If you took everything from him, betrayed him, trapped him, and broke both his hearts…how far might the Doctor go?
Returning to Gallifrey, the Doctor faces the Time Lords in a struggle that will take him to the end of time itself. Who is the Hybrid? And what is the Doctor’s confession?
The synopsis asks three very important questions that really sums up what Series 9 has been about. The first question, ‘how far might the Doctor go?’ is a question we’ve been especially keen to see since Face The Raven and losing Clara. One thing we know about the Twelfth Doctor is that he can be incredibly angry and incredibly cold when you do something he really doesn’t like. In Hell Bent, we see the Doctor become a fairly merciless killer, when he shoots the General in order to escape from Gallifrey. Luckily, with the General being a Time Lord, he was able to regenerate into a new incarnation; but one thing has been playing on my mind since seeing this episode, the Doctor asked which regeneration the General was before shooting him, and, after find out that he was on his tenth regeneration, the Doctor said ‘Good luck’. The thing I was wondering is, if the Doctor had found out that the General was on his last regeneration, would he have still shot him? For me, that would have been a bigger ordeal if the Doctor shot a Time Lord whom he was uncertain would be able to regenerate. I know that this isn’t a dark brooding drama and that Doctor Who is in fact supposed to be a family show, but I would really like to see the Doctor pushed to his absolute limits.
The second question asks ‘Who is the Hybrid?’ and I can boast that I was right about this back in November. I wrote an article called The Hypothesis of ‘The Hybrid’ in which I said
“My final hypothesis is that the Hybrid isn’t solely Clara, instead the Hybrid is both Clara and the Doctor travelling together. The Doctor is becoming more and more attached to Clara, I mean last series he literally went to bring her boyfriend back from the dead to please her. With this kind of control over the Doctor, Clara is becoming more and more dangerous, making the Doctor become more and more reckless; eventually it will have to have devastating consequences. It could come sooner rather than later.”
Do I get points for being right? Also it was really good that we finally had reasoning for the woman in the shop, AKA Missy to have reason to bring Clara and the Doctor together way back in The Bells of Saint John. These are the types of large story arcs that reward viewers for long term devotion to a show and are a Steven Moffat trademark.
The most intriguing question was the final one in the synopsis, ‘What is the Doctor’s confession?’, and in my opinion this question still hasn’t been answered. We now know that his confession dial was just a back door to Gallifrey after he confessed to knowing the Hybrid was, but that wasn’t really a confession after all, it turned out to be more of a revelation from Me in the end. Personally, I hope that this question might be a slow-burner of a question, and one that maybe isn’t answered until Twelve’s eventual demise.
Whilst Hell Bent was used to answer the questions from Series 9, it was far from a perfect episode. I adored the scenes on Gallifrey, especially the Western-inspired feel of the Doctor outside of the Citadel and in the barn. The scenes featuring the silent Doctor were captivating to watch, especially as Peter Capaldi has such an expressive face. After seeing that and having everyone run around for him, I thought that it would be another great experimental episode to have the Doctor completely silent but always present for an entire episode. Moffat, make it happen in Series 10 please. Another reason I liked the Gallifrey scenes were due to the fact that the soldiers treated the Doctor as a war hero, something he would never normally accept as a compliment; I think the fact that he almost relished in the fact that these soldiers were ones that fought by him in the Time War and that ultimately they were at his command. Also there was that line that the Doctor barked at Rassilon, ‘Get off of my planet.’ What a line.
There were two things that annoyed me about the scenes on Gallifrey. The first thing is that we just didn’t spend enough time there. I anticipated for the whole episode to be set on Gallifrey, especially since we’ve been waiting since the revival in 2005 to have Gallifrey properly back, but for some reason we also had to journey to the end of time. Again. I would have much preferred to spend an hour on Gallifrey than half an hour there, twenty minutes at the end of time and fifteen minutes in an American diner.
The second thing that I didn’t really like about the Gallifrey scenes were the ones set in the Matrix. Now, don’t get me wrong, the idea of the Matrix is great, but the thing that really devalued it for me were the totally unnecessary cameos from the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Weeping Angels. When I saw the promo pictures, I was hoping that we’d maybe see the Death Zone, last seen in The Five Doctors but with updated monsters, but the reasoning for all these villainous races being on Gallifrey was ultimately forgettable and just seemed like Steven Moffat wanting to indulge himself and his ego by adding them in, especially having one of his most famous creations, the Weeping Angels on Gallifrey.
The main aspect of this episode that I have to admit I’m still unsure about is Clara’s return. When I saw the cover of Doctor Who Magazine and we saw Clara in the diner, I assumed that this would be yet another splinter that would be revealed to have helped the Eleventh Doctor in The Impossible Astronaut and Day of The Moon. The revelation that she was the same Clara that had travelled with the Doctor, for me, detracted from her death in Face The Raven as her sacrifice wasn’t with her life. I get that the Doctor misses her, but if he could go back to Gallifrey and pull someone out of their timeline, why hasn’t he done it before with Adric? With Rose? With Donna? These type of plot devices you can’t introduce late in a shows run (like 52 years late) and not expect there to be some backlash with continuity or reasoning.
On first view, there was one major redeeming factor for Clara’s return, and that was that she was willing to sacrifice all of her memories of being with the Doctor to keep him safe, and stop the prophecy of the Hybrid coming true. For me, this elevated Clara as a companion, as she was willing to forget everything for the benefit of the Doctor. On reflection though, this is not what happened at all. Clara overheard the Doctor and Me’s conversation and was scared that she would forget all about her travels with the Doctor so she tampered with the memory wipe device so that it wouldn’t work on humans, it would work on Time Lords. She then flat out talked the Doctor into pressing the button with her so that they could do this final thing together, however deep down she knew that he would forget about her. Some would argue that this was a sacrifice for Clara as it meant she could never travel with the Doctor again, but it doesn’t mean that at all. Clara could have easily convinced the Doctor in the diner to take her travelling with him, and Clara still has all of those fabulous memories. We saw a dark version of Clara earlier in the series with The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion in the shape of Bonnie, but this is where we really see Clara’s dark side.
The one thing I was over the moon about seeing was the Doctor in a classic TARDIS again. There’s just something so beautiful, elegant and simple about its design that it’s managed to stand the test of time of over half a century. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor looks right at home here, and it fits with his interpretation of the Doctor ‘No frills, no scarf, no messing. Just 100% rebel Time Lord’. Should they decide that Peter deserves another TARDIS and not just a variation of the Eleventh Doctor’s second TARDIS interior, I think it would be great to see them in this classic once more.
Overall, this episode had a hell (bent) of a lot to live up to, it promised so much but it tried to fit too much into the storyline. Me and Clara’s departure in their own TARDIS was a nice touch, but the thing that got me was, why is it still an American Diner whilst in space? Surely the Chameleon Circuit of that TARDIS can’t be faulty too? It was a good episode, it was full of emotion, but not as successfully as some of the previous episodes, we got a new Sonic Screwdriver for the Doctor (I can hear the Sonic Shades haters rejoicing) and we look as if we’re going to be in for a fun, lighthearted episode in this years Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Hell Bent, I will give a rating of: