We All Have To “Face The Raven” On Doctor Who

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

Whovians, we entered this season knowing Jenna Coleman’s departure was imminent. Some of us maybe even knew when it was meant to take place. The show itself certainly hasn’t been subtle about foretelling her end. But when it comes down to it, are any of us ready to see Clara Oswald go? And will how she goes leave the Doctor and us heartbroken? One way or another, we all have to “Face the Raven.”

The tattoo you really regret: Bursting into the TARDIS fresh from an off screen adventure, the Doctor and Clara receive a call from Rigsy. Clara’s pal from the “Flatline” story has a mysterious tattoo on the back of his neck that is counting down to zero. The time travelers dash off to investigate. Rigsy tells them his memory of the last 24 hours is missing, which the Doctor will later inform him is due to retcon. A simple scan in the TARDIS reveals Rigsy’s tattoo is counting down the minutes until he dies. With a little persuasion from Clara, the Doctor promises to help save him and so they go searching for a “trap street.” That is, a street that’s not on a map, one our eyes pass over without noticing. Equipped with the sonic sunglasses, Clara leans out of the hovering TARDIS to scan London below and from the data they narrow down the possibilities to three locations.

Nevermore: Once they locate the trap street, the trio walks in to discover it’s actually an alien refugee camp of sorts run by Ashildr. Now going by Mayor Me, she explains Rigsy is accused of killing a resident and is sentenced to die. Mayor Me is convinced to let them investigate the crime and hopefully exonerate Rigsy. If so, she can remove the chronolock tattoo. The Doctor wants assurances Clara won’t be hurt and Mayor Me gives her unbreakable word she’ll be safe. They visit the dead alien, Anna, whose body is being kept in a kind of stasis. She was a Janus, so-called because she has two faces, one to see the future, the other to see the past. The trio also witness a man sentenced to death by the Shade, aka the raven, for stealing medicine for his wife. When the man’s own chronolock reaches zero, he runs but the raven follows, fills him with a smokey substance, and kills him.

Passing the time: Realizing they mostly need to convince the alien residents of Rigsy’s innocence, the Doctor sets off to do that while Clara pulls Rigsy aside. She’s learned the countdown can be passed on to someone else willing to take it. She convinces Rigsy to give it to her, arguing Mayor Me’s protection will keep her safe and thus give them more time to figure out the mystery. He agrees and the chronolock appears on Clara’s neck instead. Meanwhile, the Doctor learns Rigsy asked for him immediately after being accused of the murder, which means Mayor Me knew Rigsy and the Doctor were friends. She’s hiding something. So is someone else.

A deal for the Doctor: Anna has a daughter whose ability to see into the past tells her Rigsy is innocent. Her future sight tells her Mayor Me has another plan, something to do with the Doctor. All four return to look at Anna’s body and the Doctor notices the stasis is actually keeping Anna alive. In order to get her out, he has to use his TARDIS key to open a panel. It works but a bracelet clamps onto him in the process. Mayor Me reveals it’s a teleport. She made a deal with an unnamed someone to hand over the Doctor in order to keep the street safe. The deal also involves handing over his confession dial. Mayor Me makes good on her promise to remove the chronolock from Rigsy, only he doesn’t have it. Clara does. And now it can’t be removed. Once transferred to another person, it’s permanent until death.

Let me be brave: There’s nothing anyone can do but that doesn’t stop the Doctor from threatening Mayor Me with everything in his power. Until Clara stops him. She doesn’t want him to rain hell down on anyone because of her. She makes him promise not to seek out revenge on whoever is responsible. “Don’t let this change you. Don’t be a warrior. Promise me. Be a doctor.” They hug and raven calls from outside. They tearfully part as Clara walks outside to face death head on. The Doctor watches from several steps away as the raven flies into Clara and smoke billows from her mouth. She falls to the cobblestones. She’s dead. Back inside he tells Mayor Me he’ll do his best to stay true to Clara’s wishes not to seek revenge against her. But he won’t promise anything. He is teleported away. Later, Rigsy reveals he’s turned the stagnant TARDIS into a beautiful memorial for Clara.

Who Notes

  • Everyone is crying and I am heartbroken.
  • That said, this was a rather fitting exit for Clara. If it is indeed her exit. Because I’m still holding out hope for Time Lady Clara.
  • John Green fans, who else was calling the “trap street” a “paper street” instead?
  • Mayor Me uses the chronolock and Shade method in part because it gives those sentenced to die time to say goodbye. The Doctor points out by retconning Rigsy she took away his ability to remember he needed to say goodbye anyway.
  • Shipper corner:
    • The two of them on the TARDIS at the beginning is so domestic it hurts.
    • Clara to Mayor Me: “So this is where you’ve been. That’s why he lost track of you.”
      The Doctor: [looks surprised]
      Clara: “Oh come on. Please. He’s really cute. He thinks I don’t know. He’s got this whole secret room in the TARDIS where he collects pictures of you.”
    • Clara: “Don’t let this change you. Don’t be a warrior. Promise me. Be a doctor.”
      The Doctor: “What’s the point of being a doctor if I can’t cure you?”
    • The Doctor, as Clara moves to meet the raven: “Don’t run. Stay with me.”
      As they say goodbye, the Doctor moves to say something important.
      The Doctor: “Clara…”
      [she hugs him]
      Clara: “Everything you’re about to say, I already know. Don’t do it now. We’ve already had enough bad timing.”
  • Next week is Peter Capaldi’s solo episode and if it doesn’t completely rebreak my heart I’ll be stunned.
Stephanie Coats
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