Friday, January 22, 2016

Doctor Who 9.12: "Hell Bent"

“Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten.” -The Doctor

I’m kind of conflicted about “Hell Bent,” to be honest. There were a lot of great callbacks to “Doctor Who” past that I loved. I’m mostly conflicted, however, on the fate of Clara. Her ending becomes a little more complicated, to say the least. Part of me thinks that how things ultimately (for now) ended for Clara was pretty cool, and part of me thinks Clara’s original ending was simple and beautiful and should have been left standing. I should have known Moffat wouldn’t allow for a simple, beautiful ending for a long-running character, though. He’s always got to reach for one more twist. We also got to see more of Gallifrey in this episode. It wasn’t really all that revealing, but some of the events that took place on Gallifrey were very satisfying, and it’s also nice to know that since the Doctor knows where Gallifrey is now, he may return in the future, and we may learn even more at that point.

This episode picks up roughly where the last one left off. The Doctor has completed his muti-billion year ordeal inside the confession dial, and he is now on Gallifrey. Before we resume the action on Gallifrey, though, we get a little in media res. We see the Doctor driving through the Nevada desert, and he ends up at the diner where he met up with Rory and Amy way back in series six, which feels like several lifetimes ago. The server at the diner is none other than Clara. Clara and the Doctor don’t seem to know each other. It certainly seems like Clara doesn’t know the Doctor. The Doctor, however, plays Clara’s theme on his guitar (one of my favorite themes Murray Gold has written for “Doctor Who”). The Doctor says it’s a song called “Clara.” He also plays the Ninth/Tenth Doctor theme at one point as well, which was awesome.

Going back in time a bit, we see that when the Doctor first escaped the confession dial and arrived on Gallifrey, his first stop was to a well-known barn. The barn where he was first inspired by Clara to take the name Doctor and the barn where he confronted the Moment. The Doctor attracts quite the crowd at the barn, and he also attracts the attention of the Time Lord High Council, especially Rassilon. Rassilon really wants to know the identity of the Hybrid, and he also wouldn’t mind the chance to kill the Doctor. Rassilon manages to draw the Doctor out of the barn, but the Doctor certainly isn’t giving him any information about the Hybrid. Rassilon gets frustrated and orders his soldiers to shoot the Doctor, but the soldiers pretty much all mutiny and side with the Doctor instead, because in their minds, he’s the incredible Time Lord who won the Time War.

Rasillon call on an even bigger army, complete with spaceships, but they all side with the Doctor, too. Extremely frustrated, Rasillon decides he’s going to use his own powers to kill the Doctor, and he starts to charge up is weird, glowy hand while taunting the Doctor about his recently granted extra regenerations. The Doctor's the one with the army, though, so he effectively “impeaches” Rasillon (he has him exiled) and installs himself as Lord President of Gallifrey. I should note that all of this is framed as the Doctor telling this as a story to Nevada diner waitress Clara. He tells her he’s from “Space Glasgow,” which I found hilarious.

Now that he has secured power, the Doctor asks one of his generals for a favor. He needs an extraction chamber. For a friend, of course. The extraction chamber pulls Clara out of her facing the Raven situation in the exact moment between her last two heartbeats. She’s essentially locked in time, so she has no pulse, which really freaks her out once it is pointed out to her. The General reminds the Doctor that this can only be temporary. If they keep Clara around in this frozen state for too long, they risk destroying the timeline. This is especially true since Gallifrey has been parked near the very end of the universe for safekeeping, so there's a whole lot of time for Clara’s reappearance to muck up. The Doctor, however, is determined to keep Clara alive and take her far away from Gallifrey, so he shoots the general. It is rather un-Doctorlike, but he knows the general will regenerate. He does indeed regenerate, into a woman.

The Doctor and Clara start running, and they run to the Cloisters, which basically seems like a big crypt/catacombs for Time Lords. It’s a very creepy place. There are still alive but neutralized versions of major Time Lord enemies like Daleks, Weeping Angels, and Cybermen, there are ghost-like Cloister wraiths, and there’s the matrix, which is a big computer that holds the remains of Time Lords after their final regeneration. The Doctor tries to remove the cover to the Matrix, and while he’s doing that (and trying to fend off the general and her soldiers), Clara gets him to admit that he spent 4.5 billion years in the confession dial. It’s quite frightening, really. We have yet to see what this has done to the Doctor, but so far, it doesn’t look good. Anyway, by opening the cover to the Matrix, the Doctor is able to access the TARDIS, and he and Clara jump in. I guess some things always stay the same!

The Doctor thinks that if he gets far enough away from Gallifrey, Clara’s heart will start beating again. This doesn’t seem to work, though, even when he takes Clara to a point in time just hours before the universe is supposed to end. The only other being still left at that point in time is Me, formerly known as Ashildr. Clara’s heart, however, still won’t beat. Me tells the Doctor that he shouldn’t be surprised to see her, because at the end of all things, one should expect the company of immortals. The Doctor and Me have a chat about the Doctor’s inability to accept endings (which seems astute given the whole 4.5 billion year effort to save Clara and all). The Doctor implies that he thinks the Hybrid is Me, but Me turns the tables on him. She thinks it’s the combination of the Doctor and Clara. They have been awfully reckless, just charging through the universe acting like they can do whatever they please.

The Doctor accepts that he has, indeed gone too far, and he’s going to basically go all Donna on Clara (erase her memory and run away) to prevent further damage. Clara uses the sonic sunglasses to see this conversation with Me all play out, so before the Doctor can come back inside the TARDIS, she has started messing with the device he is planning to use to wipe her memory. Now that Clara has tampered with the device, the Doctor doesn’t know which one of their memories it will wipe. As long as one of them completely forgets the other, though, it’s all good. The Doctor sets off the device, and when we flash forward again to the Nevada diner, we learn that it was the Doctor who lost his memories. He knows he traveled with “Clara,” but he doesn’t remember what she looked like.

Clara’s got one last trick up her sleeve, though. The diner is actually the TARDIS they stole from Gallifrey. Clara and Me take off in it, leaving the Doctor behind with his original TARDIS returned to him. Clara does intend to go back to Gallifrey someday and have the Time Lords put her back in her timeline. Before that, though, she wants to have a little fun gallivanting around the universe with Me. Because that can’t possibly go wrong. As for the Doctor, he’s glad to have his TARDIS back. Fans might be even more glad that he pulls a new, spiffy Sonic Screwdriver out of his jacket pocket. No more sonic sunglasses! Huzzah! As the Doctor takes off in the TARDIS for new adventures, the Clara memorial Rigsy painted on it cracks and falls to the ground.

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