Answering An Impossible Question
Guest contributor Andrew Clarke attempts to solve the Clara problem.
After the final scenes of “The Time of the Doctor” faded off the screen, my brother – always the skeptic – turned to me and said “So, if the Doctor didn’t die at Trenzalore, then how was the scar tissue of his journey through the universe and the TARDIS left on the battlefield? How was Clara able to jump into that tear and scatter herself along his time stream?” I was unable to answer. At the time I maintained that the grief of losing Matt Smith was the cause, but lying awake in bed I was still concerned. My brother had a point. So, what was the answer? It seemed that once again Moffat had lied to us – not all questions were answered.
The following is my own attempt at answering that question. Maybe Moffat will explain all once Series 8 rolls along. However, until then this is my reasoning for this bizarre plot hole in Matt Smith’s final series.
Clara is almost entirely defined by her title. She is the Impossible Girl. Whilst I find her feisty, funny and very attractive, she does seem to stumble when it comes to depth and flaws. This article is not a comment on her personality, but rather how she functions as a device – as the Impossible Girl. Her story, to a certain degree begins at Trenzalore. Clara sacrifices herself to save the Doctor so multiplying herself throughout time and space. Each incarnation that the Doctor meets (and doesn’t meet) saves his life in some way. Oswin saves his life by deleting all information concerning the Doctor in the Path Web and allows him to escape the Asylum by activating the teleporter. Victorian Era Clara manages to bring the Doctor out of retirement through the use of the word “Pond” and destroys the Great Intelligence’s forces by crying, and so on. Clearly, we can see that the many iterations of Clara are bound up the in the Doctor’s fate. Without them, the Doctor would not exist.
Now, comes the tricky part. Present Day Clara is the reason that the Doctor manages to survive the events of The Time of the Doctor. It is Clara who speaks to the Time Lord’s though the crack in space and time and convince them to gift them an extra regeneration cycle to the Doctor. The Time Lords concede and the Doctor does not die at Trenzalore. Clara sets the events in motion that save the Doctor once again, but also remove any possibility of her sacrificing herself in his scar tissue. This action also, once followed through properly, also removes any possibility of the Time Lords even being present at Trenzalore. It is Clara who needs to remind the Doctor during the events of The Day of the Doctor to “Be a Doctor” and end the Time War without killing every person on Gallifrey. Without Clara present during the events of “The Day of the Doctor” who knows what the War Doctor may have done. You see the problem. Clara is so inextricable bound up in both scenarios that to remove one invalidates the other.
But of course, that really shouldn’t be a problem, as we have had the answer all along, hidden in plain sight, if you will excuse the expression. Clara is the Impossible Girl. She is a paradox, and always had been. The Doctor met her because he became interested in the fact that she seemed to be strewn throughout time and space. This interest lead to Clara being strewn throughout time and space: “…the destiny trap. You can’t change history if you are part of it.” Clara is a paradox that is needed to maintain almost the entire universe. On the one hand she save the Doctor countless times over, and on the other she saves the lives of the entire population of Gallifrey and allows for the Doctor’s extra regeneration cycle. Two realities crashing into each other with Clara in the centre. Two timelines running parallel to each other, one causing the other. The grandfather paradox, squeezed into a skirt that is a little too…tight.
So, let us search around for some evidence. We already know that the laws of time are not as fixed as we would first expect. Just in NuWho alone we have episodes such as: “Father’s Day”, “Blink”, “Utopia/The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords”, “The Waters of Mars”, “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood”, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang”, “The Impossible Astronaut/The Wedding of River Song/ The Day of the Moon”, “The Angels Take Manhattan”that show that time operates in a much more flexible manner in the Doctor Who universe. (Side Note: See previous article “Is Time Sentient?” by Tom Norton for a brilliant exploration of this idea) Two universes or timelines could easily exist side by side in this particular universe. Anything else that helps point to this as an explanation? Perhaps the TARDIS disliking Clara? The TARDIS attempted to throw off Captain Jack Harkness when he clung to the outside in “Utopia” simply because he was a time anomaly. If Clara is equally as unnerving to the TARDIS, but much more important to the Doctor’s personal timeline, wouldn’t this manifest in a begrudging attitude towards her?
Of course, when I mentioned all this to my brother the next day, he simply shrugged and said “Well, it’s a theory. We’ll have to wait to see if Moffat explains it like that.” Whether or not Moffat actually decides to come back to this point, I don’t know. I may be wrong. I may be right. But then again… does it matter? A new Doctor means new rules, new adventures, new questions to be asked and if Matt Smith’s era has taught us anything it is that asking questions has always been more fun than receiving answers.