Doctor Who Series 9 Finale is “Hell Bent” on Making You Cry

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

Where do I even start? In this supersized finale Doctor Who brings so many threads and ideas to a close. But I really can’t talk about any of them without spoiling everything. So just start reading and get your tissues ready. Doctor Who is “Hell Bent” on making us all cry.

A sad song: The Doctor walks into a diner in Nevada, his guitar slug across his back. Clara turns around to greet him from behind the counter. But she’s not Clara. She’s just a waitress with the same face. He offers to play a song to pay for whatever he orders and she agrees. When he starts strumming a sad tune, she asks what it’s called. “Clara,” he tells her. “Tell me about her.” He starts in on a story.

The new president: On Gallifrey, the Doctor returns to that very important barn. The High Council sends the military to bring him in only for him to wordlessly refuse. When the President of Gallifrey himself finally arrives, the Doctor finally speaks: “Get off my planet.” The President attempt to kill the Doctor fails when all of the soldiers are unwilling to kill the unarmed hero of the Time War. Even the Commander throws down his gun. Effectively powerless, the President is banished from Gallifrey and the Doctor sends the High Council away too. Ohila (High Priestess of Karn) and the Commander are left with the Doctor and ask him to protect them from the prophesied hybrid. To do that, he needs to speak with an old friend.

Shoot first, then run: On the trap street, Clara stands boldly facing the raven. Just before it hits her, time freezes. The Doctor beckons her forward into an extraction chamber. They’re on Gallifrey and although she’s conscious and walking around, Clara is just paused at the end of her timeline. She has no heartbeat. When they’re finished, she’ll return to the trap street and die like she already has. But not if the Doctor gets his way. He grabs the Commander’s gun and despite Clara’s insistence to put it down, he shoots the Commander. The he grabs a human compatible neural block and Clara’s hand and runs. In the diner, the Doctor and Waitress Clara are enjoying lemonade while he continues his story. He tells her the neural block was to make Clara forget him, so she would be safe.

Just say it: Down in the Cloisters, a sort of crypt/computer where the minds of dying Time Lords are uploaded, the Doctor leads Clara towards a secret exit. It takes time for him to telepathically open it and while he works he tells her about punching the wall though he won’t say how long it took. He kept quiet about the hybrid because he knew he’d need that knowledge as a bargaining chip once he reached Gallifrey, a bargaining chip to find a way to save Clara. The regenerated Commander (now a black woman instead of an old white man!) and Ohila arrive. At her insistence, they tell Clara the Doctor was trapped for 4.5 billion years. Clara is overcome. The camera pans away as she tells him something important, something only for him. Then she confronts the Commander and Ohila, distracting them to give the Doctor time to escape down the secret exit, grab a TARDIS, and materialize around her.

Same old, same old: The Doctor and Clara Oswald are in the TARDIS again, flying off to the end of the universe to shake off the Time Lords. He gleefully tells her she’s alive again; her heartbeat would’ve restarted when they broke free of Gallifrey. Except it hasn’t. He’s going to have to use the neural block after all but not before having a chat with Me at the end of the universe. Leaving Clara in the TARDIS he greets the Woman Who Lived and they speak about the hybrid. The Doctor says it’s her; she’s part human, part Mire. But she suggests the hybrid is him, a half Time Lord, half human. He doesn’t argue really but Me has another, even better theory. The hybrid is two people, the Doctor and Clara together. Companions willing to go to any extreme for each other. The Doctor knows it’s a dangerous combination and it’s why he’s going to use the neural block to wipe Clara’s memories of him. In the TARDIS, Clara uses the sonic sunglasses to watch the conversation and hears everything.

Reverse the polarity: Entering the TARDIS with Me, the Doctor is confronted by Clara. He argues erasing her memories of him will help prevent the Time Lords from ever finding her. It means she gets to live. But she won’t trade living for giving up “the best years of [her] life.” So she did what he would’ve done. She reversed the polarity. The neural blocker will erase his memories of her now. The Doctor explains why together they pose a danger to the universe and Clara finally acquiesces. He doesn’t know if what she did worked, only that the neural blocker will do something to one of them. They press it together. After a few beats, it’s the Doctor who starts to collapse. He’s accepting of his fate, knowing he went too far and this is the consequence, in a way. They share another tearful goodbye before he passes out.

An unfamiliar face: Back in the diner, the Doctor finishes his story by saying he woke up in the desert and a man was instructed by Clara to drop him off at the diner. Waitress Clara, who we now know is actually Clara, smiles as the Doctor recalls some of his adventures with Clara. But he can’t remember what she looked like. Or the “very important” something she told him in the Cloisters. He’s looking for her but doesn’t know who she is. Clara reasons it could be her but the Doctor says he’d know it if he found her again. She turns away to wipe her tears, then suggests sometimes memories become songs. “That’d be nice,” he replies.

Star-crossed: As the Doctor, his back to her, strums his “Clara” song, she leaves through a door. The whole diner was actually in the TARDIS. It dematerializes around the Doctor, leaving him in the desert next to his own TARDIS. Rigsy’s painted tribute is still there but as the Doctor flies off, it peels away. On the chalkboard is Clara’s final message: Run you clever boy, and be a Doctor. And so the Doctor redresses himself in his red velvet coat and the TARDIS gifts him with a new sonic screwdriver! Still sans pulse, Clara knows she must return to Gallifrey and her death eventually. But she decides to get there “the long way round” and flies off for adventures with Ashildr in tow. Her TARDIS crosses the Doctor’s as they go in separate directions in time and space.

Who Notes

  • Ohilia: “This is no time to play the fool.”
    The Doctor: “It’s the end of the universe, it’s the only time I’ve got!”
  • The Doctor: “I’ll need help, obviously.”
    Commander: “Gallifrey is at your command.”
    The Doctor: “Oh not from you lot. No, you cramp my style. Look at your hats.”
  • The Doctor: “On pain of death no one take a selfie.”
  • The Doctor, explaining to Clara why killing the Commander wasn’t a big deal: “We’re on Gallifrey. Death is Time Lord for man flu.”
  • Ashildr: “Do you know why we run Doctor?”
    The Doctor: “Because it’s fun.”
    Ashildr: “Because we know summer can’t last forever.”
    The Doctor: “Of course it can. You just have to steal a time machine.”
    Me: “Winter is coming for you Doctor!”
  • Clara: “My past is mine. Do not take that away from me.”
  • Just in case you didn’t recognize it, the song the Doctor plays for Waitress Clara is “Clara’s theme.” Feel free to cry some more.
  • Shipper corner:
    • Their love for one another was universe ending intense. Now who wants to try telling me this relationship isn’t canon?
    • Clara: “I’d know you anywhere.”
    • Clara: “What were you bargaining for?”
      The Doctor: “What do you think? You. I had to find a way to save you.”
    • Waitress Clara: “This Clara. You must really like her.”
    • The Doctor: “Clara’s my friend.”
      Ashildr: “I know. And you’re willing to risk all of time and space because you miss her.”
    • The Doctor: “Look how far I went, for fear of losing you.”
    • Right before they’re about to press the neural blocker:
      Clara: “How about we just don’t? Why don’t we just fly away somewhere?
      The Doctor: “Oh, that’d be great, wouldn’t it?”
      Clara: “God yeah.”
    • Clara: “I don’t think I could ever forget you.”
    • As he’s forgetting her, the Doctor asks Clara to smile one last time for him.
      Clara: “How could I smile?”
      The Doctor: “It’s ok. Don’t you worry. I’ll remember it.”
    • They said “I love you” in the Cloisters. There’s no doubt in my mind. #FightMe
Stephanie Coats
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