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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Ashildr, no! We will not let you go (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.10, "Face The Raven")

This review contains major spoilers.
****
So, Clara is dead, in essence stabbed in the back by a Quantum Shade. I entered this episode pretty much knowing that she was going to die in this one; the Moff dropped a comment at the Doctor Who Festival saying that there would be a 'shocker' in this moment and then the BBC essentially revealed it on the morning that the episode was to air in the UK.
So, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about spoilers. It's a fact that the ratings for this season have been notably down - the average is a 1.2m viewers reduction an episode not counting iPlayer. So, the BBC would want to drum up media interest and therefore the ratings by dropping some big hints that 'Tonight Someone Dies'. This has been an ongoing practise for many years in many countries; the trick is to do it well. The good example I can think of is the Season 2 finale of NCIS, which put all the regulars in mortal peril, made you think that everyone was safe... then had one of them shot in the head. Of course, nearly all media productions leak and people do because there's little chance of them actually getting caught; I can't think of a recent example myself outside of putting entire episodes onto the Internet, but I'm going to ask at Gallifrey Base.

In any rate, we knew Jenna Coleman was leaving because it did leak and so the BBC had little benefit in trying to hide it... but the purist in me wishes we could have had another Adric-style sudden exit. One of the best moments of the last few years was John Hurt's reveal as The War Doctor; I knew he was in the 50th Anniversary Special, but not who he was playing.

****
The Twelfth Doctor's 'formal' costume hasn't been seen very much in this current run, by which I mean the white shirt version with the red-lined jacket. It's appropriate for this episode that he wears something more 'in fitting' with what is a death episode. There's definitely some strong humour here ("Did you make this human?") but we get to see a very angry Doctor in this... at one point threatening to unleash the Daleks and Cybermen on 'Trap Street', which of course would be abandoning his name even more than the War Doctor ever did. It puts his speech in "The Zygon Inversion" into context... it's easy to preach forgiveness and reconciliation in most cases, but a sight harder when you're the one that's been directly wronged.

Clara makes a very Doctor-y move... which ultimately doesn't work. She takes Ashildr at her word... and fails to realise that people can't always keep said word. Some stuff about why she can't pass the 'chronolock' onto anyone else appears to have been cut from the episode for pacing reasons... but she faces her death with dignity. Although I'm not the first to admit that tight sweater was pretty distracting.

Riggsy returns from last season's "Flatline" (My review of that is here) and does a decent job; I didn't remember the character that much from the original episode, but it's clear that he is somewhat of a reformed character... who really didn't deserve the stuff he's been put through in this episode.
Me or Ashildr... definitely a woman who has bitten off far more than she can chew. Her control of Trap Street is ruthless by modern standards, but you do have to remember that she was born in a time when executing thieves was commonplace - in a society where a bad harvest could endanger an entire community and a theft could lead to starvation. That said, she's definitely shed any claim to 'good' status with that... although arguably she'd lost it previously as she's murdered people in the past.
Trap Street is a very interesting idea with links back to the Zygon two-parter; the fact that aliens cannot live openly on Earth is a reflection of older struggles in the LGBT community. Also, it does look very atmospheric. We get to see some of the vast array of creatures that have appeared in the show's history - I noted a credit for RTD as he'd created the Ood.

The Raven... I believe they've got a link with death. Very well done in terms of effects and getting struck by one is definitely a horrible way to go.

Conclusion
For all the 'spoilering' done, this was still a superb episode and sets things up very nicely for the rest of the finale. It's frankly a better exit than any companion in the post-2005 era... and one of the best in the show's 52 year history.
9/10

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