Series 9, Episode 10 – “Face the Raven”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Clara’s arrogance peaks in her final episode. From opening with a smug reminder to The Doctor (“I totally saved your life… that bit where I jumped over the side, that was amazing… you were totally impressed”) to dangling out of the TARDIS like a maniacally laughing ragdoll secure in her invincibility, the first 15 minutes of “Face the Raven” read like a 10th grade essay on “pride comes before the fall.” After stumbling neatly into Ashildr/Mayor Me’s elaborate trap to ensnare The Doctor and teleport him to an undisclosed location for the foreseeable future, we could hear Jenna Coleman’s Clara drive another nail into her coffin with each over-confident quip. Not since Adric have we seen a companion killed off on screen, but then, this is hardly The Impossible Girl’s first death scene. Undoubtedly, she will pop up again before the season’s finish in some iteration, protecting The Doctor from some new monster (most likely himself).
“Face the Raven” was a visual stunner, a beautifully written installment that asked as many questions as it provided answers — as any good episode of Doctor Who should. Arrogance aside, why would Clara be so quick to transfer the chronolock from Joivan Wade’s Rigsy to her own timeline? (She flippantly remarks “I wasn’t sacrificing anything – STRATEGY!” before they comprehend the finality of her actions.)
As the countdown nears its end and the quantum shade approaches, Clara wonders, “maybe this is it, maybe this is why I kept running. Maybe this is why I kept taking all those stupid risks.” As an oddly helpless Doctor and Ashildr numbly watch her final moments, her musings take on suicidal tones, as if she is now marginally aware of some level of consciousness that drove her to choose her own death. Is this just another Doctor-saving moment found in the martyrdom of The Impossible Girl? Between now and Christmas, will we learn her death was driving towards something far greater than merely a shocking exit for a popular companion? If we’ve learned anything about Clara thus far, it is that she was born to die (and to die saving The Doctor). With complete mystery surrounding who “they” are, why Ashildr captured The Doctor for them, and why he has handed over his confession dial, is Clara Oswald’s exit as cut-and-dry as it seems? This viewer remains skeptical.
WHAT WORKED: Quantum shade. The super creepy miasma thrown from Ashildr’s neck tattoo into a raven that then morphs into a black cloud and bleeds into the being marked to die somehow does not come off nearly as contrived and ridiculous as it sounds. The entire effect was gorgeous, and I sort of found myself cheering for the raven. The morbid moral of this episode is that everyone faces death alone. “You can pass it on, but you can’t cheat it altogether.” Something The Doctor himself still hasn’t come to terms with.
WHAT DIDN’T: Mayor Me’s alien refugee camp appeared to be shot in a leftover Harry Potter set. It was so Diagon Alley it was almost lazy. I’m guessing I’m alone in this, but I find Maisie Williams’ acting to be wooden and dull in this role. Amidst all the speculation over the next companion, I’m crossing my fingers that her recurring character does not take up residence in the TARDIS.
“There’s no nice way to say ‘you’re about to die’.” – The Doctor, trying to be nice.
Doctor: “That’s your name. I keep telling you that.” Ashildr: “Do you? Infinite lifespan, finite memory…it makes for an awkward social life.”
Ashildr: “Don’t worry, we’re perfectly safe.” Doctor: “Yes. A phrase I find is usually followed by a lot of screaming and running and bleeding.”
Doctor: “Can I not be the Good Cop?” Clara: “Doctor, we’ve discussed this…your face?!?”
Rigsy: “So this is your life, then? Just bouncing around time saving people?” Clara: “Eh, not every day. Sometimes Jane Austen and I prank each other. She is the worst, I love her!”
“You’ll find that it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you.” – Doctor. Angry Doctor is the best Doctor!
BEST MOMENT: Peter Capaldi’s Doctor (and his eyebrows) monologue brilliantly, and this episode allowed him to shine yet again. He left no ambiguity in his contempt for Ashildr and her childish trap that left his best friend dead.
EPISODE’S MVP: The Doctor. Yes, Clara died; yes, everyone loves Maisie Williams; and yes, it was brilliant seeing Rigsy back (hopefully not for the last time), but Peter Capaldi is a show-stealer. As do-goody and world-savey as The Doctor is, don’t we love him the most when he is angry? Look out, world; the final episodes of Series 9 will not be quiet.
– Ashildr claims not to remember her Viking past at all, but using a Raven to embody death is very Odin of her. A hat-tip to Viking mythology never goes unappreciated.
– This series is all about the dangers of playing god, and the illusion of control. At the end of the episode The Doctor has zero control and very little power. Stripped of his TARDIS, companion and even his confession dial, he is sent into the unknown, presumably to learn a very big lesson.
– The Whoniverse is buzzing with rumors that the next series will be comprised of a few feature-length films rather than the usual episodes. This series seems like a dry-run for that format, as all the episodes have been segments of either two- or three-part stories. It allows for more complex writing and adds dimension to the characters. Perhaps it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they continue in this vein.