Doctor Who – Series 9, Episode 12: “Hell Bent”

  • As I watched the introduction where the Doctor finds Clara in an American diner, I thought this would be the epilogue and the rest of the episode would be ‘how we got here’. Turmed out, it both was and wasn’t, as the episode repeatedly cuts back to the Doctor telling Clara his story. Very sad when he starts playing Clara’s theme on the guitar.
  • It was brilliant to briefly hear the old Doctor’s Theme from the Davies era twice in this episode, as the Doctor revisits his past.
  • I was a bit confused about whether this Gallifrey was before, during or after the Time War until the Doctor was helpfully referred to as “the man who won the Time War”. Fortunately, the episode keeps the necessary explanations simple and doesn’t dwell too much on them.
  • The beginning of this episode is easily the weakest part: it’s mostly a dry back-and-forth conflict between the Doctor and Rassilon for 10 minutes. Fortunately, things do pick up.
  • It’s very telling how even Gallifreyans are scared of the Doctor, and how they treat him like a commander.
  • And there we go – Clara is saved from her horribly disappointing death! Sort of.
  • The Doctor being prepared to defy the laws of time to do what he wants feels rather like The Waters of Mars – except unlike then, he has actual Time Lords around to contend with.
  • I liked the twist of the Time Lord commander regenerating into a woman and then revealing her previous incarnation was the only time she had been a man – though aren’t Time Lords supposed to be a bit disorientated following regeneration, because she seemed perfectly fine.
  • When the idea of the memory wipe was first brought up, I got a feeling that using it on Clara was too obvious…
  • At this point, we start getting some great acting from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman once again, from Clara’s reaction to how long the Doctor endured the confession dial for her, to the Doctor’s frustration and desperation as his plan to save Clara doesn’t go the way he intends.
  • Four knocks – another fitting callback to the Tenth Doctor’s final adventures.
  • “(Clara) died for who she was and who she loved” – yes, but I still don’t like it, and I’m much happier now that it isn’t the end of Clara’s story. Well, technically it is, I guess.
  • When the Hybrid was first brought up, it just felt like a basic fanfiction-like plot device which had never been hinted at before. But I do like how the episode uses it, going over both the Doctor and Me as potential candidates before revealing it’s actually the Doctor and Clara together. (Probably right not to go too far into the possibility of the Doctor really being half-human – a callback to the movie with Paul McGann – as it might spoil his mystique a bit.) It demonstrates again that the Doctor and Clara have an incredibly intense connection, one of the strongest of all Doctor-companion bonds – but it works, because it doesn’t feel indulgent (Clara’s definitely not a Mary Sue) and it brings about a truly epic companion storyline.
  • I did wonder if (assuming Clara came back to life) the Doctor and Clara would choose to end their companionship. And that’s sort of what happens, only it isn’t to keep Clara safe, but the whole Universe. Wow.
  • The twist of the Doctor actually wiping his own memory of Clara is absolutely genius. And heartbreaking, of course. Those last moments as his memory goes are some of the most vulnerable the Twelfth Doctor has ever appeared.
  • As we returned to the diner, the Doctor playing Clara’s Theme on the guitar again was the closest I’ve come to crying at this show since Vincent and the Doctor.
  • I’m much happer with the new “ending” for Clara – flying off to enjoy herself for a little longer before inevitably going back to face the raven. Yes, she is still condemned to death – but don’t we all have limited time? (Except Me, perhaps, who now has to live through the lifetime of the Universe all over again.)
  • The final scene of the Doctor re-entering his TARDIS had a great finality to it – he’s ready to head off into the Universe again, meet a new companion, and begin a new age.

This episode’s repeated subversions of expectations are the best thing about it. A few segments on Gallifrey feel a little stretched and unnecessary, but the whole thing tugs effectively at the heartstrings, and it gives Clara Oswald a worthy send-off. Rating: 4/5.

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About velociraptor256

Hi, my name's Richard. I created this blog to talk about my interests - and I have quite a few of those. I love zoology in general, herpetology in particular (especially snakes!), writing (have won National Novel Writing Month seven times so far, plus three Camp Nanowrimos), reading, astronomy, palaeontology, and travel. Thank you for coming to my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you here!
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