THE GRAND “GOODBYE” THAT CLARA OSWALD DESERVES.
Let’s discuss the real reason why “Face The Raven” was a heartbreaker.
The episode wasn’t just sad because we lost Clara, the girl whom the Doctor admittedly loved so much that he regenerated as an old man just so he could maintain his distance from her.
The girl who saved the Doctor multiple times.
The girl with a conscience who challenged him to be the best Doctor he could be, who threatened him and literally smacked him around when he got lost.
The girl who was angry enough to leave him, but came back because he needed her.
The girl who kept the War Doctor from blowing up the world, and then helped Twelve save the world again with the Zygon boxes – it was because of Clara that Capaldi made that amazing speech.
The girl who made the Doctor more human.
The girl who made it possible to do something critical for all “fantasy” entertainment like the Potter movies, to pull the stories and insane plots back into the human characters, by reminding us that love is more important than all the magic and Time-Lord tricks.
The take-charge girl who made a lot of the other companions look like worthless baggage by comparison, silly girls who fell down wells and needed rescuing.
The girl who could have taken over as Time Lord if things had turned out that way.
The girl who died to save someone else, and didn’t even blink.
Although that was bad enough, losing one of the best characters ever seen on television.
And the episode wasn’t just sad because we lost Jenna Coleman, arguably the best actor the show has had in nine years.
The actor who got the job in the first place because she was the only actress who outperformed Matt Smith RIGHT IN THE AUDITIONS.
The actor who played four very different characters and showed a range of personality and emotion that the Donnas and Marthas of the world never could have managed.
Just imagine: even if we had never met Clara or the two earlier Claras, Bonnie the Zygon with the demonic lipstick would have been one of the most popular villains ever, all on her own, and she was only one of FOUR characters created by Jenna.
Jenna made it possible to build one of the most beautiful, complex relationships ever seen on television, the Clara/Doctor relationship, even though she had to switch seamlessly between two very different Doctors right in the middle.
And even more amazingly, that extraordinary relationship was PLATONIC for three whole years, so most of the things that an actress uses to build a man/woman relationship were taken off the table – half of the Actress Toolkit taken away on Day 1.
Particularly, Jenna, a stunning, beautiful woman, chose NOT to use her beauty as a tool. No skirt slits, no plunging cleavage. The only time she really tarted herself up was when she was playing Bonnie, the anti-Clara, as if to show “this is NOT who I really am”. Is there another actress who would have the guts to do her climactic farewell speech and then go out and DIE, all wearing the ugliest sweater ever made? And then go out to do press interviews in the same butt-ugly sweater, instead of prettying up?
She is an actor who portrayed female strength, not with curvy femininity, and not by over-steering the other way as some sort of weapon-wielding Katniss ninja – all she used was strength of character. Courage, conscience, and a love of adventure.
She is the actor who made that lame romance with Mister Pink look believable, even when he was painted up in silver like a cyberman.
The actor who gave us a magnificent death scene without blubbering or yanking too obviously on our heartstrings. She could have given us the adorable victim, but instead took us back to the cool schoolteacher giving orders, saving the Doctor yet again. Just imagine how terrible that whole episode would have been if anyone else had played the role – could Freema Agyeman or Billy Piper have pulled off that death scene?
The actor who saved the show for three straight years when the writers got sloppy and Capaldi got erratic in his performances. Capaldi sags when the writers sag, but Coleman always rose above bad writing.
Although losing Jenna was bad enough….
The real reason Face The Raven was sad, is this. The showrunners allowed a new writer to come into their office and say this:
1. We are going to kill off the best character we have on the show,
2. And the way we do it is because Rigsy, a minor character, did NOT murder the two-faced girl,
3. And because Clara didn’t read the fine print of an execution contract involving a bird made of smoke, for a “crime” that NEVER EVEN HAPPENED, that neither she nor Rigsy committed,
4. And because it was really about Arya Stark kidnapping the Doctor, for no explicable reason,
5. And because the Doctor, who has gotten people out of impossible fatal peril 500 times, couldn’t save the most important person he’s ever had in his life, even though the Doctor, and a Tardis, and a Stasis, and another immortal who owes her life to him and doesn’t want Clara to die, were all nearby, and UNIT right around the corner,
6. And that the chronolock, which the Doctor was positive he could help Rigsy with in the beginning of the episode, suddenly became totally insoluble when it appeared on Clara’s neck,
7. And everybody just gives up on Clara and she drops dead.
8. And the critical plot point, the Impossible Girl, will just be left hanging there like a shirt tail that needs tucking in, forever.
The writer pitched THAT story to kill off the best character the show ever had, and the Doctor Who team ALLOWED HER TO DO IT. A roomful of writers, and not one spotted ANY of those gaping plot holes and silly contrivances. They could have killed Clara off using the Impossible Girl thread, i.e. she split herself in a dozen pieces and now she must pay the price, or any one of a hundred other ways to kill her, that were NOT stupid.
But, no. Clara was executed for a “crime” that never even happened.
And it never occurred to anyone that, despite all that “the raven will follow you to the ends of time” bullshit, all the Doctor had to do is go back a week and ensure that neither Rigsy nor Clara ever enter that alley. Problem solved. The Doctor has saved people like that a hundred times – that’s what he did in “Blink”. The Doctor has been known to go back in time to get a freakin’ cat out of a tree, but he wouldn’t figure out how to keep Clara out of that alley?
THAT is what made “Face The Raven” sad.
They knew that millions of fans had invested, not just in the show, but in Clara and her dynamic with the Doctor, and THAT is the way they chose to destroy it.
Either they didn’t even know how badly they were betraying their viewers, or they didn’t care.
Jenna said she cried when she read the script, but it had to be partly because they were giving her such a crappy send-off after her three years of brilliant work, as though they had tried to jam as much bad writing into her farewell as possible.
That script shows how off-target the DW team is now.
That means that the next season could have a whole string of episodes that are written just like that one.
And unlike this year, next year they won’t have Jenna OR Clara to save them.
They could have done something that would get us excited: "We're all shattered by her death, but they paved the way for the show to go in really exciting directions, I can't wait for the next season!"
Instead they made us dread what they are going to do next. More "Cool Uncle Capaldi" with his sunglasses and his guitar? More sloppy writing and plot holes? More eye-booger monsters? A new companion who will drag the show down even further, rather than making it soar as Clara did?
And the teasers we’ve seen are ominous. The Doctor will be going through some sort of Goblet-Of-Fire obstacle course, and then for Christmas we get a silly romp with River Song, an under-developed one-note companion who simply serves to highlight how good Clara was.
It’s very late in the game, and the Doctor Who team doesn’t even know who the next companion will be, let alone how they will interact with the grieving Doctor and take the show in a new direction. Even now, they don’t know how to get out of their current tailspin.
Mister Moffat, GET HELP. You people are possibly in over your head, splitting your talents, your time and your good writers between Doctor Who and Sherlock. There are many, many good writers in the UK, and many Doctor Who fans who respect the characters and the concept, who can get you back on track, give you ideas to explore bits of Doctor Who history you either forgot or never knew, and shoot down bad story ideas. There are fifteen-year-olds out there writing fan-fic that is better than some of the stuff you peddled to us this year – go hire them!
I am not a Doctor Who geek. I’d never seen any of the episodes until a few months ago, and I don’t go around draped in bowties and scarves. I know little of the old pre-2005 shows, and the few I’ve seen are really terrible. I just saw a tiny snippet of Clara interacting with the Doctor one day and the writing hooked me (and a bit of Jenna). But I am a writer and I can tell when a writing team is wasting an incredible opportunity to tell amazing stories for years to come. So, Mister Moffat: please prove me wrong. Don’t be the guy who makes Doctor Who go off the air again. Don’t be that guy, or you’ll probably have to flee England.
This weekend, impress me, Mister Moffat. Dazzle me.