Holy dimensional dementia!
When I saw the entire prison castle comfortably sitting inside the Doctor’s Confession Dial, as “Heaven Sent” concluded last week, I dismissed it as part of his delusional state of mind.
Talk about being bigger on the inside! Or did the Time Lord teleportation device turn him into a teeny, tiny micro-Doctor?
It all really happened. The Doctor did spend 4.5 billion years taking “the long way ’round” to the outer edge of space, time and Gallifrey. But were those real years, or itty-bitty micro-years?
No matter. What a gala homecoming it is for the Doctor in the season finale, “Hell Bent,” presented Dec. 5
The Doctor returns to his ancestral home, a barn that doesn’t seem to be associated with any other traditional farm buildings. His people silently gather to gawk at him eating soup. The hero of the Time War has returned. Everything he does is gawkable.
With all the trash talk about the Doctor always running away, it seemed more like Gallifrey should be running from him. In the dial, he had confessed to being scared, but he was not scared for himself. He was scared about what he might do to Gallifrey. He is as angry as a Time Lord who has just spent billions of years beating his fists on a harder-than-diamond wall can be.
High Council efforts to rein the War Doctor in are almost comical. He goes unblinkingly nose-to-nose with a heavily armed Gallifreyan Sky Tank. He scrapes a line in the sand with the heel of a shoe and walks away. When an exasperated Time Lord High Council President Rassilon finally comes to take him out, he has a one-line greeting.
“Get off my planet.”
And Rassilon the Redeemer, Rassilon the Resurrected, Rassilon the Not Timothy Dalton, does. Well, after his firing squad mutinies, and he is surrounded by a squadron of Sky Tanks summoned by the Doctor, he does.
The Time Lords are still keen to find out what the Doctor knows about the fabled and dreaded Hybrid, which was their purpose for putting him in the Confession Dial Fun House. At the end of “Heaven Sent,” the Doctor had laid claim to the name himself.
Rassilon and the rest of the High Council did not buy that statement. Maybe what the Doctor really meant was why worry about The Hybrid when he was already on his way to personally deliver a thorough ass-kicking experience.
The Doctor fails to deliver on that threat. His real purpose is embarking on a desperate, reckless attempt to resurrect Clara. The Time Lord bag of tricks includes an Extraction Chamber, a device capable of pulling someone out of the space-time continuum at the precise moment of death. Clara has information about the Hybrid, he tells the council, so they arrange an extraction.
Presto! Clara steps through a door from her death scene into the chamber, dazed and confused.
Without a pulse, Clara is still not quite alive. She is talking, walking much more skillfully and looking much better than any other reanimated corpse I’ve seen on the weekend television screen.
The Gallifreyan general who has been aiding the Doctor in his quest for Clara makes the mistake of getting in the Doctor’s way, insisting that Clara be told of her status and fate. In a totally out-of-character move, the Doctor grabs a gun.
Wildly waving the weapon, he orders everyone to not to move.
“On pain of death, no one take a selfie,” he commands.
When the general refuses to allow them to leave, the Doctor blasts the poor guy. The general was only trying to do the right thing.
What? Who is this Doctor? As an anti-gun guy for what, 4,500,002,000 years, now, thanks to his stay in the Confession Dial, he is rather nonchalant about the deed. The general was on only his tenth regeneration, so he wasn’t going to stay dead.
“We’re on Gallifrey. ‘Death’ is Time Lord for ‘man flu,’ ” he tells a shocked and appalled Clara.
The shooting is a measure of how passionate the Doctor is about regaining his companion. He is breaking all the rules, including his own. He is ready and willing to fracture time itself to accomplish his objective.
Following the tradition established by the first Doctor, the12th Doctor steals a TARDIS. He and Clara make their escape. The sense of deja vu is intensified by the TARDIS interior decor, which is matches that of the TARDIS stolen by the first Doctor.
When it comes to TARDIS color schemes, white on white is apparently the Ferrari red of the Time Lords. It does make one wonder. Have the Doctors spent a lot of their weekends customizing the original TARDIS?
The Doctor and Clara sort of sort things out. She’s more than a little miffed that he dedicated 4.5 billion years to bringing her back. He’s concentrating on getting her a new pulse. Their discussion is interrupted by four knocks — the tell-tale, Time Lord, double heartbeat pattern — on the TARDIS door. That’s never a good thing.
The Doctor, ever the protective father figure and mindful of his “duty to care,” is the one to investigate. Outside, as he already knows, is Ashildr/Me, the eternal persona non grata Stark from Hell, waiting to chat.
They are still on Gallifrey, in the dark and dank cloister subterranean level which serves as housing for “Sliders” and the central location for the deceased Time Lord Matrix. The End of Everything is only five minutes away.
Items of discussion include the real identity of The Hybrid. It’s not Me, as she’s less than half Mire and mostly Human. It’s not me, the Doctor claims, although he has a suspicious look on his face when he makes the denial and asks if it really matters. It’s not Team Doctor and Clara, which would be really stretching the definition of a single hybrid creature. Will the real Hybrid please stand up?
They also talk about the Doctor’s plans to take Clara in a safe place on Earth and to wipe her mind of all Doctor-related memories because they could use them to find her. Huh? I don’t know who “they” are (the Time Lords?), or why they would want to find her.
Unknown to the Doctor and Me, Clara has been eavesdropping on their conversation through the TARDIS. She is not cool with the memory wipe plans.
“These have been the best years of my life, and they are mine,” she says. “Tomorrow is promised to no one, Doctor, but I insist upon my past. I am entitled to that.”
They compromise. Both will put their fingers on the neural block memory zapper at the same time. Only one will walk away with memories intact. They do, and the Doctor begins to black out; but not before tearful good-byes and final words of wisdom for Clara.
“Never eat pears,” he advises. “They’re too squishy, and they always make your chin wet. That one’s quite important. Write it down.”
The Doctor hits the floor. His eyelids flutter, and his eyes close. Is he unconscious, or has he died?
He’s alive, we quickly learn. He awakens lying in the desert, attended by a guy Clara has posted to aid his recovery.
At this point, I need to apologetically backtrack.
In the opening scene of the episode, the Doctor is piloting a pickup down a Nevada highway and comes to a diner just west of nowhere. He walks in, wearing his sonic shades and carrying his guitar, the very personification of the 1950s icons adorning the diner walls. Inside is a lone waitress, who, much not to my surprise, is Clara. The entire narrative of his return to Gallifrey are flashbacks, as he tells his story to Clara, a story about going back to his hometown, “Space Glasgow,” and the gang who wanted to kill him.
“You’ve been traveling,” Clara says, shortly after he appears.
“Yeah,” the Doctor replies, “from time to time.”
Like everyone else who watched the show (and isn’t lying), I believed, throughout the episode, that Clara was the one who had her memory wiped. I was flabbergasted to learn the Doctor had no idea that he was talking to Clara. I thought that the Doctor was just trying to determine if the memory wipe had been successful.
Very nicely done, Steven Moffat.
While the Doctor’s back is turned, and he is strumming the “Clara Theme” on his guitar, Clara slips though the diner back door and into the stolen TARDIS control room to join Me. The diner dissolves around the Doctor as the TARDIS dematerializes, leaving him alone the desert, but also leaving him with his missing TARDIS.
The memorial to Clara painted on the TARDIS exterior includes her likeness, the likeness of the waitress in the diner, the Impossible Girl. Inside, on a chalk board, are the words “Run, you clever boy, and be a doctor.”
This was an exponentially more satisfying way to say farewell to a dear companion than her quick death on Trap Street in “Face the Raven.” I got a little misty-eyed whenever the “Clara” theme was played.
All of that, and the Doctor gets a totally cool new sonic screwdriver. I want one.
Oh, I forgot to mention … aboard the vintage TARDIS, Me and Clara discuss plans. Time is not healing — what with Clara missing from her “fixed point in the Universe” moment of death and all. She is still without a heartbeat and knows she must go back to Gallifrey to be reinserted into her time stream.
Clara notes that they have some “wiggle room.” They opt to take the “long way around” to her destiny.
That would be another story. Not part of this one.