‘Face the Raven’

Ticking clock tattoos. A hidden street in London. The return of Ashlildr/Me. Also the return of the community worker from last year’s ‘shrinking TARDIS’ episode. Aliens with two faces. None of this matters in the wake of this episode’s conclusion. At the end of the day Face the Raven’ will be remembered for one thing: the death of Clara Oswald.

Former community worker Rigsy calls the TARDIS with a lost day and a mysterious tattoo on his neck counting down to zero. The Doctor quickly deduces it is a death sentence tied to a mysterious hidden street in London that harbours alien life, an alien refugee camp with a very strict sense of rules. They find Me, acting as mayor to the camp, who claims Rigby committed murder of one of her residents and must die for his sins, facing this week’s monster – The Raven.doctor-who-series-9-face-the-raven-01Clara’s death has been so heavily covered in the media, not to mention so heavily foreshadowed this season, that her death barely counts as a spoiler. Which is why it is such a shame that Clara is dispatched with in such a straightforward manner. Fine, she leaves the series as a hero but it’s a foolish end, trying to save a man who didn’t even really need saving. As soon as the suggestion that Rigsy’s curse can be passed on, it was obvious Clara would take on the burden. Jenna Coleman’s swansong reminds us how she has changed from the girl The Doctor first met. It is the end of Clara’s journey to become more like The Doctor, something which seemingly no human can ever be.

While the path there is choppy, Clara’s farewell is mostly effective. It hits the familiar companion goodbye notes along the way (if he doesn’t know not to travel alone at this point he never will) but is made more powerful by The Doctor’s instant reaction of rage towards Me. Clara appears able to back him down only for this to be flipped the instant she dies. While he promises to keep Me alive, The Doctor also makes one thing clear: she should stay out of his way. An angry Doctor is never a good thing but it is where Capaldi shines. His sadness at Clara’s passing rings slightly more false, anger just seems like the natural reaction for this incarnation.doctor-who-series-9-face-the-raven-02While it slightly disappointing to see Me become an outright antagonist, I do hope this isn’t the last we have seen of her. Maisie Williams seems to be getting to grips with the character here, a woman with an infinite lifespan but only finite memory. She only remembers her past adventures with The Doctor because she has read about them, she has no real attachment to Clara as shown by her cold welcome. Me acts as no-nonsense mayor to the street, the warmth of Ashildr seemingly gone again.

After Clara has faced The Raven things shift into setting up the penultimate episode of the season, as The Doctor is tricked into wearing a teleportation device that sends him away to parts unknown. Will we find out why The Doctor has always been running? And just who or what is the Hybrid? A companionless Doctor is now left to face these mysteries alone and with a mountain sized temper. I’m quite excited to see how he reacts next week.

★★★

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