Doctor Who: 910 “Face the Raven” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
Since 2012 we have had the pleasure of watching Jenna Coleman, whether it be her playing Oswin Oswald, Clara Oswin Oswald or Clara Oswald. She has always shined and been the perfect match for the Doctor. ‘The Name of the Doctor’ told us that she was willing to sacrifice herself to save the Doctor, at the cost of splintering throughout time and space to protect him throughout his 50 year reign on television. Then in the following narrative, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ she convinced him on his darkest day to “try again”, leading him to save Gallifrey instead of destroying it. And finally if it wasn’t for Clara then the Doctor would’ve died on Trenzalore after his long, enduring battle to save Gallifrey.
Coleman has certainly left behind a legacy as Clara, one that could match even the Doctor’s. Sadly the time has come to say goodbye. It’s fair to say she was taken in the cruellest of fashions.
‘Face the Raven’ was certainly a jaw-dropping experience, not only for its heart-breaking ending, but also for everything in-between. Sarah Dollard did nothing but impress on her first go. I really hope she comes back soon to write more Doctor Who thrills. Her episode felt fresh and surreal. It had a Harry Potter feel to it with the incorporation of a Diagon Alley setting. The whole idea that there’s a secret street in London harvesting alien refugees is an exciting concept and it worked well in this story.
I suppose what’s interesting about ‘Face the Raven’ was the fact that nearly everything we saw throughout the journey didn’t exactly matter because it was all there to build upon a bigger picture. The episode went about cementing important information that will be vital over the next narrative, i.e. the finale. But this was done in a way that you didn’t feel cheated. It was the same as Series Three’s ‘Utopia’.
The narrative first focuses upon Rigsy, first seen in last year’s ‘Flatline’, who had been given a mysterious tattoo that counted down. He contacts Clara in order to receive help and the episode whisks on without further delay. I suppose I was a little unimpressed about Rigsy’s return originally due to my lack of interest in the character last year. I simply didn’t see why he was loved so much. After re-watching ‘Flatline’ recently I began to understand him a little better and appreciated him more.
His return in ‘Face the Raven’ had reason and wasn’t just for the sake of it. He was certainly developed. Even the little notion that he is now a dad added in depth and sympathy for him, especially knowing he was on death-row under mysterious circumstances. The whole journey into the alley and discovering what had happened to Rigsy was a joyous experience and really kept you engaged, excited, as well as putting you on the edge of your seat as you waited to find out what happened next.
We also got to see the return of Maisie Williams, who now calls herself “Mayor Me”. I was actually surprised to hear she would be returning, but excited all the same. I have loved her journey throughout Series Nine. In ‘The Girl Who Died’ she was a basic character, and innocent within her desires. Come ‘The Woman Who Lived’ she was a fragile character, torn by the harshness of time. We thought that adventure made her see salvation but now she has undergone yet another stage in development.
It is thought throughout that she has become a harsh character without mercy. Seeing her carry out sentence on one of her own within the alley was somewhat unsettling. You didn’t know where to stand with her and that was the beauty of her journey this time round. Could you trust her or not? She became all mysterious and even the Doctor quickly caught on that she was hiding something from him. I did like the notion that she was still protecting the Earth from the Doctor, a notion she cast upon the Doctor during their last encounter, through keeping the Doctor’s greatest adversaries within the alley and out of danger.
The episode had a beautiful look to it, making it feel fantastical. The world we delved into had a mythology filled with rules. The aliens were made to look human in order to conceal their identities, making it fun when you got to see the creature beneath the skin. At the same time the alley felt sinister due to the dangerous occupants and the strict rules that could result in death if not followed.
The main focus of the episode was concluding Clara’s narrative. After Series Eight ended her in a bleak place, Series Nine went about turning her into a reckless person that wasn’t afraid to risk everything due to no longer having anything to lose. This has been something the Doctor has been trying to keep in check but alas has failed to stop her. In her final adventure Clara went about becoming the Doctor once again in order to try and solve the mystery over Rigsy. This resulted in her transferring the tattoo onto her.
This tragically led to her downfall. The entire situation was rigged to lure the Doctor into a trap. Someone blackmailed “Mayor Me” into surrendering the Doctor in exchange for leaving the alley unharmed. This began the heart-breaking final scene in which the Doctor was left helpless. He was to be transported into the unknown and Clara was now to die. Because of her actions she condemned herself to death by the Raven, a creature that could find her anywhere in time and space. Even the TARDIS couldn’t keep her safe.
Despite the sadness, this final scene showcased why I loved Clara so much. It was disappointing to see that Clara had mostly been wasted this year but at least in her final appearance she was given material that allowed her to shine in her glorious, if saddening, swan-song. She was unafraid and wanted the Doctor to know this. Clara wanted the Doctor to be okay after her passing, wanted him to remain “the Doctor” and not become a “warrior” again. This, to me, reflected the poetic scene during the 50th Anniversary in which she made the Doctor remember who he was; “Never cruel or cowardly”.
It was so sad seeing her go because of the simple knowledge of knowing how much Clara meant to the Doctor. She was there for him since the beginning, literally. Clara helped him escape Gallifrey to begin his journey. She has been with him all of his life and become the perfect companion, one that not only could understand him but also think like him. That was her downfall in the end; she was simply too much like him. The death of Danny Pink subtly drove her over the edge and her death at the hands of the Raven was her release. Clara finally got what she wanted deep down; peace.
I won’t lie in saying I didn’t cry. In fact I was shacking with both excitement and dread throughout the entire episode. Those last 10 minutes tested my soul and left me empty and somewhat lost.
The Doctor’s reaction in the end was simply outstanding, proving once again why Peter Capaldi was born to play the role. If it’s one thing I love to see, it’s a Doctor pushed over the edge. When the Time Lord has nothing to lose he is at his most dangerous. His threats of tearing the alley apart by bringing in UNIT, the Zygons and even the Daleks really showcased how damaged he was. He became cold and this makes me worry for him. I literally don’t know how far he will go now without Clara there to restrain and monitor him.
What sealed the deal was the Doctor explaining to “Mayor Me” that Clara was calming him down before her death not for his benefit but for “Mayor Me” herself. Clara was trying to spare her because she knew too well the Doctor would have made her punish. You only have to look at what happened to the Family of Blood. His simple threat of “I strongly advise you to keep out of my way. You’ll find it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you” said it all.
‘Face the Raven’ was a fantastic piece of writing that has left the fan-base in disrepair. It was a tragic, but perfect, end for Coleman. Her departure was poetic due to the comparisons to Danny’s death last year and the fact that his death led her to this point. Her need for escape made her disregard her own safety, leading towards reckless stupidity to which she didn’t want to acknowledge. The Doctor could do nothing but watch as his best friend chose to walk towards her destiny. The saddest part is whether or not this experience will undo all of Clara’s hard work of making the Twelfth Doctor a better person, therefore breaking the promise she made to “her” Doctor back in ‘Deep Breath’. Either-way, it’s fair to say the Doctor is heading towards a dangerous scenario for this year’s finale. Forced to teleport to an unknown setting by “Mayor Me” and her mysterious deal, we are forced to wait and see what becomes of our favorite Time Lord and what decisions he’ll be faced with…