The Impossible Girl: An Impossible Theory
Mark McCullough wonders if Clara is still hiding something from the Doctor.
In the lead up to Last Christmas much of the discussion centred on Clara and her eventual fate. Thankfully she was granted a stay of execution and will continue to grace our screens for the foreseeable future, much to the delight of the majority of the fandom. One consequence of the relentless focus on this particular aspect of the narrative meant that most seem to have forgotten the most pressing question: just who is our Impossible Girl? Until this week I would have thought that question was well and truly answered, but the events of Last Christmas have left me questioning even that fact. This is a theory I’ve pieced together based on some potential hints that have been given to us.
“I’m the Impossible Girl”
But before I launch into wild theories a small recap may be in order. Clara’s story so far is that of the Impossible Girl. First encountered in the form of Oswin Oswald who had been converted to a Dalek, she died before we could learn much about her. What is key to take from this first appearance is the fact that the Doctor never actually sees her face, only hears her voice (even then, how does a Dalek sound human), and her name is different. The next time we see her is in Victorian London in The Snowmen where she is a barmaid/governess. This time she uses the name Clara Oswald and properly meets the Doctor earning herself an offer to travel in the TARDIS. Sadly she meets a cruel fate before actually getting the opportunity to do so, muttering “Run you clever boy and remember…” as her final words to the Doctor.
This was where things got interesting as the Doctor used this phrase to connect the two. This was enough to pique his interest and he tried to find Clara, eventually finding her and taking her to travel with him. Their adventure led them to the Doctor’s tomb where Clara entered in order to save the Doctor. The result saw her scattered across his time line as millions of Clara splinters. Since then it seems the mystery behind her character’s identity is over as she and the Doctor simply walk out of the tomb. They continue to travel as friends, but the reason they initially came together is the new mystery. This is revealed to have been Missy, but her reasons are left unexplained. Again despite parting ways the two find themselves together again by the conclusion of Last Christmas and this time Missy is not involved.
“They’re disjointed, they’re silly, they’re full of gaps, but the dream protects itself.”
Last Christmas introduces the concept of dreams to the narrative, something previously touched on in The Name of the Doctor, but not to this extent. Santa Claus is utilised as the hero and is described as the sub-conscious of the characters, helping them realise something is wrong. What is obvious from the start to the characters is that Santa is not real. In describing this, the Doctor likens the dream state to an anaesthetic. In principle this means something which takes away the pain in a difficult situation, applied to the dream state it is something which takes away the nightmare. Some rules about the dreams are established too, there are gaps within the story but the dreamers mind is able to fill these in with knowledge they have already required. The dreams can have multiple layers and don’t necessarily exhibit proper logic. As also shown in Last Christmas most of the dreams start off innocent enough but can devolve into a nightmare at any stage. But there is one warning far more interesting than the rest:
“No one knows if they’re not dreaming, not one of us. Not for one single moment of our lives”
It served its purpose for adding confusion to the narrative, but I can’t help but feel it was intended to have a wider extension to the ongoing narrative rather than just for Last Christmas. The question I found myself asking was “How long could it have been a dream for?” At first I was dismissive of the idea because it admittedly sounded unlikely. Then I started thinking about Clara and the suggestions that she was too perfect, and held to big an influence on the Doctor’s life. It still seemed rather unlikely until I remembered the Clara Who references and the quote “Clara Oswald has never existed”. It seemed like a red herring at the time, however in the context of Last Christmas it could mean something very different indeed.
“You’ll always look the same to me”
What if Clara Oswald has never existed, what if she is the anaesthetic to the Doctor’s nightmare? Would this actually fit with what we know? Actually yes it would. Firstly we have the issue of how the Doctor made the connection between Oswin and Clara in the first place. It’s simply to be a leap to assume someone is the same person based on a phrase and a voice. So what could actually have happened to allow the Doctor to make such a conclusion? My theory is that it is possible that he is dreaming and that Clara is in fact an extension of his subconscious much like Santa was in Last Christmas.
As for the Doctor’s nightmare, given that both times Trenzalore was visited his friend sacrificed herself for him and he grew old alone, it is not unreasonable to suggest that is nightmare is being lonely. This is further suggested by the mirroring with the Old Clara scenes in Last Christmas. Logically The Snowmen would be a good point for the dream to begin and would specifically fit the Doctor’s nightmare as he has just lost another friend in the space of two episodes. Once his dream has begun his mind has pieced what he knows about Clara and Oswin together, initially to provide a distraction through mystery, but evolving into the perfect companion as he got deeper into the dream.
Other bits and bobs:
- The Great Intelligence, the villain from The Snowmen is the main antagonist for the very next adventure and ultimately the one who brings the Doctor to Trenzalore. Naturally after losing Clara in The Snowmen, it would make sense for the Doctor to villainise him and having him as the one to attempt to take her from him again. It also explains his lack of real motive for a murder suicide plot in The Name of the Doctor.
- The writing on the Chalk Boards in Clara’s dream house was last seen in Listen. Like here the writing appeared without anyone actually writing it. Listen was also an episode which featured the idea of nightmares. Much of Listen’s plot line and ambiguous questions could be explained by the concept of the dreaming mind filling in the blanks. After all as Moffat’s last stand-alone story it is highly likely the two are connected.
- The two separate visits to Trenzalore was something that always struck me as being odd, because it was so different on both occasions, not to mention that the events are almost contradictory. Perhaps an interesting way to look at is that the Doctor didn’t know what Trenzalore was, so his mind was filling in the blanks to fit the situation, each time around his fear of being lonely.
- Finally the Doctor’s view of himself is also something that doesn’t quite fit. The War Doctor was a personification of everything the Doctor disliked about himself, to the extent where he actually shunned him as a forgotten regeneration. It took Clara’s influence to make the Doctor accept him as part of himself again. The other major character arc for the Doctor was the ‘Am I a good man’ arc. Naturally this is to be expected from a man who strives to do good but assumes he has committed one of the worst crimes imaginable. Into the Dalek actually offers a potentially interesting clue. “She cares so I don’t have to.” Isn’t that basically the definition of a subconscious?
My theory is that the Doctor is in a dream and has been for quite a while. As such Clara is not real, rather an element of his subconscious, which rationally explains her heavy influence over the entirety of his life. Of course this presents a problem, because if everything was revealed to be a dream, including my favourite Doctor, I would be pretty annoyed. So how could this theory actually come to frustration in a positive way? I think the answer lies with a fan-favourite enemy from Series Five. How can a dream become reality? A Dream Lord. Why would you do this? Dream logic would allow thirteen versions of one man to save his home planet. Reality would have it Time Locked. The pressing question is this, if Clara is just the Doctor’s subconscious, what happens to her when a dream becomes a reality?