Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 10
“Face the Raven”
Posted by Kim
When Rose Tyler got stranded in Pete’s World in “Doomsday”, Russell T. Davies commented that it was a direct result of Rose and Ten’s cavalier attitude in “Tooth and Claw”. Their dalliance with Queen Victoria resulted in the creation of Torchwood and Torchwood was responsible for the events in “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”. (This is also for the longest time I refused to WATCH Torchwood because I could not forgive them.) Traveling with The Doctor through all of space and time has consequences and you never know when those consequences will come to bite you in the ass. Considering how we’ve been comparing Twelve and Clara to Rose and Ten for the past season and a half, it was only a matter of time before they too would have to face the same consequences that Rose and Ten did. “Don’t worry, you daft old man. I’m not going anywhere.” HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
Speaking of consequences, when we were at Long Island Who, we attended a panel where we discussed Series 9 so far. Our dear friend Graeme Burk was the moderator and he asked the room to describe Series 9 in one word. The predominant reaction? CONSEQUENCES. We’ve seen The Doctor come face to face with the consequences of his actions all series, from meeting young Davros on the battlefield to his actions in the future in “Before the Flood” to giving Ashildr an immortal life to the literal “Truth or Consequences” question when he faced the Zygons. From the get-go, “Face the Raven” sounded ominous, given the fact that we’ve been teased with the death of Clara Oswald ALL SERIES. Like Rose Tyler before her, we knew that Clara would never leave the Doctor of her own volition. Only death or a parallel universe would separate them. Well…we’ve done parallel universe already. So. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As much as I just want to talk about the last 15 minutes of “Face the Raven”, Clara Oswald deserves me talking about what brought her to the point of losing her life.
“Face the Raven” begins much like “The Girl Who Died” did with The Doctor and Clara stumbling into the TARDIS, giddy from their latest adventure. (Yo, Big Finish, Imma need you to have all of these stories as soon as you get the rights to Twelve and Clara, okay?) The TARDIS phone rings (The Doctor: “Who said you could give out OUR number?” #MARRIED). It’s our old pal Rigsy from “Flatline” and he’s in a bit of a pickle. He has no memory of the day before and he has a strange tattoo on the back of his neck. Clara scolds him for calling, saying she gave him this number for emergencies only and ” butterfly tramp stamp” would have ranked higher on the “I need the Doctor” level over a neck tattoo. Rigsy says this is no ordinary tattoo. The number on the back of his neck is counting down to something. Whatever it is, it can’t be good. That’s enough to get The Doctor and Clara intrigued.
The Doctor and Clara go to Rigsy’s new flat. A lot has changed since we first met him…mainly the fact that he has created a new human. Can we take a moment to appreciate how much The Doctor loves babies? He coos over Rigsy’s baby girl even more than Clara does and I swear to God, the way Peter Capaldi’s face softens as he calls the baby “brilliant” makes me want to punch him in the face because he just won’t let me live in peace. As much as he wants to take the new human with them, The Doctor knows it will just distract him, so they take Risgy into the TARDIS alone so they can examine the mysterious tattoo. While the Doctor runs a full body scan, Clara examines his phone. All the data from the past 24 hours has been wiped. The scan reveals that Rigsy has had contact with Aliens in the past 24 hours. Why can’t he remember that? He’s been retconned. (CAPTAIN JACK, IS THIS YOUR DOING?) All of the evidence mounts to one conclusion, and it’s one that drives the Doctor to his empathy cards. “There’s no nice way to say you’re about to die,” The Doctor confesses, calling Rigsy by name. That’s when Rigsy knows he’s in deep shit. “Don’t start using my actual name now. Call me Pudding Brain, call me Local Knowledge. Whatever. Just don’t call me Rigsy,” he pleads. You’re going to save me. You’re a doctor. That’s what you do.” (UGH) They have 526 minutes to find who did this to him before Rigsy dies. Time to get cracking.
The Doctor and Clara surmise that Rigsy must have encountered a Trap Street, which is a street that doesn’t exist unless you KNOW where to look for it. Basically, they have to find Diagon Alley and they are Muggles. Super easy. The TARDIS sails over London, with Clara dangling out the door wearing the sonic sunglasses so she can map the city. (At LI Who, Janet Fielding revealed that one of her greatest peeves with the new series is when they have the TARDIS door open mid-flight. I can only assume this scene made her want to tear her hair out.) Clara hoots and hollers as the TARDIS hits turbulence and she dangles out the door, essentially clinging to the door frame with her toes. (Rigsy: She enjoyed that a little too much. The Doctor: Tell me about it. It’s an ongoing problem.) The whole sequence reminded me of an adrenaline junkie pushing themselves to the very edge of danger because they HAVE to feel that thrill of knowing that any minute things could go horribly wrong. It’s the thrill of teetering over the edge and being able to pull yourself back just in time. It’s scary as hell and watching it on the telly had me screaming (and Sage tweeting) “A LITTLE CAUTION PLEASE, CLARA.” because I’ve never quite forgotten that image of Victorian Clara plummeting to her death from the TARDIS. *Shudder*
Once they retrieve the mapping from the Sonic Sunglasses, our trio takes to the ground searching for the trap street. (Maybe it was the location or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been watching so much Torchwood or maybe it’s both, but the entire time they searched for the street, I expected Gwen Cooper to appear on the scene.) The Doctor warns Clara and Rigsy to stop looking at the world as they usually do. The street will be hidden in plain sight. They will know they are near a trap street when the details surrounding them don’t add up because the misdirection circuit protecting it will scramble their thoughts. (Think how many trap streets could ACTUALLY be out there in the world.) They close in on an area and the Doctor tells Clara to go back to the TARDIS and get all his most annoying stuff (love). She also grabs Rigsy’s phone, which appears to have finally downloaded data from the day before. When she gives it back to him, he drops it and flashes of his lost day appear. Boom. The entrance to the street appears. Why? “Something slipped through the retconned memory. Something that took over your whole mind.” They enter the alley and are greeted by two men (who flash back and forth between men and their actual alien selves) who demand to know their reason for asylum. That’s right, the street is actually an alien refugee camp. And a very familiar face presides over it, making good on her promise to be the Patron Saint of The Doctor’s leftovers.
The Doctor doesn’t trust Ashildr, now known as Mayor Me (“I give myself a title for the same reason you do, Doctor. Something to live up to.”), any farther than he can throw her. Why should he? She surveys Clara with interest and you can just SEE there is some sort of madness lurking behind her eyes. They banter about just how much they have been keeping tabs on each other, but there is an edge to it and the Doctor’s uneasiness is palpable. “I got you attention,” she quips as The Doctor’s mind immediately goes to the memory of her lurking in the background of Clara’s selfie. “Yes, you did.” He then tells the Mayor they need her help because someone in this camp is in possession of a Quantum Shade, which is what the tattoo on Rigsy’s neck is tied to. With a smirk, The Mayor removes her scarf to reveal some new tattoos of her own. Yep. She is the one who did this to Rigsy. She claims that he committed a crime so she had to sentence him. She shrugs saying she gave him enough time to go home and say goodbye to his family, but it’s all a load of bullshit considering that she pumped him full of amnesia drug so he didn’t even KNOW he should be saying goodbye to his BABY DAUGHTER AND PARTNER. (Seriously, The Mayor can fuck right the fuck off.) The Mayor says the same retconning will happen to them when they leave (as it does to all intruders, in order to protect the safety of the street), so the Doctor says that she might as well fill them in on what happened to necessitate a death sentence. He ALSO demands a personal guarantee from the Mayor that no harm will come to Clara. She agrees that no harm will come to Clara and that her protection is absolute. That is so so so so important and dictates most of Clara’s actions later.
All of the refugees (revealed to be a Sontaran, a Silurian, a Cyberman, and an Ood. Among others) sneer at Rigsy and call him a murderer. The Mayor says they have very strict rules against violence on this street. If you break them, you MUST be punished. There is no room for grace. Rigsy is accused of killing a beloved member of the street, a Janus who fled there with her son. She had been knocked to the ground and Rigsy was found over her body. In order to protect the peace, The Mayor swiftly sentenced Rigsy. Clara refuses to believe that he did it, which means the only option is that one of the other aliens did and set him up. In the square, an old man and his wife approach the Mayor. He also has a neck tattoo and the countdown is nearing its end. “I only took it to save her,” he pleads. Much like Jean Valjean, this man stole medical supplies to save his wife, also a punishment that merits death apparently. “I can remove the chronolock,” The Mayor tells the assembled street. “But I won’t. Our rules keep us safe.” The wife begs her husband to give it to her, but he refuses, saying he did all of this to SAVE her. The Mayor takes a breath and closes her eyes. The tattoos leave her neck and become smoke. A raven in a nearby cage does the same. This is the Quantum Shade, and once it binds itself to a victim there is no turning back. “You could flee across all of time and all of the universe, it would still find you,” The Doctor explains, disgust apparent in his voice. The old man flees, running through the street trying to escape his fate. There is no escaping it though. The Raven slams into the Old Man’s chest, he exhales black smoke and falls to the ground. The tattoos return to the Mayor’s neck. This is the fate that awaits Rigsy in forty-one minutes. “I have no wish to harm your friend if he is innocent, Doctor. Question anyone. Examine the body. But it’s not me you need to convince of Rigsy’s innocence. It’s them.”
Clinging to that small grain of hope, The Doctor and Clara split up, playing Good Cop and Bad Cop, in order to gather as much information as possible. (Me at the TV: STAY TOGETHER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.) Clara stays with Rigsy and she overhears him on the phone talking to his partner Jen and their daughter, who is crying. “I’m doing my best to get home to you guys,” Rigsy says, putting on the bravest face possible. This triggers something in Clara. Rigsy has PEOPLE. He has a family who depends on him. A daughter who could be losing her chance to know her father. It’s such a stark contrast to Clara’s life. Sure, she has the family we haven’t seen since “Dark Water”, but other than that, Clara is alone, save for the Doctor. She has nothing that ties her to this world. There is no possible way she’ll allow Rigsy to leave his family. IMPORTANT POINT NUMBER TWO. Clara asks The Mayor’s main assistant, Rump, what the wife meant when she begged her husband to give it to her. It turns out there are two ways to survive a Quantum Shade: the master can remove the choronlock (which she has proven she won’t do) OR it can be given to someone else. The catch? “It has to be taken willingly. The death’s already locked in. You can pass it on, but you can’t cheat it.” And thus, Clara hatches a plan and my heart drops into my stomach. She will take the chronolock from Rigsy. Willingly. Better her life to be at risk than a young father’s. Plus…The Doctor will figure out a way to save her. He always does, right?
CLARA: Weren’t you listening? I’m under the Mayor’s personal protection. And it’s absolute, apparently. Look, she controls the Raven, so I will never have to face it. This is clever.
RIGSY: But this is putting you in danger.
CLARA: No, this is us talking the opposition into their own trap. This is Doctor 101. We’re buying time. We get all of the aliens on our side in the next half an hour, and then we reveal I’ve got the chronolock, not you, and boom! We buy ourselves more time to find the real killer.
RIGSY: The Doctor would never let you do this.
CLARA: Doctor 102. Never tell anyone your actual plan. He’ll have a tantrum when he finds out. And then, when we confront Ashildr, she’ll want to take the chronolock off just to shut him up. What happens if you don’t go home tonight to Jen and Lucy, eh? If you never go home? You really want your little girl growing up without a father just because he wouldn’t take a risk? You trusted us to save you, so trust us.
Oh, Clara Clara Clara. The thing that HURTS me is that her logic is SO SOUND and her heart is in the right place. She doesn’t even THINK about the danger she is putting herself in because she and the Doctor have had SO MANY wins together. She never considers the option that it could all go wrong. It’s stupid and brave and oh so clever all at the same time. She touches the back of Rigsy’s neck and the chronolock transfers to her neck and I yell at the TV because now it’s CLARA’S life that is on the clock. I understand her need for the element of surprise but the fact that she didn’t let the Doctor in on her plan made me NUTS. Why why why why why.
Meanwhile, The Doctor is questioning The Mayor’s other assistant, Kabel, who drops some very important knowledge. “Your friend, acting like he was all scared of us, calling for a doctor.” This immediately makes The Doctor question just exactly what’s going on here. He demands to know if Rigsy was calling for A doctor or THE Doctor. “You find yourself accused of murder on a strange alien street in the middle of London. Only they’ve taken your phone, so you beg the woman in charge to call me instead. She knew you and I were friends. So why’d she lie? Unless she had something to hide.” Oh, shit.
Long story short, the whole thing was never about Rigsy. It was all about the Mayor getting the Doctor to come to the trap street. They realize that the Janus isn’t dead but being held in a stasis pod (and her son is actually a daughter but I’ve rambled on enough already). There is a keyhole that can free her from the pod and the only option available is for the Doctor to use his TARDIS key, which he does, despite Clara’s protestations. “This girl needs her mother,” he says, shoving his key into the box. If there’s one thing the Doctor has proven he will always be a sucker for, it’s family. (He and Clara have that in common, being rootless themselves.) The minute The Doctor unlocks the machine, a silver bracelet clamps on to his wrist and The Mayor grins triumphantly. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?