Monday, December 7, 2015

Doctor Who - Hell Bent

The final episode of Series Nine returns The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to Gallifrey, although the episode turns out to be more about Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) than the Time Lords. I had a very mixed reaction to "Hell Bent" which immediately undercuts the emotion of Clara's death, and the power of her sacrifice, by The Doctor using his return to Gallifrey to find a way to cheat death and bring her back. Using the Time Lord's technology to pull Clara out of the final moment of her timeline, The Doctor saves his companion one last time.

All the talk of "the Hybrid" turns out to be nothing but a red herring as The Doctor uses that story to get access to the technology to bring Clara home. Also, his return to the end of the universe feels a bit off considering The Doctor already made such a trip in "Utopia" and the episode ignores the ramifications of his return. Bringing back Clara, a character who already has various versions of herself strewn over time and space after jumping into The Doctor's timeline (which would allow her to return at any point to the series anyway) is a cheat that shits on heroic death but also introduces the promising idea of new adventures with the schoolteacher and Ashildr (Maisie Williams) that almost makes up for the choice (given the fact we're unlikely to ever see those adventures with Coleman leaving the show).

On the plus side, the Doctor's return home allows for a strong battle of wills between The Doctor and the President (Donald Sumpter) and gives the series the opportunity to reintroduce ideas such as the Matrix, even if the episode doesn't make a specific reference to The Doctor's journey inside to defeat an evil future version of himself in "The Ultimate Foe." The late twist involving The Doctor loosing his memory is a nice touch (although the episode pokes plenty of holes through this given the level of detail The Doctor remembers about his trip home). The build up to The Doctor's return home has been built into every episode of the series since Doctor Who relaunched. Maybe no episode could stand up to such expectations, but "Hell Bent" proves to be a memorable (if not great) finale.

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