Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Clara on Doctor Who

Been a while since I've mused on the popular Time Lord show. And Clara troubles me. The reasons for my concern involve SPOILERS, notably for "Name of the Doctor", "Day of the Doctor" and "Time of the Doctor". So if you haven't seen those and want to avoid being spoiled, then move along!

Alternatively, if you have seen them - or simply want to see why I think Clara has been something of a missed opportunity - read onwards, below the big picture.


Clara has been around for over a year now. "The Snowmen" from Christmas 2012 was her first major appearance, and we're now in 2014. But what do we really know about her?

She seems to exist to leave her life and travel around with the Doctor. In fact, we've seen so little of her present day life, that when she seemed to be celebrating Christmas with family in "Day of the Doctor" my first reaction was "Huh. Where did they come from?"

Now, this itself is not a problem. In my OWN serial, I've kept the pasts of some characters sketchy, as they form themselves in my mind, and I work out how they connect to the plot. Clara's more sketchy present also helps to distinguish her from Amy Pond, and there's something to be said for allowing us to draw our own conclusions as to why Clara was seeking out such adventure.

But then we have "The Name of the Doctor", where we learn why there are multiple copies of Clara existing in the universe. More, being in the Doctor's timestream was treated as the end of that story line. Incorrect. That should have been the BEGINNING. 

Key question: How much awareness does Clara have of her other incarnations?

Picture it. You learn that there are other copies of yourself out there. More, you have the ability to travel through time and space to meet them. Would you have NO desire to look them up? I suppose you might not if you remember being all of them. But wouldn't THAT mean you remember DYING? Wouldn't that knowledge affect you as a person?

Of course, there's a logical reason why Clara wouldn't be able to interact with her other selves. They're all at fixed points along the Doctor's time stream, and he cannot cross his own time stream - so neither can she. No way would the Doctor ever encounter prior selves. Right?


Let me say this up front: I liked the 50th anniversary special. Even thought it was brilliant. (Also brilliant was "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot" special by Peter Davison, and you REALLY need to see that.) Three of the things I liked from the special in particular:
- The idea of implanting a calculation in a device that can run for thousands of years, yet be on hand when needed. Devilishly implanted early in the narrative, so that it could be extended to the TARDIS calculations. Amuses me that prior incarnations could have been flagged to be at a necessary point in time and space.
- Restoring Gallifrey without wiping out the events of Doctors 9, 10 and 11. I could have done without Doctor 8.5 (nothing against John Hurt, simply didn't feel necessary), but I do not consider this decision to be a cheat at all. The renewed purpose of the Doctor at the very end was delightful.
- Closure as to why Queen Elizabeth thought the Tenth Doctor was her "sworn enemy" in the episode "The Shakespeare Code". Caught that. I'd probably be annoyed with the Doctor too after the events that occurred.

But back to Clara. I didn't have a problem with her at the beginning of the show, and I liked her scenes near the climax, particularly with John Hurt. My serious problem involves her jaunt into the past. What did it accomplish?

She releases the Doctors from an unlocked room, hangs around for plot exposition... and then returns to the present. Making her entire trip COMPLETELY POINTLESS. Much more sensible (to me) would have been her wrecking the vortex manipulator so the Zygons couldn't use it - how did she know how it worked anyway?

But even if you accept that she had to be there... why couldn't it have been one of her OTHER selves? Clara, personal handmaid to the Queen or something. It makes perfect sense -- Doctor Ten IS THERE, and making a blunder with long term ramifications. Would have been nice to see Ten/Clara interaction as part of the loop too.

That said, I can forgive this. It was the 50th anniversary, there was a lot of ground to cover, and multiple Claras might have added an unnecessary level of confusion - particularly to viewers who might not have kept up with the show.

Let's get to the huge missed opportunity.


I have mixed feelings about this special. It was a very good last episode for Matt Smith, incorporating many things from his run in a way that (more or less) made sense. Granted, a few of them you have to squint at, but I'm not going to poke holes in the plot - others have done this. (And may I say, I like the Last Angry Geek's reasoning for Matt Smith's sudden accelerated aging over only 300 years... he keeps his moisturizer in the TARDIS.) But it also did a major disservice.

Clara was window dressing.

Infinite branches.
Be part of those stories, not an observer.
I've read about how the writing on Doctor Who is lacking as far as female characters go, and I tend to agree, but my issue here goes further than that. Regardless of Clara's gender, her role was pointless. Consider: She calls the Doctor because of a turkey (seriously?) and dating issues (oh God seriously?!). She tags along doing nothing, is sent away, tries to come back, and is sent away again. Not integral to the plot except perhaps at the climax.

Moreover, she was given STUPID dialogue. You can't have her snapping her fingers to control the TARDIS doors in one show, then have her wondering why the Doctor can't do his "regeneration" thing in the next. She should KNOW this is his last regeneration. Granted, you have to explain this to the audience, but here's a much better way:
CLARA: You get twelve regenerations, yeah? So even if we include your War incarnation, don't you have one body left? Why have I never seen it?
DOCTOR: Vanity issues last time around. It counts, much to my surprise. So what you see is what you get.

But the thing that really annoys me, to the point of making this post is... why was Clara never reincarnated on Trenzalore? An incarnation of her was needed in the Dalek Asylum, but not here, during the Doctor's loneliest years?

It would have been amazing to see that. To see the Doctor face-to-face with the person he's trying to send away, and yet not her. To put a recognizable face into this town under siege that we don't really care about. And to have someone travel back to get Clara who isn't a friggin' Dalek-bot. (Seriously? Did Tasha Lem find a "cure", as she did for aging, or do we let Daleks pilot the TARDIS now?) Because a scene with two Claras could have been great.

CLARA: You're... me.
XMAS CLARA: No. I'm a splinter, an echo. My purpose was to come for you. The original. You're the one he wants right now.
CLARA: I don't understand. I don't remember doing this.
XMAS CLARA: I don't fully understand it either. But Tasha explained the situation to me once I was old enough. She showed me how to fly the TARDIS. Come back with me. He needs you.
CLARA: But if you're already there, and I come... what of you? What becomes of you?
XMAS CLARA: I go back to my family. Make a souffle. (smiles) I'm sure it sounds terribly boring. After all, when I was young, I wanted to go out and explore the universe. But after years of the universe constantly dropping in on our little town with hostile intent, I've decided I can do with a bit of peace for a while.
CLARA: ...
XMAS CLARA: Does that not make sense to you?
CLARA: I suppose it does. I'm just not sure I'd feel the same way. It's unsettling.
XMAS CLARA: Best not to dwell on it. Come along. He needs you.

In short, this whole "multiple Clara" thing needs to be dealt with, and soon. Make it clear what she knows, and either explain why she CANNOT meet herself (which has it's own psychological ramifications) or DEAL with a meeting somehow. And I don't mean meeting herself in a Clara and the TARDIS way. (Though if you haven't seen that, it's worth a laugh.)

To conclude, if the new Series currently being filmed is all about Peter Capaldi, and ONLY him... it will bother me. Will it bother you?

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