Doctor Who episode 839: Face the Raven (21/11/2015)

‘So, this is your life, then? Just bouncing around time, saving people?’ The theme of Clara becoming reckless like she imagines the Doctor to be comes to an inevitable conclusion as she discovers despite everything she’s learned, she she’s not immortal – or at least, not yet anyway. Rigsy’s return, which prompts the tragedy that follows, draws a link between this and Flatline – the first story where Clara took on the Doctor’s role. Since then, she’s tried to convince the Cybermen and the Mire she’s got what it takes to be the last of the Time Lords. Instead, she’s left having to imitate the other man in her life, hoping that she can ‘die right’ like Danny Pink.

Face the Raven finally gives Clara something interesting to do, having oddly sidelined her in the past eight episodes. That felt a very weird choice given the last-minute decision to retain Coleman for another series – presumably the production team wanted to refocus on the Doctor’s heroism after some of the perceived issues with Series Eight, but as a result, Coleman’s best part this year has been as a remorseless alien killer rather than Clara Oswald. Rightly, the Doctor is only a background character for her final moments – reduced to a helpless onlooker with Rigsy, Ashildr and the Janus – while Coleman plays out Clara’s story with precisely the right mix of stubborn bravery and teary emotion. Still, Capaldi steals these final scenes with a Doctor full of cold fire, shaming Ashildr into silence with a look.

Like many of the show’s big last bows, you have to excuse the level of contrivance required to get to the endgame; the sudden flurry of complications no one previously thought to mention. I don’t think it’s any harder to swallow than the void stuff and giant levers in Doomsday, Wilf’s booth in The End of Time or even the last five minutes of Earthshock. Also, it’s well integrated with both Clara’s hubris and the story of the Trap Street – a vivid location that reminded me of Neverwhere or Diagon Alley, memorably realised and fulfilling Ashildr’s promise of saving people from the Doctor (or perhaps saving the people he wouldn’t). This episode plays a similar role to Utopia: a rug-pulling set-up for the finale.

Next Time: Heaven Sent


  1. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 838: Sleep No More (14/11/2015) | Next Time...
  2. rocketpilot

    It’s rightly Coleman’s time to shine but I’ve always loved Capaldi’s moment near the beginning as the Doctor faces away from the others and wills himself into agreeing to help Rigsy out.

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