Sunday, January 3, 2016

Doctor Who 9.10: "Face the Raven"

“We can fix this, can’t we? We always fix it.”

And so we have come (for the most part) to the end of one of my favorite Doctor Who companions, Clara Oswald. She in “Oswin” form was my go-to cosplay for a couple years because we’re both short and bossy with brown hair. I also like that she was so good at acting as the Doctor’s conscience. As my very favorite companion, Donna, once put it, the Doctor needs someone to tell him when he’s gone too far, and Clara filled that role better than most. She inspired the Doctor to figure out a way to reverse the destruction of the Time Lords, after all, which was no small feat. Her appearance also marked the beginning of something of a return to “normal” adventuring “Doctor Who” for me after all the overblown family drama of the Amy and Rory (although Rory is still awesome!) era. Anyway, in this episode, Clara finally faces the natural consequences of the way she has been living her life since Danny’s death. With nothing else (other than her job and students) holding her back, she decided to embrace the Doctor’s life to the fullest. Taking risks like the Doctor does doesn’t work so well when you’re mortal, though, as Clara sadly finds out too late.

As the episode opens, the Doctor and Clara joyfully return to the TARDIS, high on the excitement of their latest adventure. Things get more serious, though, when Rigsy, someone we met last season, places a phone call to the TARDIS. He’s got no memory of the previous twenty-four hours, but he’s got a tattoo on the back of his neck that seems to be counting down to something decidedly ominous. At first, the Doctor is a bit miffed that Clara gave Rigsy the TARDIS phone number, but when they visit Rigsy and he becomes enamored with Rigsy’s apparently super-brilliant infant daughter, he softens a bit. They decide to try and find the place Rigsy was when he blacked out, which is more difficult than it seems. The street is disguised as a “trap street,” leading the group to compare a map to the actual London streets as they fly over the city in the TARDIS. After a lot of searching, they eventually find the right place.

There’s a lot of exciting and ominous searching through the dark streets of London, but the real breakthrough comes when Clara discovers that the TARDIS has found encrypted data on Rigsy’s phone. As soon as Clara asks Rigsy if he got a phone call yesterday, he has a flashback. That flashback involves Rigsy’s phone braking. The flashback also allows Rigsy to see a crack in the sidewalk, and he, the Doctor, and Clara investigate further. Once inside the “trap street” area, the trio are frozen in place until two aliens disguised as humans, Kabel and Rump, arrive to question them. Kabel and Rump let the group know that they have arrived in a refugee camp of sorts. The street/refugee camp is run by none other than Ashildr, who is going by “Mayor Me” now.

Ashildr reveals that she is the one who controls the tattoo that is counting down on Rigsy. The Doctor wants to know what crime Rigsy has committed to earn a death sentence, and he also wants protection for Clara while on the street. Ashildr offers Clara “absolute” protection, and she calls Rigsy a murderer. As he journeys on the street, many of the aliens taking refuge there shout “murderer” at him. They are brought to the body of a female Janus who Rigsy is accused of killing. The female Janus can see into both the past and the future, and those skills are very prized. Rigsy wonders if he might have killed her, but the Doctor thinks it was a frame job for larger purposes.

We soon learn more about how the countdown tattoo works thanks to a man who was accused of stealing medical rations. He’s got a tattoo as well. As the time ticks down, the man’s wife begs him to transfer the tattoo to her, but the man refuses. When the tattoo reaches zero, the quantum shade that carries out the death sentence in the form of a raven (is now the wrong time to throw in a plug for my favorite, albeit pretty terrible this year, football team?) comes for the man and chases him down for a horrible death. Ashildr says that her street would be a very dangerous place if the rules weren’t strictly enforced. She must have order, or everyone would start fighting each other. She tells the Doctor that he may investigate the Janus’s death as much as he likes, but he must prove to the residents of the street that Rigsy is innocent before she will undo the tattoo.

Clara decides to learn more about how the tattoo works. She is told that there are only too ways to escape the countdown and the attack of the shade. Either the shade’s master must call off the attack, or the condemned can pass it on to someone else, provided that someone else is willing. This leads Clara to cook up what she thinks will be a surefire clever scheme – the type of thing the Doctor would cook up. Rigsy very reluctantly agrees, and when Clara touches him, the tattoo transfers to her. Now she is the one marked for death if they don’t solve the mystery of the dead Janus fast enough.

The group gets back to investigating, and they learn that somebody had to be blamed for the Janus’s murder just to keep peace on the street. They learn that Rigsy called out for “the Doctor,” and the Doctor starts to get suspicious of Ashildr, because she of all people should have known exactly what Rigsy meant. They then find that Janus’s purported son, but he is actually a she and has the same powers her mother did. She’s been in hiding because of the powers. She knows for a fact that Ashildr created a mystery to lure the Doctor to the street.

Examining the Janus, the Doctor realizes that she isn’t actually dead, she’s essentially in stasis. And the only way to wake her up is to use the TARDIS key. The Doctor is absolutely sure this is a trap, but he wakes up the Janus anyway. And promptly has a teleporter bracelet snap on his wrist for his trouble. Ashildr made a deal with someone to turn over the Doctor in exchange for continued peace on the street. She also wants the Doctor’s confession dial, which he reluctantly turns over. Ashildr goes to release Rigsy from his tattoo, but Clara reveals that she has it instead. Ashildr is sad and kind of horrified. When Clara took the tattoo, it broke the contract Ashildr had with the shade. Clara can pass the tattoo on, but Ashildr can’t do anything to spare her from the raven.

The Doctor starts threatening Ashildr with destruction of the street, but Ashildr continues to insist there is nothing she can do. Eventually, Clara is resigned to her fate. She makes the Doctor promise that he won’t insult her memory by going on a big revenge spree, and then she walks out on the street to face the raven alone. The Raven finds her soon enough, and after some excruciating pain, Clara falls dead in the street. The Doctor tells Ashildr that he will do his best to honor Clara’s wishes and not destroy her, but he warns Ashildr that she should stay away and not test his resolve. At the end of the episode, we see that Rigsy has spray painted the TARDIS with a memorial to Clara.

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