Doctor Who Review: “Hell Bent”

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Dear DocBlogger:

I feel like I’m walking around in a bit of a haze. I’ve got that “tip of the tongue” syndrome where there’s something important and its right there, but I can’t remember it. Things seem familiar, but maybe it was all a dream or a story.

Missing Something in Minnesota

 

Dear Missing Something:

Sweetie, every story ever told really happened.

DocBlogger

***

Spoilers ahead, Sweetie…

Hell Bent was a fantastic finale in my opinion. The Doctor got closure, Clara got closure, we discovered what happened to Gallifrey, and the Doctor actually learned something about himself. Plus, we are left with the minute possibility that, like in the final shot, the Doctor and Team Clara/Me might cross paths again.

The Episode in a Nutshell

We begin with the Doctor and his guitar entering a familiar looking diner in the middle of the Nevada desert, only to be served by Waitress Clara who does not recognize him. The Doctor offers to sing for his supper, playing a melancholy tune he names Clara. When Waitress Clara asks him to tell her about this “Clara,” he looks mightily shocked.

In what we soon realize is flashback, the Doctor describes his first experiences upon returning to Gallifrey. He finds himself at his childhood home, surrounded by civilians who give him food and shelter. Then the big bad government/military shows up in increasingly stronger shows of force until they realize that “the man who won the time war” may be due a little more respect. The Gallifreyan Lord President arrives with an armed presence, but the Doctor’s response is to drop his confession dial at his feet and offer a threat: “Get off my planet.” In a stand-off, the soldiers side with the Doctor until additional reinforcements arrive, summoned by the Doctor himself.

The Doctor returns to the capitol and quickly travels to the basement, basically, or the creepy dungeon. We learn that the confession dial is a purification system that allows a dying time lord to make peace with himself before his mind is uploaded to the Matrix, a huge database housed in this very basement. Instead, the Doctor was trapped in his by the Lord President to force him to admit everything he knows about the hybrid. This isn’t just a scary bedtime story, but in fact is a prophecy generated by the Matrix about an actual creature that will unravel the web of time and destroy billions. It is presumed that the hybrid is half-time lord and half-Dalek, but the Doctor already pooh-poohed that theory in last week’s episode. The Doctor didn’t spill the beans during his imprisonment in the confession dial so he would have leverage against the time lords and ultimately get his hands on an extraction chamber, which allowed him to bring his beloved Clara, I mean best friend Clara, back to life, trapped in a moment of time between her last and final heartbeat. Her death is an historical event, but that doesn’t stop our Doctor who is “hell bent” on saving her. He grabs a gun, shoots the General and takes a neural blocker safe for humans before dragging Clara away.

Favorite line of the episode: “Death is Time Lord for man flu.” We cut back to the present-day and the diner to hear the Doctor admit that he had to wipe some of Clara’s memory of him to keep her safe. Back in Gallifrey, the Doctor and Clara are down in the basement, avoiding cloister wraiths or ghosts of time lords past who, along with the occasional cyberman or weeping angel, protect the Matrix. They are there to find a secret escape tunnel out of the city that the Doctor himself used when he was younger. While doing so, Clara learns what he endured to get here. She is heartbroken and dumbfounded, asking him why he would undergo 4.5 billion years of torture to save her and he tells her, “I have a duty of care.” Clara acts as a decoy so the Doctor can escape, but he returns immediately in a basic Tardis with very retro styling (wink, wink) and they do what he does best – run away.

The Doctor’s plan is to take Clara to the last seconds of the universe, where the time lords can’t reach them, and then use the neural blocker to make Clara forget about him, at which point he will return her safely to earth and no time lords will follow. Then four knocks sound on the Tardis’ door. When Clara asks “What’s out there?” the Doctor replies, “Me.” Delightfully, it is Me, Ashildr/Lady Me to be more exact, the only “hybrid” we actually know. The two quibble over who the legendary “hybrid” really is, with Me guessing that it’s the combination of the Doctor and Clara. Clara watches the exchange from inside the Tardis and learns that the Doctor plans to wipe her memories of him. She is adamantly against this, explaining that her memories are hers. At this point, the Doctor realizes the extreme lengths to which he has gone and how destructive he has become where Clara is concerned, and decides that one of them has to go. Clara claims to have reversed the polarity in the neural blocker so now it will work on the Doctor and not herself. The Doctor thinks she’s bluffing, so they both hold onto the device and activate it. But Clara was very clever and as the Doctor says his goodbyes to her, passing on words of wisdom and warnings against pears, he acknowledges that he broke all of his own rules and asks her for a smile. He awakens in the desert, not knowing who Clara is.

Back in the diner, the Doctor assures Waitress Clara that he would know the real Clara if he saw her again. She slips out a back door and into the retro Tardis, taking off with Me and leaving the Doctor in the Nevada desert next to his beloved blue box. The ladies talk about the diner exterior, which seems to be permanent, and that Clara must go back to Gallifrey to be returned to her time stream and die, but perhaps they could go the long way ‘round. The Doctor turns on the lights in his Tardis and sees a final blackboard message from Clara – the infamous “Run you clever boy” plus “Be a Doctor.” Suddenly a beautiful blue flashy screwdriver flies into his hand and the picture of Clara on the outside of the box falls away in tatters as the two Tardises (Tardi?) fly off into space.

Bittersweet

This was a great finale on so many levels. There’s something amazingly empowering about being self-aware enough to stop yourself from continuing down a destructive path. I feel that this episode, in which the Doctor realizes that he has gone too far in his journey to bring Clara back, is just that. I am impressed that it’s not Clara making an extreme sacrifice but the Doctor discovering that he cannot keep making destructive decisions. Their relationship has become too co-dependent and is no longer healthy. Moffat could have just killed Clara off, as he has done to so many other companions, or brushed her under the rug and into an alternate universe, but instead he opted to have the Doctor learn a lesson here. Unfortunately the Doctor is also forced to forget, so I’m left wondering if that lesson will have an impact on his personality at all.

Really, we all knew this was Clara’s final season. It actually felt like the Doctor was inadvertently conducting new companion interviews with at least two or three secondary characters for the past several episodes.

I also loved how the finale ended on a bittersweet but positive note. Compared to The Angels Take Manhattan, where I lost my shit and bawled for a good two or three hours (okay it was two days; don’t judge me), this felt peaceful. Clara was taking care of the Doctor, seeing him off, and then riding off into the sunset in a shiny Tardis with her new BFF – just an immortal and a human taking the long way to Clara’s impending death. I adored the fact that the Doctor recognized the diner but said it’s in the wrong place, blurting out “Amy and Rory” in a way that pulled on my heart. Then BBC gives us a Christmas Special preview starring River Song! I remember an interview in which Matt Smith was a little possessive over River in the face of a new Doctor, so the fact that Angry Eyebrows and River will soon be running around together makes me smile, and a little jealous on Matt’s behalf.

Lastly, thanks for reading! I really enjoyed my time with you, hashing out the amazing episodes and character developments this season. I hope to be wagging my tongue after the Christmas Special and in seasons to come.

Liz Bowen, a.k.a DocBlogger


Liz Bowen is a long-time Doctor Who fan and first-time blogger living in Colorado Springs. She enjoys seeing her childhood recreated in cinematic excellence and will waste entire evenings waxing poetic about the technical beauty that is Transformers. She indulges in writing Supernatural fanfic and is working on her first original book.

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