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Deep Breath: The Very Best of Clara Oswald

Guest contributor Ruth Long on Clara’s best moments and how the character developed.

clara-tardis-deep-breath

Amidst the excitement and praise brought on by Peter Capaldi’s explosive introduction last Saturday, it seems that it wasn’t just this wonderful new Doctor who had blown people away. Clara Oswald, a character previously met with various measures of love and criticism, reached new heights in the Series 8 opener “Deep Breath”. Enough to earn the approval of many of her critics, and, in my humble opinion, elevate her from what I considered a great companion, to a phenomenal one.

So, let’s have a look at some of the standout Clara moments in this episode, what they tell us about her character and how these events change our understanding of her. I’ll add that despite my gushing, it’s also important to address some of the perceived problems and inconsistencies that may have been created. Without further ado, here’s why I think Clara triumphed, and proved that there is far more to her than first meets the eye.

“I often wondered what you’d be like when you lost your temper”

clara-test-deep-breathYou’re not alone there, Madame Vastra. This scene perfectly introduced us to a side of Clara that we’d only caught the merest glimpses of before: a Clara who wasn’t in control, who wasn’t comfortable and who wasn’t in the least bit impressed with Vastra’s stern rebuke. Right from her outraged “how dare you”, to a defiant speech that can only be described as sheer brilliance, it was utterly captivating. No doubt that Jenny’s cheering response mirrored most of our own!

“I am not sure who you think you’re talking to right now, Madame Vastra, but I have never had the slightest interest in pretty young men. And for the record, if there ever was anyone who could flirt with a mountain range, she’s probably standing in front of you right now! Just because my pretty face has turned your head, do not assume that I am so easily distracted”

“How long can you hold your breath?”

clara-deep-breath-eyesI cannot accentuate enough just how marvellous Jenna Coleman’s acting was in this episode; the emotional range and the depth of her performance was nothing short of spectacular. An exemplary showcase of her talent is when the Doctor seemingly abandons Clara and leaves her at the mercy of the droids. In what was one of the tensest moments I have ever seen in the show (I can’t have been the only one who literally held my breath), we see her go from shock and disbelief at the Doctor’s apparent “betrayal” to absolute terror as she tries to avoid detection by the clockwork monstrosities.

“Go on then… do it”

clara-deep-breath-half-faceBut the ultimate peak of this scene was her facing the ‘half faced man’. It was then that we saw a woman who showed immense bravery; not in the absence of fear, but in spite of it. Refusing to answer his questions under the threat of torture and death; Clara cleverly stalled him with her words. She clung onto her faith in the man she felt she no longer knew, even when he had deserted her. Holding out a trembling hand in the desperate hope that the Doctor would save her, a hope that, luckily, was not unfounded.

“The Times, shall I send it up?”

clara-paper-deep-breath

Just this picture… need I say more? Safe to say it’s not wise to play catch with a Sontaran.

“Egomaniac and needy game player? … That was me?”

deep-breath-capaldi-coleman-resturantNow this gave us a great insight into Clara’s relationship with the new Doctor. Steven Moffat promised an entertaining argument in a restaurant, and we weren’t disappointed. I found their bickering reminiscent of an old married couple; from the Doctor’s gibes at Clara’s vanity to her poking fun his aged appearance “If I got new hair and it was grey I’d have a problem” his reply was equally snarky “Yeah I bet you would”. It demonstrates that their relationship will be a considerably rockier one than before, bringing out the best (and worst) in Clara, even her “deflected narcissism”

“He needs you”

clara-phone-deep-breathIn the tear-jerking climax of the episode Clara shared one last conversation with the 11th Doctor, “her Doctor”. After all that she had been through, the confusion, the anger and the uncertainty she felt, it took the reassuring words of the man she thought she’s lost for her to realise that he was still there, right in front of her, asking for her help. Her Doctor may have changed his face, but in the words of Madam Vastra, Clara remained “the person who knows him best in all the universe”.

Honourable mentions

It’s a real testament to Clara in this episode that there are so many great scenes with her, here are a few more:

  •  “You’ve redecorated… I don’t like it” Apparently Clara doesn’t approve of bookshelves! I bet you she was saving that line after the Day of the Doctor.
  • “It’s perfectly alright, I washed in it myself” Strax and Clara should really have their own spin-off show.
  •  “He’s not Clara, I’m Clara!” The Doctor’s right,maybe you should wear labels, the resemblance is uncanny!
  •  “On the other side…” Clara worked out the puzzle, but it seems that it wasn’t the Doctor who put it in the paper…
  •  “Stop it all of you now!” A brief but revealing window into the past showed us that Clara is not always on top of the situation.

The next couple of points are not specific scenes but looks into Clara’s personality in this episode. It is here that I’ll discuss what some see as discrepancies with her character.

“Never try and control a control freak”

clara-deep-breath-intro-hairA significant complaint of Clara in the past was her lack of visible flaws, and though seeing her woefully out of her depth was welcome here, there is a feeling that her “bossy control freak” attribute was a bit of a retcon; added later with no prior indication. However, I would like to (partially) dispute this idea; because I have a feeling that it was somewhat intentional.

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but here’s my take on the issue. Until now, we’ve more or less seen the composed, self-assured Clara; a woman comfortably in control of her life. Even the Doctor saw her as faultless: “always brave, always funny, always exactly what I need… perfect”. But under the surface, beneath her bubbly, witty, confident persona, there is perhaps an underlying fear and insecurity (evidenced very subtly in Series 7).

You see, in my eyes the veil metaphor didn’t just apply to Vastra or the Doctor, but to Clara as well. She maintained a pretence; outwardly tough and brave, but inwardly afraid. With the shock of this new Doctor we started to get the full picture: it was almost as if we were finally introduced to the “real” Clara. I don’t see it as a contradiction to what we’ve seen before, rather revealing something that has always been there, just mostly hidden from view.

“I don’t think I know who the Doctor is anymore”

clara-tardis-deep-breathAnother criticism and perhaps the one I’ve heard most is her trouble accepting the new Doctor. The argument put forward is that of all of the Doctor’s companions, Clara should be most comfortable with him regenerating. After all, she’s encountered all of his incarnations and even properly met a few of them. So why does she struggle so much? To the extent that she even asks how to change him back?

The important thing to take into consideration here is Clara’s perspective. Yes, she’s familiar with the concept of him changing; she knows that he’s had many faces, but remember that the 11th Doctor was “her Doctor”, her best friend. To her the man that she’d grown to know and love was gone; replaced by someone she wasn’t even sure she liked. Regardless of the truth, Clara saw a complete stranger: he didn’t look the same, he didn’t act the same, he was unpredictable and insensitive, and not the Doctor she wanted. What could be interpreted as sudden ignorance, to me was confusion and in some ways, grief.

To Conclude

Deep Breath shed a brand new light on the Impossible Girl: Jenna delivered an outstanding performance and I think she was written with true complexity and believability. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that this was Clara’s standout episode so far, and if this is any indication of what her character will be like this series, then we really are in for a treat. I eagerly anticipate seeing how she develops in the weeks ahead, but one thing is for sure, the very best of Clara Oswald is here, and long may it continue.

What did you think of Clara in Deep Breath? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Step back in time...

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261 comments
PaulMazurek
PaulMazurek

sorry, to me, Clara seems like a glass of room temperature tap water. there is nothing there.  imagine most scenes she is in with a glass of tap water sitting there instead and the scene would be about the same. i can not wait for her to be replaced by anyone/anything.

LaviniaSmith
LaviniaSmith

Great review Ruth!  I have this growing feeling that Clara is in for a rocky ride this season, foreshadowed in the first few minutes of Deep Breath when she emerged from the Tardis, dishevelled and discombobulated. Nothing is as it was, and nothing is as it seems anymore, for Clara or for anyone! But I so agree with you, Clara/Jenna shone in this episode, and we now have a rounded character that has flaws, showed humour and pathos and I now feel I like her more for it! I was always on the fence with her in Series 7 - loved Souffle Girl, but then ... Day of the Doctor heralded a more interesting Clara and this is what we seem to be getting more of now.


Who_Doctor
Who_Doctor

Missy is Clara.  Just saying  her calling The Doctor her boyfriend is a dead giveaway... Looking forward to the rest of the season.  

yiffniff
yiffniff

Didn't we start with this ver of Clara learning that her mother died, or am I misremembering it. If so, then the control thing totally tracks as does her losing 11, though It would have helped if it was overtly started, frankly, at the top. As written, she really just keep hitting the age thing and I suspect that's not the real issue. That fumble aside this was unquestionably her best episode and I feel like she finally became a character. It was nice to finally see the writing lean in to the emotion instead of run away from it. More, please.

DDBlue
DDBlue

I hope that the stories of Clara's x-mas departure are wrong. I enjoy a companion who is intelligent. It's nice. Aside from that, JLC is a good actress.

Sneezed Regeneration
Sneezed Regeneration

I've always been in the front line when it came to criticise Clara. I've honestly changed my mind. Great performance by Jenna Coleman, she definitely brought Clara to another level and I'm glad I can finally accept her as the Doctor's companion... or carer :)

I reckon we're in for a fantastic new series!

TheOncomingFish
TheOncomingFish

I loved Deep Breath, and one of the reasons I love it is because Clara finally went from being this perfect, unrealistic plot devise to a real person. Suddenly the cracks in her always calm, always bubbly exterior began to show and we finally got character development. You could tell throughout the episode that she was completely out of her comfort zone; everything was out of her control. I loved the scene with flashbacks to the classroom- it said so much about her character. I didn't like Clara that much during series 7 but if she continues like this she could become one of my favourites. If I'm being honest I also wasn't that sure about Jenna's acting before, I thought she was okay but not amazing, but she was really outstanding in this episode. 

I can already tell series 8 is going to be great! 

The Lazy Cat is in on the Time Heist
The Lazy Cat is in on the Time Heist

On a side note, what does everyone think of Clara's little mystery? I.e. why would someone wan't her to stay with the Doctor? and is that at all connected to her surviving the timestream/ the TARDIS disliking her? *puts on tin foil hat* time for some speculation!



The Finn
The Finn

I think Clara's "bossy control freak" aspect was already present in The Time of The Doctor, what with Clara and the Christmas Turkey and all that.

Zeldazelda
Zeldazelda

I meant Jenna ( not Jennifer) Coleman. Getting late here.

Zeldazelda
Zeldazelda

I thought Jennifer Coleman was terrific in Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen and then wasn't utilized to her fullest potential in Series 7b. So happy to see her able to use her full range in Deep Breath and I hope we continue to see this throughout the rest of Series 8. I hope she stays longer than the rumors are projecting because I think she could be another Elisabeth Sladen.

celegiel
celegiel

So if "I have never had the slightest interest in pretty young men,", then what about the "naked men doing sport" thing?


A great article, thank you!

JamieJones723
JamieJones723

In regards to her reaction to his regeneration, do we have confirmation that Clara fully remembers everything her other selves did? Because she still acts like a regular human being, and not someone who has seen 1,200 years of events. I had always assumed that she didn't fully retain those memories.



Derpmeister
Derpmeister

Madame Vastra is one of my favorite characters, but her putting down Clara like that was pretty senseless

Formerly EJB
Formerly EJB

They might need to rename this site ClaraOswaldTV. Love her or hate her, we sure feel driven to talk about her, don't we? I love Clara and have from her first moment in Asylum of the Daleks, so I couldn't' be happier that the writers have decided to make her a fully fleshed out human being. Her chemistry with Peter Capaldi is remarkable as well, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how their characters' relationships develop over this series.




CraigXO
CraigXO

Rewatch the episode... The Doctor mentions the woman in the shop and the newspaper, while shifting his eyes up at the TARDIS. They've both already been explained, just not in words and everyone seems to have missed it.

awkwardMEOW
awkwardMEOW

@The Finn they mention it first in Nightmare in Silver... Well, the Doctor does... Well, the Cyberplanner Doctor does. Clara also "Admits" to being control-freak etc in Christmas town on Trenzalore when the truth field or whatever is active.

DDBlue
DDBlue

I assume she doesn't remember it all because it wasn't just splintered seconds of time. It was a bunch of other complete lives...one of them on Gallifrey, one as a Dalek, etc. She doesn't seem to remember those lives.

The Lazy Cat is in on the Time Heist
The Lazy Cat is in on the Time Heist

Exactly, I think that Clara would been driven mad had she retained her memories, because goodness how many lives she lived, thousands maybe? Though she may know traces of her echoes' memories. Also I think the Doctor sending Clara her leaf in the timstream helped her remember her identity as Clara prime, restoring who she truly was. Here's what I find intriguing though, the fact that she survived even before the Doctor retrieved her, whether that'll be explained is anyone's guess. I also hope that they look at how Clara relates to her echoes, though I'm not sure how it would fit into the plot.

VictorWong1
VictorWong1

No, not really. It's something that Rose, or Sarah, or the Brigadier would have done: test the companion's loyalty because of the fact of regeneration. Like anyone familiar with the process, Vastra knows that the Doctor is still the Doctor no matter what face he wears or what manners he acquires; she also knows that being rejected by a companion could have disastrous effects on the Doctor's psyche during the recuperation phase.

aptser
aptser

@Formerly EJB I love her (Jenna / Clara) but when I look at Facebook comments for this site and other Who site I wonder if she is actually an unpopular companion or are Facebook so-called Whovians just particularly vicious? The web site themarysue.com and their commenters seem to be 90% against her too.

The Lazy Cat is in on the Time Heist
The Lazy Cat is in on the Time Heist

Yeah I think those were thoughts she repressed, rather than something she consciously thought about, just like her deflected narcissism and passive aggressive side.

twoheartsonemind
twoheartsonemind

@The Lazy Cat I think the most interesting way for Clara to leave would be that she starts to remember all of those other lives and is driven mad. It'd be incredibly heartbreaking, but we're used to that by now, right?

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

@aptser @Formerly EJB There's a small group of people who apparently hate the whole Moffat era (and everyone concerned with it) but continue to watch the programme to confirm that they hate it, and then get excessively angry as a result!

Formerly EJB
Formerly EJB

@aptser @Formerly EJB I'd bet 95% of fans (for any popular show) don't think so hard about this stuff as people (like us) who discuss on the internet. And you just know the angry ones are amongst the 5% who discuss. Of the many millions who watch DW around the world, the vast majority either like her or just accept her because, well, most folks are passive in absorbing popular entertainment. If the producers say "This is Clara. She's the heroine," and Clara is pretty and likable, the bulk of the audience says, "Whatever you say, boss."