Doctor Who 9.12: Hell Bent

As usual, there are spoilers under the cut.

So, I loved Face the Raven. I think it’s something that came through in my review of it, and I adored that Clara got such a strong ending. Her “let me be brave” moment made me tear up and I was completely satisfied with the way her story ended. It made so much sense to me.

In that context, when I saw where this episode was going, I was ready to be really irritated and possibly angry. Undo what Clara did? Take away the ending that I was so satisfied with?

Noooooo!

Except…

If her memories had been wiped, I would have been as angry about it as I still am about Donna’s mind wipe. If she’d been set back into her timeline on Earth, I would have been furious. Even if she’d tootled off to travel with the Doctor some more, I would have been incandescent.

The path they sent her on made me unbelievably happy. I know, illogical. I should have hated it because they undid a bit of what was so great about Face the Raven.

The difference is that Clara hasn’t side-stepped her death. She’s delayed it. She’ll get there eventually, you know she’ll choose to, but she’s taking the long way around. And most importantly, she’s got a TARDIS and she’s got Lady Me and they’re going off to have their own adventures. That is what made me so ridiculously happy. Ladies kicking ass and being awesome in their own TARDIS. Sign me up for that spin-off. Where’s the petition to make it happen?

The other part that made me happy was the Doctor’s resolution. I was dreading another Christmas of gloomy!Doctor and a season of rebound!Doctor. We’ve been there, we’ve done it. Several times. His grief for Clara was incredible, but there was a danger that it would send us through the same plots and loops that we’ve already seen.

That triumphant return to the TARDIS, with his memories of Clara fuzzy and indistinct so that he isn’t the angry Doctor, was fantastic. It made me genuinely excited for what’s going to happen next.

I haven’t felt this happy about the resolution to a Doctor Who season since The Big Bang.

In the nitty-gritty of the episode, it wasn’t at Heaven Sent levels of amazing, but it was pretty damn good. I really enjoyed the different factions of Time Lords, the idea that they aren’t all good and aren’t all corrupt, and Rassilon has outlived his time as President (again). It was nice to see that diversity.

And speaking of diversity, the regeneration from an old white dude into a younger black woman? Treated as being a regular thing that happens around Gallifrey? That was fantastic.

Moffat, don’t cheat us out of our Doctor who isn’t a white dude next time, okay? You’ve made it clear that canon would allow it to happen, so you need to make good on that promise.

Ahem.

I’m still not completely sure that all the details hang together in this episode. The Doctor totally played the Time Lords to get Clara back, but the hybrid thing still isn’t making much sense to me. The idea that the hybrid could have been the Doctor and Me at the end of time is nice, I liked that, but I’m just having trouble making all of the plot elements mesh in my head.

It’s the only thing that’s keeping me from declaring this the best episode of the year. That accolade still belongs to Heaven Sent, which had stronger writing and acting, but it’s still my favourite season ending since The Big Bang. I enjoyed not being a torn up emotional wreck. A season ending that makes me punch the air and laugh with delight is much more satisfying to me.

I must also give some kudos to the set team. They’ve done some amazing work this season, but this episode was gorgeous. The Matrix Vault was stunningly creep, the city harked back to classic sets while also looking fresh and new, and the ruins of Gallifrey at the end of time were utterly beautiful. It made the setting feel real, which is more important for a place as fictional and SFnal as Gallifrey than it is in a real world setting. We’ve got reference points for streets and houses in the place where we live. We know we’re seeing parts of them, not the whole, and our brains process them that way. It’s very easy to make it feel as though the sets for a space station or an alien planet are the only parts of those places that exist, not a part of a whole, but the designs in this episode avoided that trap.

The best thing that I can say about this episode is that it was a great ending to a season of strong episodes, and it left me excited for where the show will go next. Bravo!

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