Doctor Who: An Englishman in LA

Doctor Who: An Englishman in LA

Our man in Los Angeles, ROBERT CAVE, takes a look at the latest episode of the new series of Doctor Who

Hell Bent

Doctor Who Series 9/ Season 35 Episode 12

Hello everyone, there are spoilers here for episode twelve of series nine of Doctor Who, but it’s ok, there is also a memory wipe, so you may be able to forget them. I think. Maybe. I can’t remember.

Wow. That was like a TARDIS, there was so much in that episode – Rassilon exiled! The High Council too, maybe, Gallifrey fully back as a place you can visit. And definitive evidence that white Time Lords can regenerate into non-white Time Ladies, neatly heading off any questions of which actors can play the Doctor in the future.

hell-bent-large-image2Change can be hard for those that who are invested in the old ways, but, as Doctor Who fans are known to say, the moment has been prepared for now. It may not happen for a long time, and it should probably have happened way before it eventually does, but there will be a time when the Doctor is not played by a white male actor, and this episode made me look forward to that moment, whether or not I will get to see it in my lifetime. Not sure how well I’d cope to a Doctor with an American accent though…

So, Clara is gone and dead, but not yet. She’s travelling the universe in her own TARDIS, with its own faulty chameleon circuit and with Me as her companion. She’s used her TARDIS to visit the Doctor at least once in the past. Maybe, in a neat reversal of Rich Johnston’s idea that the Doctor was visiting Clara after her death, Clara has been visiting the Doctor before he forgot her – its certainly a bit more appealing notion than the idea of her existing within his timeline.

Of course, the Doctor’s foreshadowing of Clara’s death makes less sense now than it did, and we still have no idea how Orson Pink came to be. Theoretically Clara could pull Danny out just before his death, they could live together, have children and then go back to face their own separate deaths. Who knows?

I’m just left hoping that the next companion is a little more mortal a little less cosmic that Clara.

Looking back at this series as a whole, my strongest impression is that it has been more about music rather than lyrics. Music permeated through several stories in various ways, be it the bootstrap Beethoven or the Doctor’s newfound love of the electric guitar (well, it’s got to be better than the recorder) or even Clara’s final suggestion that songs can be fragments of memories, just like stories are.

Structurally this season resembled music too. It contained coda and reprises and often conveyed more without using any words at all. The Doctor, expressing a sense of the woman he can’t quite remember, plays Clara’s theme in the diner. And, from what I can tell looking at all the previous Doctor Who soundtracks released over the years, Clara’s themes have always been variations. The first was created for Oswin Oswald in Asylum of the Daleks. Oswin herself was but a variation of the core Clara that lived with the Doctor all that time. The prominence and importance of music in the narrative might annoy some, particularly those who complain about how prominent Murray Gold’s soundtrack has been in the revived series, but I actually love it. I love the music, seeing and listening to the Doctor playing his guitar. I loved going to the Doctor Who Proms. I hope it inspires more Doctor Who fans to learn the language of music and play for themselves.

Yes, a lot of this finale was aimed squarely at Doctor Who fans, which is good, because I am definitely a fan. But it is also a bit bad for more casual viewers. As I get older I am beginning to appreciate the dangers of always giving people what they say they want. Sometimes you don’t want to eat your soup, but then when you see the Doctor do it you can imagine that tomato soup is the best food in the universe. We don’t always appreciate things when we first come across them.

There were also so many interesting seeds within this story. I’d like to see some of them followed up in the TV series, but the one place I can guarantee they will definitely be better explored is in Doctor who spin-off material and, most especially, in the fan fiction. When it isn’t about songs, Doctor Who is all about stories, and the best thing about stories is that anyone can write them. Even you. I hope that there are lots of little Doctor Who fans now picking up pens, or pencils, or crayons or word processors writing their own stories about the Doctor, or Clara, together or apart. They will be brilliant.

And I’m looking forward to Christmas already.

ROBERT CAVE

 

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