Doctor Who review: Clara returns for one final adventure in Hell Bent

Okay. Doctor Who‘s season finale. It’s getting a little difficult to remember how we arrived at this point, really. The sequence of events has been in motion throughout the season – The Doctor initially saving Ashildr’s life by making her immortal, his relationship with Clara taking a reckless turn.

The pace has quickened in the last couple of episodes, with The Doctor being entrapped by Ashildr at the bidding of a mysterious third party. Those events led to Clara’s death and The Doctor being teleported to a mysterious place where he spent 4.5 billion years punching through a wall of diamond. And at the other side of that wall? Gallifrey.

So far, so nonsensical. Oh yeah, the Time Lords suddenly seem very curious about a thing called The Hybrid.

But let’s not get hung up on the convoluted plotting that got us here – CAPALDI ON GALLIFREY! And it’s every bit as excellent as you’d expect. The Doctor is livid that the Time Lords had a hand in Clara’s death. So he waits in that now-familiar barn (from Day Of The Doctor) for the authorities to hunt him down.

As a testament to his fury, The Doctor exiles the resurrected Rassilon from Gallifrey and extracts Clara from the moment just before her death. In their escape, The Doctor shoots a general, triggering a regeneration. It’s a trollworthy regeneration by Moffat standards – the man is regenerated as a black woman. Which, if the gender of The Doctor isn’t up for grabs, might suggest a future incarnation might at least be a different colour!

(On a purist note, the regeneration happens immediately and the newly-created Time Lady gets straight back to work without the wonkyness The Doctor usually faces in the same situation.

The story takes a dull turn as The Doctor and Clara hole up in the Cloister underneath the Capitol. After much kerfuffle, they locate a hatch, escape and steal a fresh TARDIS. The high point is Clara’s realisation that The Doctor has been floundering without her, and it’s been a long time since he’s seen her. But all of this is part of The Doctor’s grand plan to bring Clara to the end of the universe and break the curse that’s upon her.

But who should they discover at the end of the universe? None other than Ashildr. To give Moffat his fair dues, I’ve loved the story arc of Ashildr. She’s a character saved by The Doctor’s compassion, but one whose morality has veered sharply away from The Doctor’s over time. She’s made shady alliances, and her reign as Mayor Me ended with his companion’s demise. (In case you’d missed it, this mirrors the early season 9 episode where The Doctor’s compassion saves Davros as a child, allowing him to live long enough to be a dreaded enemy.)

Anyway, Ashildr is the one waiting for the duo at the end of the universe. They spar over the nature of the hybrid. And this is a fun moment too – fan theories about Ashildr being a human/alien hybrid and The Doctor being a human/Time Lord hybrid – are given a loving tip of the hat. Was there some acknowledgement of the long-held theory that The Doctor’s mother was human, hence his attraction to Earth? I think so. It’s almost a disappointment when the hybrid is revealed to be The Doctor’s relationship with Clara. And somehow at the hands of Missy, which makes ZERO sense at all.

The solution? MEMORY WIPE! Yup, you guessed it. But as if to confirm Clara is far too good at being Doctoresque, Clara reverses the polarity of the mind-wipe device (a macguffin where previously The Doctor used his mind to make Donna Noble forget) causing a Russian-roulette situation which culminates in The Doctor forgetting Clara’s time with him.

Throughout the episode there’s a bizarre intercut of The Doctor talking to Clara in the same American diner that Amy and Rory sat in years ago. He’s retelling the story to her and it’s only at the end that it’s revealed he has no idea who he’s talking to.

The ending is going to be hotly contested. The diner turns out to be the stolen TARDIS, piloted by Clara and Ashildr. The female duo then take off for adventures unknown, with a vague promise to return Clara to the point of her Death By Raven at some point in the future. It’s an interesting tangent for Clara, but I can only wonder what The Doctor would think knowing Ashildr has access to a time machine. Surely that’s a major hazard?

Cooler than that is the notion of an American Diner floating about time and space. Could that be another little Douglas Adams reference? The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe?

As one TARDIS departs, The Doctor’s TARDIS is revealed behind it with that touching tribute to Clara still painted on the doors. That’s a little bit of a reminder that Moffat retconned her original death, which stings a bit. Maybe trolling the fanbase with “Clara’s definitely dead” has backfired. Although there’s one thing I liked about bringing her back for one last adventure – since Coleman made an unscheduled appearance in Asylum Of The Daleks before becoming an official companion, it makes sense that she might appear after her death. I can live with that.

And as The Doctor heads off for times and locations unknown, we see him receiving a brand new sonic screwdriver. There’s a feeling that the show has cast off quite a millstone in Clara – not that I hold it against Jenna Coleman – but I’m hopeful after a stronger second season from Capaldi that Doctor Who might finally be back on the right track again.

What did you guys think of Hell Bent?

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