Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. Hell Bent is an absolutely satisfying conclusion to what has been the most consistently pleasing season since Series 5, and quite possibly in all of nu-Who itself. The performances from the regulars as well as guest cast (and here the old-school tingles recognized Rasillion here as Commander Ridgeway from The Sea Devils). The direction from Rachel Talalay was uniformly excellent as well.
We liked it … a lot … and yet.
Here at THT Towers we’ve been getting the odd whiff of JN-Tism from Mount Moffat all this year. In many ways Series 9 and Hell Bent, in particular, have been some of the most insular stories in all of Doctor Who history. There’s more than a little bit of ‘fan service’ going on here, from the Diner taken from Series 6 all the way back to the Hartnell-ish Tardis. All brilliantly executed.
But then there was Clara, and for her there was also a fair bit of ‘fan service’ going on as well. Any long term fan will nod silently when you assert that there are companions, and there are ‘companions’ which are more important to the overall series ethos. Clara, not just because of her longevity, but also for her various story threads going all the way back to being the ‘Impossible Girl’ and the way her story was woven throughout the whole of the series history, marks her as being the latter type of companion.
It was a neat conceit to turn the ending of Journey’s End on it’s head and have the Doctor being the one having to forget their association, but, and for this you’ll have to excuse our sense of just being old-fashioned, but Face the Raven should have been the end of Clara’s story. We found it hard not think this was a bit of cop-out, ala the last second, largely unbelievable revelation that occurred to Peri at the end of The Ultimate Foe where the audience’s hard-rendered goodbye was subverted. Is Clara now, along with Ashildr, immortal? For someone who so willingly had accepted her fate to see that reversal had to cheapen all of the spent emotion from the last two stories surely.
We’ll soften a little we’re sure once we get some distance from Hell Bent (for whom images and caps are now online) but also Series 9.
The annual Christmas Tour merriment beckons, and rather quickly too. The Husbands of River Song beckons in less than three weeks. That’s no time a’tall.