Hell Bent – New Who Season 9 Episode 12 Review

Season finale here we go!!  Spoilers as always.

We open up to the Doctor getting out of a truck in Nevada with a bag and a guitar.  Not how we left off, but I like the visual.  He enters a diner and there’s Clara working as a waitress.  Haven’t we seen this diner before?  I’ll come back to that later.  They chat while he plays, he says the song’s name is “Clara” and she says “tell me about her”.  Clara doesn’t know who Clara is?

After the credits we’re back to Gallifrey.  The Doctor marches through the desert while the Sisterhood of Karn join the High Council.  Well, he’s actually going to the barn that we saw in The Day of the Doctor, where he had the Moment.  An old woman comes in and looks very happy to see him.  His mother?  Next thing we know he’s at a small table eating with a massive group gathered around him.  He looks kind of happy until a ship comes down and points a giant gun at everyone.  The Doctor gets up, draws a line in the sand, then goes back to his meal.

First the head of the military arrives at his door.  He shuts it on him.  Next the high council. The same.  Next, the president.  When the president offers his hand, the Doctor drops the confession dial containing his torture chamber at his feet and tells him to leave the planet.  The president tells soldiers to aim at the Doctor and fire on his command, but because the Doctor is a war hero, the soldiers won’t do it right away.  We see them aim and fire and then we switch back to the diner.

So if you haven’t been following, this is the part where I tell you that the diner isn’t really a diner.  It’s more the in-your-own-head kind, where the Doctor is going to tell Clara how clever he is.  Right?

Okay, so all of the soldiers intentionally miss.  Then, a few at a time, they drop their weapons and join the Doctor.  Reinforcements arrive to aid the Doctor, and even the head of the military joins him.  The president is told to get off the planet, and later the head of the military points out that he may have nowhere to go because they’re at the far end of everything.  The Doctor says he doesn’t care, and he plans to send the high council off as well.

The Doctor has a chat with the military head and sisters.  Basically what we already knew about the Hybrid according to their prophecies.  He promises to save them but needs an extraction chamber to talk to an old friend.

Flash back to Clara’s death and time freezes just before the raven enters her.  She goes into the extraction chamber and it’s explained to her that she’s basically in a form of stasis and once they’re done with her she’ll be returned to the moment she was in previously and will die as she was supposed to.  The Doctor grabs a gun with the intent of saving her, but Clara tries to talk him out of it.  They say if they save her time will fracture. He asks the head of security how many regenerations he has left before shooting him, grabbing a human compatible neural block and taking Clara away.

The head of security regenerates into a woman, and the sisters come in.  They say he’s going to the Cloisters, and they were right.

Back at the diner, the Doctor is telling his waitress this story, though made less spacey and more Earthy.  She tells her that he had to wipe Clara’s memories of him to protect her.  So it looks like the diner isn’t in his mind after all.

With the Cloisters we see various creatures that tried to break in and were trapped, including a Dalek, several Weeping Angels and a Cyberman.  They find the hatch out but are trying to work out the key to open it.  While they chat, Clara realizes it’s been an extremely long time for the Doctor since he’s seen her.  You can see that makes her sad.  When this is all said and done they’ll most likely need to say goodbye again, and I’m not sure I can handle that twice in one day.  She asks lots of questions about what happened, and he downplayed it as he told the story.  While this was happening the military and sisters were arriving.  So Clara asked *them* how long he was trapped inside the confession dial.  The answer was 4.5 billion years… they *think*.  Clara was devastated.  She told the Doctor that her time was up and they needed to tell each other everything they needed to say because this was it.  I can’t handle this… Seriously.

She then goes back to the Time Lords and tells them they’re monsters.  She’s right though.  She gave them a short speech about how terrible they are and when they asked what she said to him she replied that she told him not to worry and that they’d all be looking at her.  Of course when they looked over he was gone.  They asked what he’d do and she told them he was stealing a TARDIS and running away, at about the time one materialized around her.

The Doctor said she should be “alive again” once they broke free of Gallifrey but she didn’t get a pulse back.  The tattoo is also still on her neck.  They head to the end of time and she still has no pulse.  There’s a knock at the door and the Doctor says it’s me.  He goes outside and there’s Ashildr.

“Do you know why we run, Doctor?  Because summer can’t last forever.” – Ashildr

Hmmmm, sounds very Game-of-Thrones-y to me.  In their quick little chat, Ashildr basically says that Clara died for who she was and they don’t have the right to change that.  Then inside the TARDIS Clara uses the sonic sunglasses to turn on the viewscreen, just in time for a conversation about the Hybrid.  The Doctor suggests it’s Ashildr and she suggests it’s him.  In reality, Ashildr thinks it’s actually a combination of two people – the Doctor and Clara.  She points out that Missy introduced the two of them.  The Doctor then tells Ashildr that he knows he went too far and he plans to save Clara by putting her on Earth somewhere in the middle of nowhere and wiping her memory of him.  He plans to tell her first, or so he says.

They both come inside the TARDIS and Clara says she was watching.  When the Doctor explains his intentions she says that she used the sonic sunglasses on the neural block and she’s keeping her memories.  The Doctor tells her she’s right.  But he’s gone too far to protect her so one of them has to go.  He says he doesn’t know what the block will do, but I think he does.  They push the button together.  The Doctor starts to pass out, then says goodbye to Clara and out he goes.  Damn it I’m crying again.

The Doctor wakes up in the desert with a man standing over him.  The man says Clara asked him to look out for him and that he might be a little upset.  At the diner, the Doctor explains that he knows there was a girl whose name was Clara, he knows they traveled together by the holes in his memory, knows the adventures, but can’t remember *her*.  Only her name.  I’m sad all over again…

He starts spinning in his chair saying he thinks they were there together once.  Just enough time for Clara to wipe the tears from her eyes and for me to start all out bawling.  He then remembers that it was Amy and Rory he was in the diner with.  Clara dropped a hint about maybe the memory of what she said to him in the Cloisters becoming a song… maybe the one he was playing.  She walks into the back room of the diner, which is now the inside of the TARDIS with Ashildr inside.  The diner disappears from around him as the TARDIS takes off and he’s left in the desert again.  And he’s standing in front of his own TARDIS.  The front of it has been decorated as a memorial to Clara… including her image.

In the other TARDIS Ashildr thinks the chameleon circuit is broken so the exterior will be stuck as a diner.  Must be a common problem with those things.  Clara still has no pulse, so she knows she has to die.  To do that she has to go back to Gallifrey so they can put her back in her time stream.  But she can take the long way round, so it looks like she’ll travel with Ashildr for a bit.  That means we could potentially see them again or even (I hope not) have a spinoff, although *someone* would need to get killed off of Game of Thrones first.

The Doctor steps inside his TARDIS while we listen to what I like to call “The Clara Music”.  I suppose we won’t be hearing that anymore, which makes me sad.  Everything lights up, and on Clara’s chalkboard we see “Run you clever boy… and be a Doctor”.  His velvet jacket is hanging there as well so he puts it on.  We also get a brand spanking new sonic screwdriver and the doors close with a snap of the fingers.  Then he goes off to his next adventure, which will be the Christmas special.

I really didn’t think I was this attached to Clara, but I guess I was.  That or I’m a stupid emotional woman, maybe both.  I have a ton of theories and things going on in my brain right now but because there could be about a million different things …

Heaven Sent – New Who Season 9 Episode 11 Review

After that last episode I’m not sure how much I want to keep going, but I guess I will.  Spoilers as usual but lets hope this one doesn’t make me cry…

We start basically where we left off.  A voiceover of the Doctor talking about death and then he appears from his teleport.  He’s in a giant glass tube… and he looks afraid.  He steps out, remembers Clara and then looks sad.  He finds some sand on the floor, then gets angry.  He’s out for revenge, no matter what he was told.  He starts wandering around and talking to the person he assumes is there.  He seems to be in a castle, and finds a shovel with dirt on it.  But we don’t know if he’s still on Earth (I’m assuming he is) or who brought him there.

Eventually a TV on the wall activates and shows the Doctor looking out the window.  A figure from another window across the castle is wearing a hooded cape and watching him.  I think it’s Clara.  Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.  We see a bunch of flies buzzing around and a hooded figure (the same one?) advances on the Doctor, who runs.  He finds himself at the end of a corridor with a locked door.  He forms a telepathic link with the door and it opens.  He then catches himself saying “See Clara…”.  Oh there’s going to be a lot of sad… The doors open to a brick wall.

He says he’s scared of dying then everything stops in front of him.  The figure, the flies, all frozen.  The entire building shifts around like some sort of puzzle.  The entire levels shift around going different directions, along with an enclosed bridge that crosses a courtyard.  The door behind him opens and he runs through.  Now in a bedroom with fresh Lillys, a TV and a big (not to mention very old) painting of Clara.  I wonder if the figure is the Doctor, who’s been locked in the caste for centuries and is responsible for bringing himself there?  Or maybe it’s Ashildr.

Speaking of the figure, he appears again.  The Doctor says that someone’s been stealing his nightmares.  He jumps out the window and next we see him in the TARDIS,  He’s talking to the back of Clara (why not her front?) and telling her he thought quickly so that everything around him slowed down.  That he’s actually falling right now and thinking about how he’ll be in the TARDIS telling her how he escaped.  He worked out that the castle is next to salt water and the gravity and such works into a likely survival scenario.  Then he hits the water.  Underneath, he sees the entire bottom covered in skulls, no actual land in sight.  After crawling out he finds he’s in the middle of the “courtyard” (which is just the water with a small shore) and the only place to go is back inside.

He finds a fire with his own clothes drying by it.  He changes out of his wet clothes into the dry ones (the exact same ones he’s wearing) and hangs his wet ones where the dry ones were.  A time loop of some kind?  Maybe during the whole time he’s in this castle only minutes will pass.  He moves to another room with another TV along with a missing tile in the floor with sand where it should be, and a bunch of arrows pointing to it.  In his mind, he keeps talking to Clara and she keeps asking questions on a chalk board.  We only see the chalk board, which is kind of sad.  I suspect Jenna Coleman wasn’t actually contracted to be in this episode, since the back of the head we saw didn’t look like her hair and we’ve never seen her face.

The Doctor now believes he’s in a fully automatic haunted house, maze-style.  He believes the idea is to trap him inside and scare him to death.  He goes outside into another courtyard, one with actual grass.  We keep seeing a circular pattern with a hole (up until now sand) in the middle and this is no exception.  This time it’s dirt, and I think he’s supposed to dig based on the dirty shovel we saw earlier.  Sure enough, we see another shovel and he does exactly that.  Although once I get a better look at it, it almost looks like he’s digging his own grave.  It’s the right shape for it.

He digs for a while and then we see the flies again.  The figure tries to come out through the door but the Doctor jams it closed with the shovel.  The figure heads to the room with the missing tile.  I feel like that’s a way outside.  In the meantime the Doctor resumes shoveling.  Eventually he finds a large stone that says “I am in 12”.  Then the flies are back and the figure grabs him from the pile of dirt.

Now we’re back talking to Clara’s chalkboard in the TARDIS.  He realizes that he’s being interrogated and the only way to stop it is to tell truths he’s never told before.  Wait, is this to go on the confession dial?  Missy had it at the beginning of the season but I can’t remember ever being told details on how she received it or what was actually on it.  Could Missy be behind this or is it still Ashildr?  Maybe something else?  No, I can’t see that.  Anyway he says there are truths he can never tell but admits to being alone and afraid.  It’s a sad side of the Doctor that I don’t enjoy visiting but is necessary to see.  It’s like seeing a good friend or family member in pain, and you just want to make it stop.

He tells the figure that he left Gallifrey because he was afraid and it goes away.  Then the maze shuffles itself around again.  We then see the castle is basically a self contained island in the middle of nothing.  Just water in all directions.  And the Doctor sees it too.

We then see (or are told) how he spends his time.  If he draws the creature to one end of the castle then runs to the other, he can get a maximum of 82 minutes before it reaches him again.  He uses that time to eat (but where is the food?), sleep and look for room 12.  If he leaves a room long enough it will revert to the exact condition it was in when he arrived, which means he can’t set anything up to return to it later.

“Or maybe I’m in hell.  That’s okay. I’m not scared of hell, it’s just heaven for bad people.” – The Doctor

The Doctor goes to the room where he first arrived, picks up a skull and sees the word “BIRD” written in the sand.  Then a wall moves and reveals a set of steps.  He follows them and finds himself at the top of the tower in the center of the castle.  He’s surrounded by water far below.  He leaves the skull there and I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see it still there later.  Heading down, we find room 12.  He opens the doors to find a blank wall.  He goes back up and the figure joins him again.  He tells it that the Hybrid moved the starts before the time war and that’s why they’re out of place.  It’s half Dalek and half Time Lord, and he knows where it is.

The figure moves away and the walls move again.  Room 12 is open.  Beyond the doors lies a long corridor with a bright wall at the end.  The word “Home” flashes on it for a moment.  The Doctor realizes he’s one confession away from his TARDIS and they want to know about the Hybrid.  He sinks back into his mind where he can talk to Clara but you can see the despair on his face when he knows that no matter what happens she’ll still be gone.  But we finally hear her and see her and she tells him to win.  And I find myself misty again… I think she’s actually gone.

The Doctor snaps out of it and tells the figure he won’t say anything about the Hybrid.  Then he starts hitting the wall and starts to tell a story.  The figure wraps its hands (claws?) around his face, he falls to the floor and then the figure appears to teleport away.

Back in the TARDIS of the mind, the Doctor explains how dying can take days for a Time Lord if they’re too injured to regenerate.  His plan is to drag himself to the top of the tower before he dies.  This place was his own personal torture chamber all along, and there were never any other prisoners.  So while he’s talking we see him drag himself to the tower, to the room where he first arrived, the one with the teleporter.  There should be a copy of him on the hard drive, exactly as he was when he arrived… 7000 years ago.  He knows from the stars.

In the room, he burns up his own body as energy to start the teleporter.  He is the skull he found in the room, and a new copy of himself appears in the teleporter… one without all of these memories.  Before he dies he writes “Bird” in the sand.  Then the room resets again with the new arrival.

Then we see he does the same cycle over and over.  But every time he does it he chips away at the wall in room 12.  For some reason that room doesn’t reset.  2 billion years at last count before he broke through that wall, before the light hit the figure and it collapsed into a shroud and a pile of gears. He walked through and found himself in a desert.  His castle collapsed into what looked like his confession dial.  He sees a boy and tells him to go find someone important and say that he’s back.  We see him run toward the city.  Toward Gallifrey.

The Doctor tells the dial that the Hybrid is not half Dalek.  That it is destined conquer and then to stand in the ruins of Gallifrey.  That it is him.

Guess we’re back to the home planet sooner than expected.

Bassinet

Now this kid sleeps in style!

Bassinet

50th Collage

Collage

Piper Cancels Appearance

From Billie Piper’s website:

Unfortunately due to illness Billie has had to cancel her appearance at the Gallifrey One Convention for the whole weekend. Billie would like apologise for anyone upset by her cancellation and assures you of her own dissapointment too. Anyone that has bought tickets should contact the Gallifrey One organisers to discuss options.

…just in case you were planning to be there.

If Eccleston Was In The 50th

From Doctor Who TV, an interesting take on what may have happened if Christopher Eccleston had signed on for the 50th anniversary:

I’ll happily admit that between May and December of 2013 I went through a period of adamant fan-insistence, telling anyone who’d listen that there was no way John Hurt’s role in The Day of the Doctor was borne purely from Christopher Eccleston declining to appear. “Don’t be so cynical!” I’d say, “This is what Moffat’s been building up to all along – a secret Doctor! How would that possibly work with someone we’d already seen?” Alas, I had to eat my words late last year when the aforementioned Moffat confirmed to Doctor Who Magazine that Eccleston would indeed have taken the War Doctor’s role in the anniversary special had he agreed to appear. But nevertheless, how would that possibly work with someone we’d already seen? Despite only appearing in one-and-a-bit episodes, the War Doctor’s existence hits Doctor Who’s 2013 output like a stone in a pond (a pond without any ducks, of course), sending ripples back through series 7B and forward across the 50th anniversary celebrations and into Matt Smith’s Christmas departure. So what would have happened to the surrounding episodes if Eccleston had shocked everyone and agreed to take part? Cue speculation…

“The Doctor has a secret…”

Most of The Name of the Doctor would work just fine without John Hurt turning round in its last moment. The Great Intelligence’s plan may have led to the War Doctor being uncovered, but the latter doesn’t hold any direct connection to the undoing of the Doctor’s victories that ensued in the episode. But putting the episode’s primary plot aside, the key dialogue allusions throughout the episode seem irrevocably tied up with the War Doctor. The entire story is instigated by a single line: “the Doctor has a secret he will take to the grave, and it is discovered”. The very satisfying rug-pull of the discovery being the Doctor’s grave, not his secret, may untie the War Doctor from the Great Intelligence plot, but it also further entrenches him in everything else.

With the Doctor’s secret, and the reasons for his name being hidden, revealed as only incidental to the Great Intelligence’s plan, there had to be a pretty damn good pay-off for what they actually were. Personally, and I’d hope most would agree, I’d say that “Introducing John Hurt as the Doctor” more than fulfilled that criteria; “Re-introducing Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor from a few years back”, however, would not have had anywhere near the same impact. Fair enough, Clara may not have seen the Ninth before, and the initial feeling from the audience would probably be sky-high excitement just the same, but once the euphoria wore of it would have made no sense: how could the Ninth Doctor be a secret Doctor? Rose knew him personally, of course, but he was in no way hidden away even after she left; a certain distinctive Northern face found its way into John Smith’s Journal of Impossible Things, and was happily shown off to Jackson Lake, Rosita, Amy, Rory, the Atraxi and Craig Owens at various points over the years. Hardly hidden away in the sub-subconscious, is it?

So what would the alternative be? The only way I can imagine it working is to remove the notion of a secret altogether. Thus: a different title, no pre-broadcast “they’re going to tell us his name” fun, no “his secret revealed” tag-line, a much less intriguing message from Clarence (“The Doctor’s grave has been discovered on Trenzalore, go there now” perhaps?), and a totally different ending. I’m thinking the Ninth Doctor appearing in the time stream as a direct appeal for help in his darkest Moment-pressing moment, echoing through his history. Despite the losses in The Name of the Doctor itself, this ending could have created a tighter link between Name and Day and, story-wise, a more immediate cliffhanger – and less of a coincidence when the War Doctor crops up again the very next episode. However, I don’t think anyone fan of the show would want it to lose the sheer amount of publicity and interest generated by the mystery of Hurt’s Doctor.

“I don’t suppose there’s any need for a Doctor any more…”

The Night of the Doctor was fan-pleasing to the extreme, and I don’t think it’s controversial to say that was down to Paul McGann’s appearance more than the revelation of the War Doctor’s origin. On the face of it, therefore, having McGann regenerate into Eccleston here wouldn’t have made much difference (and may have even allowed for a slightly fuller appearance from the new Doctor). But I don’t think The Night of the Doctor could have played out as it did at all if it was to feature the Ninth Doctor. Ask yourself, would you have been happy with the idea of the Doctor in series 1 having been specifically chosen as a warrior, and not as the Doctor? Would it ring true that Rose could fix him to such an extent that he won’t even kill the Daleks in The Parting of the Ways, if this was his genesis? It just wouldn’t have fit. The Ninth Doctor would have had to have a natural beginning within the war as we’d assumed for all those years, and so the Eighth would have been right in the thick of the action. It would still have been wonderful to see Paul in the role again, but The Night of the Doctor would have lost that element of filling in the last piece of the puzzle – it would just have been telling us what we already knew, and would feel far less necessary to the fiftieth narrative as a result.

“Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy?”

In my mind, however, the biggest difference in the parallel universe where Christopher Eccleston agreed to return to Who is in Matt Smith’s exit. Quite simply, the Eleventh Doctor would not have been on his last regeneration had the War Doctor not been introduced. So how on Earth/Trenzalore/Gallifrey would The Time of the Doctor have worked? There’s a couple of possibilities. Perhaps Trenzalore stops being the Doctor’s final resting place, and is just the scene of a climactic battle. But hold on, doesn’t that break the plot of The Name of the Doctor entirely? So maybe Matt would get an alternative swan-song that ties up the crack in time narrative and so-on, with Trenzalore tucked away for Capaldi’s last episode? But that seems equally unlikely, when we were told way back in 2011 that Trenzalore signified “the fall of the Eleventh”.

It’s also pretty unlikely that Moffat can be sure of outlasting Capaldi’s time as the Doctor; if he were to leave the Trenzalore story open when stepping down, it would rather restrict any incoming showrunner’s own ideas. So I have to return to the breaking of The Name of the Doctor point. Not only does the secret have to be removed with the Ninth figuring, so too does the core plot of the Great Intelligence’s plan! Other than the general foreshadowing of the Trenzalore setting, I can’t see anything else that could remain of series 7’s finale without the War Doctor. Unless, that is, the events of The Day of the Doctor encourage the Eleventh to head to Trenzalore before his time, in order to pre-empt and avert his final death down the line – sacrificing his current life in the process (which were my initial thoughts before the Eleventh being his final life was confirmed). That could have worked, but it would have changed the climactic scenes of The Time of the Doctor completely and in all probability left the Twelfth Doctor with the issue of gaining a new regeneration cycle hanging over him.

“I never forget a face”

Before concluding, I should confirm that I am a massive fan of Christopher Eccleston. I started watching Doctor Who in 2005, and before Matt Smith came along I was sure that he’d always be my favourite Doctor. Series 1 is very special, but it’s also complete. I would never complain if Chris came back to Who one day, far from it, but does it need to happen? Is he letting anyone down by declining a reappearance? No. When Chris took the job, he owed us nothing more than the thirteen episodes he signed up for – and he more than delivered with them.

I believe also that, when looking at how different 2013 would have been with Chris on board, that it’s all worked out for the best. Matt Smith’s final three episodes would take on a totally different character had the Ninth returned and, now it’s all happened with John Hurt on board and the Doctor gaining a new set of regenerations, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re not going to see him again, not with that daft old face, but it’s OK, it’s good, as long as we remember all the people that he used to be. We will never forget when he was the Doctor.

Name A Planet?

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