Hell Bent – Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 12
An interesting name is one of the first things that jumps out at you in this episode that follows the almost perfect Heaven Sent. Personally, I didn’t like this one as much as the previous episode and perhaps surprisingly given how the previous Christmas episodes have panned out, didn’t like it nearly as much as The Husbands of River Song (review coming). Now while most of my previous reviews have been more of a retelling of the story, I’m going to change tack a little bit from this point forward and focus more on my thoughts and feelings of the episode. If you do still want and need a retelling there are lots of great sites that offer it (heck I read them too!) and you can check out some of these:
In Hell Bent we start with the Doctor entering a diner seemingly in the middle of nowhere. With a guitar (a theme throughout this season) in hand, he strums a tune and while my initial thoughts were how exactly does this follow from him breaking through the Crystal matrix(?) when his waitress in the diner turns out to be Clara – well that definitely was a bit of a surprise as I thought we were done with her after Face the Raven. I’ll be honest while I did initially enjoy Clara as a companion – I think she was better with Matt Smith. I just didn’t like her as much with Capaldi and I didn’t think she should have stayed nearly as long as she did.
When the Doctor speaks to the waitress, you’d expect that he’d be overjoyed to see Clara back – considering all of the pain and anguish that he’d gone through in Heaven Sent but he seems somewhat unmoved which is initially a bit surprising. However as he starts to relate the story of how he got there, things start to make sense. It seems that he actually had arrived in Gallifrey as initially expected at the end of Heaven Sent, and while I wouldn’t have expected it to look like a dust bowl and desert wilderness with a single futuristic city (my thoughts of Gallifrey were always of a technological marvel really … something along the lines of a Trantor or a global mega-city) this is what it turns out to be.
The Doctor has a confrontation with a bunch of Timelords and soldiers and in the end he wins & kicks the Lord President off the planet. The soldiers all consider the Doctor to be a hero (which is actually quite nice I thought) and everyone consents to the Doctor being in charge. In the end the Doctor uses some Time Lord technology to remove Clara in the seconds before her death thereby “saving” her. Unfortunately however her death like so many things is a fixed point and is something the Doctor is unable to truly change. While it turns out that the “Hybrid” is not Clara or Me (the last of the immortals), but is rather the Doctor and Clara together. Each pushing the other to terrifying extremes. The Doctor realizes that the only true solution is to use the neuro blocker to remove all memories of the Doctor from Clara so that she can be safe but Clara booby traps it and it ends up removing all memories of Clara from the Doctors mind instead. This allows Clara to travel through time with Me on her own missions in their Tardis/Diner pending her eventual and inescapable death, while the Doctor searches anew for another companion.
Sorry ended up giving a bit of a recap afterall, but I think it went fairly quickly?
So what worked for me?
- I really liked the fact that the Doctor was so well respected by the Soldiers and citizens of Gallifrey and while the Timelords might consider him somewhat of a troublemaker, they still fear and respect him too.
- I liked the fact that when the General regenerated it was as a female and that was her previous sex also. The fact that a white person becomes black was pretty cool too!
- The Sonic Screwdriver is back! Thank god they got rid of the stupid glasses!
What didn’t work?
- I didn’t like the fact that the Timelord planet looked so backward … as mentioned earlier, this should have been an awesome and amazing place with technology run rampant – not a barn in the middle of a dustbowl.
- I didn’t like the fact that the Doctor used a gun and killed the General – even though the regeneration was quite cool.
- I didn’t like the whole archives and the way they were … it didn’t make any sense?
- I didn’t like the fact that Me was the only other immortal to survive? I still don’t understand how she is immortal as while I get that the chip implanted into her revived her from the dead, how does it not work similarly with the aliens that it was taken from in the first place?
- Perhaps most importantly … I didn’t like the fact that Clara came back … the transition of a companion should be a traumatic effect, not just for the Doctor but also for us as an audience and while I stopped caring for her, her death in Face the Raven was complete. This … it feels like cheating. Saying goodbye to Rose hurt, saying farewell to Donna – well that was just tragic. Amy and Rory … can you say ouch!! With Clara … there is nothing. She was gone but now she’s not.