Hell Bent Review
Moffat must go.
- It is stunningly reckless in its oversignification. Nearly every element of the plot is another thing along the lines of the Zygons in The Day of the Doctor – an unresolved question mark that could be expanded on at vast length. Similarly, nearly every element turns on parallelism with other pieces of the mythology.
- The most interesting of these is of course the Me/Missy parallel, emphasized both by the ostentatious emphasis on Me knocking four times and on the tripled repetition of “Missy” from Clara to the Doctor to Me in such a way as to stress that “Me” would be a perfectly plausible alias for her.
- And don’t give me that “how would you make that work with the continuity” bullshit. The answer is obvious: Clara eventually seeks out Faction Paradox to help her with the whole “has no pulse” problem, and in the course of that adventure Me is flung into the Looms. Duh.
- What an absolutely perfect ending for Clara, though. Not a Time Lord. (Probably) not immortal. Entirely on her own terms, as what she is. But stealing a TARDIS and running away to see all of time and space. With Maisie Williams. Given that the character’s departure is in part defined by the fact that she’s had a half-dozen of them already, three of them fatal, the question of how she’d leave for the final time was vexed. And the episode leaned into that, most obviously with the massively emphasized pan away from the “things that need to be said” conversation. Within that problem, the answer “Clara founds her own discrete and feminine iteration of the basic narrative of Doctor Who and escapes from the narrative into it” is absolutely brilliant.
- More brilliant, though, is the way in which Hell Bent uses its oversignification to create an “it’s all true” approach to its underlying questions of mythology. Numerous things almost happen, or are gestured at through parallels but not through exposition, such that any fan theory is no more than two lines of technobabble away from confirmation. And particularly the role that women have within this – note the way that the episode is haunted by several of them, including some who are actually in it.
- Actually, just to take a quick detour into a bit of canon the episode is mostly content to let slide, isn’t it fascinating that the Sisterhood of Karn is off at the end of the universe with the Time Lords? There’s no evidence they have time travel themselves (and indeed it would fuck with their basic concept pretty hard if they did), so presumably they’re sort of tagging along with Gallifrey. Which is fine – I have no problem expanding the “what gets time bubbled” from “Gallifrey” to “the entire constellation of Kasterborous.” But this makes the question of “where is Gallifrey” somewhat odd for the Doctor, given that he clearly knows how to stop off to visit Ohilia in The Magician’s Apprentice, which should give him a pretty good clue where Gallifrey is if they’re linked like that. The alternative answer is that Ohilia is 4.5 billion years+ by the time of this story, but that rather cuts against the deliberate decision not to make her Ohica. Anyway, Karn: it’s interesting.
- And yet for all that the feminine is presented as a challenge to Doctor Who within this episode, there’s also an emphatic reminder that gender is a permeable category within it, most obviously in the regeneration of Ken Bones into T’nia Miller, a glorious “fuck you, no, here is a race and genderbent regeneration that happens on fucking camera right in front of you it is canon now so shut up you racist and sexist assholes.”
- It’s particularly worth contrasting that moment with, basically, any other alteration/addition to canon and continuity that Moffat makes here or elsewhere. One of the most common bad objections to Moffat’s work is the suggestion that he egotistically insists on rewriting every bit of Doctor Who’s history to be about his ideas. But this misses a key part of the game he plays, which is to make everything he does ostentatiously faithful to what comes before. (Note that the Hybrid can just as easily be the Hand of Omega or, for that matter, Susan. Although she’s presumably the President’s daughter…) Which is to say that Moffat is, with almost everything he does, inviting future writers to do to his ideas exactly what he’s done to Holmes’s and Dicks’s and Whitaker’s and Jacobs’s here, which is to scrawl all over them. And that’s really evident here, where Moffat begins openly scrawling over his own past mythology for the show by suggesting the diner scenes in The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon were actually set in Clara’s TARDIS.
- If Heaven Sent felt like Moffat writing about the experience of writing the same thing over and over again, Hell Bent feels like him consciously reflecting on the question of whether it’s time to leave the program. He has, of course, also said that he wrote The Husbands of River Song thinking it might be his last script for the series, and given several “yes I am leaving soon” comments in interviews. Certainly this story can only be described as groundwork for his departure; a rehearsal for “the last Moffat story” in the same way that Kill the Moon, Death in Heaven, Face the Raven, and Last Christmas were rehearsals for Clara’s departure.
- Another (and more substantive) engagement with other eras is the direct invocation of Donna’s exit and the explicit moral contrast involved in the Doctor’s response to Clara’s autonomy. Jill has a guest post forthcoming.
- Speaking of things that post on Mondays, I adore that Maisie Williams’s entire four-episode appearance is, in reality, a massive shaggy dog plotline leading up to her delivering a line that is almost but not quite “winter is coming.”
- Also that she has a random chessboard. Presumably she’s Fenric too.
- The game of “OK where is Me in this scene” for the big final TARDIS scene between the Doctor and Clara is even more fun than the corresponding game in Face the Raven, where at least they avoided the wide shots that would have required her presence. I’m not entirely sure why Moffat had her enter the TARDIS, actually.
- Though this is no harder to explain than why she’s Missy. Obviously she snuck off and hid with the intention of running away, at which point she met the Boatswain from The Curse of the Black Spot and also Rupert Pink (who’s obviously somewhere in the whole “end of the universe” sequence, what with it deliberately paralleling Listen and all; this is what I mean by the number of possibilities that are one line of dialogue away from happening), and they had adventures during the white-out after the Doctor passes out.
- I don’t think the Doctor forgot Clara. Note his look of shock when she asks him to tell her about Clara in the cold open, and also the look he gives right before he says “I suppose we just wait a minute,” which is clearly Capaldi’s “hm, that’s interesting, I’m going to have to do a thing” face. Also, note that Coleman inserts an “I, uh,” before she asserts that she fiddled with the neuroblock, and that we never actually see her do it.
- The transformation of Clara’s theme into something diegetic during the cold open is also wonderful, incidentally. As is the Western showdown revamp of Flavia’s Song.
- Oh, yeah, the Time Lords. If nothing else, this is the first Gallifrey story to legitimately work since The Deadly Assassin. I assume Jack will have complicated feelings about the return of the Shabogans. Though the Doctor’s failure to just overthrow the Time Lords is, to say the least, increasingly troubling. I quite like the hubristic downfall of Rassilon Reborn, including his claim to be that and the way it’s tacitly confirmed and expanded on in the Doctor’s scene with Ohilia in the Cloisters. But good lord, what is the Doctor doing letting these, as Clara rightly puts it, monsters control all this astonishing technology when there are all those lovely soup-making Shabogans out in the wastelands? This is astonishingly fucked up.
- The Cloisters are an amazing concept; the best attempt at conceptualizing Time Lord technology to date as something that is literally built on and around the gothically repressed. These genuinely feel like the same Time Lords who fought the Great Vampires once, while also feeling like the dithering prats of The Arc of Infinity. That’s a hell of a feat.
- And, of course, they further the numerous echoings of River Song across this story. River who is plausibly the Hybrid, trapped in a database just like the haunted nightmare of the Cloisters, who Clara namechecks inside a familiar diner. And for that matter, foreshadowings of River Song, as we’ve got one more of these to do in a few weeks.
- “Season finale” is a really weird concept twenty days before Christmas, by the way.
- Hell Bent
- The Zygon Inversion
- Face the Raven
- The Zygon Invasion
- The Girl Who Died
- Heaven Sent
- The Magician’s Apprentice
- Sleep No More
- The Woman Who Lived
- The Witch’s Familiar
- Under the Lake
- Before the Flood
- Heaven Sent/Hell Bent
- The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
- The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived
- The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar
- Sleep No More/Face the Raven
- Under the Lake/Before the Flood
December 5, 2015 @ 8:37 pm
“I don’t think the Doctor forgot Clara. Note his look of shock when she asks him to tell her about Clara in the cold open, and also the look he gives right before he says “I suppose we just wait a minute,” which is clearly Capaldi’s “hm, that’s interesting, I’m going to have to do a thing” face. Also, note that Coleman inserts an “I, uh,” before she asserts that she fiddled with the neuroblock, and that we never actually see her do it.”
Which means it ends with them lying to each other exactly as in Death In Heaven, which I like.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:34 am
The slight problem I see there is that if Clara never fiddled with the neuroblock, it should have done what the Doctor said it was going to do. Easily resolved; she did fiddle with the neuroblock, but the Doctor was right when he said he wasn’t sure she’d actually aligned it to affect him, so nobody’s memory got wiped, but the Doctor got a bit zapped.
December 6, 2015 @ 3:08 pm
You assume The Doctor was telling the truth that he was going to use it. He winked just before he did, which was probably a tell. Meaning he was faking the whole thing.
December 7, 2015 @ 1:54 am
that was my initial response/interpretation to Capaldi’s performance in the cold open & to the rest of the ep, but on rewatch his performance corresponds surprisingly convincingly well w/ the ‘Doctor doesn’t know who he’s talking to’ line of the narrative. so, me, i do believe the Doctor finally DID get a dose of his own medicine – a tiny bit of justice for Donna Noble & Kate Stewart.
March 9, 2016 @ 2:42 pm
I’m assuming the Doctor is telling the truth, because I can’t imagine any reason for him to lie about it. Or at least, I can’t imagine any reason for him to lie about it to Clara herself, especially given that it’s a lie that will be exposed very quickly when her memory doesn’t get wiped.
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December 5, 2015 @ 8:55 pm
I LOVED The General emphasising that her last regeneration was the only one out of all of them that was male. Yes, people, Time Lords can go for long stretches as the same gender before changing, even if just for one incarnation.
It’s like Moffat set out to take a sledgehammer to as many reflexively conservative assumptions about regeneration as possible in a single scene, and it’s marvellous.
Of course, we combine what we know about the Doctor stealing the president’s wife and the moon being a lie, and what we know from The Magician’s Apprentice, and the Doctor has categorically spent some time with a female body. Checkmate. Of course, the only reason that this didn’t instantly become “half human on my mother’s side” for the new generation is because the sort of people who’d get angry at that didn’t get the clues.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:15 am
Of course, Missy could also be lying about the lie. I don’t like the idea of it, but only because I dislike the idea of there being Doctors before Hartnell.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:41 am
…why do you assume that implies regenerations before One?
December 6, 2015 @ 6:39 am
Well, the person in the barn in Listen was a boy. And because it otherwise means another regeneration we haven’t heard about which would contradict The Time of the Doctor, where’s he’s run out.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:13 pm
It would be very easy for a future writer to “reveal” that the Eleventh Doctor was mistaken or lying when he said that his tenth incarnation regenerated twice, and that the real reason he ran out of regenerations was that there was another incarnation before Hartnell (or between Troughton and Pertwee, if that’s the mood they’re in).
My only issue with a pre-Hartnell incarnation is that it would overcomplicate the perfect simplicity of Listen.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:24 pm
We’d be back to Ten’s first regeneration (given he had a finite cycle) having no consequences. And that would just annoy me, because I hated that.
Additionally, in theory, if that didn’t count as a use of regeneration energy, he could use regeneration energy to heal himself, dissipate it, then chop off a hand and then use the residual energy to heal it. That way, next time he regenerated, he could use the hand as a receptacle and again stay in the same body…with unlimited regenerations.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:52 pm
There’s no problem — regeneration can be exogenous.
December 6, 2015 @ 3:37 pm
Do you mean that there’s no problem with 10.5? Because I don’t have a problem with Metacrisis Ten’s existence (it’s how and what he causes I dislike). It’s just that people were up in arms when Moffat said that Ten regenerated twice as though that was an actual change to what happened. I always treated it as a use of regeneration, but that wasn’t confirmed until the Time of the Doctor.
Or do you mean the Doctor could have had a similar thing happen and the result was a woman?
Or something else entirely?
December 6, 2015 @ 6:57 pm
I mean the Doctor might have received a “regeneration” (or two) as a kid exogenously — like through someone else’s touch, or through a Karn potion. Those wouldn’t count against his own “count,” and would easily allow for the Doctor being a little girl at some point in his childhood.
My point being that the mythology is still open, and can always bend towards whatever we want. The choice, then, isn’t whether something will canonically work or not, but more of being creative enough to do whatever you want anyways. And if all it takes is a modicum of creativity, then the reason for not going down certain avenues is actually going to be more political or ideological than anything else.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:27 pm
My headcanon of late has been that Hartnell’s Doctor is the first regeneration of a new cycle, and that the events that led to him getting a new cycle are part of what caused the Time Lord known as the Doctor to flee Gallifrey. I like what it does for the Doctor’s past, which feels like it should be bigger than what fits into the pre-An Unearthly Child life of Hartnell’s character, while also very much honoring the way in which that story is the creation of the Doctor.
I also think Time Lords can regenerate into being children again, so that they have multiple childhoods throughout their lives.
Yes, this is blatantly to make an “it’s all true” interpretation of Gallifrey easier.
December 7, 2015 @ 12:58 pm
Didn’t Davies already hint at multiple childhoods for Time Lords in Utopia? “I was a naked child found on the coast of the Silver Devastation. Abandoned, with only this.” The Master appears to have regenerated into a child before using the chameleon arch.
I suppose one could argue that this memory was false, like John Smith’s recollection of his parents in Human Nature, but it doesn’t make sense that the chameleon arch would generate such a conspicuous memory when it’s meant to help its users blend in with their chosen people.
December 6, 2015 @ 3:08 am
I took it as Missy believing the mangled version of the story as true.
December 6, 2015 @ 10:25 am
Could you all remind me what dialogue in The Magician’s Apprentice you’re referring to?
December 6, 2015 @ 11:08 am
Yes, this would be very helpful.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:25 pm
CLARA: Since when do you care about the Doctor?
MISSY: Since always. Since the Cloister Wars. Since the night he stole the moon and the President’s wife. Since he was a little girl. One of those was a lie. Can you guess which one?
December 6, 2015 @ 2:03 pm
December 6, 2015 @ 12:04 pm
I’m pretty sure that Moffat deliberately gave us contradictory versions of the “stole the moon and the president’s X” story, so that the answer to whether the Doctor was initially female hinges on whether Missy heard the correct version (not to mention whether Missy was telling the truth at all). The contradictory evidence is scattered in such a way that many attentive viewers will arrive at both conclusions.
I rather like the aggressive ambiguity of the story, though I would have liked a couple of straight-up bombshells to really keep us debating into the new year.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:50 pm
Maybe the Doctor’s son was the President and was usurped by a man who forcibly married his daughter, Susan in an attempt to legitimize his claim. Naturally the Master supported the usurper’s claim while the Doctor did not leading him to rescue Susan and flee Gallifrey.
Of course there’s no evidence that Timelord society works like this or that such a blatantly patriarchal society is even possible when its participants keep changing gender! I just wanted to remind everyone that I can do crap fan theories too 🙂
December 5, 2015 @ 8:56 pm
Well, that was something wasn’t it? I mean without being a total re reboot it pretty much rewrote the Doctor’s history as we knew it, put it back together a bit wonkily, twice and then added some Clara/Me shipping fanfic. I bloody loved it. I loved that the Hybrid could still be Susan or River or the Doctor or Me or Harry bloody Potter and it really doesn’t matter because the Time Lords and their obsession with their idiotic prophecies turned out once again to be barking up the wrong tree.
My personal theory is that the Sisterhood of Karn are an analog of the Bene Gesserit in Dune and are playing a long game. They’ve been trying to create the Hybrid for millennia in order to take down the Time Lords and rule the multiverse. The Doctor, like Paul Atriedes in Dune is one of their experiments gone rogue.
Oh and Classic Tardis interior! In all it’s white heat of 1960’s technology beauty. And it’s Clara’s.
Moffat must stay!
December 6, 2015 @ 7:38 pm
I love Moffat too, but I also know that he has to go. Watching Hell Bent, I wasn’t as enthused as Phil or you Anton, but I was fascinated to see what he was doing with the story. Essentially, he’s setting up a crap-ton of pieces for future writers to use in whatever ways they want writing new stories for Gallifrey and the Time Lords. It’s wonderful to see them. And as an indie sci-fi writer whose ultimate creative career dream is to write an episode of Doctor Who, I’m quite happy to see so many new angles for storylines Moffat has set up in this story to explore on Gallifrey.
I had a ton of my other issues with the story, which you can read on my blog, which I’ll self-servingly link here:
I had a feeling since the idea was first introduced that the Hybrid would be a shaggy catchphrase story. Russell T Davies was the last one to use a catchphrase as a linking narrative thread, and I don’t think it ever really worked as well as he thought of himself. Whenever Moffat used it, it always had some element that undercut itself. Like this time, where it’s just a signifier for nothing in particular while Moffat operates Doctor Who’s story machinery for three main purposes in this story:
1. Saying goodbye to Jenna Coleman, and therefore Clara Oswald.
2. Introducing a ton of new ideas for Time Lord stories that other people can play with.
3. Writing an entire season of stories that explore different philosophical ideas of what immortality would be.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:02 pm
I think I just had the kind of moment Phil did the first time he saw Kill the Moon. Wow.
One niggle I suppose: why exactly did Clara agree to the Memory Russian Roulette thingy? I thought that the whole point was that her memories were sacrosanct.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:34 pm
I think she realized that the only way to stop the endless cycle of the Doctor and Clara doing reality-shatteringly reckless things to save each other is to make it so that one of them no longer has any stake in perpetuating it. With the roulette, there’s even odds on her not needing to be the one to make the final sacrifice.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:21 pm
That, and she considers the Doctor’s memories sacred, too. So rather than one of them wiping the memory of the other against the consent of the other, they both agree to the roulette.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:25 pm
It was also only roulette for the Doctor. She already knew that she’d really reversed the polarity.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:45 pm
Equally, the Doctor scans it afterwards then avoids the question when Clara asks if he knows who it will effect. My reading was that the Doctor knew at that point that he would be the one effected (if, as Phil says, it does effect him. The dialogue explicitly mentions the device was keyed to affect humans – and the Doctor’s purported humanage is gloriously and playfully skirted around in this episode – so who knows. Who knows.).
That different readings are possible, and that each reading can be as rich and fulfilling as the last depending on who the reader is, is part of what made this episode so damn marvellous.
(And to have this tender, emotional scene play out in a rebuild of the 60s console room? Pinch me.)
December 5, 2015 @ 10:51 pm
Actually, I can agree that that reading does work just as well. The episode was filled with much delicious vagueness.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:44 am
“The episode was filled with much delicious vagueness.”
That’s one of the things I really loved about this one.
December 6, 2015 @ 1:48 pm
I read the Doctor saying it was a 50-50 chance as another lie. Clara was right. She was always right. He realized it and realized that he had to be the one to make the sacrifice rather than violating her autonomy like he did with Donna. He just lied about it so Clara would accept his memory wipe.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:41 pm
And I read the little wink he gave her as turning the whole thing into a bluff because neither of them know how to say good bye.
And that at the diner he knew exactly who she was.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:19 pm
I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t think The Doctor forgot Clara. He lets her and Ashildir escape into their own narrative, a perfectly beautiful ending to her story. That being said I am eager to see the next companion, and not have either Clara or Ashildir hanging over the show.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:36 pm
Although I think his memory was properly blocked, I suspect he did or will work out pretty quickly that the woman in the spacetime-travelling restaurant (a possible nod to Douglas Adams – ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ having started as a rejected ‘Doctor Who’ script, later replacing the Doctor with Slartibartfast and the Tardis with the Bistromath and its SEP field) was Clara. Especially as he activated the sonic sunglasses before placing them on the counter facing her). Like mimhoff, I see it as a kinder mirror of their parting in ‘Death in Heaven’.
Roderick T. Long
December 6, 2015 @ 1:08 am
Plus he saw her face on the TARDIS afterward.
December 6, 2015 @ 3:12 am
Ah. Very good point.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:20 pm
Yeah, I loved that. Glad you did too. It was the return of Moffat’s ‘what story is this?’ mode, and I for one was very glad that instead of the Gallifreyan epic we were promised/threatened with in the trailers, we got a beautiful character piece instead. And as much as I loved Face the Raven, this was what I really wanted for Clara.
What a fantastic series. For me, series 8 and 9 is easily the best consecutive run since series 25 and 26. I’m almost glad we’re (probably) taking a year off because I think it would be asking too much to try for a third series of this quality without a bit of a break.
Final(ish) rankings then:
Under the Lake
Heaven Sent/Hell Bent
December 5, 2015 @ 11:23 pm
Ombund, I think that’s my exact ranking as well. Although I might swap “Sleep No More” with the Whithouse stuff…
December 5, 2015 @ 9:33 pm
I appreciate what happens with the Time Lords in this — trying terribly hard to be all science-y about the Web of Time, even though the shadow of the Pythia is hanging over them the whole time. Plus, the Cloister Wraiths were a great reminder that death sucks even for supposed immortals.
And I know it’s not terribly deep criticism to say “I bawled like a small child at this,” but wow. Absolutely stunning drama.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:22 am
Same. The scene where Clara discovered how long the Doctor had been in the dial set me off, and I didn’t stop from there.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:32 am
For me it was “Clara, I don’t think you’re ever gonna have to.” It’s only in hindsight that I’ve realized he then starts giving Clara advice on how to be the best Doctor she can.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:38 pm
The end of Clara’s story parallels the beginning of the Doctor’s in some really neat ways–the interior of the TARDIS is pretty much just the original set, and her first liftoff from Earth has her chameleon circuit getting jammed. The implication, obviously, being that–even with her supposed set endpoint–her story is just as infinite and sprawling as the Doctor’s.
Her dying and then being resurrected by someone who’s willing to take stupid-big risks because they love her so damn much is pretty metatextual as well, put in that context.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:03 pm
No, the dread implication being that Clara’s TARDIS with the classic interior and faulty chameleon circuit later becomes the Doctor’s once she drops it off at Gallifrey at the start of Name. D:
December 6, 2015 @ 12:03 am
Haha, that would be funny. Especially the implication that the TARDIS first hated Clara at the beginning of her run in series 7 because it was annoyed that she had dropped her off on Gallifrey and left her with this annoying, half-mad Time Lord. (Doctor’s Wife here)
December 6, 2015 @ 12:30 pm
But the Doctor’s model is older than the Master’s, whereas Clara’s TARDIS is presumably super new, coming from the end of the universe and all.
December 6, 2015 @ 3:22 pm
But if Clara and Me travel around in the new TARDIS for centuries, then it might start falling apart and become a rickety old time machine by the time they get it back to Gallifrey a couple of billion years in the past. Or whenever. Time is relative on Gallifrey, after all. At least the TARDIS would have had wear and tear on it.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:38 pm
OH MY GOD YES
December 5, 2015 @ 9:40 pm
“But good lord, what is the Doctor doing letting these, as Clara rightly puts it, monsters control all this astonishing technology when there are all those lovely soup-making Shabogans out in the wastelands?”
If that’s where the Doctor comes from, surely that makes him a Shabogan-made-good himself. From which point of view perhaps it doesn’t seem as simple as that. The Time Lords may think of themselves as inherently superior, but perhaps they’re just Shabogans plus astonishing technology, in which case giving the Shabogans the technology would just make them Time Lords. At least the current crop have got the hang of it.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:47 pm
Perhaps giving the Shabogans the technology would prove just as bad as the Time Lords. But that’s merely a danger, whereas the monstrosity of the Time Lords is a certainty.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:44 pm
Maybe life has just made me more cynical, but name me one, just one, civilization that, once advanced enough and given superior tech, hasn’t at some point become war-like, expansionist, imperialist, empire building, and bent on the subjugation or eradication of those it considers inferior or different.
The Shabogans will be Time Lords given a few thousand years of absolute power. Better the devil you know!
December 5, 2015 @ 11:00 pm
I feel like Doctor Who, or at least the spirit of Doctor Who as conjured by TARDIS Eruditorum, is fundamentally opposed to equivocations like “better the devil you know”.
In any case, the Doctor does organise about half of of an overthrow of the Time Lords, insofar as he deposes Rassilon the Resurrected and apparently the entire High Council (if only in one line of throwaway dialogue). He just then leaves a power vacuum at the top. Perhaps one could spin a sort of entertaining “sneak progressive politics in by the back door” moment in that the Doctor also makes so that the most likely person to fill in the power vacuum is now a black woman?
Come to that, who IS the character portrayed by Ken Bones/T’nia Miller? Is there any way we can squeeze it into being Romana?
December 5, 2015 @ 11:53 pm
She was never given a name in dialogue or credits, so I suppose she’s free to be Romana if anyone wants to write her that way 🙂
December 6, 2015 @ 1:32 am
The commander of the Time Lord armed forces. I guess it’s possible that they’re Romana, but you’d think the Doctor would know, instinctively.
December 6, 2015 @ 1:59 am
After Day of the Doctor first came out, someone on TVTropes suggested that. I’d say I’m fine with it, but I’d honestly be disappointed that neither of them ever bring it up.
Also, along those lines, the Woman and Susan and everything, too.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:05 am
It’s not just the black female General who is filling the power vacuum left by the expulsion of Rassilon and the entire High Council – Ohila and the Sisterhood seem to be speaking for the Time Lords.
So while he doesn’t engineer a proletarian revolution, he does manage to set of Mad Max Fury Road style matriarchal takeover, which is especially resonant given the mythological relationship between the Sisterhood and the Time Lords in the series and especially in the books which Moffat hints at obliquely.
December 6, 2015 @ 1:44 pm
“Good luck, Romana.”
“You too, sir.”
Works for me.
Roderick T. Long
December 6, 2015 @ 1:13 am
“name me one, just one, civilization that, once advanced enough and given superior tech, hasn’t at some point become war-like, expansionist, imperialist, empire building”
Lemuria. The Lemurians were lovely people before their continent sank.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:30 am
Yes, whoever steps into the established Time Lord system would end up being the Time Lords. That wouldn’t be a social revolution. That would be a political revolution.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:49 am
So, what’s needed is for the Time Lords to step away from their technology and start making Shabogan Soup, not to have the Shabogans step away from their soup and start wielding Timelord Technology.
December 6, 2015 @ 8:04 am
Not knowing anything about the social organization of the Shabogans, I can’t say what form their social revolution could take, or even if it would be possible. Those nice soup-making people outside are not Shabogans. Even if Moffat meant them to be, they’re not. He’s wrong if he thinks they’re the Shabogans. He’s not the first. Terrence Dicks was wrong about who the Shabogans were too. ONLY I KNOW. LOOK UPON MY SHABOGANS YE MIGHTY AND DESPAIR!!!!!
December 7, 2015 @ 8:36 am
Okay, Outsider Soup then 🙂
December 7, 2015 @ 11:05 am
December 6, 2015 @ 5:12 am
The Doctor probably can’t get rid of his pompous idiots with power and technology and economic superiority until WE get rid of ours. After all, he needs to keep showing ways to struggle and fight and protest.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:43 pm
Back in Listen, the Doctor says that he’s always thought he’d be the last man standing at the end of the universe. Come Hell Bent, though, he finds the one person standing at the end of the universe: Me.
The way I see it, this is exactly what the post-50th years need to do. Accept that of course the Doctor is the center of his universe, but also take the time to explore other people too. For one day, Clara and Me get to rocket off on their own adventures, and not everything belongs to him. (Interesting that this reflects both Hartnell’s beginning and Troughton’s end.)
I love this interpretation of the diner scenes, by the way. A mirror to Death in Heaven, only more poignant. Clara has outgrown the companion role, and Moffat has laid the groundwork to smash gendered conceptions of Doctor and companion. Golden age, anyone?
December 6, 2015 @ 4:53 pm
“Back in Listen, the Doctor says that he’s always thought he’d be the last man standing at the end of the universe.”
There’s him, Clara and Me. The Doctor is, in fact, the last MAN standing
December 7, 2015 @ 3:06 am
Fridge logic moment, to quote Rings of Akhaten:
“…I watched as Time ran out. Moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time. No space – just Me!”
Which totally feeds my head canon that Time Lord memories are actually non-linear and they can remember moments to them that haven’t happened yet (thus allowing me to completely erase the whole “Other” concept of the Doctor and make them someone completely normal who ran away from Gallifrey one day, and will one day become the Other accidentally).
December 8, 2015 @ 5:56 pm
oh, that interpretation is just gorgeous.
December 5, 2015 @ 9:57 pm
I dunno. Eeeeh. See I liked it more than I thought I would with a ‘Clara is actually alive LOLOLOL’ ending but I feel that Moffat missed the entire point of her departure, or at least tramped all over Face the Raven.
The whole point of the ending of Face the Raven was that Clara was the one person who DIDN’T run from the raven and faced her death head on. Then in this episode we have her again facing up to her responsibilities and… running. I think I’d have liked it a hell of a lot more if it ended with her going straight back to the raven and not running away. It feels too much like trying to have your cake and eat it. Both episodes can’t both work.
This is Clara’s what, 6th exit now? Come on.
And as much as I liked the concept of the General regenerating, the second actor wasn’t nearly as good in any way, shape or form as the first. Oh well.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:16 pm
Many people are saying this in other forums, but I don’t get it.
How is having a death with a “point” better than not being dead?
December 5, 2015 @ 10:36 pm
Well, there’s a difference between real life and being a fictional construct. Obviously were it ‘real’ then yes, clearly this is the best outcome. But real stuff is rarely satisfying.
On a basic level you can’t say that a character is noble and inspiring because they faced their fate rather than ran away, and at the exact same time have them run away. Or if you do that, signpost it in some way. Either you have to change the end of Raven or Hell Bent; they don’t work in tandem with each other.
(There’s also the whole deal where the Doctor wants to wipe Clara’s memory so the Time Lords can’t find her and drag her back to Gallifrey to die, and her memory doesn’t get wiped, so uh…)
December 5, 2015 @ 10:39 pm
I mean, I think the issue is that it stopped being her fate as such and acquired some… wiggle room.
December 6, 2015 @ 1:19 am
She does. We know she does go to Gallifrey and back to the Trap Street and faces her fate, because we’ve seen that happen. She does. It’s just that she… takes a bit longer than we thought.
(Infinity, in a flash of light. How does he do it?)
December 6, 2015 @ 2:08 am
But she isn’t running away, she’s running towards Gallifrey. The long way. Death is still coming for her, just like everyone else. It’s just that she knows where and when.
It’s all trivial to avoid anyway. Just travel to Clara’s timestream the day before she dies, give her a Mire chip, and travel thru time with her for billions of years. Then drop her off again to Face the Raven. Same potential result. It’s the way Clara got to where she is that matters.
December 6, 2015 @ 10:33 am
And what happens if Clara gets vapourised during one of his adventures on her long way home? Then what? Does the whole of space and time explode? If it doesn’t, why go back at all? And if it does, isn’t she being a bit reckless? So much for, “I hope I’m brave”. Now it’s suddenly, “Let’s put it off for as long as possible!” Urgh.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:35 pm
In fairness that’s about the same as the Doctor’s approach to dying in “Time of the Doctor”. He faces his seemingly inevitable fate as best he can, but when Clara persuades the Time Lords to save him as he’s on the brink of death, he seizes his new lease of life with genuine joy and hope. So her ending is another parallel to one of the Doctors she travelled with. Which is nice, I think.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:23 pm
What would the Doctor do in that situation?
December 7, 2015 @ 12:42 am
Couldn’t one ask the same questions of earlier incarnations plucked from their timestreams in classic multi-Doctor stories?
December 7, 2015 @ 12:45 am
BTW, many thanks, Mr Perryman, for ‘The Wife in Space’ which among other things led me to the Eruditorum. I also enjoyed the book.
December 7, 2015 @ 12:49 am
To the extent that she’s being reckless here, I like it as something of a callback to her decision at the end of Mummy on the Orient Express. Then as now, she’d resolved to do the responsible thing, and then changes her mind because she’s simply not ready to stop going on adventures.
December 7, 2015 @ 8:43 am
If Doctor Who is ever cancelled again and never comes back, we can assume the in-universe reason is Clara finally screwed up off-screen and destroyed the web of time.
December 7, 2015 @ 9:58 am
The way I see it (cue another crap fan theory(tm)) …
Extracting her from the Trap Street puts her (and everyone in the extraction room) into an alternate timeline from which she can either:
Critically it’s not #2 that causes time to fracture, it’s the Doctor’s plan to reintegrate them both into the normal timestream without her dying. Presumably without her the Doctor has no problem popping back over into said timestream on his own.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:18 am
It depends if you consider her to be running away from her death or towards a new life.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:44 am
One of the most interesting things in this episode is Moffat’s continuing struggle between the simple fact of death and that a drama that never has any lacks realism and his dislike of killing characters.
It started with the Weeping Angels, who killed characters by sending them back in time. Killed instantly, but allowed to live their entire life first. And of course, that was how he killed Rory and Amy, because he couldn’t actually kill kill them.
And now we get the opposite. A character who has less than a second of life left, and because of that is functionally immortal for as long as she wants to be. It’s a pretty neat idea; as long as she knows she’s going to Gallifrey eventually, she can take as long as she likes about it.
She can’t fight her death, she can only delay it. Same as the rest of us.
December 6, 2015 @ 10:11 am
It started with his first canon story ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’, in which everybody lived. Or even earlier in ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’, which saw the Doctor surviving the death of his final regeneration in a rehearsal of ‘The Time of the Doctor’. Post-‘Blink’ he has had more than one computery virtual heaven for the physically deceased.
What I love about Clara’s ending is that she is both legitimately and permanently killed and able to continue adventuring in time and space without any contradiction between those facts, just by using the same mechanism which enabled multi-Doctor stories in the classic series.
We are all about to die, sooner or later. Clara is just really, really making the most of her final moments 🙂
December 5, 2015 @ 10:47 pm
I think eating the cake he has is justified in this case. Clara is accepting her death-by-raven. She’s just enjoying her indefinitely extended last few seconds 🙂
December 6, 2015 @ 1:48 am
The whole point of the ending of Face the Raven was that Clara was the one person who DIDN’T run from the raven and faced her death head on. Then in this episode we have her again facing up to her responsibilities and… running. I think I’d have liked it a hell of a lot more if it ended with her going straight back to the raven and not running away. It feels too much like trying to have your cake and eat it. Both episodes can’t both work.
I’ve seen this argument elsewhere, and here’s why it does work, for me: It’s another parallel to the Doctor. They will face death head on if they have no choice, but if they’ve got wiggle room they will use that wiggle room. They’ll go back when that wiggle room runs out. It’s not forever, it’s just living…for a little while. Someone told they have a year to live does not just skip to the end.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:41 am
Moffat even lays out the parallel quite explicitly by having her say “Gallifrey…the long way round”, which you’ll recall was the Doctor’s mission statement after the 50th (immediately before going on a shitload more adventures).
December 6, 2015 @ 10:08 pm
“Moffat missed the entire point of her departure”
See, that’s where you’re going wrong. Death was never her departure. It was just set up for this, which was always going to be her end, from the very beginning. Before the beginning.
She’s always been heading to the stars.
December 5, 2015 @ 10:44 pm
Oh that was fun. Like god I want a Clara series involving her having adventures in time and space, barely missing the Doctor and snogging Jane Austen. Oh the fan fictions that’ll come out of this. I’m already coming up with an FP story for this.
I’m not entirely sure if they were the Shabogans. Then again, maybe the Doctor only saved Galifrey because the Shabogans were going to die if he didn’t and was really miffed.
He probably didn’t tear down Galifrey in this episode because he’s already done that on his Honeymoon with River, Romana, Benny, and Jamie.
No doubt the Clara spin off is going to be called “Class”.
I’ve been listening to Hang on to Your Ego by the Beach Boys lately, is there any significance to that?
December 5, 2015 @ 11:15 pm
In my headcannon it wasn’t really the time lords he regretted killing. It was the rest of Gallifrey
December 5, 2015 @ 11:16 pm
when he still thought he killed them
December 6, 2015 @ 5:04 am
Isn’t that almost explicit in the “how many children were on Gallifrey?” thing? Children tend not to be Lords…
Little Lord Fauntleroy
December 6, 2015 @ 12:49 pm
I bef to differ
December 5, 2015 @ 11:15 pm
Can I just add how much I enjoyed that extended western pastiche at the beginning? I cackled aloud when he threw his badge at the feet of the sheriff—sorry, I mean his confession at the feet of the president.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:40 am
I think the ending was a gift to Big Finish. I can see at least a 10-boxset series of adventures called Clara and Me, starring Coleman and Williams as they flit about the cosmos.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:41 am
It even has the built-in tragic ending. It’s perfect.
December 6, 2015 @ 1:34 am
I loved the fact that Moffat seems to implicitly (or maybe not so implicitly) criticise RTD’s vile handling of Donna’s departure from the TARDIS. Clara’s agency remains throughout and she steers the Doctor away from another “Timelord Victorius” to boot. Fabulous stuff.
Roderick T. Long
December 6, 2015 @ 2:01 am
So everyone assumed that the prophecy about the Hybrid’s standing in the ruins of Galllfrey meant that the Hybrid woukld cause the ruins. But no, the Hybrid just arrived in the far future when Gallifrey was already in ruins. And since the Doctor, Clara, and Ashildr all end up standing there, all three theories of the Hybrid’s identity are consistent with the prophecy.
Though I still think the Doctor fits the prophecy better.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:38 am
I love the implication that the Doctor and Clara together are the Hybrid, because only with Clara’s help can the Doctor break a billion hearts to heal his own…it just happens that those hearts are also his – he burns them all out while he’s in the confession dial.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:14 am
…okay now that is clever.
And probably should have been explicitly mentioned!
December 6, 2015 @ 2:11 am
I remain fascinated by the symbolism of the Dalek trapped in the wrong hell. As in, not lingering as angry sewer sludge to act as a guardian of the lower city on Skaro, but instead trapped and fed upon by the information vampire fibre-optics that act as guardians of what is explicitly named as the Time Lord’s hell. (Which, if we’re roping in vague handwaves that come within spitting distance of justifying fanon and the Expanded Universe material, makes a nod towards the dark side of the Matrix from the novels.)
And then there’s the idea of the Doctor as a shamanistic figure who goes into that otherworld, gains knowledge and returns changed by the experience. However the shaman often hangs around to use his experience for the good of their community, even if it’s as a liminal outsider. They don’t usually run off, only to occasionally return as a full Trickster figure and intervene by overthrowing the political order, which the Doctor has done at least twice now. Jane will go nuts with this.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:36 am
By God, Clara’s story ended up looking like a parody of Mary Sue tropes.
She’s the most important companion, she influenced Doctor as a child, she spread all over his timeline, helped him choose TARDIS, she’s now having her own TARDIS. If it was not a piece of official DW media, we’d all laughed our asses off at how presumptuous it is.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:50 am
I’m not sure whether you mean this as a good thing or as a bad thing.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:50 am
Yeah. I think it works (just), but I think we need to move away from Moffat’s grand, universe-shaking, our-main-characters-are-the-most-awesomest-thing-ever style of Doctor Who to something a little smaller in scale. (Well, at least smaller in scale for a show with a magic box that can go anywhere and anywhen in the universe).
December 6, 2015 @ 2:26 pm
Why would you accuse Clara of being the Mary Sue and not the Doctor himself? Either they both are, or neither.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:52 pm
Doctor was there from the beginning and Clara is a newcomer. Doctor is a Time Lord and Clara is a regular human who has Universe bend over to make her even more special.
December 6, 2015 @ 8:59 pm
In fairness, EvilBug described as a parody of Mary Sue tropes, not an actual Mary Sue character.
But strictly speaking, the Doctor is the main character of the series. By definition (according to the original definition of the concept, at least) you can’t be a Mary Sue if you’re already the main character, no matter how unbelievably awesome and over-the-top you are as a character, because the series is supposed to be about you anyway. The whole point of the Mary Sue is that she sucks all the narrative air away from the main character(s) in order to force herself into being the most important character when she really has no claim to the title. Jim Kirk is the bestest Star Fleet captain ever, but he’s not strictly a Mary Sue (again, according to the original definition) because the show is all about how he’s the bestest Star Fleet captain ever, for better or worse. Cadet Mary Sue showing up to completely upstage Jim Kirk at being the bestest Star Fleet captain arguably is, because she’s a character who’s come completely out of nowhere just to push Kirk out of the way and steal his thunder (usually without any real claim to it).
Of course, yes, Clara is also a main character of the series (at least in this iteration), meaning she’s not a Mary Sue either, but I read that as being kind of EvilBug’s point; if her story played out the exact same way but she was created by someone writing a fanfic series on A Teaspoon and an Open Mind instead of being written by Steven Moffat and portrayed by Jenna Coleman in 34 official TV episodes, I imagine the praise she received might be a bit less fulsome. What Moffat was arguably doing was taking the typical tropes and accusations of a Mary Sue character and seeing how well he could actually put them into practice.
December 6, 2015 @ 11:30 pm
Clara is THE MOST SPECIAL COMPANION EVER with her influence spreading way past her own era. Other companions didn’t do it. Other Doctors didn’t do it.
Being good enough to be protagonist is one thing, but wouldn’t it be objectionable if Picard got explicitly retconned his influence all over Kirk?
December 6, 2015 @ 2:49 am
Wow. Doctor Who is often talked about as a life affirming show, but it’s rarely talked about how much. I went into the episode wanting to die, and I came out wanting to live.
That was really the 10th anniversary episode for the new series, wasn’t it? It goes back and revisits the consequences of the Time War after the resolution. It really hones in on the increased relevance of the 21st century companions and what their role is. You have the Weeping Angels as one of creatures imprisoned in the by the Time Lords, joining the upper echelons of Doctor Who monsters there (and is there really any dispute?) You have the invocation of the Doctor’s post-Time War theme, and Murray Gold’s music doing what some might say it’s always threatened to – invading the narrative.
Past companions literally haunt the narrative with notably Donna, Amy and Rory and River as effectively, ghosts in the machine. You have Donna’s departure being invoked, critiqued, and ‘done right’ from an ethical perspective.
There’s also a bit of additional fridging subversion to add onto the end of Face the Raven, the plot uses the fact that the Doctor was hurt and tortured to motivate Clara, which is really quite nice.
Oh, there was so much to enjoy here, Moffat just giving masculinity a further deserved bashing, and sticking two fingers up about regenerations of race and gender by finally getting a double one on screen. The ‘so much ego’ line was wonderful, as was ‘Death is Time Lord for man flu’.
Clara’s ending is full of parallels to the Doctor. Chock full. The answer to the question of ‘Why can’t I be like you?’ turns out to be ‘I can, for a little while.’ Rather than go straight to the end, she’s decided to have a few more adventures. It’s a farewell tour! She steals a TARDIS and runs away. With a companion. For just a heartbeat, she too is Master of the Land of Fiction.
I was very concerned at points. But Moffat stuck the landing impeccably and in hindsight I loved every second.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:04 am
December 6, 2015 @ 6:30 am
December 6, 2015 @ 3:35 am
I applauded when “run you clever boy” turned up on the blackboard; I don’t think I ever expected that phrase to turn up again, and there it was, except the “and remember me” part was missing, with Clara’s story ending in the exact opposite way it began- the Doctor searching for her, but NOT knowing she looks like Jenna Coleman.
Is the barn just the only place on Gallifrey the Doctor knows how to find? I’m not sure how it’s significant here beyond that, although my mum thought the woman he first encountered there was his mother. And obviously the hybrid turned out to not really mean much beyond terrifying fans with the prospect of “half-human” becoming canonical, probably to punish them for thinking Who has a canon in the first place.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:06 am
Wow. I am the outsider here.
I loved meant of the individual conceits of the episode. The 60s TARDIS, for one thing. Capaldi’s performance. I have no problem with the gender and race changing regenerations. If the next doctor is a black woman, if the actor is up to PC’s standard, bring her on. Crank the emotions to 11. Be my guest.
Can Moff never stay in one place for more than 5 damn minutes and explore a concept? Repeated narative substitution can get very tiring.
Maybe it’s something about my mental state when I watched last night. But there seemed to be something reckless in the writing, fitting the recklessness of the companion. That’s it. Reckless.
I’m genuinely happy that everyone else thought so highly of it , mind you. Sorry to be the curmudgeon.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:34 pm
He’s been exploring the themes of memory and story, of beginnings and endings, of leaving home and returning, for multiple series now. Have another go at it. Just don’t approach what he’s doing like it’s another database.
December 6, 2015 @ 3:16 pm
Maybe just ennui on my part. But not a database.
“He’s been exploring the themes of memory and story, of beginnings and endings, of leaving home and returning, for multiple series now”
I suppose I could ask “Thanks Mr M. I wonder if we could look at something else?” After a while, you know, I long for a base under siege. Mind you, along comes Lake/Flood and I change my mind rapidly.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:22 am
Yeah, the one thing about Clara’s sad farewell in Face the Raven is that it’s just not long enough. It needed another twenty minutes to really breathe.
But yes, a perfect end for Clara. She and Ashildir/Me fly off in a different TARDIS and do the Doctor thing but as an equal partnership of two women. Can I watch that show instead of Doctor Who please?
Clara redeemed from death. Yeah, cheaty in all the usual Moffaty ways, but also good. There’s no sense in which her sacrifice in Face the Raven is undermined. It’s as real as it ever was.
Also redeemed, the horrible business of the Doctor forcing amnesia on Donna against her will. Addressed and apologised for. Never be cruel or cowardly, and if you are make amends.
The gender/racebending regeneration. Good stuff, obviously… though I do kind-of miss the days when the Time Lords were all old white guys. If there’s any group in the Doctor Who universe who deserve to be represented exclusively as old white guys, it’s those stuck-up, two-faced, destructive gits. The whole point of them used to be that they’re the rotten establishment. I guess that was a 70s thing. Now it’s fair to say that the rotten establishment is more inclusive while still being the rotten establishment.
It’s still a good objection to Moffat that he egotistically and needlessly overwrites his own ideas on top of continuity… but you also have to factor in what Phil says as a genuine defence. The mistake Phil makes, with respect, is saying that Moffat has always done it in this open-ended way. It’s actually a comparatively recent development in his approach. Which is to his credit. It shows his growing as a writer.
Sad we didn’t get the Gallifreyan revolution that looked like it might be about to happen. On the other hand, glad that the Doctor’s interest in Gallifrey amounted to little more than using it to get Clara back. That’s the usual renunciation of the political in favour of the personal, but it’s also a rejection of the values of Gallifrey.
Those people weren’t Shabogans. I liked them, but they weren’t. Shabogans are inside the Capitol. Urban workers with attitude. Doomed always to be left unseen. Moffat did the right thing with the Shabogans. He mentioned them but didn’t show them.
I liked the Cloisters too. The Matrix (the group consciousness of the Time Lords) becomes a literal haunted basement.
So the Hybrid is left open-ended. Good. It was always a mcguffin. Not even that really. Just dispense with it. Good drama? Possibly not. But pleasing to me.
On the whole, much more pleasing to me than last week. I saw last week coming all over the place. This surprised me more than once. I much prefer Moffat in storytelling mode (shaggy dogs and all) to Moffat in puzzlebox mode.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:02 am
Couple more things:
I’ve been critical of Moffat in the past for his sitcom gender essentialism. That made an unwelcome reappearance this week with the jibes about “man flu” and “how do you cope with the ego”. Same old war-of-the-sexes rubbish posing as a (much needed) critique of toxic masculinity. Gender essentialism is ultimately on the side of patriarchy.
On the other hand, compare and contrast the fates of Clara and Katniss Everdene. I think Moffat has clearly grown beyond his old tick of reducing women to domesticity. He does the reverse here of what he has done elsewhere. Clara doesn’t settle down, she flies off into the universe to be a social actor. The Doctor has performed the duty of being the force drawing her out into that role, and she has now taken it over, and achieved full autonomy.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:39 am
Surely the man flu comment is just saying that Time Lords are overdramatic and prone to exaggeration (even more apt, because it implicates himself)? I didn’t really read the ego thing as gender essentialism either. In a male dominated environment like the armed forces, there’s a tendency to play up ego, is that not what toxic masculinity is?
December 6, 2015 @ 8:06 am
…pointed out by a woman, as if women are incapable of ego? Sitcom gender essentialism.
December 6, 2015 @ 9:59 am
Yeah, like we’re not supposed to have egos?
Thank the Goddess for Missy.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:19 pm
Having rewatched the episode, the Doctor had the line about the man flu.
December 7, 2015 @ 12:53 am
I’m trying not to read it as gender essentialism- perhaps, as a biological male, he found himself afforded certain privileges that boosted his ego. With that lens, the remark seems fair enough (obviously here I’m completely ignoring the fact that this was written by the man who wrote Coupling- but it’s not unfair to suggest that he has matured A LOT since then)
As for the Man Flu comment- that’s again more about socially constructed privilege than gender essentialism, surely? To me, Man Flu has always been about men thinking their pain and suffering is inherently greater and more deserving of attention and pity than that experienced by women, while women have been taught to suffer in silence. Getting kicked in the balls really, really hurts, but the descriptions I’ve heard of heavier menstrual cramps seem fairly similar.
(I really struggled with gender pronouns in that first bit and gave up because timelords aren’t real)
December 7, 2015 @ 12:59 am
Ugh I don’t like how that menstrual cramp comment came out. It’s in reference to many cis men I know (myself included) telling cis women how they couldn’t possibly comprehend the level of pain that is getting kicked in the balls, without ever understanding the level of privilege and blindness to the experiences of others required to make such a statement.
December 7, 2015 @ 8:58 am
Funny, I’ve always seen “Man Flu” as women telling men to suffer in silence, and that their pain is overstated.
Certainly it is a mocking term of male suffering, and I wonder how responsible it may be for men putting off seeking medical advice for too long and negatively impacting their longterm health, as seems to be a trend in western men.
December 8, 2015 @ 12:36 am
I think men putting off seeking medical advice and treatment is entirely the fault of patriarchal ideals. As Jack said, gender essentialism benefits the patriarchy. That this has been internalised by others doesn’t change its origin. It’s less “women telling men to suffer in silence” and more “Men telling men and women to tell men to suffer in silence”. The fact that it leads to serious illness and death is just another example of how shitty and pervasive these patriarchal values are. Men make quite a show of their suffering in silence, when all is said and done- there’s something performative in the stiff upper lip. A supposed show of strength that is in fact bloody-minded and dangerous. Meanwhile women are expected to suffer in true silence, to make their suffering genuinely invisible to men. So I can appreciate the eye-rolling frustration that leads to terms like “Man Flu”.
I’m aware that I’m not communicating very well here.
December 6, 2015 @ 6:48 am
“Sad we didn’t get the Gallifreyan revolution that looked like it might be about to happen. On the other hand, glad that the Doctor’s interest in Gallifrey amounted to little more than using it to get Clara back. That’s the usual renunciation of the political in favour of the personal, but it’s also a rejection of the values of Gallifrey.”
Yes I really did like this element too. I did have in my head prior to the episode a great Gallifrey shattering story that would be wrought on the Time Lords by the Doctor, but I am real glad in a way that it didn’t happen. Now that the door is opened again to Gallifrey – or is it? One thing I loved was the fungible nature of many of the ideas presented here – there is the future possibility for such stories to happen.
December 6, 2015 @ 10:03 am
Interesting how the Doctor’s friends outside the Cabin all huddle around him while he eat his tomato (red) soup. Combined with that shot being “created” by the black-and-white monitor of an airship of warcraft, it shows the Doctor as adopting the tactics of some of the people on the other side of the so-called “War on Terror.”
December 7, 2015 @ 1:11 am
Yes it does Jane!
December 8, 2015 @ 5:54 pm
I thought that too. The Doctor viewed down the lens of a drone, in a season which has already toyed with drone warfare imagery. A damning indictment of Gallifrey in an episode that crams several such indictments into a very short space.
December 6, 2015 @ 4:38 am
Those who are, inevitably, calling for a Clara and Me spin-off series are misinterpreting the nature and purpose of the open ended character escape. As long as we never see them, Clara’s adventures in Space and Time preserve her character, suspended like a fly in amber between her last heartbeats. If we show them it devalues the currency and she becomes a lesser character. She needs to remain a tantalising might-have-been out there somewhere in the swirling vortex of the Land of Fiction along with Jenny, Susan and the Meddling Monk.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:12 am
Yes, that was my reaction too – Moffat found a way to give Clara an ending akin to Amy whilst doing something different; properly joyful and properly tragic but severely diminished if the character is revisited.
I mean, I’m still in two minds about whether The Sarah Jane Adventures were a good idea. Then again, it could have been worse. We could have got Rose Tyler: Defender of Earth. Oh wait, I suppose we did, didn’t we?
December 6, 2015 @ 6:37 am
“As long as we never see them, Clara’s adventures in Space and Time preserve her character, suspended like a fly in amber between her last heartbeats.”
Absolutely. I don’t want to see those stories ever, in the same way that Jack says it was good that the Shabogans were unseen.
Showing them, televising them or presenting them on Big Finish would devalue them in the same way that I feel the Time War will be with the upcoming Eighth and War Doctor stories.
Little Lord Fauntleroy
December 6, 2015 @ 12:55 pm
Let’s be honest, though, there’s going to be a Clara and Me series if Big Finish is able to book both Coleman and Williams.
December 6, 2015 @ 3:23 pm
Luckily it won’t be compulsory to listen to it.
December 7, 2015 @ 1:13 am
Yup, I won’t listen either. Don’t know if I will to the Time War ones also.
December 8, 2015 @ 2:45 pm
I would say the simple reality that a sixty-year-old Elisabeth Sladen was given the lead role in her own science fiction adventure series easily outweighs any potential damage done to the legacy of Sarah Jane as a character.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:15 am
I think the best actual final episode. Maybe not the best when considering two-part finales in general but certainly the best of the actual final episodes.
Rather than failing on the premise of the penultimate, it took a different direction and also commented on previous endings.
Lovecraft in Brooklyn
December 6, 2015 @ 5:20 am
Reminded me of the Bob Dylan movie Masked & Anonymous and Jodorowsky Westerns. Perfect.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:28 am
This might have been intentionally or not but SM seems to open the door for a secret companion we have meet.
When he talks about mind-wiping companions he says he ‘normally’ does it via telepathy – I don’t think we have ever see him do it to anyone on-screen but Donna… so ‘normally…’
In regards to companion death – we are now at the stage where the most shocking thing for SM to do is “do an Adric” -the companion dies and they die quickly with no long good-bye.
December 6, 2015 @ 6:44 am
At this point Moffat’s cliffhangers are less about “what would happen” and more about “Will Moffat ruin show for good or only partially”
Turns out my worst expectations were not true for which I immensely grateful. 10/10 will forget like fever dream.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:10 am
Meh. I know I’m in a funny mood today anyway, but I felt very little.
I mean, intellectually I’m thinking there were a lot of very interesting things going on there, but emotionally? I got more out of the previous 2 episodes. And I got a lot more out of the “The Woman Who Lived”.
And for me, the Zygon story was the standout of the season.
Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are possibly the best leading pair the show has had, and it’s a pity it’s over. But it’s even more of a pity that Clara just was only used well very intermittently this season.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:41 am
What an episode. So happy to see Clara back and almost cheered when I saw that the diner was a Tardis! But I definitely cheered when the retro Tardis appeared, AND when Clara formed her own narrative and went off travelling with Me. Brilliant.
The Matrix as a haunted basement is brilliant too, as is the gender/race bending vision of the Time Lords. I especially enjoyed how things are still open in some story elements, such as what the Hybrid really was – but I’m not bothered about pinning such things down – and often prefer it when things are left flexible and mysterious.
Before the Flood
Heaven Sent/Hell Bent
December 6, 2015 @ 8:00 am
A comparatively minor nit I know, but … How is it possible that (a) the Mire are so naff that they can be defeated by threatening to put an embarrassing video of them on Intergalactic Youtube accompanied by the Benny Hill theme despite the fact that they have “immortality chips” that allow one to survive unaging until the heat death of the universe.
December 6, 2015 @ 8:54 am
I suspect Moffat would say “testosterone poisoning.” (He seems to have a tendency towards gender essentiallism.) It was important, to them, that they not merely be tough, but be seen as tough, macho Alpha-male types. Or you might call it a performance of toxic masculinity – a man must maintain the image, at all costs.
December 6, 2015 @ 10:05 am
They didn’t have good enough firepower, and I presume the patch doesn’t completely negate possibility of violent death.
The problem with reading you offered though is that they only lost because they were weak beta sissies who can’t properly fight. Real men with real firepower would just nuke Doctor and everyone else from orbit or whatever. Daleks, or Sontarans have real guns and don’t need to appear to be brave.
December 6, 2015 @ 8:59 am
Doesn’t the doctor fiddle with it to make it work on humans? So I assume that it works differently on the actual Mire – for them it’s not an immortality patch, it’s just a super-advanced medical kit.
December 6, 2015 @ 9:20 am
In his Production Notes column in DWM Moffat says he went back and forth on that, and this is currently his opinion as well.
(Notice that the Mire are not present at the end of the universe.)
December 6, 2015 @ 12:58 pm
Yeah, this bugged me too. The Mire technology giving Ashildr several thousand years, a million years, of unaging life – sure, okay, I can buy that. 4 billion? Surely the chip would break down long before that.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:42 pm
But she has 4 billion years to find other options if that’s a problem. In any event, the chip’s become a part of her. If the human body is just an organic machine, then you either don’t think immortality is possible or you accept the chip can keep both Me and itself going.
December 7, 2015 @ 2:20 pm
She didn’t necessarily live 4 billion years. Since the Time Lords ended up being involved in the trap she sprung on the Doctor, she could well have been transported there by way of TARDIS, as a last-ditch interrogation effort.
December 7, 2015 @ 11:53 am
There’s nothing to suggest that by the time we meet her in Hell Bent (or Face the Raven, or even The Woman Who Lived for that matter), the Mire chip is the only thing responsible for Me’s longevity. Certainly, if you’re very long-lived and have a desire to live even longer, you’re in an ideal position to take your time in looking for (or creating) a way to put death off for another aeon or three.
December 6, 2015 @ 8:19 am
My current feeling is that if Sleep No More is considered to be a failure, it’s been a very good season indeed (and I certainly think it was a very good season overall.) Personally, I rank it higher than most people seem to be doing, but then this season has had some great examples of people doing Moffat better than Moffat – although to be fair we also had an example of Moffat doing Moffat better than Moffat. (And now the word Moffat just looks like a meaningless set of letters to me. Moffat really must go.)
December 8, 2015 @ 5:52 pm
Solution: we all call him Steven, which is what he says he wants anyway!
December 6, 2015 @ 9:57 am
Nobody else seems to have pointed this out so far, so it falls to me I guess? Of all of the oddball cultural references that Doctor Who has pulled off this season, this was possibly the weirdest: the Doctor as… the Six-String Samurai?
Normally I’d say “probably just a coincidence”, but this comes at the end of a season that gave us a long homage to Alien3 so maybe not?
December 6, 2015 @ 10:23 am
You’re probably right. I was definitely getting a self-aware post-Tarantino ’90s desert neo-noir vibe from the diner scenes. Throw in the guitar & the Elvis pic, and…
December 6, 2015 @ 2:15 pm
Uh holy shit, I may be the last person on earth to have realized this, but: Rachel Talalay is also the director of TANK GIRL. Probability of the SSS reference being intentional upgraded to 99.44%
Also: HOLY SHIT THE DIRECTOR OF TANK GIRL DIRECTED THE DOCTOR WHO SEASON FINALE. TWICE.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:36 pm
Even cooler: She got her start working for John Waters.
December 6, 2015 @ 2:23 pm
Come to think of it, it’s kind of peculiar that both the Earth and Gallifrey sequences take place largely in pastiche-Western desert settings.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:44 pm
For a few moments I thought that the Gallifrey capital had been transported to Nevada, and the Doctor’s command to “get off my planet” referred to Earth.
December 6, 2015 @ 12:15 pm
Searching through the comments, I haven’t seen anyone (and sorry if I’ve missed you) reference the quite wonderful visual effect that surrounds Clara as she’s seen from the extraction box thingy. Some here might be too young to really remember how TVs looked in the days of the cathode ray tube, but it seems to me very clear that this episode is referencing the way colour TVs used to look like when they were malfunctioning, or their screen was blurred by, say, tears. Memories become stories, sure, but stories become memories too. Memories of sitting cross-legged in front of a gigantic glowing box displaying pictures assembled from tiny collections of red, green and blue lights, watching stories of a young man in a cricketer’s outfit decorated with celery, as he spent his days saving everyone he could.
Which is a nice nod in the direction of a fact every Doctor Who fan has had to reconcile themselves to; sometimes memories are where stories go when they’ve gone.
December 6, 2015 @ 5:11 pm
Yeah, even on first watch I thought “Oh, Phil’s gonna be all over this,” but alas.
December 6, 2015 @ 7:06 pm
I saw it, but it struck me more as an Eruditorum thought than a review thought.
December 7, 2015 @ 8:48 am
The malfunctioning TV and the tears are actually two separate, but related effects. Both are due to the different colors of the image misaligned, so for example the red and blue parts of the image are shifted slightly, creating red and blue “edges” to everything. The TV one is actually because the colors are misaligned–its placing the red dots in the wrong places. The tear effect is a phenomenon called chromatic aberration, and has to do with the fact that a lens bends different wavelengths of light different amounts. The tear is acting like a little lens, and pushing the different wavelengths in different directions.
Of course, chromatic aberration was studied and explained by no less an alchemist than Sir Isaac Newton himself…
December 6, 2015 @ 2:51 pm
Upon rewatching, I conclude that the current series really is written for the digital age of the rewatch. There’s so much hidden in the episode to be uncovered the second time around.
Best example here: the pull back when Clara is telling the Doctor something in the Cloister. We think we don’t get to hear what she’s saying, but in fact, Gold’s music is allowing us to do just that.
OK, time for a little fanwankery:
1. Me saved River. Because who else would have put the Library together other than Me?
2. Me had two chairs and a chess-set arranged at the end of the universe. Why should we suppose the second chair was for the Doctor? He didn’t sit down, after all. What if the second chair was always for Clara?
I am now imagining the next universe forming with Clara and Me as the two Guardians. Much improvement on two old men wearing birds on their heads.
3. The Time Lords really are remarkably stupid, aren’t they? I guess they’re the logical endpoint of the Peter Principle. Alternately, they’re the embodiment of a particular subtype of Doctor Who fan.
December 6, 2015 @ 8:31 pm
What is this “oversignification” of which you speak?
December 7, 2015 @ 12:35 am
Um… a bit of a side track; only a small derailment, I promise.
Hi Kate, only time I’ve actually had a chance to say ‘Hi’, so I’m just gonna say it, “G’day”. I met you way back, and I mean way back, at Console ’88 at Sydney Uni. My first ever Who convention. So much water under the metaphorical bridge since then.
Very much looking forward to the Podcast with yourself and Phil on ‘Hell Bent’, and thanks for all the great book memories over the years.
December 7, 2015 @ 5:24 am
Now I’m even more nervous XD
December 7, 2015 @ 10:11 am
As I understand it, “oversignification” means that it takes lots of different important influences and blends them together in such a way that a huge variety of meanings can be interpreted. We’ve got plenty of pieces put together, but the end result is still fractured. There’s so single interpretation that the episode signifies with any special amount of truth.
So in Hell Bent, we’ve got tons of Classic Series iconographies and references, plus plenty of new stuff, and it’s not clear what’s important, what’s a dangling plot thread, what symbols mean what, etc. So that’s why Phil says Moffat takes an “it’s all true” approach and could easily follow up this by deciding that some detail (like overthrowing the High Council) is suddenly super important.
Good luck on this week’s podcast!
December 9, 2015 @ 1:56 am
Cheers mate – it went well. 🙂
December 6, 2015 @ 8:56 pm
Well that was fairly fantastic, although I was worried in the first 15 minutes or so that we were just getting Visual Big Finish. Me at the end of the universe was fantastic. The fact that she remembered Clara so easily suggests to me that they may have met again, or that in the past couple of billion years she had some memory-enhancing surgery.
My rankings currently stand as follows (1 and 2 may swap at any moment)
** The Zygon two parter was much better television than 5 through 8 on my list, but I am violently allergic to its politics, hence the low ranking
December 6, 2015 @ 9:52 pm
The fact that she remembered Clara so easily suggests to me that they may have met again, or that in the past couple of billion years she had some memory-enhancing surgery.
Or that she kept her journals. (Though they probably weren’t on paper anymore.)
December 6, 2015 @ 9:59 pm
…though after you’ve lived that long, just keeping up with the journals you’ve already written will require some violent culling.
December 7, 2015 @ 12:43 am
Further observation on rewatch: Talalay is very, very good at pointing the camera at Capaldi’s face.
December 7, 2015 @ 5:34 am
I fell in love with T’Nia Miller on the spot. But am I the only person who wonders if Gallifreyans come in colours other than Black and white?
December 7, 2015 @ 11:59 am
You think they call him Gold Usher because of his outfit?
December 7, 2015 @ 1:29 pm
I think that’s less a problem with Gallifrey’s makeup specifically than the BBC’s casting practices in general.
December 7, 2015 @ 2:10 pm
Lovely episode with many plausible readings, all of which cast a different light on previous episodes. http://kristinking.org/2015/12/07/ambiguity-in-doctor-who-hell-bent/
December 7, 2015 @ 5:35 pm
What struck me is that when the general regenerated:
a) there was no regeneration sickness at all. The general got up and went right to business. This indicates to me that the higher-ups on Galifrey get better regeneration tech than the renegades. Or maybe being on Gallifrey means the regeneration works better for some reason?
b) The general regenerated lying down, which is something the original series doctors did but none of the new series doctors have. Maybe early in the general’s cycle? Maybe the general is high enough up not to have an end to the cycle or have more than 12 regenerations?
December 12, 2015 @ 10:53 am
c) The General actively wanted to regenerate. The regeneration effect was a little more drawn-out than the “sneeze” of 11-12, but much faster than the Doctor’s usual dramatic regenerations.
When he changed into a woman, I just went, “Uh-huh…Romana.” Something about his lines in “Day of the Doctor” reminded me of Romana from Big Finish’s take on “Shada,” and the character overall made me think, “Sounds like they go back much longer than just the War.”
December 7, 2015 @ 6:07 pm
They hybrid was a prophecy. And prophecy is often not about a specific truth, but rather a universal truth. Consider “there will be war, and rumors of war.” That doesn’t mean any given war or rumor of war suddenly means a specific event will happen. It indicates that, just as wars and rumors of war always happen, the other events in the prophecy are symbolic of something eternal or ongoing.
So the Time Lords have prophecy about a hybrid creature, one that can destroy space and time. What does that prophecy tell us about their culture? A certain level of xenophobia, and fear of miscegenation – they don’t like to see Time Lords mixing with other species. Also an existential fear of the potential destructiveness of their own technology.
December 7, 2015 @ 10:50 pm
And, as such, a fear of alchemy. No wonder the Sisters brought popcorn!
December 8, 2015 @ 12:30 am
Just have to mention that the ending reminded of the short lived TV series The Nightmare Cafe about a cafe that allows travel through time and dimensions with Robert Englund as basically The Doctor/The Devil.
December 8, 2015 @ 7:38 am
As a long time commenter on the Eruditorum I hope no-one minds if I put a link to my overview of Series 9 here.
A lot of it will be familiar from conversations I’ve enjoyed on this forum and is very much inspired by and indebted to the analyses of Phil, Jane and Jack. It’s themes of ‘agency’ and ‘performativity’ while rooted in my own practical and academic work in drama studies were also suggested by the excellent conversation over at Pex Lives between Phil and Elliot Chapman.
I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to leave a comment
December 8, 2015 @ 5:51 pm
This was great! I particularly liked your emphatic assertion about not seeing the adventures of Clara and Me, because they hang in the moment of a heartbeat and to fix them, to pin them down, would be a kind of narrative tyranny. Lovely stuff.
December 8, 2015 @ 7:31 pm
December 8, 2015 @ 5:44 pm
Excellent review/comments on an excellent episode.
I would also like to raise the symbolism here of the Time Lord “gothic repression” under-domain being paralleled with the portrayal of the Daleks’ Lovecraftian horrors sitting underneath their city. Both are empires founded on monstrosities swept under the carpet – and in both instances, the Doctor and Clara find their way out, their escape, via the chink in the oh-so-pompous and imperial grandeur. I thought that quite a neat move on Moffat’s part. (I saw this comment made somewhere else on t’Interweb and I’ve already forgotten where – could well be one of these noble commenters here on one of their own blogs – in which case apologies, and kudos for a well-made point),
Also of interest to me:
re: “the delicious vagueness” of this episode, I can only agree. So many wonderful open ends throughout: the woman in the barn (I agree that she seems like a housekeeper/nanny type rather than aunt, mother, grandmother, etc, but all are plausible – as indeed is father, now we know that transgender regenerations are canon), the stories about the moon and the President’s wife (was Missy lying? Did she pick up the wrong myth from the Shobogans? was the Doctor a little girl?), the eventual fate of Rassilon and the High Council, and of course the question of whether the Doctor retains his memory at the end (either way works, and either way is both beautiful and sad).
I love the dramatisation of the “Hell Bent” idea, done with enormous subtlety (arguably too much, leading to Jon Blum saying over on Facebook that he wanted to see it as dramatic as The Waters of Mars). But look how gorgeously done it is: the Doctor sitting in the very same chair in which we saw Rassilon (when he looked like James Bond) vapourising that female Time Lord on the council – a visual signifier of how far he is going wrong. The way 12 leans out of the TARDIS and beckons to Clara in her single remaining half-heartbeat, echoing the way 10 famously beckoned a guy with Peter Capaldi’s face to escape his own raven (and, of course, we were reminded of this earlier in the series) – a distortion of his very own demand that he hold himself to the mark . It’s done with such a light touch, and I can see why some might prefer a weightier blow, but I for one adored it.
the sheer joy that the Twitter account Whovian Feminism stated after this episode (as retweeted by Paul Cornell): “This might be the most explicitly feminist Doctor Who episode ever”.
John G Wood
December 9, 2015 @ 4:49 am
Well, I loved that. The whole “no right answers, every story is true” thing was just what I wanted, as it turned out; and I loved all the trolling (half-human, indeed). In particular, Moffat got me with the possibility that the Doctor was going to repeat the Donna memory wipe, which enhanced the eventual rejection of that. Clara got another good exit (which, actually, was one of my key worries when it seemed she was coming back after Face the Raven), and in all it was a brilliant tenth anniversary celebration.
Story rankings (after a single viewing for most of these):
1. Face the Raven/Heaven Sent/Hell Bent
2. The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
3. The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived
4. Sleep No More
5. The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar
6. Under the Lake/Before the Flood
Episode rankings (ditto):
1. Heaven Sent
2. The Zygon Inversion
3. Hell Bent
4. The Woman Who Lived
5. The Girl Who Died
6. The Zygon Invasion
7. Under the Lake
8. Face the Raven
9. The Witch’s Familiar
10. Sleep No More
11. The Magician’s Apprentice
12. Before the Flood
These might shift a bit (except the hugely disappointing Before the Flood), but my main impressions are that this was a really solid season with probably the best finale to date (I’m almost certain that it won’t fall out of my top three, even after it’s lost its immediacy). Eight of the episodes were, I think, well above average, with only one well below. I remained engaged with the “clever clever” episode this time around, unlike Midnight and The Big Bang (to pick the examples from the two previous seasons that were vying for my Most Consistent award). I’m a happy camper right now.
December 10, 2015 @ 7:09 pm
Okay, I’ve looked at the ‘Hell Bent’ script. Steven Moffat does not call the soup people the Shabogans. Furthermore, in the ONE place where he uses the word, Steven Moffat spells ‘Shabogans’ correctly. I like Steven Moffat tonight. Steven Moffat got it right BUT I DON’T LIKE CAPTCHA BECAUSE I FUCKING DID ENTER THE FUCKING LETTERS PICTURED YOU FUCKING BASTARD I’VE ENTERED THE FUCKING LETTERS PICTURED FIVE TIMES NOW FOR FUCKSSAKE
December 12, 2015 @ 12:58 pm
Wow, I’m pretty impressed the people around the barn are not referred to as Shabogans – brilliant news!
I was really hoping this would be the case and I’m so pleased – thanks Jack!
(I hate CAPTCHA too)
December 15, 2015 @ 9:44 pm
While I’m aware that this moment has well and truly passed, I happened to be unable to get to the episode for over a week. Life stuff. But for the record, I’ll just leave my one salient thought here.
Thank you, Phil and all the regular contributors and commenters, for opening my eyes to the goodness of this era of Who.
I’ve mentioned before that I am a fuddy duddy, and have been dissatisfied with a lot of the storytelling in Who over the past years. But seeing this episode, and reading this post, have opened my eyes to what has been going on. In my eyes at least, it has been this:
The old series more or less tried desperately (especially under JNT) to stick with traditional storytelling, in the end foundering under the weight of its own continuity. It limped along to its grave under Cartmel, who tried valiantly to change its approach, but it was too little too late for the vast viewing public.
When RTD revived it in 2005, the gambit of the Time War effectively cauterised the large continuity problem. That freed him up to do what he wanted to do, and was used to seeing and thinking of Doctor Who as: Good traditional storytelling.
When Steven took it over, without any distance from RTD’s version, and already carrying a heavy weight of that traditional continuity, he quite rightly came to the conclusion that the same approach could not keep working. That has meant traditional storytelling taking a second priority to innovation. They’re both there, but innovation must win out, because the other way lies death.
And fair enough. I didn’t enjoy Hell Bent as a piece of televisual storytelling. But conceptually, and in what it does for the series, it is insanely brilliant. It embodies and makes real the “it’s all true, even the stuff that is contraditory” position. I forget now who wrote it, but I read a version of that some years ago on this blog: That every story of Doctor Who is true. Every episode, radio play, comic book, film, piece of fanfic, and every game of Daleks you played in the schoolyard. They’re all true.
Damnit, but thinking of it that way makes ME want to write Clara and Ashildir in their 50’s cafe fanfic.
September 17, 2016 @ 10:17 pm
I already knew from even the most cursory reading of this website that I would be the outsider here. I can respect and appreciate the eruditorum for the amount of mental and imaginative effort that it represents but I always knew that I was rarely if ever going to agree with what was actually being said.
Here in particular I feel obligated to provide what is seemingly only the second dissenting view in this comment section by saying that Hell Bent was GHASTLY!
Most of the previous post-RTD finales left me cold already. While I found The Big Bang to be a jewel its successors were deeply unsatisfactory. The Wedding of River Song felt rushed, haphazard and unsatisfactory. The Name of the Doctor did nothing for me. Death in Heaven was a chore to absorb.
Then we get to this episode, which I would call a special kind of evil.
Clara was always a divisive character for all the reasons that companions usually are, but she seemed to take them to a whole new level. Rose got flack for taking thematic attention away from the Doctor, for having too much of his life revolve around her and for being promoted almost to the point of deification (most notably with her absorption of the time vortex and creation of herself as Bad Wolf). Miss Oswald so dwarfs her in these matters that she (and indeed every other companion) becomes negligible by contrast.
Where Rose had the odd moment of carrying the narrative without the Doctor, Clara has a whole episode set up for it, as well as getting her face in the opening for the sake of a bad joke.
Whereas Rose led herself and the Doctor around for one year by a series of cryptic messages, Clara gets inserted into the Doctor’s time stream thousands of times over, directing every single moment of his life all the way back to his early childhood.
Whereas Ten spent two years (or, at most, five-ish) being mildly sad that Rose has gone, Eleven and Twelve expend hundreds and then billions of years apparently pining for her.
Whereas Ten peaked through the void to bid farewell, Twelve tries to violate every law of time to annul the consequence of Clara’s own stupid mistake.
Whereas Rose gets a bitter-sweet relegation to Pete’s World (with her father and even a not-quite-Doctor, but with her space-time exploration days behind her), Clara gets the mother of all golden goodbyes in the form of her own TARDIS and practical immortality.
Clara deserved the appellations of Creator’s Pet and Mary Sue more thoroughly than did any other character in any fictional series that I know.
Series 8 was often something one endured rather than enjoyed. Partly this was down to the ever more blatant staleness of the once-interesting Moffat tropes but also it was down to the huge overemphasis placed on Clara, to the extent that the Doctor was almost a side character in some episodes and becoming a human doormat for her (well, Time Lord, obviously) in others.
In Series 9 I was cautiously optimistic when I realised that there had been an abrupt change and all of a sudden Clara had been dialled down to a more conventional companion role. Had the writers learned from past mistakes? Were they making up for the previous year’s excesses? No, they hadn’t really gotten rid of that stuff, they were just saving it up for the finale.
So it came to pass that Hell Bent contained a whole season’s worth of poison compressed into a single episode. I despised practically every single thing about it, from the aimless padding that was the barn scene, to the Doctor casually murdering the guy who’d just been helping him, to the “Look at us, we’re so progressive!” regeneration, to excruciatingly blatant attempts to stall for time regarding the reveal of the hybrid (only to finally shrug it off with a series of pseudo-intellectual nothingness by Ashildr at the end) and, of course, the aforementioned golden goodbye for Clara.
What’s even worse is that we know Moffat can do so much better. We know because he showed us as much just seven days prior. Heaven Sent was beyond brilliant, it was such a masterpiece that it caused all the ex-fans (the ones who had long since lost faith in the showrunner) to realise that Yes, there IS still hope! He CAN still write an excellent story that is free of his tired old clichés. It was a revelation – for a brief, shining moment all his previous wrongs were forgiven.
In the week before that we had Face the Raven. This was also very well received and while I did not personally see the episode as one of the best, I did at least find myself approving of the manner of Clara’s death. This part is key – her fans and non-fans alike found it to be (for rather different reasons) an apt departure. After years of highly divisive storytelling and characters, there finally came a production which united the factions with a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
….aaaand then along came this putrid sewer of despair to render both of those utterly worthless. Clara’s beautiful death scene is reduced to mere spectacle, shorn of all ultimate meaning by its swift revocation. Likewise, the Hell Bent makes a mockery of the Doctor’s hard slog through eternal grief as becomes immediately obvious that, as with Series 6, he has learned nothing at all.
I could go on but there is nothing more that I can say which Mr Tardis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdTWlZkMH24) and He Who Moans (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnBlCZUO0go). Their analyses might not be as high-brow or as philosophically complex as Phil would give, but I would deem them in the end to be the more accurate.