“Nothing’s sad ‘til it’s over…then it is”
Is it just me, or does Steven Moffat have little consistency in the realm of quality? Last week’s ‘Heaven Sent’ was superlative and left scope for a great finale to a very good Series 9. The Doctor had found Gallifrey…what was going to happen next? What actually happened only concerned Gallifrey for the first quarter of the episode, and even then as something of an afterthought. It was secondary to the main thrust of the episode (SPOILER ALERT!): a farewell to Clara! Wait, haven’t we already said farewell to her? Yes, we have, and a fitting farewell at that. But her second farewell came at the expense of a finale. As the credits rolled, I shrugged my shoulders and thought the whole charade was pointless.
That the episode starts off with The Doctor going into a Nevadan Diner to see Clara as a waitress set my Spider-Sense tingling. It was the same diner as the one in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’…for no particular reason! Even when we do find out that the diner isn’t what it appears to be (SPOILER ALERT: It’s a TARDIS!), there’s still no reason for it to be the exact same diner as we’ve seen before. Seeing Clara for the second episode since she ‘died’ was also off-putting. Killing Clara was a brave move for Doctor Who, so I should have expected them to reverse it sooner or later. But seeing Clara instantly took me out of the episode and made me irritable.
“Get off my planet!”
Seeing Gallifrey in all it’s glory was a nice touch, especially with the theatrical TimeLords walking and talking, doing their TimeLord-y things. We’ve been waiting for The Doctor to find Gallifrey since the events of ‘The Day of the Doctor.’ And, presumably, so has The Doctor. In the finale of Series 8, he followed Missy’s co-ordinates to Gallifrey (which were fake). It must have been playing on his mind, the fact that his people are out there, somewhere in the universe. If you think about it, the search for Gallifrey could have made a great series arc. It would have increased the emotional impact of the end of Heaven Sent, and glued together Series 9. Series 9 has lacked an overall theme (apart from Clara Knows Everything!) or arc. But The Doctor coming across Gallifrey by accident felt a bit of a cheat.
However, Gallifrey was not the main element of ‘Hell Bent.’ It was Clara. As soon as The Doctor told the Commander that he needed someone to help locate the hybrid, I guessed it would be Clara. Unfortunately, I was right! She’s snatched from time just as the raven was about to kill her. The rest of the episode was about The Doctor trying to stop Clara from dying. He even shot The Commander (who regenerated into a black woman from a white man, in one of my favourite moments!) in a totally out-of-character moment to escape with Clara. The Doctor has always been against shooting. Yes, we’ve seen him shoot Daleks in the Time War, but this shooting was under completely different circumstances. Yes, the Commander had two regenerations left, but The Doctor still took a life, in a manner of speaking!
“I can’t be The Doctor All The Time”
From the point of Clara’s rescue, my interest in ‘Hell Bent’ dropped dramatically. I wanted The Doctor against the Timelords, or working with the Timelords to fight the Hybrid! The Hybrid is a classic Moffat MacGuffin: something that will either never be explained or explained in thirty seconds of nonsense words and then forgotten. I’ve just re-watched ‘The Big Bang’ and some of the questions raised in that episode don’t get answered until Matt Smith’s final episode! Some don’t even get answered at all! I’m sure there are some questions from Series 8 that are still in need of an answer. Moffat is adept at posing questions and creating intrigue, but awful at resolving them. The only story arc of Series 9, the Hybrid, was talking about without resolution or revelation. So what was the point?
It may not have been the worst finale of nu-Who, or even the worst finale of Moffat’s reign (that title goes to ‘Death In Heaven), and there were enjoyable bits here and there. But Clara’s return sapped all suspense and intrigue out of ‘Hell Bent.’ I didn’t care much for Clara’s first farewell, so a second farewell seemed very excessive. The Doctor acted irrationally and out-of-character, even shooting someone who had helped him at one point. For an episode that promised to be about The Doctor reuniting with his own people, it was a massive letdown. Gallifrey was a mere backdrop to bringing Clara back to say goodbye again. There was really no reason to do that, at all! Overall, Series 9 has been high quality, but it ended on a low point.
VERDICT: 4/10. Dull, pointless, and relying on the same tricks as every finale, ‘Hell Bent’ offered no reason for its existence other than to give Clara a second send-off. But that was no reason at all…
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 9: Sleep No More)