“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token”
It’s time to Face The Raven…
The Doctor and Clara, with their old friend Rigsy, find themselves in a magical alien world, hidden on a street in the heart of London.
Sheltered within are some of the most fearsome creatures of the universe… and Ashildr (Maisie Williams)! With a death sentence hanging over their heads, not all of the intruders will get out alive.
Well, this is going to be emotional. It’s always hard to say goodbye to any regular character on the show, but more so the companions; when you say goodbye to the Doctor as he’s in the middle of a regeneration, you have the comfort that at least in mere nanoseconds the same man with a different face will be there, slightly woozy and still just as bonkers as the previous incarnation. With a companion it’s different, whilst regular viewers of the show know that the Doctor has a companion 99% of the time, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. There’s a huge contrast in character between Adric and Rose, between Ian and Captain Jack. Where the Doctor is the same chocolate bar in a different wrapper, the companion is a pick and mix. What an odd analogy.
First of all, I’d like to point out to anyone unaware that, even though this appears to be the end for Clara, this rollercoaster ride of emotions wasn’t written by head honcho Steven Moffat, it was written by Sarah Dollard; this is the first time Dollard has written for Doctor Who. The fact that Moffat trusted a new-to-Who writer with such a big plot point as a companion exit shows just how much Moffat trusts her and believes she’s capable as a writer. In my opinion, Moffat made the right decision, all I can hope is that Dollard will write more Doctor Who in the near future, especially if this is her just getting started.
The story itself starts in one of my favourite ways, with the Doctor and Clara rushing into the TARDIS after having an unseen adventure. As a child watching the show, I always loved to think that the Time Lord and his companion were having dozens of adventures when we weren’t looking, as it meant that all those Doctor Who books, audiobooks, comics and stories that we made up in the playground could easily have happened, they were just too awesome to televise.
Anyway, back to the story; the fact that Dollard decided to bring back Rigsy from last series’ episode Flatline was a stroke of genius. Seen as this episode is about Clara becoming too much like the Doctor, having a character who essentially became Clara’s companion made for an interesting dynamic. Another thing that Dollard did to Rigsy was make him a Dad, which I have to admit came as a surprise when I initially watched the episode, however in hindsight, it is a brilliantly emotional plot device. One thing that really interested me from the beginning of the episode is how the Twelfth Doctor reacts to babies, as he seems to think that Rigsy’s daughter is ‘brilliant’ and even offers to bring her aboard the TARDIS before quickly realising that if he did, he’ll just get distracted. One other thing I noticed from the opening scenes that could be an Easter Egg but could also be a total coincidence and this is me overanalysing everything is that Rigsy’s partner is called Jen, which could be short for Jenna, as in Jenna Coleman; Dollard, if that was intentional, that was brilliantly sneaky.
Another call back to earlier episodes was the reemergence of Clara’s cards she gave to the Doctor to help him be more tactful that we saw in Under The Lake. It’s nice to see that the Doctor is making an effort to ease Rigsy into the news that the countdown tattoo is to his impending death.
The scene in the British Library has my favourite Doctor line from Series 9 thus far, “My god, a whole street has disappeared and you assume it’s a copyright infringement.” If Dollard writes the Doctor so well in the future, I can’t wait to see what she has to offer.
If, like most people, you grew up watching the Harry Potter films, I’m sure you drew a parallel between the Trap Street and Diagon Alley, a hidden street filled with people who, to the rest of society, would appear to be extremely odd.
The one thing that I wish was slightly different about the episode was the fact that, even though they’re hidden, all the aliens still have the human filter on, only giving us glimmers as to what lies beneath; it would have been nice to have cameos from more aliens, even if they’re just walking by, making the episode a who’s who of Who.
The return of Ashildr/Me/ Mayor Me played by Maisie Williams was one that wasn’t that totally unexpected, and for some reason the BBC decided to announce; it would have been nice for it to be a surprise that Me was still involved in meddling with the Doctor’s life. For me, this ‘modern’ Me is Maisie Williams’ best performance as the character yet, here we see her in the modern day, still trying to save people from the Doctor and doing everything for the benefit of her Trap Street. One thing that I love about Mayor Me is that, even though she thinks she’s always in control of the situation, she can be wrong and is inherently flawed. The look on her face when she realises her plan has failed shows just how vulnerable the character really is.
Clara’s recklessness in taking Rigsy’s chronolock to me is the culmination of everything we’ve seen of Clara becoming more and more like the Doctor. The fact that Clara would risk her life to save a young Father, whom she’s only met fleetingly twice, so his daughter doesn’t have to grow up without a dad. The thing in this episode that made me appreciate Clara the most, is that even though she knows she’s dying, she makes sure that the Doctor doesn’t do anything reckless after his outburst on Mayor Me. Clara’s last conversation with the Doctor is utterly heartbreaking; her asking why she can’t be more like him, then immediately making sure he doesn’t be a warrior, harkening back to the conversation Clara had with the Eleventh Doctor in The Day of The Doctor just under two years ago.
One thing I don’t normally talk about in these reviews is the music, but Murray Gold’s orchestration in Clara’s last moments just adds to the emotion of the scene; as Clara faces the raven, alone with nobody to hold her hand, telling herself to be brave. The variation of Clara’s theme is utterly soul destroying, accompanied with the face of the Doctor, filled with a mixture of anger and mourning makes this one of the most emotional pieces of television I’ve ever witnessed. The fact that after Clara was gone we got to see angry Doctor made me quite excited as to what we’re going to see next week in Heaven Sent.
The final thing I want to talk about is the after credits scene, where Rigsy made the mural on the TARDIS in Clara’s memory was just the icing on the cake, a poignant end to a poignant story. My only thought is, will the Doctor travel though time and space with this constant reminder of Clara when he inevitably gets his TARDIS back?
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is on a scale of 1-10.
For Face The Raven, I will give a rating of: