Friday, 27 November 2015


One fan’s heartache is another’s drunken after-party. That is how I choose to view Face The Raven. Surprisingly enough, Clara’s demise last week has had the unusual effect of satisfying both ends of the spectrum of her fanbase. Loyal Clara lovers wept as the impossible girl came in on a leaf and left with a raven in a gut wrenching scene, while Clara doubters, dislikers and angry villagers also managed to enjoy the episode by way of the particular method in which she left the series. Or rather the events that led up to it.

The Good

While I find that every episode Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are in they give exceptional performances, I feel as though Face The Raven deserves special mention. Peter’s rage combined with Jenna’s compassion make for fierce team. Regardless of your personal feelings toward either Clara Oswald or the Twelfth Doctor, watching the two characters go from enthusiastic adventures eager to clear an innocent man’s name to broken and angry by the end of the episode has to invoke some sort of response, whether it be anguish or joy. Face The Raven serves as the most emotionally charged episode of Series 9 with only two episodes left that can challenge it. Though Face The Raven has set the bar high.

Deciding to explore the mythos of trap streets, an obscure piece of arcane knowledge and deciding to turn it into an episode feels very much up Doctor Who’s alley (pardon the pun). This idea isn’t given too much focus in the episode though, but it certainly opens up dozens of possible, future storylines. Trap streets don’t necessarily have to house refugees. Imagine what great hiding places they can be for criminals and extraterrestrial threats.

"Die bitch! Die!"
Clara’s demise and the fact that it mostly leans towards stupid as opposed to a heroic sacrifice sits well with this author. Clara has already had the heroic sacrifice. She’s already left the Doctor, she’s been left behind, died, but out of all her predecessors, I don’t believe a companion has once met their demise as a result of a foolish decision of their own volition. This adds both originality to Clara’s end (which was getting trickier to do given she’s already had more exits than Rory’s had fake deaths), as well as inventing a new way in which future companions may meet their end.

The concept of a death sentence tattoo on the back of the neck is actually quite ingenious when you think about it. It serves as a constant reminder of your transgressions, gives enough paranoia fuel as you have to ask others to keep you up to date on how much time you have left (at the same time letting them know you’ve committed a crime) and if you ever feel like you’re being watched, chances are you probably are as people are most likely staring at the back of your neck and judging you from afar.

The Doctor’s Time Lord Victorious streak is rarely seen to The Waters of Mars degree or in this case, Face the Raven’s, but there can be no doubt that whenever we see glimpses of that dark Doctor emerge, whatever scene we’re in is guaranteed to be one of the episode’s highlights. The Metacrisis Doctor showed what a vengeful Doctor looked like while the Dream Lord showcased the sadistic Doctor. Watching Peter’s Doctor go out of his way to threaten Ashildr and not care about who gets hurt in the crossfire stands as the most powerful scene of the episode in my opinion. Indeed, Ashildr’s continued presence on the Doctor’s favourite planet has to lead to a future episode in which these two forces go after each other, whether it’s the Doctor ignoring Clara (my hopes) or Ashildr taking pre-emptive action against possible future attacks.


The Bad

“People can change.”
“Doesn’t make the bad things you did go away.” – Jessica Jones
Ashildr proves that after almost a thousand years she is still just a petulant child. She is over-confident and condescending towards those she has the upper hand against, but quickly regresses into a panicky, apologetic child when things go awry. She’s like a child scared of getting in trouble with her parents after making her younger sibling cry. This is the second time that she has put the lives of others at risk and foolishly made ill-advised deals with parties that she knew very little about.

And despite the punishment for every crime in Trap Street being death – even theft – nobody bothers punishing Ashildr for either a) physically assaulting another resident or b) conspiring to commit a crime by getting someone else to do the assault in her place. She seems to be above the law in that she can do anything, good or bad and will not be punished. Coupled with her pity-me-whenever-things-don’t-go-my-way-I-didn’t-see-it-coming attitude, it comes across as extremely jarring.

"I've alwys wanted a tattoo."
And while I believe taking on the Chronolock is incredibly brave of Clara, the fact that she took it on so quickly and so early on when there was no reason to does contain a couple of logic problems since Clara is supposed to be intelligent. From the moment the scene played out, I spotted the “can’t pass it back” plot twist. There are two kinds of risks. Necessary and unnecessary. A necessary risk is doing something dangerous or reckless without there being another course of action available. Unnecessary risks are doing the exact same, but while there are still other courses of action open to you. By deciding to take the Chronolock while there was still so much time left on the clock without a better explanation, Clara’s decision seems stupid and unnecessary.

Face the Raven is also extremely plot convenient, essentially setting things up in such a manner to make sure Clara dies. Take her confidence for example, Clara is “over-confident”, but a truly overconfident person wouldn’t even need to take on the Chronolock because they are so sure they’ll win that they wouldn’t even need to risk it. So in this sense, Clara’s overconfidence is above “let me take the tattoo, we’ll save the day later”, but below “I don’t even need to take it off you because we’re so good we don’t even have to risk”. In other words, Clara’s overconfidence is just convenient enough for the plot. Conveniently, the Raven can find you across all of time and space so time travel is out of the question. So why does it need contracts to kill people? And despite not caring about which soul it takes, the Raven still manages to care enough to be put off when the tattoo has been passed without being informed first. Ashildr didn’t foresee someone taking over the Chronolock from someone else, despite the fact that the couple earlier in the episode spoke about it. How convenient that Ashildr doesn’t bother telling the TARDIS trio that she can’t remove the Chronolock if they try to pass it on to someone else?

And yet, all the Clara negatives above are tiny nitpicks which do not bother me too much (she is dead after all), but may a casual viewer.


The Nerdy

This week featured a bunch of in-universe callbacks and references to past episodes, but most of them are easily recognisable.

The Doctor says “Remember 82” whilst looking for the Trap Streets. 1982 was the year Earthshock was broadcast, the last Doctor Who story to have a companion killed off.

The Trap Street looks a lot like Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter franchise.

One of the alien posters in the Trap Street is written in Aurebesh. Aurebesh is a language in the Star Wars franchise. The text reads “Delorean” and there’s a picture of a flux capacitor from the Back to the Future movies underneath it.

And would it surprise you all to know that if Doctor Who was a legal programme, then Ashildr would be guilty of Clara’s murder? It’s called Dolus Eventualis:
“Intent in the form of dolus eventualis or legal intention, is present when the perpetrator objectively foresees the possibility of his/her act causing death and persists regardless of the consequences, suffices to find someone guilty of murder.”
While Ashildr mentioned not foreseeing Clara taking Rigsy’s place, she was aware that death would be guaranteed if Rigsy passed the curse onto someone else. Regardless of this possibility of death existing, she still cast the death curse. Which means unless she is above the law, we won’t see Ashildr again because her soul now belongs to the Raven as well.

Tomorrow is unique for a number of reasons. Doctor Who steps way outside its normal comfort zone by not only giving us the first solo Doctor adventure since The Deadly Assassin, but also removing all other characters (sans the Veil) and labelling Heaven Sent a fifty-minute Capaldi monologue. As far as experimental episodes go, this one sounds as though it’s been hyped to planetary proportions, but will this be the Blink of the Capaldi Era, or has Doctor Who bit off more than it can chew this time?

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