Monday, 23 November 2015

Doctor Who: Face the Raven

"I guarantee the safety of Clara Oswald."

At last Doctor Who does a story in that strange genre of otherworldly streets in our world, of China Mieville and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It's brilliantly atmospheric and really fits into Who although (yes, I'm coming to the elephant in the room, just wait)..) in an episode like this it isn't developed much and is pretty much reduced to some very interesting background colour.

It's also nice, after Flatline, to see a developed, maturer version of Rigsy. I like the character and wouldn't mind seeing him again. Similarly, Ashildr's reappearance is very welcome and she gets more good character development. I love the idea that, being immortal but with a finite memory, she remembers Clara only from reading her own diaries.

But... yeah. Let's spend the rest of this blog post talking about Clara's death, shall we? Because that's where the episode stands or falls. It's certainly a much-telegraphed death throughout the whole season, but this episode in particular goes out of it's way to show Clara having fun during her travels with the Doctor as never before. And this is her downfall, her carefree adventurer's spirit that leads her to do something brave, reckless and foolishly heroic. Arguably, she dies from being Doctorish. It's his influence that kills her. Except that the Doctor is privileged by the narrative to get away with outrageously foolish acts of heroism, whereas Clara, however awesome, is just... human. And it's that heroic hubris that kills her. She behaves like a Time Lady, and a human just can't keep doing that and live.

It's certainly a visually effective companion death, worthy to sit alongside Katarina, Sara Kingdom and that Alzarian boy. And, as an episode, it's a superb way of telling a companion death. Except... I'm not sure it's a sufficiently big and important death, season arc-wise, to honour such a huge and awesome companion like Clara, once a mere "Impossible Girl" plot point under Matt Smith but who blossomed into awesomeness under Peter Capaldi. What we have here is a very good episode by promising newcomer Sarah Dollard on its own terms which doesn't quite succeed at the huge wider job it had to do.

Oh, and the Doctor has been captured, by persons unknown. Let's not assume they're necessarily Time Lords. I mean, they obviously are but let's not...

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