Pulling the Strings: The Unsolved Clara Mystery (Part 1)
Guest contributor Ruth Long begins her investigation.
“Clara, my Clara. Always brave, always funny, always exactly what I need: perfect… too perfect. You get used to not knowing, I thought I never would… I was wrong. I know who Clara Oswald is; I know how she came to be in my life and I know what she will always mean. I found out… the day we went to Trenzalore”
These were the words spoken by the Eleventh Doctor (in the prequel “She Said, He Said”) as, along with the viewers, he pondered the true identity and purpose of the enigmatic “Impossible Girl”. Of course, as he implied, her mystery would be subsequently resolved in the Series 7 finale “The Name of the Doctor”.
…But was it?
It’s now becoming increasingly evident that we may not have been given all the answers.
Well Clara, you certainly have our attention.
Anyone who has read my comments on Doctor Who TV will know that I am somewhat of a Clara-conspiracy theorist. Indeed, my last contribution to this site was entitled “Is there more to Clara than we think?” (Wow, I really need to broaden my subject area!). Safe to say I’ve done more than my fair share of speculating when it comes to this topic. That said, with the revelations of recent episodes and the mind-shattering next-time trailer for “Dark Water” especially, this concept has (once again) been brought to the forefront of fan scrutiny; and I feel compelled to investigate it further.
Despite the apparent closure of Clara’s original story arc; threads were left hanging, and queries left unexplained. In the time following, Steven Moffat has dropped many a tantalizing hint; both directly within the narrative of the current series and outside of it. Thus, it would seem that this is not necessarily a matter of iffy continuity, but rather a complex long-term plan for the character; a character who, it seems, has a role to play that is yet to be fully revealed.
Now there are a number of “Clara mysteries” that I could discuss here: Her perplexing relationship with the TARDIS, for example. However, for this first part I will be concentrating on a seemingly connected series of events that form the basis of a core notion, let’s call it the “Puppet Master” theory.
So without further ado, time to don your detective (or tinfoil) hats and ready your magnifying glasses, we’re heading down the perilous road of Clara conjecture.
A Chance Arrangement
“Listen, where did you get this number?”
“The woman in the shop wrote it down. It’s a helpline isn’t it? She said it’s the best helpline out there, in the universe, she said”
“What woman? Who was she?”
“I don’t know, the woman in the shop”
It all began with a phone call. This scene in “The Bells of Saint John” is the very first time that (the original) Clara had any contact with the Doctor (to save doing more mental gymnastics than necessary, let’s ignore the fact that he also met her as a child). Confusingly enough, their conversation sits comfortably within a so-called “Moffat Loop” (just one of the many paradoxes connected to Clara), but that isn’t the focus here: rather what initiated it.
Essentially, Clara ringing the TARDIS is the point at which her journey starts; though this was not down to pure chance… it was an orchestrated event. Enter the “mysterious woman”, as we’ll call her for now. The particulars of Clara’s encounter with this woman have never been addressed; all we know is that she gave her a phone number that “very few” people have (also, she was in a shop, I guess). Beyond that, we have very little else to go on; however, when observing it through the lens of all that has happened since, it may be far more significant than any of us previously realized.
For a long time, the woman and her unknown motives were all but forgotten. That was, until the opener of the new series “Deep Breath”. It is here that her handiwork made an equally baffling return. She had placed a cryptic advertisement in the Times newspaper; with the aim of enticing the Doctor and Clara to rendezvous at Mancini’s family restaurant. Once again she demonstrated her intention of keeping the two united; albeit in a location that nearly got both of them killed.
By the end of the episode, the duo have finally become aware that there is something going on behind the scenes: “there is a woman out there who is very keen that we stay together”. Coming back to this plot point (after a considerable length of absence) owes more credibility to the theory that somebody, whoever they are, is pulling the strings with the Doctor and Clara, and has been doing so from the very beginning. It’s enough to make one wonder: was Clara’s very presence in the Doctor’s life planned?
The answer to that question opens a whole new can of worms.
An Ominous Direction
“[Clara] has a growing understanding episode to episode that dark though the role of the Time Lord can be, it’s also exhilarating and exciting. She’s understanding the addiction better and better with every adventure they share. I think in his darker hours [the Doctor] would always comfort himself with the idea, the old idea that he makes people better. In this episode he is forced to conclude that maybe he’s making Clara worse.”
– Steven Moffat
And then we come to Flatline: the rather pivotal episode in which Clara tries walking a mile in the Doctor’s shoes… and possibly finds that they fit a bit too well. The ending and the implications it carries for Clara’s (and the Doctor’s) future is both chilling and deeply unsettling. After her impressive foray as the Time Lord, she seeks approval from her friend, but is instead met with condemnation. The Doctor’s reply almost audibly rings with foreshadowing: “You were an exceptional Doctor Clara, Goodness had nothing to do with it.”
Witnessing his companion demonstrate the same knack for lying (“Give them hope”), emotional detachment (“Ok, so on balance”) and coldness (“I am the one chance you’ve got of staying alive”) for which she would have once rebuked him was both disconcerting and rather alarming for the Doctor, and indeed, the audience. That is not to say that Clara’s actions were in any way cruel or heartless (they most certainly weren’t), but perhaps being like the Doctor is not necessarily a good thing; perhaps, it is a responsibility that he alone should bear.
Equally as unnerving as the Doctor’s words is Clara’s reaction to them. She does not respond with a quick retort (“I only did what you would’ve done”), nor does she express her hurt at his harsh accusation. Clara merely stands there, with an expression that conveys shock, confusion and… something else, something troubling. One can’t help but worry at what exactly is going on inside her head, and what exactly she’s becoming…
“What would it actually be like in real life if an intelligent, off-centre girl happened to meet a much older – to say the least – dangerous man, who whisked her away and took her to some terrible places? What would that turn you into? I don’t think it would necessarily improve you. It would improve you in some ways but… she’s never going to comfortably fit back into the boring world.”
– Steven Moffat
The Puppet Master
With the camera on Clara’s face, a now familiar eerie melody begins to play. The shot transitions with a ghostly light to that of the mysterious woman: Missy. As she holds Clara in the palms of her hands (on an iPad of all things, but I’m trying to be metaphorical here), her look is one comparable to affection… and of satisfaction at a plan that is falling into place.
Of course, there is no definitive evidence that proves that the “Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere” is the one responsible for giving Clara the Doctor’s number, but it is surely the implication (unless the plot is about to thicken even more… is that possible?). Let’s have another look at that newspaper advertisement from “Deep Breath” for a second. Upon further examination, the wording of it is just as important as its objective: “Impossible Girl, Lunch on the other side”
There are a couple of key things we can take from this. Firstly, whoever put it there is aware of Clara’s status as the “Impossible Girl”, and secondly, the words appear to have a more than one meaning. Not only is it instructing Clara to turn the paper over, but perhaps it could also be coaxing her to ‘the’ other side. This in itself could have dual significance: the other side of life (“Heaven”)… or Missy’s side (of morality)?
Whatever she has prepared for Clara, the revelation that Missy has “chosen” her for something is worrying in the extreme. But the connotations of her being the “mysterious woman” are, believe it or not, even more colossal. If true, it would suggest that not only does her manipulation of Clara (and by extension the Doctor) carry on this series’ arc, but Clara’s entire existence in the Doctor’s life.
And that is a very scary thought indeed.
In fact, judging by that trailer, it may well be the case…