to her family with some kind of cover story. Or maybe just the cover story? Grim.)

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EvilBug 1 year, 8 months ago

How putting her in stasis would help? I don't think it would hold raven out.

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theoncominghurricane 1 year, 8 months ago

Even if the stasis tube would work, Clara would have to stay there for the rest of her life, unconscious. Not really a benefit.

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Jason 1 year, 8 months ago

I disagree wholeheartedly on Clara's death/departure. I've already made a post about it over on Tvtropes but I'll copy and paste it here if you don't mind:

"While Clara's speech at the end was nice she deserved better than what she got. It's bad enough that she died but the fact that she didn't have a choice in the matter and had a dissatisfying death makes it worse. Yes she chose to accept the mark and she accepted her death when it came to her but she didn't actually choose to die. She expected Me to ensure she survived but was forced to accept that she wouldn't/couldn't. That's not an actual choice and it's one of the main reasons I don't like how Clara's departure was handled. I may not have liked the way Clara had been handled these past two series but she deserved better. Probably one of the worst Companion departures out of all of New Who."

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Citizen_Alan 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, no, she didn't consciously choose to die. Rather, she instead thought she'd survive by a bit of Doctorish trickery. Which to me was the whole point -- Clara trying to mirror or even subsume the Doctor's role has been lampshaded as a dangerous character flaw for the last two seasons. She didn't die from a choice. She died for the sin of trying to be like the Doctor without the advantage of regenerations. I mean, can't you just imagine any of the Doctor's dying that way (i.e. switching places with someone who was doomed to die and then not being able to pull a last minute save out of his ass).

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UrsulaL 1 year, 8 months ago

That actually is exactly what Nine did for Rose. She was marked for death, and he took that death, and then escaped it via regeneration.

And the way in which Clara faced the raven, standing tall, arms spread, is the way in which the Doctor has stood, going into regeneration. For a minute, I thought she would regenerate.

Why not?

Let her ongoing transformation into the Doctor be complete. Let it be a side effect of walking into the Doctor's time stream, or being caught in the edge of the regeneration energy the Time Lords sent the Doctor.

But then she dies.

And it is not because she chose death, but because she'd rather risk death herself than leave someone she feels responsible for at risk.

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Dustin 1 year, 8 months ago

A little media literacy and trope-savviness is a dangerous thing. Not that I'm accusing you of this, Phil, but the term "fridging" is about as over-deployed and meaning-deprived as "manic pixie dream girl" and "Mary Sue" (each of which have been transformed from a specific kind of poorly-writted female character to "female character I don't like"). A fridging is not any death of any female character for any reason, yet that's become its connotation. Yet you note here that Clara's death is entirely on her terms, in a manner of her choosing.

Poor writers fridge female characters because violence against women is the laziest way to convey "edginess" and "seriousness" in fiction (are you listening, GRRM? Listening, every TV police procedural with a cold open focusing on a beautiful dead woman?) But here, a character took her own death into her own hands, and gave a beautiful speech against precisely the sort of thing a bad writer would follow the death with: using the death as a motivation for vengeance (and the worst direction this show could possibly go in would be "badass" Doctor, the Doctor turned Punisher).

If we're writing good, whole, round female characters (and not "Strong Female Characters" in the Kate Beaton sense), and we're including lots of them so a show isn't a sausage fest with a token "chick," (and Doctor Who is better at this than it used to be, though it can always improve) then, sometimes, those characters might die. And good writing will lend meaning to those deaths that has nothing to do with cheap shock (and that scene was as far from cheap as any death scene I've ever witnessed).

This episode is an instruction manual in how not to fridge. Thank you, Sarah Dollard.

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mimhoff 1 year, 8 months ago

"A little media literacy and trope-savviness is a dangerous thing."

Quite. Clara's cunning plan failed as soon as she explained it on-screen.

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ScarvesandCelery 1 year, 8 months ago

Agreed entirely, although just to add to your comment: yes, being trope savvy can be a bad thing, but it can also be useful. I'm pretty certain Sarah Dollard's the kind of writer who is very aware of the "Woman in Refrigerator" trope, and as a result, she used her awareness of the trope to make sure she wrote a death for Clara that, as you point out, refused to be a fridging in any way.

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EvilBug 1 year, 8 months ago

What's so special about female redshirt that it warrants its own name anyway?

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theoncominghurricane 1 year, 8 months ago

It has absolutely nothing to do with redshirts.

In fact, a redshirt's death would almost never be a fridging, or they most likely wouldn't be a redshirt.

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EvilBug 1 year, 8 months ago

The only difference is when poor ensign Jim dies to advance the plot, nobody cares beyond noting "Oh, well, so this is what it does" but when female irrelevant character dies to advance the plot, it worth writing articles and debate.

I'd like you to contemplate your priorities for a few minutes now.

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theoncominghurricane 1 year, 8 months ago

It's not about advancing the plot. It's about advancing the plot a specific way. And if the character is irrelevant it's *not* a fridging, because they have to be close to the character whose plot they're advancing, and if they are they therefore are not irrelevant.

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Riggio 1 year, 8 months ago

To fridge someone isn't just a female redshirt, no. It's taking a major (or at least a notable supporting) character who's close to one of the male leads and brutally kill or torture her so that the next major plot can be an anti-heroic revenge rampage. Preferably with lots of brooding and angst.

If Toby Whithouse had been commissioned to write this script (and thankfully, Steven is smarter than that), that's what Clara's death would have been, because angsty anti-heroes seem to be what he writes naturally.

Basically, to fridge a character is to commit an act of violence in the narrative that reduces a complex female character to revenge fodder for someone else's story. Wikipedia that shit.

Piggybacking my own blog again, which goes into the narrative dynamics of Clara's death in way more detail.

http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2015/11/the-only-way-doctor-who-face-raven.html

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Citizen_Alan 1 year, 8 months ago

One question for someone with better ears than me (because I'm unsure of Me's line reading): Were we to understand that the old man sentenced to die for stealing medicine for his sick wife and who refused to sacrifice his wife to save himself ... was a Cyberman?!? What a remarkable plot development that implies which apparently occurred totally offscreen.

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Dustin 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't think so? I think the Cyberman line was just a reference to the Doctor having killed so many of them.

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theoncominghurricane 1 year, 8 months ago

No, she's saying that you have to make the punishments tough enough to intimidate a Cyberman.

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Roderick Long 1 year, 8 months ago

I also heard it as implying that the old man was a Cyberman, but I'll have to rewatch.

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Jarl 1 year, 8 months ago

We see a Cyberman getting what looks like brain surgery in the episode. I took it to imply that some of the cybermen from cyberspace settled in the refugee camp, their emotions only kinda disabled, and the locals were able to disable the emotional inhibitors and let them live as normal lives as you can live while a six foot tall silver army man.

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imyril 1 year, 8 months ago

I took this purely to mean that Me needed a justice system that even a Cyberman would respect - else she wouldn't be able to control any Cyberman refugees (and having seen one, we knew there were some).

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Citizen_Alan 1 year, 8 months ago

Pity, but you're all probably right. Still, Cyberman refugees hiding from the rest of their kind for the unforgivable sin of having and cherishing their emotions would be the most interesting thing done with them since The Tenth Planet.

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Prandeamus 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm with imyril with regards to the line reading, but that would indeed be a good idea.

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Matthew Parsons 1 year, 8 months ago

"The trap street is clever, and very Doctor Who. Similar ideas exist in other media - Danny the Street in Doom Patrol and the Wandering Shop in Discworld spring to mind off the top of my head, and I’m sure your head will provide as well."

Platform 9 3/4?

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glop 1 year, 8 months ago

China Mieville's Kraken has both trap streets and tattoos that move.

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Prandeamus 1 year, 8 months ago

Obliquely, you could add Riivers of London, in the sense of Hidden Narative Overlaying So Called Reality.

Return Of The Living Dad has a sort of refugee camp vibe but I'd be pushing things to make that a major precedent. Also I can't see Colin the Auton Spatula working on tv.

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

Moorcock's latest novel, The Whispering Swarm has a whole district of London hidden from sight and acting as a refuge for its time displaced inhabitants. It also has a 17th century Highwaywoman. As it was only published last month I'd say it synchronistically riffing on the same themes rather than suggest plagiarism.

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Prole Hole 1 year, 8 months ago

The Floating Market and London Below from "Neverwhere" seemed like an obvious point of reference for me.

Regardless I love the idea of little bits of the city that get left over, forgotten, buried and lost to time, so the trap street here hit my sweet spot just perfectly.

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Daibhid C 1 year, 8 months ago

I know most of those, so I feel really embarrassed that my first thought was Diagon Alley. Way to be cool and non-populist there, Daibhid!

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John G Wood 1 year, 7 months ago

Diabhid, you are not alone - Diagon Alley is what I instantly thought of too. We can be uncool together.

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John Seavey 1 year, 1 month ago

Little Caldwell. It's almost certainly great minds thinking alike, but Kate Orman did the "refugee camp for survivors of the Doctor's campaigns against alien invaders" thing back in 1996 with 'Return of the Living Dad'. There was even an Auton in the camp, who was stuck in the form of a spatula and who wriggled around like a snake.

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

Has everybody missed the obvious visual clue here?

The Doctor in this episode is wearing the 'minimal magician' buttoned up white shirt ensemble of season 8. Suggesting this story takes place diagetically BEFORE Magician's Apprentice.

The events of the following episodes (which going by the trailer and the mood of the Doctor will be harrowing) will result in him adopting the 'scruffy hoodie' outfit seen throughout season 9 so far.

Clara's reaction here to the Doctor producing the Confession Dial suggests this is the first time she's seen it.

So my suspicion which I've held since the first two parter is that this whole season will somehow be cyclic. Clara's already dead as far as the Doctor's concerned and has been all season. He will agonize for a whole episode in Heaven Sent and go back in time to try to prevent it in Hell Bent which is where we pick him up in Magician's Apprentice, in hiding.

The way he is so pleased to see her, the encharacteristic hug he gives her and the constant references to losing her and her death are also clues.

The question is, will the Doctor be able to rewrite time by 'curing' Clara of her reckless bravery before it kills her?

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Sean Case 1 year, 8 months ago

The Doctor has said that hugging is a way of hiding your feelings. So when he hugged Clara back in Apprentice… what was it that she'd just asked him? Anyone?

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crossie 1 year, 8 months ago

Yeah, except you missed he's wearing the "scruffy hoody" outfit when they get the call, complete with what looks like a shark t-shirt.

Both Clara and the Doctor then change clothes, becoming much more "professional" looking. I think the clothes thing is more a sign of character development; he was actually trying to look impressive, to Clara in particular, last season. This season, he's kind of gotten over it, especially around Clara (or when he's alone, like in "The Woman Who Lived").

But when Riggsy shows up, he's got to be impressive again.

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

Hmmm possibly. Need to watch again. No effort required there. Fantastic episode.

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Andrew 1 year, 8 months ago

Oh, and Capaldi's hair is noticeably shorter in this story. (Compared to the rest of the season.)

Another 'clue' would be whether the sonic screwdriver or sunglasses make an appearance. I'd have to watch it again to see if that's the case.

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Gary 1 year, 8 months ago

Clara wears the sonic sunglasses when they're flying the TARDIS over London

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5tephe 1 year, 8 months ago

Anton B - I desperately WANT your reading to be true, but think there are probably too many continuity objections (raised above) to make it work that cleanly.

But surely there is SOME order in which we can view MA and WF as happening after this episode?

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John 1 year, 8 months ago

This doesn't work for a variety of reasons. Most obviously, the Doctor already knows Ashildr, while he doesn't know her in The Girl Who Died.

Also, for *Clara* this has to be happening after Magician's Apprentice, so she must have seen the Confession Dial before.

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

John
'Also, for *Clara* this has to be happening after Magician's Apprentice'

Why do you think that?

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John 1 year, 8 months ago

Because Clara died at the end of this episode? So every other episode that Clara's in has to happen before this along her personal timeline?

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Phil Sandifer 1 year, 8 months ago

I think that to make a "the Doctor/Clara have been seen out of order" twist work you'd have to have an explicit instance of it somewhere along the line to train the audience into thinking that this is a thing that can happen to them. It would have worked great for the River/Ponds plot, where that sort of thing was already in the mix, but it would feel like a cheat here.

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, maybe. I think I might have been argued out of my theory. It was nice while it lasted.
I'd be surprised if Moffat hasn't been up to some timeywimeyness though. Is it not possible that at least The Magician's Apprentice and The Witch's Familiar occur chronologically (for the Doctor) after Face the Raven?

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Alex 1 year, 8 months ago

There was the little nod to Father's Day in Before the Flood, which I thought might be a hint as to something similar happening across the series.

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Justin Cawthorne 1 year, 8 months ago

This is tenuous in the extreme, but Moffat *has* gone to some pains to expose us to the idea that having an infinite lifespan doesn't correlate to having an infinite memory. I suspect this is simply to add a novel perspective to immortality, but, knowing Moffat, it could come back into play with a twist ...

(though I don't really expect it will)

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Prandeamus 1 year, 8 months ago

He knows who Me is... doesn't he? And clara knows of her?

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

Ahh, that's a point Prandeamus. Can I cite Timey Wimeyness? As demonstrated by the 'following an adventure we haven't seen' opening it's surely deliberate that, apart from the obviously linked two parters, there's no real indication as to what chronological order the episodes occur in. I feel that, in a season of two partners, rather than it being a mistake that FRY isn't the second part of SNM, that's a deliberate clue.

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

Sorry, for 'FRY' above read 'FTR' (bloody uneditable auto correct!)

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John 1 year, 8 months ago

*Surely* deliberate? And you're again forgetting that for the Doctor, Clara, and Ashildr, the three Ashildr episodes are clearly in chronological order

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Matthew Marcus 1 year, 8 months ago

Very mixed feelings, as although I thought this was very well made and very well acted, by Capaldi especially, to me it was just a big tidal wave of sheer fantasy nonsense. Can Clara not come back from this? It's like asking "can Clara not come back from someone waving a magic wand and saying abracadaba?" - since I have almost no idea what the underlying logic of this show is any more, or if it's all being made up on the spot, I can't tell. Very unsatisfying for me (I hated the similarly "magical" In The Forest of the Night too), to the extent that I can't imagine that this is actually Clara's exit.

Despite a lot of individually well-made episodes, I don't know what this season can do at this point to not be one of my least favourite seasons of Doctor Who *ever*. And I'm very glad that others have been enjoying it so much, but let the lack of unanimous praise for it be registered.

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unnoun 1 year, 8 months ago

...Sorry, if you don't think Doctor Who should be "fantasy nonsense" then what exactly are you doing here? I think this is the wrong comment section for you.

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Matt M 1 year, 8 months ago

I really wish the writer had bothered to explain how the raven works. It works differently both times we see it in action and the bit about Clara 'changing the deal' doesn't make any logical sense. Even something as basic as saying 'it can only be transferred once' would have done it, or shown Ashildr trying to remove it from her but failing because the Raven wants to kill her for revenge or whatever. And... that's pretty important, you know. Clara wasn't killed because she didn't understand the rules, she was killed because the rules got arbitrarily changed and no-one bothered to work out / explain what they were.

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Prandeamus 1 year, 8 months ago

The raven's first victim ran, in the vain hope of avoiding death. One of the characters asks himself why do they always run? Depending on how you read that, it's either a comment on the futility of avoiding death, or just possibly an escape clause for Clara who accepted her fate in the end.

(If you really want escape clauses, the telepathic street lamp worm things also distort perception. If you want something completely gonzo, she's been made into a Dalek, unable to speak, and it's so horrific that everyone else perceives it as death by raven. Add a dose of retcon and a teleport and she's Oswin Oswald and the time loop is complete. I also know this is full of holes. ..)

In the context of the episode I think the raven made sufficient narrative sense.

Oddly enough, she referred to Danny Pink using his full name. When talking to the Doctor, it seemed odd that she would do that.

Did anyone else pick up on the Zygon comments? After painting the Zygons as other/refugees it was interesting to find out they might be hostile to the Street. I wonder what the Osgoods would think of all this?

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gerofalltrades 1 year, 8 months ago

I actually quite liked her use of Danny's full name. It felt slightly... formal. Ritualistic almost. If you know you're saying someone's name for the last time, you might as well go all the way. (It makes sense inside my head.)

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UrsulaL 1 year, 7 months ago

Clara frequently has said "Danny Pink" when talking about Danny (as opposed to talking to him.) Think of "Dark Water":

"Danny Pink... is dead."
"I must be with Danny Pink."

It's a quirk or habit of hers, when talking about him.

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John 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't really get this complaint. The Raven works exactly the same way on the old man and on Clara, and they did explain what happened perfectly well - the Mayor can only remove the chronolock from the person she originally put it on. If it's transferred, she can no longer remove it.

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Aylwin 1 year, 8 months ago

That was really good, and I have nothing constructive to add.

Soooo, I'll just parenthetically quibble that the whole elaborate set-up being contrived purely in order to put a bracelet on the Doctor's wrist is going it a bit, especially when after all that fuss it depends on him obediently going along with the key thing rather than just turning off the machine some other way, like how he normally would. And observe that at the end the swirly tattoo stays on Me's neck instead of turning into the smoke thing and infusing the raven as it did the first time around, which seems like an error. None of which really matters.

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theoncominghurricane 1 year, 8 months ago

It's not an error, she's been cut out of that particular deal.

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Aylwin 1 year, 7 months ago

That's a moderately persuasive explanation (and perhaps more likely than it just being an oversight), but if that is it, it seems a bit messy. The impression I got from the original appearance of the tattoo and the first killing was that the tattoo was the shade (in a dorman state), and the raven just a kind of vessel. Which may well be wrong, but leaving it out of the equation without explanation was at least confusing.

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AuntyJack 1 year, 8 months ago

Remember, Ashildir/Me has the second space medico/immortality lozenge that definitely resurrects dead people...

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evilsoup 1 year, 8 months ago

No, she used it on that highwayman/stand up comedian in the second part of her two-parter.

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AuntyJack 1 year, 8 months ago

Oops - she did and all - I wonder where HE is, then...

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Daibhid C 1 year, 8 months ago

The Doctor said it might or might not have actually given him immortality, because its power was drained from closing the portal. It could have just brought him back to life.

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mimhoff 1 year, 8 months ago

Compare to "Mummy on the Orient Express". The rules there were just as arbitrary and told rather than shown, but the Doctor, having taken a death meant for someone else, is able to technobabble long enough to find the magic word to stop the mummy. In the end knowing the how behind the monster -- that it was a phase whatever -- diminished it.

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Lexicon 1 year, 8 months ago

I enjoyed it a lot, but Doctor Who always fails a bit when it's predictable though. I saw the tattoo, knew it was a doom clock. I saw Rigsy with a baby, knew he was going to live. Heard talks of swapping the tattoo, knew Clara would get it and die for it. The only thing I didn't see coming was Me sending the Doctor off, I thought it was all a devious plan to kill Clara and take her place so she would no longer be stuck on Earth but hey.

I also wasn't fond of the death scene to be honest. It actually felt cheap to me, like they were drawing out for drama and the slow-mo effect and the lack of a scream actually made it that more flashy to me. They turned her death into a "will she, won't she" scene, which I guess could work if she actually survived in some way but if she doesn't it was just too drawn out. And I like Clara, and didn't want her to die, but it was the only way her character could go.

I do agree that the idea of the trap street and the alien refugee camp was some great stuff (you think a Cyberman cares about a merciful death?). I was just disappointed that 30 minutes of the episode were things I knew were coming.

Looking forward to Hell Bent though, alien planets!

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CJM123 1 year, 8 months ago

I think a case could be made for it being a tragedy, giving Clara a clear flaw, but one that directly relates to her greatness, and roughly taking place in one area (the street), one time (the tattoo counts down, so even with jumps and montages, there is no real break in the action), and one action (Clara's death, not the main plan, is entirely caused by switching places with Rigsy). Within that, the obviousness is inevitability, and is needed for the full effect.

Still, I see it could grate from a none Lit Crit point of view, but I loved it.

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Daru 1 year, 8 months ago

No tons to say as I want to do another watch of this, but loved it utterly and adored the trap street and idea of the alien refugee camp. Brilliant and captivating for me. Really moved by Capaldi and Coleman's performances - and wonderful to see Clara dying with her agency intact.

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Prandeamus 1 year, 8 months ago

The house in which I have lived for the last 20 years was for some time overlaid by a trap street in Google Maps. I've never discovered any aliens with a distraction circuit. Of course there was that time. .... .... would anyone like a cup of tea?

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Bar 1 year, 8 months ago

Hats off to Sarah Dollard who can get murder-mystery-in alien-refugee-camp-in-hidden-street, which turns out to be not a murder at all but a lure, which introduces a lovely new alien to the mythos, into ONE THIRD of a Who ep which everyone knows is about Clara dying.
hats off to the lampshaders who put the biggest, frilliest one into the trailer, and had the mayor Me point others out in the dialogue. It says clearly ignore the holes, focus on teh characters. whgich suits me fine. SD will be back and can have a story all to herself.
Sorry Maisie fans, but I remain unconvinced. SOME reaction to the Doctor oncoming storming her would have been good.
Half of me can't wait for next week, the other half can rewatch Peter Capaldi acting masterclass so sublimely keeping the lid on all that rage and grief - for now...

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Dadalama 1 year, 8 months ago

It's funny, I always thought she felt a bit like 10 when she was getting all Doctory. But she faced her death with so much more dignity.

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5tephe 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, that just shot to the top of my rankings for the season. Perfect melding of hand-wavey science and visual theming to deliver us a delicious new corner to Doctor Who's universe. One that feels so very London, so very children's literature, and so very spooky that it's remarkable it hasn't appeared in Who before.

I really enjoyed the return of Local Knowledge, and hope he is retained as an ongoing earthbound occasional companion I love the line drawn from graffiti to tattoos by his presence; are graffiti the markings on a city's skin that appear after a night of revelry? LOVE him marking up the TARDIS like that at the end; making it part of London and the hidden, twisting, trapped streets of the worlds Great City by tattooing it with his own art, and with Clara's identity....

Excited for the next few episodes for the first time in a while....

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Daibhid C 1 year, 8 months ago

"Clara, of course, has always been capable of reverse regeneration: the part changes, but not the actor."

In my LJ post, I made the comment that this is also true of Me. Not in the same direct way that Clara Oswald isn't Clara Oswin isn't Oswin Oswald, but in the sense that Mayor Me doesn't remember Lady Me, and neither of them remember Ashildr. So she's not that person any more. (Which is a bit of a shame, because I liked Ashildr, and would have liked to have seen more of her.)

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Camestros Felapton 1 year, 8 months ago

In the sense of adding emotional angst to the main male character because of their deaths, all companions (even Romana now) are examples of fridging because the Doctor will always out live them (save for the very last one possibly in some hopefully remote episode).
I think there is a better case that Clara's death is a fridging than the one that was made in Before the Flood.

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Ozyman.Jones 1 year, 8 months ago

Okay... so it's a trope. And a well used one. But I have never understood why 'fridging' has such a bad name as a motivation in fiction. Perhaps it's overused.

I can cite two instances when a 'character' in my personal life has died and caused me to change my behaviours and actions, totally effecting my future outcomes and direction of my life. As a call to action or a call to 'avenge' a perceived wrong, it's a powerful and very real emotional pull.

The same thing has happened to my wife with a male friend and colleague was killed at a young age while out partying with mates. It caused my wife to quit drinking herself, and start a program to rescue young men from self destructive behaviours, and to stop the shaming of young men and boys that has caused them to check out of the world and follow a destructive path. I'm incredibly proud of her achievements (as you can tell). None of this would have happened without the dramatic death of a close friend.

Just because something is a well known trope doesn't automatically make it a bad thing. If we want fiction to reflect real people and their motivations, then it's legitimate as a storytelling device.

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Anton B 1 year, 8 months ago

I think the objection is not to portraying character death and the effect it has on other characters but to the use of that death, specifically of a female character (because feminism), solely in order to focus on a male character's angst.

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Daibhid C 1 year, 8 months ago

Yep. If you look at the actual Woman in the Refrigerator, Alex DeWitt in Green Lantern, she dies purely as a plot device for GL to decide whether he wants revenge or justice (he decides claim the moral high ground while letting Guy Gardner take revenge for him, so it's not even like it's a good moral dilemma) and so he can think about how she died and he should have done something at regular intervals thereafter,

(There was one story, long after Alex's death, that established she had a sister, but that was the only indication her life had affected anyone who wasn't Kyle, and it was purely there as another reason for him to angst about it.)

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Ozyman.Jones 1 year, 8 months ago

Thanks for the replies. I must admit I'd forgotten the GL reference that the trope gets its name from. I'm not much into comics, so the specific references often slip by.

So by that rationale Clara should be in no way considered to be 'Fridged' from what I can work out. She was never a character designed just to be killed off simply to give the Doctor motivation; and her demise comes as much from her own actions and established character, as the antagonist.

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encyclops 1 year, 8 months ago

In my head, before I watched this, I'd already written the first line of my own review: "New favorite episode of the season."

I wish I'd been right, but I wasn't, quite. Loved the premise, loved Rigsy, would have loved to see a whole two-parter about this weird little street and how all these aliens ended up here and so on. I have no doubt that a Dollard episode with less of an agenda would be a treat, and I hope we get one next year.

I just got frustrated with how much of the bind Clara ends up in results from arbitrary rules and trusted conventions: capital punishment even for theft, Me's assurance of safety, the fact that the Raven can be called off unless you do this thing which means it can't. Perhaps spectrox toxaemia or a crashing freighter are too literal and brutal, and it's somehow richer to have a storybook death that's essentially rooted in magical laws and the way we expect (Clara expects) stories to work. It limited my emotional investment, though, and maybe that's just my problem. Still reasonably enjoyable.

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the disused yeti 1 year, 7 months ago

With a plot that vanished before it even began. Murder mystery? Nah, just an elongated set up for next week.

With Maisie Williams again proving she was miscast as she just hasn’t the screen presence to carry the role.

With the return of Rigsy for no real reason as they gave him nothing to do.

They kill Clara.

Because….er….they haven’t killed a companion in a long while?

Clara who was once the voice of reason and potentially positioned as the most important person in the Doctor’s life, dies because she tries to be the Doctor and doesn’t cut the mustard.

Feminists should have a field day.

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EvilBug 1 year, 7 months ago

I used to insinuate that Clara is a parody of feminists in that she thinks she can do Doctor's job without actual merit to back up her claims.

The way she died makes me think I might not be joking after all.

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Prandeamus 1 year, 7 months ago

"She wants to be the doctor and can't be because she's human" OR "she wants to be the doctor and can't be because she's got a major character flaw"

is not the same as

"She wants to be the doctor and can't be, because of her gender/sex"

A "feminist parody" assertion only holds water in the latter case. I see nothing in the narrative that supports the assertion that she fails because she has two X chromosomes.

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EvilBug 1 year, 7 months ago

It's more of a trolling attempt than a coherent argument, but I saw on this very blog people calling complaints about Clara not knowing her place "misogynistic".

She comes out as that poorly written female character in modern fiction that tries to usurp male character's role (And Doctor was always a male lead) without being nearly as good.

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knr 1 year, 7 months ago

She was as good in series 7. She was easily as good. And then they stopped paying attention to her competence.

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Dadalama 1 year, 7 months ago

Ashildr is getting a lot of hate though, but I honestly don't think she bears much, if any, responsibility. True she delivered the mechanism but it was always Clara's choice. Which leaves me to believe the Doctor will eventually forgive her.

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encyclops 1 year, 7 months ago

It occurred to me tonight that Clara dies for a reason that's very Eruditoric: she misunderstands what kind of story she's in.

She thinks she's in a murder mystery (perhaps an episode of Veronica Mars) where it makes perfect sense to aid and abet a fugitive suspect to buy time to discover that he's innocent, because her "dad's" the best around and she's a chip off the old block.

But although the story is Mars-y in that really what looks like a random crime turns out to have been a frame-up by the corrupt potentate, it turns out she's actually in some sort of Grimm fairy tale in which the heroine's personality flaw ensures her tragic death via the blind savagery and magical rules of the dark forest.

If you're not a master of the Land of Fiction, you don't get to rewrite the story in the middle of it.

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HenryPlantagenet 1 year, 7 months ago

One villain is the BBC, here. The program is almost always PG, safe for eight year olds. So a lot of potent material in the original script was watered down. Jenna had to rush through some script bits which could have been powerfully moving at a slower speed: implying that she wanted to die like her boyfriend, helping the Doctor to deal with the grief to come, really showing her terror. And the original script called for her to die with a terrified tear-streaked face and a heart-rending scream, which would have blown the PG rating. So Jenna had to give us a low-key death. If she had been allowed to crank it up as she did in Kill The Moon, it would have devastated everyone, and made us forget some of the silly plot contrivances that led to her doom.

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taiey 1 year, 7 months ago

...it already did.

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Phil Sandifer 1 year, 7 months ago

Word.

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