“The Defence Department regrets to inform you that your sons are dead because they were stupid.” – Goose, Top Gun
So, let’s start with the biggie.
From what I could gather on Twitter, many people were anticipating that this would be the episode in which Clara would die. I was still pretty certain that it wouldn’t happen, even with that opening to show the Doctor and Clara having fun together – the platonic equivalent of a loving couple sharing a last happy kiss before one of them gets shot or run over or something. I took the fact that this episode was written by Sarah Dollard as further evidence – surely Moffat would reserve Clara’s death for himself?
But hey, look at that.
Wikipedia says that Jenna Coleman will be in the final episode of the series, so I’m not ready to say Clara is gone forever just yet – or maybe I just can’t accept being wrong. (I’m not in denial about Clara herself – I love the character, but I fully accept that actors and shows have to move on.) But if that really was Clara’s final death scene, I really, really didn’t like the way they handled it.
Oh, the acting in that scene was excellent. And everyone was clearly trying to make it as emotional and heartbreaking as possible. And it might well have been, if not for the context.
As soon as that woman suggested that she take her doomed husband’s chronolock, I knew exactly what was going to happen: Clara would take Riggsy’s. Perhaps, I thought, it would be a last-minute act of heroism – that might be cliche, but still alright. Instead, Clara takes it well in advance, because she’s so certain that she’ll be fine – and because she didn’t pay full attention to what she was told about the shade.
This was never going to end well, and it makes Clara cross the line from confidence into pure foolishness. The way she puts it to Riggsy and the way she speaks, she doesn’t even seem to be doing it because she truly cares about Riggsy’s wellbeing – it’s more like she’s just trying to be clever so she can be all pleased with herself later on. Yes, that’s in character for Clara, but I could still live with it if she survived and learned from it. Maybe that’s what will happen in the final episode: Clara will come back to life, realise she went too far, and either she or the Doctor will choose to end their companionship once and for all. But if that’s Clara’s sendoff, it shouldn’t highlight the character’s less admirable traits. It’s not heroism, it’s a bad mistake – and a character as well-portrayed and well-loved as Clara deserves better.
So what else was there to say about this episode?
- There’s quite a knowing expression on Clara’s face when the Doctor is analysing Riggsy in the TARDIS – I had a feeling the cards would be coming out again.
- Hanging out of the TARDIS, almost falling to her death, and whooping with joy – who else but Clara? See, these scenes are fun – when she doesn’t actually get killed!
- Maisie Williams is back again as Me, and with a bit less screentime, but she’s still excellent – the character still has such a range of personas that it’s hard to tell what’s genuine, at least until the end when she does seem truly shocked and sorry.
- Peter Capaldi does the scary side of the Doctor very well. “You’ll find that it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you.”
The acting was good all round, but story-wise, it was still a tepid episode, even without that letdown of a (supposed) sendoff for Clara. Rating: 2/5.