The Future of Clara Oswald
Guest contributor Ruth Long on what Series 8 might hold in store for Clara.
Clara Oswald, the impossible girl. The woman whose mystery intrigued and baffled fans last year, who has saved the Doctor countless times throughout his many lives, and who, well, has been met with very mixed responses.
To some (myself included) she’s a relatable, well-written and very well acted character, to others, err… less so. I have seen a bevy of criticism aimed at Clara; ranging from her perceived lack of character development to some finding her rather annoying and boring. I am not here to discuss or argue one case over another (there have been some brilliant articles that have done that already), but I feel that it is paramount to address this before getting into the nitty-gritty of Clara’s future on the TARDIS.
If there were one word with which I would describe my current view of Clara, it would be potential. From the very first time we saw her (then a Junior Entertainment Manager turned Dalek) I found her endearing; to such an extent that in all honesty, she’s what got me back into Doctor Who. However, I cannot say with confidence that she has yet reached the promise she holds. Don’t get me wrong; I think Clara has really shined in her time with the Doctor, particularly in the most recent specials, but there’s just so much about her that remains unexplored. So, what lies ahead for Miss Oswald?
Effects of the Past
To speculate on the future, we must first revisit the past. I strongly believe that we will see some repercussions from Clara’s actions in the last series: principally, the effects of going into the Doctor’s time-stream. It bothered me that despite splintering herself across time and space, despite living and dying again and again, there have been no visible consequences, so far at least. Judging by recent words from Steven Moffat, we may well witness the aftermath of this sacrifice: what that will be exactly we can only guess. She could receive flashbacks from her echoes (Oswin in the Dalek episode for instance), or perhaps her thoughts and memories will become increasingly muddled with her other lives.
There are two other notable events worth mentioning; events that, in addition to the one just discussed, have arguably cemented Clara as one of the most influential companions in Doctor Who. In The Day of the Doctor, she was pivotal in persuading the three Doctors not to destroy Galifrey; rewriting a significant event in his history. Then in The Time of the Doctor, she pleaded with the Time Lords, asking them to “change the future”, which directly led to them granting the Doctor more regenerations, and thus saving him from meeting his end on Trenzalore.
Clara’s contributions to the Doctor’s past, present and future are undeniable. I think it would be a disservice to her character if they were never acknowledged in series 8. Even the odd reference to it would suffice; it needn’t be a vital plot point. Perhaps when she does eventually leave the show, the Doctor will express his appreciation for all she has done for him.
A New Doctor
From a Doctor that she felt she understood, could “control” even, to one that is far sterner, far more unpredictable, and seemingly, far more dangerous; Clara will have a lot to come to terms with in Series 8. The opening episode “Deep Breath” is of course centred in part on her coping with, as Moffat put it: “her best friend being someone else”, though I feel that her uncertainty about this new Doctor will carry on over several episodes, if not the entire series.
That’s not to say that they won’t be good friends, but various comments in addition to lines such as “I don’t know who the Doctor is anymore” and “am I a good man?” imply that this Doctor’s ambiguity will remain a recurrent theme throughout most of Capaldi’s tenure. There are strong connotations that the new Doctor will do some questionable things in his time; causing Clara to doubt his reliability.
Something at the forefront of people’s minds is just how the Doctor/ companion relationship will change. The romantic element will (obviously) be subtracted, making way for something much more platonic: perhaps akin to classic Doctor Who. The mentor/student dynamic is one that’s been frequently used to describe Capaldi’s Doctor and Clara, but I would like to challenge that. Personally, I feel the Doctor respects her enough not to treat her like a naive schoolgirl. My expectation is that there will be more of a mutual friendship and regard; in fact, Clara in some ways will have to take responsibility for the Doctor. Let me explain, the impression given is that the Twelfth Doctor will be much more alien; to the degree that Clara will have to be his “human interface” with everyone else. This brilliant line pretty much sums it up:
“She’s my carer; she cares so I don’t have to”
Because the Doctor is exploring who he is, there may be times where Clara has to serve (to a some extent) as his moral compass; aiding him in his endeavour to find out whether he is in fact “a good man”.
In the past I’ve drawn parallels between this pair and Sherlock Holmes/John Watson (particularly from Steven Moffat’s other show ‘Sherlock’). The former is portrayed as socially disconnected; far more interested in the task at hand than whether or not he offends those around him. The latter is the more human of the two, and has to put up with and apologise for their partner’s insensitivity and apparent disregard for others. They have a strong bond, complimenting one another but also clashing at times: I’m getting a similar sort of vibe with the current Doctor and Clara.
Both actors have shared their thoughts on the duo’s relationship, and the overall feeling is that despite the interspersed tension and banter they will share a profound connection that goes beyond superficial camaraderie. Peter in particular was keen to stress that the removal of flirtation does not equate to a lesser care for his companion:
“I think the Doctor loves Clara in a very deep way that is not just about romance, so it goes into deeper territory of affection.”
A question some are still asking. I am of course referring to many feeling that really, we don’t know a lot about Clara Oswald. Where I would say this is (fairly) debatable, I do see where people are coming from. There is so much more to learn about her character, and that’s actually very exciting. From her job as a teacher at Cole Hill to her relationship with Danny Pink, there is a reservoir of possibilities to delve into.
Now on to the matter of Clara’s flaws. In response to the view that she is “too perfect”, we will undoubtedly get a much better look at her bossy control freak side.
Perhaps in the last series this was less prominent because in most cases (with a few exceptions of course), she could maintain some element of control. Clara is generally a subtle and restrained character (for better or worse), who on the whole has been consistently warm, charming, kind and selfless. Only when she is really challenged do her cracks start to come through. Personally, I can sense an underlying insecurity and fear in her, masked by her witty and bubbly persona. With a no-nonsense, “fiercer” Doctor to contend with, we could really witness just how much Clara struggles when she can’t stay on top of a situation. It’s ripe for some very interesting (and possibly amusing) moments.
Directly linked to this is Clara’s insistence on keeping her two lives (the one with the Doctor and her personal life) separate; a point Jenna Coleman has highlighted in recent interviews. Her endeavour is inevitably going to fail, which will not only be testing for her character but could lead to some potentially catastrophic results for the people she cares about. Moffat’s emphasis on consequences is somewhat foreboding, especially considering his statement that Clara’s interaction with the Doctor “may not be healthy” for those around them.
I believe that Clara will not only grow and mature even more as a character, but also become more independent. Where I wouldn’t say that Clara has ever been especially reliant on the Doctor (after all she’s saved him a fair few times!), there may be occasions where she’ll have to ‘bail herself out’ of danger. There is less of an assurance this time around that Capaldi’s Doctor will be around to “catch her” like his predecessor.
The term “audience surrogate” is often used in association with the Doctor’s companions. However, it could be argued that in Series 7 Clara by design failed to adequately fulfil this function. Though it was a change to the usual formula, making her a puzzle to be solved may have hindered the watcher’s ability to ‘see through her eyes’ so to speak. Relieved of the secrecy that surrounded her, she properly took on this role in the specials, and we will no doubt continue to follow Clara’s perspective into Series 8, with her reactions to the new Doctor mirroring many of our own.
She may no longer be an enigma, but that does not mean Clara is without her mysteries. One of the most intriguing is just why the TARDIS dislikes her: is it as simple as the old girl being a bit jealous, or is something bigger (on the inside) going on? Moffat’s cryptic hints could amount to no more than another confrontation (at the very start of the first episode for example) in which the affair is quickly resolved, but there’s a chance that it could be an entire arc of its own.
And then there’s this curious “woman in the shop”. For someone mentioned in a throwaway line she’s certainty presented us with quite the riddle. If she had not given Clara the TARDIS number, the Impossible Girl would never have encountered the Doctor. Because Clara has become so significant the effects of her absence would be far-reaching and potentially disastrous. The Great Intelligence may have defeated the Doctor long ago, he may have met his final end on Trenzalore, and Gallifrey may never have been saved. So who is this woman? What was her motivation? Does she have some sort or secret agenda using Clara? Only time will tell if this comes to anything.
It may be a non-issue, but it’s still one prevalent enough to warrant notice. How did Clara survive the Doctor’s time-stream? Lack of effects aside, it’s a problem in itself. This query is often dismissed; though some continue to be sceptical at the fact that she managed to live (and return to a normal life) after River asserting that the “real Clara” would die. As the lady herself said: “spoilers”.
The culmination of these questions is enough to persuade me that there is still more to Clara than meets the eye. I am convinced that she is a genuine, normal person (and not a trap), but there is clearly something a little iffy here. Will it play a big part, or am I just overthinking? We’ll have to wait and see.
I could really go on and on speculating about Clara’s future, I haven’t even broached her eventual departure from the show. As of yet there has been no confirmation that Jenna Coleman is staying beyond this year’s Christmas special, and how she does go is anyone’s guess, could she be one of the few companions to die? Maybe, but that calls for an entire discussion of its own.
I’d like to finish by saying this: To those who still remain unconvinced by her, I ask you to give her a chance. With the Impossible Girl arc behind her, a brand new chapter and the prospect of a completely different Doctor, Clara’s journey is only just beginning. You may have reservations about her, you may love her, or you may hate her. Either way, I can assure you that the very best of Clara Oswald is yet to come.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and theories!