Doctor Who 08:09

This isn’t going to end well is it? I mean, the signs are all there. It’s only a matter of time.

What am I talking about? Why the end of Clara Oswald, of course!

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Rumors of Jenna Coleman leaving after the Christmas special to one side, it seems that this season (which, let me be very clear, has been the best under Stephen Moffat’s tenure as show runner) is setting up poor Clara for some tragic end. And how do we know this? Because Clara finally had her “I am the Doctor!” episode. Much like the “Doctor-Lite” episodes (which are conceived to give a small break in the shooting schedule for the actor playing the Doctor), the “I am the Doctor!” episodes are used to show a key moment in the companion’s progression where they take on the role of the Doctor and save everyone. In the past episodes where this has happened (Series 2’s “Fear Her” in particular – more on that in a bit), it was treated as a great event. Even I admitted my amusement when it happened to Amy in Series 7’s “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship.” But this time it felt… different. We’ll come back to that.

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In a way, this episode felt like a re-hash and topping of “Fear Her.” With a fantastic script by Jamie Mathieson (author of last week’s episode and the latest in a line of new writers breathing new life into to Doctor Who). some sparkling performances all around (including guest stars Joivan Wade and Christopher Fairbank), and a truly ingenious new villain (and a great use of the special effects team), it took the idea of art as lethal to a new extreme. Not only did it have some truly spectacularly creepy moments (the entire flattening effects were spectacularly handled) but some humorous ones as well, including a cute reference to The Addams Family.

But at the end of the day, the episode came down to this exchange:

CLARA: Admit it! I was a good Doctor!
DOCTOR: You were an exceptional Doctor. Goodness had nothing to do with it.

The truly shocking thing about this episode (and all of Series 8 as a whole) is that, in taking a “back to basics” approach to the Doctor, Moffat and his writers are showing the true implications of what that means. And as good as he is (which is my verdict to this series’ thesis question of “Am I a good man?”), he still does some unsavory things, His lying, his curt attitude, his brusqueness – all of it has been in service to keeping as many people alive in any situation. And the reason for this is that, by taking on these unsavory traits and attitudes, he is sparing everyone else from having to make compromising choices. The problem is (as Davros mentioned in “Journey’s End” and others have hinted at throughout NuWho) is that people end up making sacrifices for the Doctor. And while this was an upsetting notion to previous versions, this one bears it under his attack eyebrows.

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Which is why when Clara finally had her “I am the Doctor!” story, it was more than a little disturbing. I’ve written time and time again in these posts that the companions more often than not take on the traits of the Doctor over the course of their travels, and usually it’s been a good thing. What made this episode shocking was watching Clara break down exactly what the Doctor would do in the situation; from lying and giving everyone a false sense of hope, to using the enemy’s strengths against them, to ordering people around. And while it was fun to see Clara step up, we all know that this is usually a sign of the end for the companion. Let’s compare the companions and see what happens when they become the Doctor:

* Rose Tyler – Turned into a soldier, banished off to a parallel dimension
* Martha Jones – Turned into a glorified soldier of fortune
* Donna Noble – Returned to a pre-Doctor state of ignorance
* Amy Pond and Rory Williams – Trapped in the past
* River Song – Doomed to live a life where her personal time-line is out of whack and eventually abandoned by her husband

What’s even more disturbing, in Clara’s case is that she has gotten very, very good at lying to everyone. To Danny (though that scene with her trying to escape the apartment was hilarious), to the Doctor (who was shocked to see that she lied to him about Danny), and most tellingly, to herself. Look at the end of the episode again; she brushed off the Doctor’s comment about goodness having nothing to do with being the Doctor. I can’t tell if this is ignorance or hubris on her part, but this can’t end well for her. And if history is any indication, it’s not going to!

Random Notes:

* I didn’t even touch on the whole Missy thing! “Clara, my Clara! I chose you well!” So is Missy grooming Clara for something? And if so, then what? What if, and this is purely speculative, she’s grooming Clara to replace her as the Guardian of the Netherspehere?  The fine folks at Den Of Geek weigh in with their own ideas.

* Where does Danny Pink fit in all of this?

* Why does the TARDIS in siege mode look exactly like the Pandorica?

* Seriously, Jenna Coleman has spun Clara Oswald around for the better as a character. Of course it helps that Moffat and company are giving her better material to work with.

NEXT TIME: Why is Trafalgar Square covered in trees? What is Danny going to say when he sees Clara with the Doctor? When is Missy going to upgrade to an iPad Air 2? Will the children to Coal Hill Secondary School ever respect their teachers? These questions and more will be answered next time!

Photo & Video Credits: BBC

Originally Published on 20 October 2014 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile.

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