In the twelfth and final episode of the ninth series of Doctor Who, the Doctor discovers who imprisoned him. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
I won’t parse words here at the start. I enjoyed the hell out of this episode, even if it contains a couple of things that Moffat and company had largely cast aside throughout season nine. The scope of this story is huge, the action was exciting, and Clara’s final adventure was pretty damn cool. Plus, one of my issues was addressed just a bit: Clara gets to be her own character, and her fierce rejection of the Doctor’s plan is one of the best things we’ve gotten from her.
It’s not a perfect episode, and it’s one of the only episodes aside from “Sleep No More” that didn’t totally work for me. Otherwise? Y’all, I’m just so thrilled that series nine was so goddamn good. INCREDIBLY GOOD. LET’S DISCUSS THE FINALE.
I have no idea where this episode was filmed, but “Hell Bent” gives an eerie grandeur to Gallifrey, and it made me so excited to see more of the place. Unfortunately, that contributed to me feeling like Gallifrey was underused for the story, but it’s a hard balance to strike. “Hell Bent” starts off so large and so huge and ends in a locale that is the literal smallest place in the universe and in time. The scope of it might still be massive, but it’s a fascinating choice for the narrative.
Still, I loved seeing the city and the High Council and the Cloisters, all things that felt new and exciting to me. The return of Rassilon was a blast because HE GOT COMPLETELY DESTROYED. Y’all, Rassilon is fucked up, isn’t he? He tormented the Master back during Ten’s run, and now? Well, he’s back to tormenting again, since he’s responsible for Clara’s death and for imprisoning the Doctor in the Confession Dial. It’s understandable, then, that the military would reject Rassilon so completely. The Doctor is a war hero to all of them!
The possibilities presented by Gallifrey are bigger than this, though. We see inside the High Council Meeting room; we learn of extraction chambers, which allow the Time Lords to “extract” a person right before their death; we see the Cloisters and Cloister Wraiths and the Matrix, which for me was a first. (I think? I can’t recall seeing them before.) All of this is a red herring of sorts, not because it’s unimportant, but because the Doctor’s intentions are hidden from the audience. We think he’s going to help the High Council and the Sisterhood of Karn determine who the Hybrid is, but his motive is much more personal.
He wants to save Clara.
The End of the Universe
It was absolutely shocking to see the Doctor shoot someone. THAT IS HOW CONCRETE THAT ELEMENT OF HIS CHARACTERIZATION IS. Yet I believe Moffat employed it here to demonstrate just how far gone the Doctor was. Not only was he willing to violate his own personal mantra, but he was perfectly fine with the universe cracking in half and dying if it meant that Clara wasn’t dead. Once the Doctor leaves Gallifrey, though, this story shrinks in size as the universe does, too. It’s here that Moffat pulls out a really confusing “twist” in the plot, one we already saw in “Listen” and “Before the Flood.” As I understood it, a young Doctor once heard the prophecy about the Hybrid in the Cloisters, and to date, he’s still the only person to have escaped them alive. (Well, Clara might count, but is she technically even alive?) It’s the reason for his fear of the Hybrid and the reason he stole a TARDIS and escaped from Gallifrey.
I think??? I don’t understand why the Doctor was so frightened by the prophecy. Did he somehow think he was the cause of it? What inspired him to run away? Moffat’s vagueness here is what turned me off of series seven, and there’s been so little of this series. It made the use of it in the finale all the more glaring, which is frustrating since there’s so much good here! THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. The collapse of Gallifrey! The last surviving being is ASHILDUR/ME!!! What’s not to love about this?
Well, it’s probably the utterly unsatisfying resolution of what the Hybrid is. The Doctor may have caused the rumor to spread in the first place, so it could be another bootstrap paradox. OR it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or it’s two people? Or one. Or none? Or it’s the way that Clara and the Doctor interact. WHO IS IT. WHAT IS A HYBRID. Nooooo, Moffat, you’ve done SO WELL not dangling the carrot and then yanking it away at the end of your stories. WHY BRING THIS BACK NOW? It made Clara’s return after her death seem silly in one sense. I personally liked it because she got to reject what the Doctor had planned for her. Additionally, I felt like the script was more or less criticizing the end of Donna Noble’s stint as a companion by pointing out how unfair it was for the Doctor to erase a companion’s memory without their consent.
Even then? I really expected the neuro blocker to affect Clara, not the Doctor. That was an interesting twist, and I can’t complain about the result. Clara gets to accept her death as a necessary and fixed point in time, but she also gets her own TARDIS. And instead of heading straight back to Gallifrey, she takes the long way around.
WITH ASHILDR AS HER COMPANION. EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS PERFECT. I WANT AN ENTIRE SPIN-OFF MINISERIES ABOUT THIS, THANK YOU, I’LL BE WAITING RIGHT HERE FOR THAT. This resolution works for me because Clara gets to leave on her own terms, rather than as a plot twist for someone else. Yes, it’s still frustrating that she’s dragged out in the midst of the Hybrid plot, and that story isn’t even resolved. But emotionally, this finale works for me. It’s still sad; all of the Doctor’s scenes in the diner from “The Impossible Astronaut” are bittersweet. He may remember pieces of the story; he might be able to collect the details. But it’s time for the Doctor to move on from Clara, who has her own adventures to have before she’s done.
And I need those adventures in my life. GREENLIGHT THE MINISERIES, BBC.
The video for “Hell Bent” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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