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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
It turns out that the bracelet is not a restraint but a teleport device. (Wut?) The Mayor claims that she made a deal to protect the street with an unknown entity if she delivered The Doctor to them. (WUT?) She asks for The Doctor’s confession dial, saying that “they” have other means of procuring it, but it would just be easier if he handed it over now. (WUUUUUUUUUUUT?) All of this, Rigsy, the apparent murder, the chronolock, all of it was to get The Doctor in this place at this moment, so she could turn him over to whoever she is working with. Clearly she is working with the Time Lords, right? WHY? Is her rage at The Doctor so deep that she would do anything for revenge? Did the Time Lords offer her a chance to get off this planet in exchange for The Doctor? Is she completely incapable of forgiveness? Are we going to Gallifrey for the finale? WHAT IS HAPPENING? (Also seriously, Madam Mayor, go fuck yourself.)
It’s so interesting how both Clara and The Doctor react to this news. The Doctor’s first instinct is to RAGE, demanding that The Mayor fix this immediately. When The Mayor tearfully (at least there is some sign of humanity there) says there’s nothing she can do, it only serves to make him go more Fire and Ice and Rage on her.
DOCTOR: Yes, it is, you can, and you will, or this street will be over. I’ll show you and all your funny little friends to the whole laughing world. I’ll bring UNIT, I’ll bring the Zygons. Give me a minute, I’ll bring the Daleks and the Cybermen. You will save Clara, and you will do it now, or I will rain hell on you for the rest of time.
CLARA: Doctor, stop talking like that.
THE MAYOR: You can’t.
DOCTOR: I can do whatever the hell I like. You’ve read the stories. You know who I am. And in all of that time, did you ever hear anything about anyone who stopped me?
THE MAYOR: I know the Doctor. The Doctor would never!
DOCTOR: The Doctor is no longer here! You are stuck with me. And I will end you, and everything you love.
And what of Clara? Bless her light forever and ever, she goes into the acceptance phase immediately. I don’t know how, but she does. Once she hears that there is nothing to be done, she doesn’t fight it. And what’s worse is that she doesn’t want The Doctor to fight it. “This is my fault,” she says. “I did this.” The Doctor says he doesn’t care that if it’s her fault, it won’t stop him from raging and destroying everything in his path. But the thing is CLARA CARES and she also knows that when his rage settles, The Doctor will hate himself. And she won’t have it. Not when their time together is dwindling so quickly. She doesn’t want her last memories of him to be of the Time Lord Victorious. She wants the man who she beamed so proudly at when he stopped the Boneless. She wants the man who told her to not even argue with him on a magical Christmas Eve. She wants the man who made her feel special for traveling with him. She wants her Doctor, her life, her love. And the way he fucking softens as soon as she makes that known…kill me right now, because I can’t bear it. This is about the time I started audibly sobbing.
CLARA: Maybe this is what I wanted. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is why I kept running. Maybe this is why I kept taking all those stupid risks. Kept pushing it.
DOCTOR: This is my fault.
CLARA: This is my choice.
DOCTOR: I let you get reckless.
CLARA: Why? Why shouldn’t I be so reckless? You’re reckless all the bloody time. Why can’t I be like you?
DOCTOR: Clara, there’s nothing special about me. I am nothing, but I’m less breakable than you. I should have taken care of you.
CLARA: I never asked you to.
DOCTOR: You shouldn’t have to ask.
You know what the important word is here? CHOICE. As much as she is forced into this, Clara DOES have agency here, unlike so many companions who have left before her (NEVER FORGET DONNA NOBLE). She chooses to accept. She chooses not to run. She chooses to hold her head high. Writer Sarah Dollard commented in a post-episode interview that it’s SO IMPORTANT to know that Clara’s fate is not the result of hubris. Sometimes things go wrong and terrible things happen to the cleverest of people. This is one of those times. It all serves as a reminder of just how HUMAN Clara is and how breakable The Doctor ISN’T. She did the brave thing here. She took on the burden to save a friend. It was totally and completely selfless. Sure, she counted on The Doctor being able to save her, but honestly, I think Clara the Lionheart would have sacrificed herself for Rigsy anyway. She makes that clear when she tells Rigsy to not feel guilty about it. He’s going to get to raise his daughter now. Perhaps he will raise her just that much better because of Clara’s sacrifice.
How do you say goodbye to The Doctor? Clara Oswald chooses to do so in the most devastating way possible because she doesn’t make it about her or her loss. That bit is non-negotiable, so instead she chooses to take care of him one last time. She KNOWS what this is going to do to him. She knows how prickly this regeneration WAS and she KNOWS how far he has come emotionally. The biggest insult to her memory would be for him to revert to that darkness. His heart is open now and it needs to stay that way. She needs him to not forget. She needs him to be a Doctor. Never cruel or cowardly.
CLARA: You. Now, you listen to me. You’re going to be alone now, and you’re very bad at that. You’re going to be furious and you’re going to be sad, but listen to me. Don’t let this change you. No, listen. Whatever happens next, wherever she is sending you, I know what you’re capable of. You don’t be a Warrior. Promise me. Be a Doctor.
DOCTOR: What’s the point of being a Doctor if I can’t cure you?
CLARA: Heal yourself. You have to. You can’t let this turn you into a monster. So, I’m not asking you for a promise, I’m giving you an order. You will not insult my memory. There will be no revenge. I will die, and no one else, here or anywhere, will suffer.
DOCTOR: What about me?
CLARA: If there was something I could do about that, I would. I guess we’re both just going to have to be brave.
And then…and THEN The Doctor chokes back his tears and takes the chance that he didn’t when he said goodbye to Rose Tyler on Bad Wolf Bay. “Clara…” he chokes out and Clara KNOWS what he’s about to say and she can’t bear to hear it. “Tell her…oh, she knows,” he once said and the sentiment rings true here as well. And the thing is, she DOES. She doesn’t need to hear him say it. It’s always been there in every stolen glance, in every hand hold, in every fight, in every hug. The Doctor loves Clara Oswald with every fiber of his being. There is not one corner of his hearts where she doesn’t reside. He doesn’t need to tell her, so she stops him. And I think hearing it in that moment would have made it impossible for her to walk away from him because she loves HIM with everything she has. “Everything you are about to say, I already know. Don’t do it now. We’ve already had enough bad timing.”
The Raven’s final call comes too soon. Their time is up. “Don’t run. Stay with me,” The Doctor pleads. (LEAVE ME HERE.) He would have stayed with her till the end. He would have held her hand until the very end so that she knew she wasn’t alone. But Clara, brave Clara, doesn’t want that for him. “In the end, everybody does this alone,” she says serenely, even as The Doctor chokes out her name. “This is as brave as I know how to be. I know it’s going to hurt you, but, please, be a little proud of me.”
For those of us who were wondering (all of us), Dollard commented that there was a cut scene where the Doctor (who is still bound by this teleport bullshit) instructs Rigsy to take care of Clara’s body and to inform her family. Just so we all know The Doctor didn’t leave her in the street. (Personally, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with The Doctor carrying Clara’s body, so thanks.) The Mayor tries to make amends with The Doctor, but he is having none of it.
THE MAYOR: I’m sorry, Doctor. I truly am.
DOCTOR: What Clara said about not taking revenge. Do you know why she said that?
THE MAYOR: She was saving you.
DOCTOR: I was lost a long time ago. She was saving you. I’ll do my best, but I strongly advise you to keep out of my way. You’ll find that it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you.
In other words, you never want to see me again because I will END YOU, Mayor Me. The Mayor teleports The Doctor to what I can ONLY assume is Gallifrey, because there is no other logical solution. To be continued…
Were you as devastated by Clara Oswald’s death as we were? Leave your favorite memories of The Impossible Girl in the comments.