When I reviewed Peter Capaldi’s first season of Doctor Who last year, many of the articles referenced the way fandom reacts to the show.
There will be people who tune in every week with what seems to be a desire to hate it and there will be others who love it regardless of quality.
By and large I’ve avoided that this year, but having just watched Hell Bent, I knew this one would be divisive.
Some people would think it was amazing while others would consider it an affront to their sensibilities.
So I had a look on social media to witness the fallout.
And right enough, opinion is split.
“Amazing! I was in absolute bits by the end” said one person.
“I didn’t think it would be possible for a season finale to be worse than last year” said another.
“Bloody marvellous! Loved every minute” proclaimed one enthusiastic viewer.
“Absolute rubbish, just like the rest of the season” declared another bloke.
But why are viewers divided? And what side of the fence do I land on?
Doctor Who – Hell Bent Review: What’s This One About?
The Doctor tries to save Clara’s life, but realises he’s gone too far.
Thoughts – A Far Better End For Clara
Well here’s where I think the major bone of contention lies…
For some people, Clara’s exit two weeks ago should have been the end of it. She should have stayed dead.
Break it down for the classic TARDIS set
For others, this gave her character a more fitting end.
I agree with the latter viewpoint.
When I wrote my review of Face the Raven, my overriding emotion was anger, because the BBC had spoiled what would have been a great plot development in a bid to attract viewers. I stand by that, but having had two weeks to think about it, I also didn’t think her death was particularly fitting.
Yes, it would have been a shock, and no, in reality (as if Doctor Who has to abide by such constraints) death can happen at any point so why should it not see off Clara in a low-key episode?
But it was also devoid of emotion. Without any sort of proper goodbye between the two characters, had that really been it, it would have been a lacklustre way for her to go.
As a means of finishing the story of the Doctor and Clara, this worked far better, and I thought it was played very well.
Indeed, the twist that it was the Doctor who forgot her and not the other way around was a nice change from the normal way companions leave, and even though it was potentially telegraphed by the scenes in the diner cut inserted into the story, I didn’t see that ending coming from the start.
That said, it was absolutely time for Clara to go. As I’ve said before, her character peaked in Last Christmas and she’s really spent this season treading water.
Overall she was a good companion, but one that has run her course.
Should The Doctor Just Not Bother With Companions
If I was to have a problem though, it would be that it ended up that this was yet another companion who the Doctor – in a sense – fell in love with and couldn’t bear to see leave.
I’m not sure I understand the significance of the diner. It’s not relevant to these two characters at all.
So we’ve now seen that variation on a theme with Rose, Donna, Amy and now Clara. Not Martha though; he didn’t give a shit about her.
Whoever is next, the relationship has to be written in such a way where whenever that person leaves, it doesn’t have this great emotional wrench upon the man.
Otherwise, you’d have to question whether he would actually want a companion. It seems that compared to the old days, it has become more trouble than it’s worth for him.
The Case Of The Two MacGuffins
Another reason why some people might not be happy with this season finale is that it ultimately made MacGuffins out of both Gallifrey and Ashildr.
Again, I can understand why this could be an issue, but I’m not fussed.
I’ve never liked the Gallifrey stuff, and that goes all the way back to The Deadly Assassin; a story which gave birth to Fanwankery.
There really is no interesting plot to come out of Gallifrey. No matter what happens, the Doctor will end up running away from it again, and that’s what happened tonight.
More than that though, every time Doctor Who revisits it, more arms and legs have been added to it.
Who were those people outside the barn? Why do we care about those guards? Beyond a name check, what’s the point of Rassilon?
Quick!! Let’s all waste our lives trying to make up a back story for who this woman is. I’ll say it’s the Doctor’s Aunt’s cousin Beryl.
Gallifrey’s peak was in The War Games. It’ll never get better than that.
So yeah, the fact that Gallifrey wasn’t the real point of Hell Bent did not bother me.
Neither did it bother me that ultimately the Ashildr storyline went nowhere.
We were – I think – supposed to conclude that she was the Hybrid but she wasn’t. Really, she was just someone who happened to be immortal.
Not for me.
The hybrid being the combination of the Doctor and Clara made more sense, even though it was a bit far fetched that this idea had been retconned throughout Time Lord history.
Like I say, I’m happy the finale was used to provide finality to the relationship between The Doctor and Clara. With that sorted, the show can move on next year.
- I think Steven Moffat was trying to troll people with the male to female regeneration and the half-human stuff. No doubt people probably did get upset about that, even though both have been said or done before. These people need to give themselves a shake.
- In truth, the only thing that wound me up about that whole story was The Doctor playing ‘Clara’s Theme’ on his guitar. Within the confines of the show, she doesn’t have a theme so that doesn’t make sense.
- People will probably be sitting at home making up fan fiction about who that woman in the barn was. Who cares?
- As someone who often moans about fanwankery and pointless nods to the show’s past, you might think I would have groaned at the sight of the Gallifrey style TARDIS capsules and old school interiors. On the contrary; that’s the sort of thing I love. Bring back the old console room permanently, says I.
- But I will moan about the pointless inclusion of that Dalek, Cyberman and Weeping Angel.
- If there’s one thing about Gallifrey that puzzled me, it was the way it was just accepted that it was hiding at the end of the universe. Could the Doctor not have worked that out years ago?
- And how long has the Sisterhood of Karn been there for?
- Why wasn’t Ashildr sitting next to Captain Jack, and even though she’s immortal, how exactly did she manager to get there?
- Oh, and if she had managed to forget everything about her upbringing – including her real name – in the space of a few hundred years, how was she able to remember anything relating to the Doctor or Clara after trillions of them?
- The way Hell Bent was written, it was as if The Doctor had spent billions of years in that prison from Heaven Sent. But that’s not true, is it? As far as he was concerned, he only lasted there for a few days before he either died and was reanimated, or he escaped. He wouldn’t have had any perception of the true amount of time he spent there.
- I’m not exactly sure what significance the diner had, or why they used it. Considering it was from a different Doctor and used different companions, they may has well have set that scene on the lighthouse from The Horror of Fang Rock.
- Bring back the Rutans!!
- As a plot device, the Doctor’s return to Gallifrey really has come 5 or 6 years too late to be effective.
- Unlike some people, I really couldn’t care less about a new Sonic Screwdriver.
Doctor Who – Hell Bent Review: Final Thoughts
So while some people are upset and unhappy, you can brand me a happy clapper, because I enjoyed it.
For me, Hell Bent focussed on the right parts of the story and paid less attention to the aspects that didn’t matter.
It gave Clara a fitting farewell – more so than Face The Raven – and it was enjoyable and well acted by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.
Overall Season Analysis
As a whole, I think this season of the show will be remembered as mostly unremarkable.
I don’t think there were many bad stories (except the Gatiss episode obviously, but that’s because he’s awful) but the reliance upon two-parters made it a slower and less varied one.
The highlights for me have been Under the Lake & Before the Flood and of course Heaven Sent & Hell Bent.
The rest…not so much.
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