Monday, November 30, 2015

Doctor Who - Face the Raven / Heaven Sent

It had been 33 years since the death of an ongoing companion (not counting Peri's death which was retconned out of the series almost immediately). That streak is over. "Face the Raven" says a final goodbye to the Impossible Girl (well, except for a dreamlike cameo in "Heaven Sent"). Like it or not, Clara Oswald's (Jenna Coleman) time of traveling through space and time have come to an end. I'll give writer Sarah Dollard credit for making Clara's exit mean something and propelling the season in an unexpected direction. I'll also take a moment to mourn the show's loss of Clara who leaves big shoes to fill for whomever steps in as the next companion. You will be missed Jenna Coleman.

A distress call from Rigsy (Joivan Wade) and his mysterious tattoo which is slowly counting down leads The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara to a hidden street within London. What they discover is a street full of alien refugees run by Ashildr (Maisie Williams) who has sentenced Rigsby to death for the murder of a resident (who it turns out isn't even dead). While searching for the real culprit The Doctor discovers the entire matter was nothing more than a trap to lure him in. Unfortunately for Clara she takes a bold step to save Rigsy and in doing so dooms herself in a way that neither The Doctor nor Ashildr can prevent. Going out bravely, Clara warns The Doctor not to let her death turn him to vengeance or revenge and then accepts her fate at the hands, or rather wings, of the raven.

Picking up directly after the events of "Face the Raven," "Heaven Sent" opens with The Doctor sent to an odd clockwork castle by Ashildr meant to be both torture chamber and prison. Inside a castle with passages and rooms that move The Doctor encounters a creature pulled from his nightmares meant to frighten the Time Lord into confessing secrets and fears. The episode also gives us an inside view of The Doctor's mind, where Clara is still present, as he slows time outside to work through a problem and find a solution. The more we see of the episode, and the clues left behind, the more obvious it becomes to both the audience and The Doctor that he is trapped in a timeloop reliving the same events over and over to avoid revealing his most personal secrets and buying the time necessary to slowing chip away at his prison and make his escape.

"Heaven Sent" is an unusual episode as The Doctor is locked off from everything for the entire episode, other than his internal monologue inside the TARDIS and a final message from Clara. The episode either makes The Twelfth Doctor the oldest or the youngest Doctor depending on how you view his use of transporter technology to continually save his life, replacing a dying version of himself with a younger one again and again over the course of more than 2 billion years. Even more surprising that his plan of escape is the reality in which he finds himself afterwards. The Doctor has finally come home to Gallifrey.

Although not much actually happens in the episode show-runner/writer Steven Moffat leaves plenty to be discussed and debated by Whovians. Is The Doctor still The Doctor or simply a clone of himself? How was Ashildr able to place The Doctor in a Time Lord prison? What will the rogue Time Lord do now returned to the home he fled so many centuries ago? And, most controversial, what is the truth about "the Hybrid" and the reveal of The Doctor's destiny? The answers to those questions will drive the final episode of the season... and possibly beyond?

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