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What if… Clara had stayed Victorian?

Guest contributor Will Stanford examines whether Series 7 would have been better or worse.

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Last year, Neil Gaiman let slip the very interesting information that the Series 7B writers initially developed their scripts with Clara as Victorian governess/barmaid that we saw die in The Snowmen. The decision to create a third Clara in the modern day came fairly late on, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that this switch is a significant factor in Clara’s character feeling a bit lacking when not in the hands of Steven Moffat so far. Gone was street-smart cockney Clara, and in her place came a more naïve girl-next-door type. I read Neil’s words and felt a sense of sadness for having missed out on eight episodes plus of the more compelling, more vital Clara that had been so wonderful to watch at Christmas. But would sticking to the original plan and keeping on Victorian Clara really have worked better? Let’s take a closer look…

More Intelligence

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It’s hard to fathom why considering the versions encountered earlier turned out to be echoes of our modern-day Clara, but each successive version of the character turned out to be a bit less bright. Not that our Clara is unintelligent, but compared to the self-proclaimed “total screaming genius” Oswald and the highly resourceful double-life leading Victorian she is a bit lacking. Would contemporary Clara have found the Doctor’s ladder-to-the-sky and the TARDIS’ cloud base? Possibly. Would she have passed Madame Vastra’s single word test? I’m not so sure (modern Clara reduced to one word per line?!). Would she have been able to hack into the Daleks’ central system and delete all memory of the Doctor? Absolutely not. Our Clara did gain some computer skills from her time captured by the Spoonheads in The Bells of Saint John, but these have not been in evidence since.

With the more intelligent Victorian Clara on-board the TARDIS full time, it’s hard to imagine the climaxes of episodes such as Hide and The Name of the Doctor playing out as they did. Clara would certainly have seemed a lot less helpless when trapped in the Doctor’s timestream, and perhaps wasted fewer words in the decision to jump into it. The protective, paternal element to the Doctor’s relationship with his new companion would therefore be diminished, if not lost altogether – especially as in this scenario the Doctor has only lost Clara/Oswin once. To me, to lose that dynamic between Doctor and companion would be to lose the driving force of the series and that is too great a loss to consider.

A win for: Contemporary Clara

More Romance

the-snowmen-clara-kiss-aThe TARDIS really might have become a snog-box had Victorian Clara stuck around. Clara does fancy the Doctor, this we know thanks to the truth field, but the Doctor’s overprotective instinct towards her prevents any reciprocation – as does Clara’s initial suspicion when the Doctor barges into her life in The Bells of Saint John. Victorian Clara got all the romance stuff out of the way, and I for one am happy for it to stay out of the way – that ground has been well and truly trodden since 2005. Had Clara stayed Victorian, we’d be seeing a much more sexual element to Clara’s feelings for the Doctor, and I don’t see any way how that wouldn’t turn into a re-hash of Rose/Madame de Pompadour/Martha/Amy/River/all of the above. Been there, done that.

A win for: Contemporary Clara

Different Kids

doctor-who-the-snowmen-gallery-(22)Controversially, I don’t hate the much-maligned Maitland kids. Yes, their acting could have been better and they weren’t suited to the more major roles they found themselves in for Nightmare in Silver – but they look the part, and expose some nice characteristics in both the Doctor and Clara. But would we have been any better off with the Latimer kids? Remember them, Digby and improbably-tall Franny? Could they have recurred in Series 7B, and ultimately ended up at Hedgewick’s World of Wonders? Short answer: yes. Whether they’d have fared any better in Nightmare in Silver is another question altogether, and one that isn’t so easy to answer. Although the kids are clearly written in the same mould, Angie Maitland appears more prone to sudden stroppiness than her Victorian counterpart – and it’s this that rings most false in her character to me. On the other hand, would a young Victorian girl hiding in the corner have any more impact when taken by a Cyberman? Acting aside, that scene had much more impact by focusing on an overconfident modern teenager rather than a repressed nineteenth-century one. And let’s not forget that Clara had a stronger connection to the Maitlands, being present when the mother of the family died rather than just employed as a governess. This, in turn, allowed the Doctor to glean a deeper understanding of Clara’s values (“you don’t run out on the people you care about”) and strengthened the bond between them. So overall, despite some misgivings I must conclude that we gained more than we lost by swapping Latimers for Maitlands.

A win for: Contemporary Clara

More Running

doctor-who-the-snowmen-gallery-(12)However, there’s a downside to Clara not running out on the people she cares about, and it’s that she doesn’t run out on the people she cares about. The Doctor picks her up at the start of every episode, and sets her back home at the end. No time away from home like Rose, no need to choose between the two lives like the Ponds, these two have a nice regular schedule going. But it’s not very interesting, is it? The companion needs to quit their life to see the stars, at least temporarily, or it all starts to feel rather pointless. Where’s the tension if Clara can pop back home at any time, with no risk of missing a thing? I’m hoping this matters is tackled in series 8 as there’s still plenty of time, but Victorian Clara would have cut to that chase much sooner. Yes, the occasional return trip to see the Paternoster gang and Latimer kids (The Crimson Horror would have, and presumably did at the first draft stage, fit into that nicely) would have been in order, but other than that Victorian Clara would have taken up residence in the TARDIS for sure. Considering the lack of clarification over Clara’s travelling status right up to the end of Nightmare in Silver, it seems very likely that this was the initial plan. So while Clara’s homing instincts open up a nice emotional door between her and the Doctor, too much was left to the viewer’s imagination for too long – and in a way the very Doctor/companion format was undermined.

A win for: Victorian Clara

Less Intrigue

clara-montage-faceAcross Series 7, Clara was all about the mystery. She was the impossible girl: how could she show up in Victorian London, having died as a Dalek in the future? For the viewer, the intrigue was there right from the moment Jenna appeared unexpectedly in Asylum of the Daleks. But for the Doctor, he didn’t start asking questions till Victorian Clara had died (or maybe just before, if you want to be picky). So if Victorian Clara didn’t die, when would he have put two and two together? We’ll probably never know what the plan was, but there doesn’t seem to be a natural place for this turning point in Series 7B. So consider this: the Doctor doesn’t realise that Clara and Oswin are one and the same until The Name of the Doctor. Less dragged-out mystery, sure, but also far less momentum behind the series – and much more frustration for the viewers, fervently asking a question all but unaddressed on-screen for nearly nine months.

A win for: Contemporary Clara

A Cockney Accent

Need I say any more?

A win for: Victorian Clara

Conclusion

And so, as much as it surprises me to write this, it is a resounding victory for our modern-day Clara. It’s easy to point at this one aspect and think it’s the route of series 7’s problems (I really enjoy Series 7, but I won’t bury my head in the sand and pretend it is free of significant flaws), but that simply is not the case. We may have had a more compelling and relatable companion had Victorian Clara stayed, but we’d have also lost so much of what made Clara and Eleven’s time together something new and we’d have lost what gave the latter half of the series its impetus. Looking to the future, would Victorian Clara have as much trouble adjusting to a new Doctor as our Clara appears to? Less grieving would mean a weaker dynamic for series 8, with less of the tension that looks to be the hallmark of Twelve’s early days. And that’s without even mentioning the superb shock impact caused by Clara’s Christmas death, which I wouldn’t trade in for the world. So while it was a bit of a bumpy road, now we’ve passed it the show is in a much stronger position than it would be with Victorian Clara.

Step back in time...

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76 comments
LoneRangerNinjutsu
LoneRangerNinjutsu

This does remind me though. We need more companions from different time eras, like the classic show. People from modern day Earth are getting boring.

TheOncomingFish
TheOncomingFish

Well argued article, but I have to disagree. I thought Victorian Clara was far more interesting than modern Clara. 

I disagree with you saying that having Clara return home after every adventure takes away tension. Pretty much every companion has travelled with the Doctor continuously, so if Clara did that too wouldn't it just be telling the same story over and over? It's refreshing to see a companion who isn't like that, who has priorities over the Doctor, who doesn't see him as the most important thing and who is responsible. She has a life outside of him and I like that. 

I wouldn't be bothered if there was less intrigue to Clara. I think if Clara had stayed Victorian there wouldn't be the Impossible Girl arc at all, as it was only decided that Oswin was going to be played by Jenna when Moffat thought of having a Clara mystery. Although the mystery started out interesting (Jenna appearing as Oswin in AOTD was brilliant) I think it actually prevented Clara from having character development, and I'd happily trade intrigue for a more developed, three dimensional character. 

DrWhoGoesThere
DrWhoGoesThere

While I still think that the show could benefit from a companion coming from somewhere other than modern day London, I have to admit your point is well argued.  And I actually do like modern-day Clara, although the once-a-week-vacation format got a bit old.

I can't agree with you about the Maitlands, though.  Anything would have been better than Angie and Artie.

Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

I prefer the Governess Clara accent to either of the other accents.  Cockney accents annoy me, as does modern Clara's continuous dropping of her "t's".

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

I quite like the idea of a companion from the past, and im aware that its worked well before. however, I think the role of the companion is to be relatable and not so different from our selves. we need to see the doctor through their eyes. having a companion from any time period other than the 21st century would limi this. also, it might get quite tedious if they're constantly asking what everything is in the present day.

MaraBackman
MaraBackman

For a long time I've felt that the show could benefit from having two or three simultaneous companions, all of whom come from different time-periods and cultures, perhaps even different species. It would be interesting to see the dynamic of the companions gradually overcoming culture shock and learning how to respect each others' values.

lp229
lp229

I think that it would have been more interesting if we had a Victorian companion. It certainly would have made a refreshing change from the string modern companions we have had in the new series.  

WiblyWoblyTimyWimyMOFFAT
WiblyWoblyTimyWimyMOFFAT

instead of clara or clara there would've be someone else good oswin:she stayes tge whole time with the doctor even after the loss of the ponds. So there wouldve been a tardis quartet the intelligence just for christmas and for the final cumberbatch as master john hurt could still have a cameo.

WiblyWoblyTimyWimyMOFFAT
WiblyWoblyTimyWimyMOFFAT

As I first saw it I thought there would be a companion from another timezone.Possibly series nine? Also interesting would be two companions of different time zones!

ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe
ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe

Fascinating, well-written article! While it would have been interesting to see what Series 7B would have been like with Victorian Clara as the companion (a change after 24 years of mostly modern Earth companions would certainly be welcomed!), I agree that it works better with modern Clara. The appearance and death of a second Clara made a great impact on both the Doctor and us, and basically established the whole "Impossible Girl" mystery. Although I like the Victorian Clara, I'm really happy with the modern Clara that we got instead (call it "burying my head in the sand", is you like, but she's my favourite New Who companion!), as I feel she suits the role of a companion more.


I only heavily disagree with the "More Running" paragraph. I don't see Clara travelling with the Doctor half-time as a downside. Yes, it's something new, but that actually makes it more interesting. Clara still loves travelling with the Doctor, but doesn't want to abandon her life outside the TARDIS and has responsibilities that she can't run away from. I think it feels very realistic and gives her character a few points.


YgorVale
YgorVale

I have a question, nothing to do with the article, what if all the Doctors saved Gallifrey for nothing? For example, what if they actually sent Gallifrey to 2009 Earth, and the Tenth Doctor sent to back to the Time Lock? That would be an interesting plot twist.

lukashcartoon
lukashcartoon

Excellent article-while the Victorian Clara had a fascinating personality, we wouldn't have the same mystery behind her. And it fits a motif of the Doctor- Victorian Clara is the pas, soufflé Clara the future - leaving the present for our Clara.

Modern day Clara was surprisingly sweet and normal- she cares about people, likes the travel, faces the danger well. The Victorian Clara seemed a bit too clever and exceptional.

Still- I wondered if fan disappointment with Clara was due to how much people liked the Victorian aspect.

Mr_Fiction
Mr_Fiction

I really like Clara as a companion but I would love to see more companions from other eras and other worlds. Contemporary Britain has been done to death.

Scott1996
Scott1996

I've always thought that those versions of Clara were so much better, it's not that I dislike her it's just I feel that there was so much more potential with the others and found there stories a lot more interesting

Beasts_a_Snarling
Beasts_a_Snarling

I disagree with this. I prefer the idea of Victorian Clara. I like the idea of how her character was born in an oppressed Victorian environment and out of that grew a strong and independent young woman. Modern Clara is less unique because all her life she has been able to grow up with less social pressure to act a certain way compared to Victorian Clara. I feel like Victorian Clara would have been a more interesting, troubled, and strong companion.

Second Doctor
Second Doctor

I would have preferred the Victorian Clara. It would have been such a nice, fresh change to your typical 21st Century companion. It's as though the show won't take risks despite all the possibilities it has. Why not have a Victorian companion for a change? It's like no one's brave enough to push the boat out. Oh, well! Maybe in the future, eh? Or is that the past? *Smiles Devilishly*

Clara_Oswin_Oswald
Clara_Oswin_Oswald

I would've loved if Victorian Clara stayed... She is my favourite version of Clara...

To be honest Modern Clara is not my favourite... She needs more character development.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

Great idea for an article!


Victorian Clara was a great character (like Oswin) but to me slightly cartoonish to be anything more than a one off, it seems entirely logical for a Clara fragment to emerge from the timestream a complete genius, super brave, inquisitive (and flirty), but as a regular companion, it might have grated. Modern Clara is more human, she's less sure of herself, she has barriers that she doesn't want to cross, which to me make her a very rateable person. I like the fact that she has her own life outside of the Doctor's world, that seems more realistic than someone dropping everything to fly off with the Doctor.

The impossible girl story did work better with 2 Claras dying to save the Doctor before we reached NOTD and Trenzalore than it would have done with just one, it enforced the mystery.

My current Fanfiction story is funnily enough a multi Clara story, it's interesting trying to contrast the more sensible modern Clara with Oswin and Clara Oswin Oswald :-)

WiblyWoblyTimyWimyMOFFAT
WiblyWoblyTimyWimyMOFFAT

Oswin wouldve been good, he takes her with (doctor,amy,rory,oswin) the ponds are sent back in time but oswin stayes with him. And then just another season theme without impossible girl.Eleven and clara,ups OSWIN would have had a whole season and the great intelligance just for christmas and for the final cumberbatch as master - perfect season!

SouffleBoy
SouffleBoy

I was excited when I thought we would get a companion from another time zone, but it never happened. Fingered crossed for the future!

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

@TheOncomingFish  I would argue that Series 7 wasn't meant to develop Clara. Series 8 can do that with her having to get used to Twelve, but when we first met Modern!Clara, she was already a pretty stable person. Her mother died when she was young and now she sympathizes with the Maitland kids whose mom also died, and she put her own lifelong desire to see the world on hold in order to deal with her responsibilities at home (which she still does, even with the Doctor). Essentially, Modern!Clara is already developed. Series 7 is us getting to know her how she is before they (presumably) start to change her outlook in Series 8.

DalekSupreme1
DalekSupreme1

@gunslinger19 I disagree, I personally think that the roles should have been exchanged, because we haven't had a companion from the past since the begining of NuWho, and, if dealt with properly I think that it wouldn't get tiresome and make Doctor Who feel a little bit more realistic - like stopping questions such as "why is an immortal time travelling alien always picking up girls from 21st century Earth?" I would very much like to see an alien companion return to Doctor Who - something we haven't seen since Turlough left. I really don't think that a few centuries' difference will make a companion unrelatable - I mean their still human aren't they, and the main way that they need to be relatable is by having the Doctor explain things to them and by them discovering foreign worlds etc. - still very plausable.

Warpstar
Warpstar

If we ignore Captain Jack as part time companion, this is really something we havn't had since the fifth doctor! I would really like to see that in the future.

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

@YgorVale  That couldn't work; the timelines don't line up. By the time that the Doctors saved Gallifrey, Rassilon and the High Council had already attempted the drumbeat gambit and failed.

youshallnotpass
youshallnotpass

oh great so this comment is posted but not the one i tried to post like 30 times. that's it, screw this, i'll stop commenting

Rani Nose
Rani Nose

It's not that the impossible girl story worked better with two Claras, but that the mystery doesn't even exist without the two Claras dying. If Victorian Clara lived and became a companion there is no mystery, Series 7B is completely different and that forces The Name or the Doctor to not exist.

TheOncomingFish
TheOncomingFish

@Amy the Consulting Key Ring Good point, and if they do develop her in series 8 I won't really mind that she didn't develop in series 7. I think the problems I have with her not being as developed is that I find it harder to enjoy a series if the characters aren't developed or if I feel that they don't have much depth, which is probably why I didn't enjoy series 7 part 2 as much, as I didn't care about Clara enough. I wish the writers had explored her character more. But what you've said makes sense, so I can see why they did it that way. 

GaiaMix
GaiaMix

@Warpstar Actually, Tegan\Nyssa\Adric\Turlough were not confirmed to be from different time periods, just from different planets.


So we have not had a different-time-period companion since Leela, who was a regressed human savage, not only living on another planet, but also from the really distant future!


(And if you mean different timezone as in one living in GMT+5 and one living in GMT-6, Peri and Grace supposedly had that covered.)

YgorVale
YgorVale

@Amy the Consulting Key Ring @YgorValeNo, because the General mentioned "their plan has already failed, we're in the line of fire", so Gallifrey appearing next to Earth in 2009 wouldn't have happened for them yet, plus in the High Council meeting they mention that the Doctor has the moment, but the they only find out the Doctor has the moment after the War Council mention the High Council have plans of their own,  so these events happened AFTER the war council mention that the High Council have plans of their own, so It is possible that Ten saved and destroyed Gallifrey, Don't you think the War Council would have mentioned being out of the line of fire briefly? 

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

@Rani Nose  It also makes it possible that  this Clara could dye as well, e.g. in JTTTOTT where the Doctor thinks he's killed a 3rd version of her off!

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

@Rani Nose  Quite so, because without two pre-established Clara deaths, the whole "Woman Twice Dead" aspect of it vanishes and the "Impossible Girl" is suddenly a lot more possible; she would just be River Song 2.0.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

@Notsosmartguy  Thanks, it's s rubbish name I picked when scrabbling around for a Doctor Whoish name for fanfiction, that I've gradually adopted elsewhere in the universe for talking rubbish about the show :-)

Warpstar
Warpstar

Of course I didnt mean GMT... :p

Fact is - except River Song and Captain Jack (who are only part time companions) every companion came from our present time. Time for a change.

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

@YgorVale @ilyootha  Furthermore, it still couldn't work even if you were to suggest, for example, that the High Council decided to carry out their plans after giving the Doctor a new regenerative cycle on Trenzalore - they mentioned that they were attempting to escape the time lock, but the time lock is only around the Time War. Gallifrey, upon being saved, was no longer time-locked, so the Time Lords at this point would not be attempting to escape a time lock. And that is yet more evidence that the "escape to 2009" plan happens during the Time War, before the end, and it is saved by the Doctors at the end. So "The End of Time" has to come before Gallifrey is saved.



Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

@YgorVale @ilyootha  The sequence of events are as such:

-The High Council enters emergency session.

-The General dismisses their plan saying "their plans have already failed." He wasn't speaking literally. He was calling their plan a hopeless waste of time because even if they succeeded, the Time War would still be raging on and they would still be in the line of fire.

-The Doctor steals the Moment. The War Council see this on-screen.

-The Doctor takes the Moment into the desert. About this time, the Partisan says "The Doctor still possess the Moment, and he'll use it to destroy Daleks and Time Lords alike" (which means that he had yet to attempt to activate it, meaning that this happens before Gallifrey is saved).

-The Moment sends the War Doctor to Elizabethan times.

-While the War Doctor is in another time zone, the High Council attempts to move Gallifrey, but are sent back by the Tenth Doctor and the Master. ("Gallifrey Falls!!!" - The Visionary was predicting Gallifrey's destruction, meaning that this must happen before the Doctor is about to use the Moment.)


-The War Doctor returns to the Time War and prepares to destroy Gallifrey, but after Ten and Eleven show up, he works to save it instead.

-Gallifrey is stored in a pocket universe and broadcasts the Question into the main universe through a crack in time on Trenzalore.

It is quite easy to "prove you wrong" in this instance; the Partisan's comments make it clear that the Doctor has yet to use the Moment, which would mean that the Doctor is still wandering through the desert at that point. And the whole point of the High Council's plan was to escape before Gallifrey could be destroyed, meaning that it absolutely must happen before the Doctor is about to push the button. And the show itself also proves you wrong by confirming that the Doctor's actions were successful - he saved Gallifrey in a pocket universe, which is how we got "The Time of the Doctor".







ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe
ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe

@YgorVale Indeed you are, have a jelly baby!


I'm not going to prove you wrong because I don't think that the events of TEOT have already happened before TDOTD either. My point was only that you can't use the General's line as a proof that the events of TEOT haven't happened before, because if anything, that line actually implies such a possibility, even if said possibility conflicts with that line in TEOT.




I believe that the events of TEOT happened during TDOTD, while the Doctor was on the desert planet walking towards that shed (he "disappeared", as the chancellor in TEOT put it). By the time the 13 Doctors arrive to save Gallifrey, it had already traveled to 2009 Earth and back.




YgorVale
YgorVale

@ilyootha @YgorVale The War Council indeed did say "to hell with the High Council, their plans have already failed,  Gallifrey's still in the line of fire" however after that, they learned that the War Doctor stole the Moment, however in End of Time when the High Council were having their emergency meeting they mentioned that "The Doctor still processes the Moment, and he'll use it to destroy Daleks and Time lords alike" which implies that the War Doctor has had the Moment quite awhile otherwise the woman in the High Council would have said "We have heard news from the War Council, The Doctor has the stolen the Moment and we suspect he'll use it to destroy Daleks and Time Lords alike", so the High Council's meeting must of occurred AFTER the War Council's meeting, so we can rule out that Gallifrey appeared next to Earth in 2009 before the War Councils meeting, so... that quote can't been referring to Gallifrey's temporal movement to Earth.  I've used evidence, aren't I a clever boy? 

Prove me wrong.

ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe
ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe

@YgorVale Yes, but if a plan that gives you this break stops working after five minutes and brings you back to the line of fire, clearly this plan is not working, so to say "this plan failed and we're still in the line of fire" is an entirely logical thing to do.

YgorVale
YgorVale

@ilyootha @YgorVale Why wouldn't they? If you were in a war for hundreds of years, you'd be grateful if the enemy stop firing on you, even if it was for about five minutes.

ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe
ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe

@YgorVale Don't you think the War Council would have mentioned being out of the line of fire briefly?

Why would they, if it was only briefly and in the end they were still in the line of fire?




jlocoleman
jlocoleman

@Planet of the Deaf @Rani Nose Always makes me think though. If the Doctor could've altered the timeline in JTTCOTT which saves Modern day Clara from dying, why couldn't he do the same for Victorian Clara? (although you could probably argue it'd be dangerous since he'd be altering his timestream)

jlocoleman
jlocoleman

@Rani Nose @Amy the Consulting Key Ring Yeah. And if The Name of the Doctor never existed, then Clara can never save the Doctor from Trenzalore, meaning he dies, and the Time Lords' plans from TDOTD & TTOTD are worthless. So, series 5 and 6's story arcs of killing the Doctor would never of happened because the Doctor died on Trenzalore in the first place. Meaning River Song never exists. Nor did the cracks in the first place.


Having Victorian Clara stay alive would mess up ALOT of things in the Whoniverse.

Rani Nose
Rani Nose

@Amy the Consulting Key Ring @Rani Nose  Thinking through a bit... To get a Victorian Clara as companion they would have had to switch the order of The Snowmen and The Bells of Saint John.  The Snowmen story wouldn't have to change except have a happy ending where that Clara survives.  TBoSJ could have been any story as long as it included a modern Clara who died at the end.