Time and Relative Dimension in Spoilers 012: Hell Bent

Spoilers are straight ahead. But if you're concerned about spoilers, you probably shouldn't read an article with the word in the title.

Well that certainly was...an episode of television. Given the grandeur we’ve come to expect from this season, I have to say I was thoroughly whelmed by this finale. Not over- or under-, just whelmed. I didn’t hate it, but I’m disappointed because I was expecting something else. 

I have to say I did love all the opening stuff on Gallifrey. This is what I meant when I was talking about a big gun last week. The Doctor has been gone from Gallifrey for a LONG time and some serious stuff has gone down in his absence. So, his return and subsequent banishment of the Lord President was quite fitting and Donald Sumpter (aka Game of Thrones’ Maester Luwin) did a fantastic job replacing Timothy Dalton in the role. I enjoyed the return of the Doctor’s boyhood home, not seen since S08E04 Listen. I wish we got to learn more about the “outsiders” who defended the Doctor. It’s obvious they were willing to lay down their lives for him, but in the end, so were the soldiers the President brought with him, so who are these people and what makes them separate from the people who live inside the city? No offense to Clara, but this was of more interest to me than what actually happened.

I guess the saving of Clara comes down to how much you love that character and I...don’t. I like her fine. Especially in this season, she’s really come into her own and Jenna Coleman has certainly been doing a great job of acting. I just don’t love her like I’ve loved other companions. I was impressed and moved by her death, but I wasn’t devastated by it and rescuing her from it lessened its impact. I get why the Doctor did it, I just didn’t really want him to. And since whether or not he should is the main point of the episode, I wasn’t in love with it. 

A lot of the stuff on Gallifrey was fun. I liked the genderswapped commander who chased after him, the comparison of death to “man-flu” in the case of Time Lords, and all that running about in the creepy cloisters. It made sense that baddies like the Daleks, Cybermen, and Weeping Angels would’ve tried to break into the Matrix over time, but I think we would’ve been just as fine without seeing them. The more you use villains like that, the less scary they become. I think putting a little more story into the wraiths would have been more interesting than trotting out a parade of bad guy greatest hits. 

I continue to appreciate the honor this show has for Classic Who. You guys. You have NO IDEA how fun it was to see the inside of a classic series TARDIS for someone who has been watching this show for most of her life. Looking at the simple, clunky, geometric designs and comparing them to the console rooms from the new series in my head was really a trip. In 1963, that’s what they thought looked cool and futuristic. The inset circles in the walls and the black-and-white patterns inside the time rotor (the thing that goes up and down in the middle when the TARDIS is in flight) were just as impressive to the original audience as the grand sweeping set and awesome lighting design we have today is to us. Bravo to the set design folks, both of yesteryear and today. 

Speaking of sets, let’s talk about the diner TARDIS for a second. First of all, the cute little nod about the chameleon circuit being stuck was a nice touch that made me think maybe the chameleon circuits are just faulty on Type 40 TARDIS’s. (And now I want to write fanfic about Time Lords traveling the universe in ships shaped like all sorts of wacky things.) But more to the point, what an odd choice of location. I just did not understand why they chose to bring back that set and I’m still not sure I do. It was a significant place in Amy and Rory’s time, but that time had nothing to do with Capaldi’s Doctor or Clara. I suppose he could have told her about it, but since she was the one choosing the TARDIS’s appearance, it seemed odd that she would choose that and not something more significant to her own time on the show. I guess it’s possible that the show was trying to remind us of other companions and say something about people who are lost to us and how memories becomes stories, just as Amy and Rory did, but if so, it wasn’t really said clearly. It was just a weird, jarring choice that still has me scratching my head. 

Overall, I’ve said more about the set design than the plot of this episode and I think that’s telling. I understand what they did, why they did it, etc., I just didn’t care as much as they wanted me to. I’m used to big showdowns, the Doctor pulling off impossible feats, taking down major enemies in a season finale. This was a much quieter episode and I suppose that’s fine, but it’s not really what I wanted, especially given that, like Clara, I didn’t really want him to do what he was doing. I feel almost as though Moffat wrote himself off a cliff with his love for Clara and this is what he needed to do to bring the Doctor and the show back from that. I really enjoy Capaldi’s take on the character, the rock star grandad giddly gadding about the universe telling anyone who gets in his way to go to hell. I hope that, with Clara out of his system, we’ll get to see more of him having fun and not being so driven by his duty of care. I suppose I have to thank Clara for her choice to be willing to have the Doctor wiped from her memory in order to wipe her from his. I wish her well on her adventures, I’d even watch a spinoff featuring those two ladies and their adventures in their diner TARDIS on their way back to her death. But I am glad she is off this show and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

For now, what comes next is the Doctor getting to play around with a new sonic screwdriver (SO COOL) and the return of River Song. I know what I said earlier about overusing a returning character, but I love the hell out of River Song and we haven’t seen her in about 3 years so I’m psyched to see her come back. I want to thank anyone out there who’s been reading along all season. Writing about my favorite show all season has been an exciting adventure and it’s the readers who make it worth it. I hope you have have a great holiday, enjoy the Christmas special, and that the wait for season 10 isn’t too long for us all.