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Monday, 7 December 2015

Doctor Who S35E12: Hell Bent

Doctor Who
Series 35, Episode 12
Hell Bent.

Ah, we're finally at the end. I say that as if this has been a wholly horrible experience for me, but it hasn't, really: Chunks of it, like the middle section of the series where all of the episodes were just absolutely terrible, certainly have been, but chunks of it have also been tolerable, even enjoyable at times. It's been a rather mixed series, which is more than can be said for most series where Steven Moffat is the showrunner, since they tend to be unremittingly terrible.

In this week's episode, the Doctor, now on Gallifrey, is summoned to help with a looming threat foretold by the Time Matrix's prophecies - the Hybrid, purportedly the combination of two warrior races, and presumed to be part Time Lord and part Dalek. The Doctor has his own ideas, however, as he enacts a plan to revive Clara and escape the Time Lords, risking shattering time itself in the process. As he flees, he encounters Ashildr, waiting at the end of time itself for him.

I'll be honest, this isn't a very good episode. It's one of those episodes that Moffat is wont to write, where he thinks he's being a lot more clever than he actually is, and in this case, it's the Hybrid that he thinks he's being clever about, having the Doctor and Ashildr both posit theories about what the Hybrid is - the Doctor theorising that Ashildr, as a human with Maya technology in her, is the hybrid; then Ashildr theorising that the Doctor is actually half-human and therefore the Hybrid; and then Ashildr again suggesting that the Hybrid is actually two people, and the prophecy refers to the Doctor and Clara.

I wonder where they filmed this, actually. Possibly Arizona.

We're never given a clear answer either way - that moment at the end of Heaven Sent where the Doctor announces that he is the Hybrid is never referenced again - and since the Hybrid hasn't really been set up at all in any meaningful way, that mystery falls flat rather than managing to pique any particular interest.

Which is a shame, because that - and the Doctor going off the rails to save Clara, which we've seen a dozen times before at this point - is really the only thing this episode has going for it, and that's a real shame. Gallifrey is one of the most interesting places in the Doctor Who universe, this is the first real time it's shown up in New Who (because I don't really count a few short villain scenes and one brief scene in a barn), and it feels totally squandered on what is essentially Another Steven Moffat Vanity Project.

(One mystery that does get solved satisfactorily is why the Confession Dial is actually a tiny castle - it is, apparently, meant to be a purifying experience for Time Lords, where they confess their sins and secrets as part of a ritual cleansing before they're uploaded to the Matrix. I'm fine with that explanation, it makes sense, it gels with what we know of the Time Lords already.)

Apparently this is meant to be Rassilon, who was played by Timothy Dalton last time.
I mean, he regenerated, I presume, which is fine.

The Doctor's whole plan with Clara plays out in the most predictable fashion possible, too, and winds its way towards a conclusion that is, to be honest, both predictable and a little strange. Clara coming back to life properly, stealing a TARDIS, and going off to travel the galaxy on her own would have been a worthwhile ending for her; Clara returning to the moment of her death knowing that she has to perish and having no regrets would have been a worthwhile ending for her - what we got is a rather bizarre halfway house affair, in which Clara will eventually be returning to the moment of her death, probably, but not until she's traveled the galaxy a bit.

That doesn't really work, to be honest. It kills both of those options: With Option A, where the big boon is 'Clara is now free to explore the universe and have her own adventures', it's killed by the fact that those adventures do have to have to stop, sooner or later; with Option B, where the big boon is 'Clara is brave and does what has to be done', it's killed by the fact that she's demurring from doing that, and possibly risking the timeline in the process.

This is the writing team trying to have their cake and eat it, and it doesn't work at all.

Oh, and the Sisterhood of Karn is back.

Overall, a kind of disappointing ending to a pretty mixed series, and one which, in the end, didn't really have much of a plot. We have a Christmas Special with River Song coming up, which I'm not really looking forward to, and then I presume we'll be back for series thirty-six with a new companion next year.

Apparently, Moffat had considered making this his last series, and had decided against it. Well, that's a good sign, at least: Maybe he'll decide that the next series will be his last, that would be lovely, please, dear god, please let that happen, please, please. 

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