12 Great Moments From Face the Raven
Mark McCullough picks out 12 faves from the 10th episode of Series 9.
“It’s full of stories, full of history. And full of a future that never got lived. Days that should have been that never were. Passed on to me. This leaf isn’t just the past, it’s a whole future that never happened. There are billions and millions of unlived days for every day we live. An infinity. All the days that never came. And these are all my mum’s.”
– Clara Oswald 1986-2015
Finding a quote to open an article which dissects Clara’s swansong was no easy feat. I chose this one because it depicts how I felt at the end of the episode: robbed. Robbed of those episode that never were, the adventures Clara could have went on to have, the spin-off she was strong enough to lead. All that potential wiped out, it’s tragic. But as fans for us it’s more than that, we have undoubtedly lost a friend this weekend. Someone who has been part of our lives for over three years now, and granted she is only a TV character, but that loss still hurts.
As such, I find my position in writing a Great Moments article this week a tough one. These articles are normally fun, but in light of what happened within the episode writing this feels less like fun and more like a funeral. That said, the selections this week are great in another sense, mostly because of the emotional turmoil and suffering they inflict. Also worth mentioning at this stage is the fact that I knew how the episode ended before watching it. I was delayed in seeing it, and found out about Clara from no fewer than five sources. But that’s ok, because it actually allowed me to form a pretty unique reading of the episode which I hope to share throughout this article.
12. Opening Sequence
The opening sequence to the story has two distinct parts, the second of which was released as a preview clip for the episode. Rigsy’s phone call was an intriguing scene which set up the premise of the narrative without too much effort. The scene was also one Jenna starred in conveying a range of emotion as Clara reacted to what Rigsy was telling her, initially dismissive in her body language, she was visibly concerned by the end. The other element of the scene was the snippet of the previous adventure which was used to show how reckless Clara had become. In case you hadn’t guessed this is all going to be about Clara/Jenna tonight!
11. Trap Streets
The concept behind the episode was a genius one, the idea of streets that were hidden within a major city like London. What I loved about this was the fact that it actually could happen, and be something that we have all walked past in our daily travels. This is aided by the fact that Dollard grounds the concept with mundane things like causing a lapse in concentration. The search scene was a particular highlight and one of the rare light-hearted moments of the episode. It was also quite a nice symmetry for Clara’s last episode to be London-centric like her first.
10. “I Guarantee the Safety of Clara Oswald. She will be Under my Personal Protection”
There was quite a lot going on in the first scene where Rigsy, Clara and the Doctor entered the street, so I won’t discuss all of it. What I want to draw out is the relationship established between Clara and Mayor Me. We learn that the Mayor has lots of respect for Clara having read the conversations with her several times despite not remembering. (Worth noting that this is the first time that Clara takes on the role of a legend, something more associated with the Doctor). The quote used as a sub-heading was glaringly obvious foreshadowing of what was to go, serving only to add to the uneasy atmosphere of the episode.
9. Clara takes the ChronoLock from Rigsy
This one is arguably the key-scene of the episode, if not series in that it is the one that sets in motion Clara’s ultimate demise. On one level we have her assuming the role of the Doctor, thinking she can outsmart the situation and that she will always win, a reckless courage associated with the Time Lord. However I feel that to say this alone doesn’t do her character the full justice it deserves. There’s her compassion too, the desire to protect a young person is typical of a teacher. It’s not just Rigsy that she protects here, but his baby too. Clara is someone who grew up without her mother, and her actions here prevented someone from having to experience the same. This decision typifies everything good about Clara’s character, and it’s beyond tragic that this is what ultimately killed her.
8. The Raven Strikes the First Time
I might be alone in thinking this, but I feel it was necessary to see the Raven attack before Clara was going to fall victim to it. This helped to create a sense of inevitability and a real air of dread as we realised we already knew what was going to happen to Clara, and that there was no escaping it. In terms of the man himself, the narrative managed the impressive feat of drawing sympathy towards an unnamed character who was being executed for breaking the terms of peace on the street.
7. Anahson’s Gift
Another very interesting concept that was added by the narrative was the abilities which Anah and her son (who was really her daughter, but pretended to be her son in order to ensure personal safety). I would have loved to see a deeper exploration into society on the street and why it was deemed beneficial to hide the psychic abilities, especially when they made everyone love Anah. Another huge benefit from this scene was to allow Clara to show off her empathetic side one last time and to remind us of why we love her so much. (As if we needed reminding!)
6. The Doctor sacrifices the TARDIS Key
I find this part of the episode to be particularly interesting, especially when viewed in light of what I will go on to discuss in the number one moment. From the Doctor’s perspective it is bound to have been obvious that the entire set-up was a trap, yet for some reason he decides to do it anyway. In doing so he endangers his own life and surrenders his TARDIS Key. It is particularly interesting that he did so with the knowledge that the Stasis Pod was keeping Anah alive and the fact that Mayor Me was not being entirely honest. So that begs the question why did the Doctor need Anah out of the Stasis Pod and why was it worth his TARDIS Key
5. There’s Nothing I can do
It’s amazing that Mayor Me can be the one responsible for Clara’s demise, yet still at the end of the episode I feel sorry for her and deflect more of the blame towards the Doctor. What we have to remember is that Mayor Me has worked to create a peaceful society, and some unknown they (all my money would be on the Time Lords) threatened that peace and made her act out of character. Her intentions were not to kill Clara and that has to be considered when looking at the episode, it’s a case of wrong place wrong time for her. This is particularly crippling in light of the earlier revelation that she had an admiration for Clara.
4. The Angry Doctor
Wow! Capaldi’s take on the Doctor can certainly pull off scary. I’ve never felt that scared of what the Doctor could do and how far his grief would take him. In this mood, next week’s one hander starring only Capaldi should prove a fascinating spectacle as he come to terms with the loss of someone he loved and lets out some of that raw anger. I was thankful however that Clara was able to keep him in check while she was still alive. This is worrisome however, now that she is gone, who will stop that fierce temper from boiling over, and will it be an insult to Clara’s memory if he does.
3. Clara’s Goodbye
There are very few moments of television that break my heart, this was one of them. Even with the knowledge that Clara was leaving in this episode I couldn’t prepare myself for this. Her final interaction with the Doctor is one that will live long in my memory. A particular highlight was the discussion about people not needing to suffer because of her death. The Doctor’s response just struck a chord and resonated with me. “What about me?” was quite a fourth wall breaking moment. No one has to suffer, but what about the Doctor, what about me, what about The Genie, Supermoff, Lazy Cat, You Will Obey Me, TheCount, Esterath, Scribey, TheTimeTraveller, DrOswald, TheOncomingHurricane, DWTV and all the rest of us who suffer in the thought of losing one of our favourite companions. Easily one of the most emotional scenes in the shows history that delivered punch after punch.
2. Clara Dies
The actual death scene itself was always going to take a top spot on this list, but narrowly misses out because of something which enriches the rest of the episode. What I love about Clara’s final scene is the fact that she faces her fate and walks towards it. Bearing in mind the constant comparisons between herself and the Doctor I think this is a key aspect. The Doctor has always been running, and never stops, this is something constantly commented on within the shoe. Clara almost proves herself as better than him when she decides to face her mistakes and her fate. Her last words “Be Brave” are as much for herself as they are for the audience and the Doctor. Don’t be surprised if the Doctor echoes these words at the end of Heaven Sent.
1. The Doctor DOESN’T offer to take the ChronoLock
Two weeks ago I broke format of the article by giving two moments a joint first place, last week I didn’t even bother ranking the moments at all. This week the number one spot is taken by something that didn’t actually happen, a non-moment if you like. You’ve read the sub-heading so you will know by now that I think the best part of the episode was the lack of an offer from the Doctor to take Clara’s fate for her. Confusing statement? Let me clarify further:
From speaking with some of you after the episode there seems to have been an assumption that once Clara took the ChronoLock from Rigsy, that she could not pass it on to someone else. Looking strictly at what the narrative tells us, there is no reason to actually make this assumption. We are told “You can pass it on, but… you can’t cheat it” and later Mayor Me tell Clara that “She can’t” but only when Rigsy demands, “Give it back to me now”. Looking at the first quote, unless the subject of the ‘you’ changes mid-sentence the only thing it infers is that death can be passed on to someone else as long as someone else still dies. The second set of quotes only rule out giving it back to the person who you took it from, no other possibilities are discussed in any way by the narrative. So the Doctor could have offered (not that Clara would ever have accepted it) to take death on her behalf. So why didn’t he, and is this technically out of character?
To answer this I’m going to go back to a vaguely similar situation between the Tenth Doctor and Wilf in The End of Time. In that episode, the companion’s actions (in risking their life to safe another) had also put their life in immediate danger. In both cases the Doctor has the opportunity to take the fate from the companion, and in both his immediate reaction is anger albeit this time his anger has a particular source. The major difference is in Wilf’s case he decides to sacrifice himself to let his friend live. He could have done that here and took Clara’s ChronoLock, so why didn’t he? It’s not really out of character that his actions were different this time round, he’s at new regeneration cycle, and doesn’t have death hanging over him this time (despite having just handed over his last will and testament). Looking closely at The End of Time his first instinct is not to save Wilf, and it is only knowledge of the four knocks that changes this, without that here, it is in character that he didn’t offer to die for Clara.
So why on Earth and I making a big deal out of this? Simple answer is because it perfected Clara’s character arc and sent her off on a real high. The downfall of Clara was that she became too like the Doctor, took too many risks, and suffered for it. Unlike him, when she gets it wrong, that is the end for her, whereas he can regenerate and go again. My point here is, was it actually a flaw, he’s got it wrong more times than she has. Actually I do believe that this episode showed us that Clara was a better Doctor than the man himself: she took the ChronoLock from Rigsy knowing the risks, the Doctor didn’t take it from her. What better way to send off arguably the best companion in the shows history than bringing her characterisation to a perfect climax.