Review Dr Who ‘Hell Bent’ by James Briggs

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So the time has finally arrived and another series of Doctor Who has come to a dramatic end. Please be aware that this review does contain spoilers of the final episode of Series 9. Before the airing I think we were all expecting explosions and mass panic on Gallifrey but we had quite the contrary. We had the Doctor walk into a Nevada dinner and is served by someone who seems to look a lot like his companion Clara.

The previous events of Face the Raven were highly nodded to in episode 12, with many of the loose ends being tied up. The episode opens up an enormous blue box of sorrows and often leaving the audience with a tear in their eye; the most emotional time being when the Doctor first strums “a sad song” on his electric guitar, or as it is more commonly known Clara’s theme. The use of the Doctor calling the song “Clara” really tugged at viewer’s heartstrings.

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Steven Moffat very cleverly gave us the idea all through the episode that the Doctor was visiting Clara and filling in her memory because he had wiped it. However, Moffat being the showrunner he is decided things would not be that easy. Clara had not had her memory wiped instead it was the Doctor and he was only reciting what he could remember about his lost companion Clara. Clara knew all along who the Doctor was and could not say anything about Clara to the Doctor as he does not know who this mystery Clara could be. This was a very clever trick as the dinner meeting was their real parting. Clara is and always has been in charge of the circumstances. She has set the scene for the Doctor, reunited him with his trusty Tardis and says goodbye the only way she can: “Memories become stories when we forget them. Maybe some of them become songs.”

The one central story that gripped many Whovians was the return of Gallifrey and the Timelords. Among Whovians this is an extremely big deal. Following the great Time War the Doctors home planet has been lost or as said in episode 12 “at the extreme end of the time continuum”. It has become far too much of a muchness that all the Galiffrey citizens are decrepit and old. The episode smashed this away to the other side of the universe, it really was out with the old and in with the new. As the Doctor self-proclaimed he was Lord Chancellor of Gallifrey it was time to send of the old one into deep space. Even when the Doctor shot the Chancellor’s guard he too regenerated into a much younger female version of himself. This male to female regeneration does leave one wondering however is could this be the closest we will get to seeing a female Doctor, Moffat promised us there could be one in the future but could this be his way of saying anything is possible?

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One of the best moments of this finale was the re-creation of the original Tardis control room from the 1963 series. The glorious set was resplendent once again with the bright white walls and panels and the iconic circles, does anyone know what they actually do? This may not have been the 20th Doctor’s personal version of the Tardis but still Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, Clara and Ashildr looked seamlessly at home when speeding through the universe. The end scene where the Tardis is made to look like a 1950’s dinner worked so well and had a nod back to when Doctor Who first started.

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The director of the episode Rachel Talalay finds lots of fresh new angles to make the vast interior of the Tardis look so different and interesting. No words need to be spoken in this scene and with the backdrop of Murray Gold’s magical theme we can feel the power of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor build. In a channel of blinding backlight and smoke, the Doctor enters his trusty old Tardis. Slowly powering up in his presence we get a feeling of the link between the Doctor and his Tardis. The chalk message on the blackboard by Clara “Run you clever boy and be a Doctor.” Is a wonderful link back to when she first joined as companion with the then Doctor Matt Smith. A new velvet jacket is waiting for the Doctor next to the board and just like magic a brand new sonic screwdriver shoots out of the console and lands into the Doctors hand. The doors close as he clicks his fingers and as he moves the controls and goes off to new adventures; but no longer with Clara this time his Christmas assistant the fabulous River Song. For me this is an absolutely fantastic closing sequence for the end of a series of Doctor Who. This could almost be seen as the first time that the Doctor has lost and won so much in the same episode. The Doctor has earned the power over life and death which is something he has aimed for since the start of his series. The Doctor has his favourite companion stuck between one heartbeat and the next and the medieval woman that he has spared from death after causing death to his friend. Clara and Ashildr are united in a dynamic time traveling duo who have their own Tardis in the form of an American diner and heading off together to have adventures of their own. Could there possibly be a spin of show from this?

Overall an utterly fantastic end to the series and it has left many fans of the show with lots of unanswered questions like who was that person that was talking to the Doctor in the shed on Gallifrey? Could it be his mother? We shall have to find out in the future. Doctor Who will return on Christmas Day with the special episode and the companion will be River Song. While you wait until Christmas Day I will be traveling in my Tardis to watch the episode. I promise not to give too much away beforehand.

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Young Critic James Briggs on the set of the Tardis

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