12 Great Moments From Hell Bent (Part 2)
Mark McCullough picks out 12 faves from the 12th episode of Series 9.
5. “I Still Don’t Have a Pulse”
A moment of pure tragedy makes it into the top five moments of the finale. The Doctor thinks that he has got away scot-free, he has escaped Gallifrey, he has extracted his companion before she died and now by his own reckoning Clara’s bodily functions should now have resumed. You can see that the Doctor wants to believe that what he is attempting is possible, and it is visible how much of an impact the quoted line has on him. Yet still he tries to rationalise that it’ll all be fine, attempting to ignore the warning of his kind and the fact that it doesn’t seem to be working. Kudos to Peter Capaldi who has arguably one of his finest scenes as the character. It was also obvious that in his hearts of hearts (does that even work with bicardiac species?) the Doctor knew it was never going to work, why else would he have brought the memory wipe?
4. The Hybrid Theory
How to approach a tease like the Hybrid, the arc of Series Nine and the butt of most of the jokes on the site since its first mention eleven weeks ago. Unfortunately this is one of the points where the episode falls down as we don’t get answers, only theories from two characters who don’t actually know the answer, all of which I read in comments on this site. The first was the obvious one where Ashildr/Me was the hybrid of Mire and Viking, which would have fitted the prophecy. The second is the Doctor himself as stated at the end of Heaven Sent, the catch being this would have canonised the suggestion that he was half human on his mother’s side, however this was as good as confirmed anyway by the fact that the Doctor did not deny the fact. Finally, and perhaps most interesting, was the idea of Clara and the Doctor being the hybrid and the scenario being engineered by Missy (bear in mind the Doctor got his confession dial from her in the first place). Not only was the Hybrid lacking in identity, but we were also lead to believe by promotional materials that it would pose a threat to Gallifrey. For this not to materialise was an extreme disappointment.
3. The Soldiers Join the Doctor
In an episode full of strong imagery, this scene stands out as one of the highlights of the narrative. The scene where the Doctor faces an execution squad is the most impactful aspect of the moment, but it would be foolish to ignore what comes before too. Without saying a word, the Doctor is able to create an atmosphere of fear within the most powerful people of one of the most powerful species in the universe. This fear is enough to bring Gallifrey’s two top dogs (The General and Rassilon) to him, armed with a firing squad. What happens next delivers a very powerful message about respecting those who have earned it and that weapons are not necessarily a good thing (which given what has happened in America this year presents a very topical discussion). Seeing the firing squad initially miss the Doctor, then go against their President whom they were most likely sworn to serve, just because they couldn’t kill and unarmed man was probably one of the most emotive scenes this series. Flawless stuff!
2. The Doctor Kills the General
Perhaps one of the most surprising scenes in the history of the show is the fact that the Doctor decided to take it upon himself to kill a man, without a real motive, rather than risk giving up Clara. The episode earlier reminded us of the Doctor’s promise (Never Cruel or Cowardly) and then went on to show us this. The Doctor acting more out of character than he ever had done before, truly hell bent on getting what he wanted no matter what the cost. To make things worse the General was actually one of the Doctor’s friends, or at least on his side. For that reason it felt like a bigger betrayal than just murdering a random Time Lord, this man had defied his president for the Doctor a mere ten minutes previously. You could argue that because the Doctor knew the General had regenerations available that it wasn’t technically murder, but either way it was as good as. The way in which the Doctor wished the General good luck was also extremely chilling.
However by far the best thing to come from this was what happened after the regeneration. We’ve had numerous discussions about the possibility of a female Doctor. Then came the reference to the Corsair, and a few years later the next incarnation of the Master was revealed to be a woman. But now we have gone one step further with the on-screen regeneration of a male Time Lord into a female one. Not only that, but the character goes from a white male, to a black female. As much as it disappoints me to say (because it shouldn’t be the case in 2015) that this represents a massive change in social status. As such I thought it was fascinating how the Time Lords viewed the General in the exact same way. Hopefully that is message that can translate into the fandom and extend into the wider public. Because it is so important!
1. “Run you Clever boy…”
It’s interesting that I have chosen this scene as my number one for the list because initially it was sitting in a middle position. However a conversation with a member of the site (Thanks to AmyPondIsAwesome) led me to the realisation that one of my biggest problems actually added to the moment. So without further ado, our number one moment for the last time this series is the Doctor’s Memory Wipe. Which granted takes up a fair chunk of the latter portion of the episode rather than one individual moment. I am going to look at each part in a bit more detail:
The actual mechanism of the Doctor losing his memory of his best friend is something which needs to be re-examined. The Doctor was intending to use the memory wipe on Clara, but instead she used the Sonic Specs to reverse the polarity. The Doctor then used them again to check what she had actually done, before reaching the conclusion that he wasn’t sure what she had done. Believable if you don’t think too much about it. When you factor in the telepathic nature of the Sonic Specs however, you have to realise that what each user wanted to have happened will have, because that is what they will be thinking. So why did the Doctor decide to wipe his own mind instead of Clara’s like he seemed intent on?
The obvious answer is that he respects her and her decision to claim ownership of past and right to decide to remember it. Some may even remark that this is something which remains true to the control freak nature of the character. So why did the Doctor’s deciding not to wipe Clara’s mind mean that he had to wipe his own? It’s didn’t, but the availability of the memory wipe offered him a chance to rid himself of the grief he was suffering, the cost his memory of Clara. This is where APIA had a long discussion last night which shone a new light on events for me. Our debate was about whether it is worse to just lose someone, or lose all memory of them. My stance on the matter was that once the memories are gone, so is the pain of the loss. Arguably it is the bigger sacrifice to make the decision, but once made it is in my opinion the easier option.
It was during our discussion that I realised that as a result of this, the Doctor took the cowardly option. This would mean that the Doctor’s actions here are going against his promise and therefore against what it means to be the Doctor. This is something I absolutely love, it was no mistake that I quoted the original line above because it’s the same thing. Remember and being a Doctor in this instance are the same thing, so Clara’s last sign off was the same message as before and those previous iterations of that line now have an added weight.
I’ll end this section with a quick semantic look at the situation. The Doctor appears to have forgotten Clara. However we know from his own admission that he knows her name was Clara. He knows they travelled together, and the details of some of their adventures. But he forgets what she looked like, or how she talked. Those later two have now been rectified having met Clara and seen her tribute on his TARDIS. When something goes missing, you can always recreate it by the hole it left, he now has the means to fill those gaps in, so the impact of the memory lost is quite reduced. All he has lost is the pain of losing her, which makes me feel a little robbed of the potential character arc that could have produced next series.
- Me and the Doctor talk about death/endings being both sad and beautiful
- The Doctor returns to the barn
- Murray Gold’s ever impressive score
- Amy and Rory reference
- Four Knocks
You’ve probably gathered from reading this article that I’m pretty torn on Hell Bent. As an episode viewed in isolation I would be more than happy to give it a score towards the upper end of the scale. However when you start trying to fit it in the series as a whole it becomes a pain as it impacts a lot of what has gone before. In that respect it was one of the most disappointing viewing experiences I have had as a fan of this show, and that’s quite upsetting especially in light of the hype.
I guess all that remains is to thank you all for reading these articles throughout the series. And what a series it’s been: barring the aforementioned it really has been one of the strongest series to date. See you all at Christmas for some more.