Having faced the Raven, Clara is now dead. Before the Doctor can digest this, he has been teleported away. Where to? When to? How to? That last question can be answered, by Ashildr and the teleportation bracelet but who is she working on behalf of? Who has arranged this? And can Moffat cause the haters to self-implode with sheer fury? I can answer that question as well: yes.
My first guess as to what may happen came at the end of Face the Raven, I suspected that he would be facing his double, the Valeyard (google this yourselves because the answer may be more tedious than this unreview). This will be great, I thought, the Doctor versus the Valeyard and both played by Peter Capaldi. This did not happen. Which is alright because what we did get was probably better than what I guessed.
The Doctor arrives in a glass transmat chamber. This chamber is located in a minimalist version of Hogwarts (which is truer than you think: the Doctor plays Quidditch on a flying shovel at the end of the story). He is alone but that is not where the story starts.
The first scene is this, a bloodied hand operates the transmat and the owner of said hand collapses and turns into dust…except for their skull which survives. The Doctor appears in the transmat chamber.
Newbies, transmat is what Doctor Who refers to when teleportation happens. Again, google it if you really want to be bored.
Exploring out from the transmat room, the Doctor finds himself in stone corridor with a shovel resting against a wall. There are also flat-screen televisions lining the walls. They are all playing endless repeats of The Dalek Buds of May, Peter Davison’s Regeneration Game and The Ood Couple. The Doctor is disturbed by this but at least he isn’t being forced to watch Dimensions in Time.
The despair of having to watch these banal shows ends when the screens suddenly show the point-of-view of somebody walking slowly. This somebody is the Veil, a veiled creature with long spindly hands. And like all great monsters that walk really slow, it always catches up with whomever it chases. Eventually.
The Doctor realises that the Veil and Hogwarts have been created specifically to give him a woody and…what? Oh, do I mean the willies? Really? No wonder people keep giving me a strange look whenever I vocalise my fear when I see a spider or a ghost.
Remember all those scenes in the Scooby-Doo cartoons where the monster of the week chases Shaggy and Scooby around really quickly? So not the case here. Slowly wins the race and the Veil does win, it traps the Doctor who having telepathically seduced a wooden door finds himself facing a blank stone wall.
“Crivens, I am scared tae die,” says the Doctor and the Veil stands still and behind the Doctor the building spins around, bridges connecting to doorways and the Doctor is free!
This freedom would be better if the Doctor wasn’t then trapped in a dusty bedroom. There are flowers which seems fairly fresh in the bedroom. There is also a portrait of Clara, not a painting but a photograph, which looks incredibly old and knackered.
The Veil comes into the room, unfrozen once more, and the Doctor talks to it. Nothing he says has much effect though. But during this talking, he is testing the gravity of where he is by dropping petals and an eye-glass. When backed up against the window, he smirks at it and says, “Ye didnae see this comin’!” Then he jumps out of the window, shattering the glass, and drops to his doom.
Or does he?
No, not quite. As he falls, his mind slows down and allows him to create a replica of the TARDIS interior in his mind. He is talking to himself, or rather a a version of himself that looks like Clara. This Clara has her back turned to him and answers him only by writing on a blackboard. The Doctor knows he is falling towards water and that even this could kill him. But he remembers dropping the petals and eye glass earlier, this tells him about the gravity of the world he is on. He knows that he could just survive the splashdown. Maybe.
Unconscious, the Doctor drifts above the seabed. A seabed covered with thousands of skulls. Has this castle played host to countless other prisoners? Textbook enigmatic.
Swimming back to the castle, he finds a room with a nice burning fire and, oddly, a dry set of his clothes waiting for him. Whoever is keeping him trapped is not a bad host. He dresses himself in the new clothes and leaves his old clothes to dry by the fire exactly how they new clothes were arranged.
The Doctor sets off once again but keeps an eye on the monitor for the Veil. After finding himself in a hall of mirrors, a chip shop and the insides of his own colon, the Doctor opens up a door and discovers a garden. Well, I call it a garden but if this garden was human, it would be Miss Havisham. Ooh, the Veil could be a monstrous version of Miss Havisham and the garden is where it doesn’t do much gardening. Um. Scratch that.
In the middle of this ‘garden’ is a fresh grave and a handy shovel. From this, the Doctor figures that he needs to dig up what has been buried. Me and you would assume the grave was freshly dug because someone was buried there but no, the Doctor decides to go all Burke and Hare. Of course. This is why Clara dreaded taking the Doctor to the cemetery. “Jings! A fresh grave! I must dig it up!”
As he digs and digs and digs, the day turns to dusk and night. The Doctor looks up but does not recognise the stars. The constellations are all wrong. The transmat could only send him through space not time but the range of the transmat does not account for the night sky being wrong.
There is no corpse at the bottom of the grave only a piece of stone which has the words “I am in 12” carved into it. What does this mean? Like I said earlier, textbook enigmatic.
Not so textbook enigmatic is what happens next. The Veil suddenly comes crashing through the wall of the grave and is about to seize the Doctor when he drops back into the Memory TARDIS. He goes over what he knows, what he assumes he knows and how delightful he finds the sound of two Daleks colliding. From this he now knows that the Veil is after his confessions, the truth. Me and you might try to fob the creature off with things like “I am allergic to celery” or “I peed myself all the way through high school” but nope, the Doctor confesses to a biggie. “I didnae git bored o’ Gallifrey. I ran awa’ because I was scared they would dress me up as a lassie.” Something like that.
And then the Anti-Moffateers all combusted with fury and tried to break the internet with their outcries of how this goes against everything that is sacred. Ahem. Oh, and the Veil stopped moving again. Which was nice.
The Doctor escapes and looks for a Room 12 but no doors have the number 12 on them or any other numbers for that matter. While he is looking around, he notices that the rooms are rebooting, whatever the Doctor does in a room doesn’t matter because when he next visits, any changes made will have reverted back to how it was when he first entered. Just like being in a high-class hotel room.
If the rooms reboot themselves, then how come the portrait of Clara is so old? Surely any damage due to age should be reversed? The flowers which the Doctor pulls apart become whole again, so why not the portrait?
Our hero returns back to the transmat room and looks around, something he should have done when he arrived. Sloppy, Doctor, you are getting sloppy.
He discovers a skull connected by wires to the transmat. Nearby on the ground, the word ‘bird’ is written in the dust/sand. This makes him curious. Hasn’t he heard of the bird?
The Doctor takes the skull with him because any company is good company when you are locked up in a castle with a veiled Veil. Even an inanimate skull. This friendship isn’t to last though because the skull, sick of the Doctor’s prattling, jumps into the sea to join his skull friends on the seabed.
The Doctor is too busy realising that the night skies are only accurate if it was 7,000 years later than 2015. But the transmat can’t teleport through time. Just what is going on here? Is it possible that the Doctor has been in Hogwarts longer than he thinks?
When the Doctor eventually manages to find Room 12, the way forward is blocked. He will need to confess again to the Veil if he wants any chance of finding out just what the hell is going on? When he confesses, the castle will trundle and swap around the corridors and layout.
So the Doctor allows the Veil to get close before confessing again. “Crivens! I like wearin’ question-mark panties! I secretly love being suckered by the Daleks! I shot JR! Och, an’ I ken the identity o’ the Hybrid, the wee beastie that the Time Lairds made a prophecy aboot! A hybrid o’ two warrior races. Aye, an’ I ken where it be!”
His confession opens up the way forward to a room with a sheer crystalline wall. This wall is Madeitupium, a substance that is a squillion times harder than custard (and diamond).
The Doctor, very quickly finally realises what he has to do. He has to get through the wall to whatever is on the other side. The word ‘bird’ that he saw earlier refers to a story by the Brothers Grimm which involves a bird wearing away a diamond mountain with only its beak. This is a story I know a little better from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon which also involves a bird wearing away a mountain.
The Veil moves again, slowly like a snail falling off a log, and the Doctor ducks back into his Memory TARDIS where he can stretch out the seconds in order to come up with a plan. Or rather, to give up. This Hogwarts puzzle-castle has taxed the Doctor to his limits and he is getting tired of all this running around. Instead of having her back to him, the ersatz Clara talks to him and we see her face. She tells him to never give up, to follow his dream, to reach for the stars, to infinity and beyond.
The Doctor awakens and starts punching the wall. And then the Veil touches him and with its touch burns him to a crisp. But he isn’t out for the count just yet. Nuh-uh! Despite having his regeneration capabilities taken away by the burning, a Time Lord doesn’t die that easily.
He drags himself back to the transmat room. He knows that each room reboots when he leaves, right? Therefore the transmat must also be reset to how it was before he arrived. Which means that the transmat has a fresh copy of himself. Knowing this, the Doctor at last realises that he has been in a cycle of arrival and death for seven thousand years or so. He arrives and then he dies when his makes the sacrifice of his life energy to power up the transmat to make a brand new version of himself. That bloodied hand at the beginning? That was the Doctor bringing himself back.
The Doctor powers up the transmat and then collapses with just enough time to write the word ‘bird’ before turning to dust. His skull being the only part of him to survive…
This process of arrival and departure goes on and on and on and on for two billion years. Each Doctor wears away the crystal wall bit by bit before being turned into a crispy-fried Time Lord by the Veil. And all that time, it never occurs to him to use the shovel on the wall, not once. If the Doctor did not want to use the shovel to break down the crystal wall, I reckon he could have used the sonic sunglasses to resonate sound waves with the crystal. That would have worked, wouldn’t it? Silly Doctor taking the hardest route through the wall…
If the Doctor spent a year each time before he gets to the crystal wall, this means that there are at least two billion skulls on the seabed. If half a year, four billion. Three months, eight billion. Six weeks, sixteen billion. Three weeks, thirty-two billion. Ten days and twelve hours, sixty-four billion. Five days and six hours, 128 billion skulls and so on. This is a staggering amount of deaths if my mathematical abilities are right.
Let me try it another way, there are 365 days in a normal year, yes? If the Doctor spends only three days before dying that would be 121 billion skulls, each belonging to the Doctor. I have probably made a mistake with my calculations but it is a staggering concept to get your head around, isn’t it? Makes Rory Williams look like an amateur in the dying stakes.
Incidentally, why is Room 12 the only room that does not reboot? Also, why doesn’t the Doctor make a new confession, duck out of Room 12, make copies of himself with his regenerational energy before he arriving back and tying up the Veil so it can’t burn him?
When he finally punches his way through, daylight hits him and the Veil collapses in on itself. All that is lost are the veil and a few cogs. The Doctor leaves the minimalist Hogwarts and finds himself on Gallifrey. Home at last, jiggerty jig!
The hole seals up and we finally see the mystery of the castle. The castle was inside the Confession Dial, that maguffin that Missy has in The Magician’s Apprentice and that he gave to Ashildr in Face the Raven. The thing with the Doctor’s last will and testament, remember that?
Just how did the Dial get to Gallifrey? If the castle was in the Dial, then why was the Doctor able to see the night sky relevant to the teleportation bracelet’s range? Need I draw your attention to all the confessing that the Doctor did in the Confession Dial or is that an obvious point?
A little child cautiously comes up to the Doctor and the Doctor tells, “Och, tell the bigjobs in yon Citadel. I came the long way, ye ken?” And for the benefit of whoever imprisoned him he says, “The Hybrid, destined to conquer Gallifrey an’ stand inna ruins, is me.”
And that is your lot. Next week, the conclusion!
What do I make of this story? I don’t know. I loved it, yes. And I can imagine how the haters were reacting when the Doctor confessed to things which we thought we knew. A part of me felt it went too far but it worked out pretty well though.
Peter Capaldi was phenomenal in this. Having nobody to bounce off must have been a real challenge and I cannot think of any other show that has kept one character alone for the best part of an hour. Yes, the Veil was there but it was more like a shambling animate piece of furniture than another actor. This is Peter’s best episode so far and since each episode is better than the last (well, with his acting at least), I cannot wait for the next episode.
Gallifrey is back, baby!
So what are you waiting for? Go and get watching. You are in for a visual treat.
After the events of Heaven Sent, you might have expected Hell Bent to start off on Gallifrey with the Doctor about to bring down the wrath of god upon the nefarious Time Lords. Far from giving them a good spanking, the Doctor is in Nevada instead.
To be precise, the Doctor is in the same diner that was in The Impossible Astronaut. And he has his electric guitar. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is the coolest, no?
Some corners of the fandom have complained about the Doctor playing the guitar but it is not so different from the Second Doctor playing the flute or the Seventh Doctor playing the spoons or the Ninth Doctor who was constantly playing the glockenspiel. Some people just like to complain.
In the diner is a waitress who is… Clara! Or is it? It looks like her. Could be one of those Clara-clones that were created in The Name of the Doctor. Neither the Doctor and this ersatz Clara seem to recognize each other. In any case, the Doctor talks to her, plays a guitar at her, and tells her a story about a girl called Clara.
“Once upon a time ye ken…” he starts…
…and the scene changes to that of the Doctor escaping the Confession Dial.
When the Doctor escaped, all the Cloister Bells of Gallifrey went off. Such a beautiful sound, a sound that bodes bad things though. The bells have got the President of the Time Lords, the High Council, the Sisterhood of Karn and the 1966 England World Cup team all in a tizzy.
The Doctor approaches the barn which he slept in as a child (as shown in Listen) and in which he planned to destroy the Time Lords and the Daleks during the events of The Day of the Doctor. I could have sworn that in the latter story that the barn was in the middle of nowhere. Now it seems quite close to civilisation.
Inside the barn is a middle-aged woman who looks like the sort who has floury arms and cooks for the king, a woman who seems to know the Doctor. This relationship is not clarified but she seems to be one of the outsiders who live in the wastelands of Gallifrey, the Shobogans, who I believe were mentioned in The Deadly Assassin. The Shobogons look a little like the people you see faffing about in the background of every Western film ever made. How the Doctor has a connection to these people, I don’t know. Maybe he was a Shobogon that became a Time Lord?
Talking of faffing about, the President (who seems to be Rassilon) sends out people to collect the Doctor but he doesn’t go with them. First there is a soldier in a space shuttle, then some soldiers not in a space shuttle, then a few Time Lords and then finally Rassilon turns up with an armful of kittens and a free voucher for the Gallifreyan opera. This last one finally convinces the Doctor to consider the idea of talking to Time Lords.
Rassilon wants to have the Doctor tarred and feathered but the military refuse to obey his orders. One of them served under the Doctor during the Time War. The Doctor is a war hero and they are not going to arrest or even kill the Doctor. Rassilon ends up being exiled after the Doctor tells him, “Get off my planet, ye baldie coot!” Rassilon then has it away on his toes. Will he be the Big Bad of the next series? I reckon he might be. Or maybe Rassilon leaves and becomes a barman in the east end of 1930s London?
Curious thing, in Heaven Sent, he spent two billion years in the Dial but in this story, Rassilon says it was four billion years. Continuity mistake?
The Doctor is asked about the Hybrid by both the General (a gruff old guy) and Ohila the leaderess of the Sisterhood of Karn and Holder of the Sacred Chufty Badge. The Time Lords are worried about the Hybrid, because it is meant to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins.
The Doctor demurs and insists that Clara Oswald should be asked about it. He asks for the Extraction Chamber to pull her out of her timeline and bring her to Gallifrey. Which they agree on! Do they not find it suspicious that a Earth girl might know about the Hybrid?
So they do the deed and Clara is alive again, well, almost alive. The Extraction Chamber has stopped Clara’s body from dying or ageing or breathing or farting.
Clara is understandably surprised. The Doctor explains about what has happened since she popped her clogs. When he mentions the Confession Dial, she asks him how long he was in it. “It was only four billion years, ye ken? Crivens, nae time at all!” Clara is dismayed, this is not what she expected the Doctor to do after her death. It goes against everything that she would have wanted the Doctor to do. The Doctor doesn’t mention that the four billion years were spent by billions of his doubles and not just by himself.
The Doctor steals the General’s gun and promptly shoots him with it. An act which shocks Clara even after the Doctor explains that this is the planet of the Time Lords. Regeneration is a given.
The General does regenerate. Into a black female. You can almost imagine Steven Moffat setting up the likelihood of there being a black or female Doctor in the future. I wonder how many people complained about this sequence? I have never understood the fuss about the Doctor being somebody other than a white male. I personally believe that the Doctor should stay male but only because he is one of the few male heroes to use their brains rather than their brawn. As long as it worked, I would watch a female Doctor quite happily.
Pausing only to nab a neuro block from the Extraction Chamber, the Doctor and Clara peg it down to the cobwebby Cloisters. The Cloisters being where the computer system that houses the Matrix resides. The Matrix is a huge computer containing the sum knowledge of every deceased Time Lord which the Time Lords mainly use to send each other pictures of kittens doing amusing things.
The Cloisters are protected by Cloister Wraiths. Roboticish Time Lord lookalikes that have black-and-white faces that look like the disembodied faces in The Idiot’s Lantern. There is also a suicidal Dalek, Weeping Angels and a Cyberman that been nobbled by the Wraiths and made into a part of the circuitry.
The Doctor tells Clara a story about a feckless young Time Lord who entered and escaped the Cloisters at the expense of his sanity. Clara susses that this was the Doctor who escaped. Is this how the Doctor left Gallifrey in the first place? If so, it doesn’t match up with what we saw in The Name of the Doctor because we clearly saw the Doctor and his granddaughter leave together.
The General and Ohila turn up in the Cloisters. They are weary of the horrors that lurk in its dark corners, but they are anxious to get Clara to return to her timeline and for the Doctor to give up what he knows about the Hybrid. Neither of which is going to happen if the Doctor gets his way.
Clara distracts them by doing the dance of the seven veils as the Doctor opens up a hatch and enters a TARDIS workshop below the Cloisters. One VWORP VWORP later and the Doctor has returned with a box-fresh time machine and with a lickerty-split, he and Clara escape into the time vortex.
It is at this point where the best part of this story happens, the TARDIS. Or rather the TARDIS interior which is a near replica of the original TARDIS interior from the early 1960s. This may seem silly but this is the most beautiful TARDIS interior ever. I really loved it. And it holds up as well as it did back then. I can’t be the only one who hopes that this console interior is used for the next series, right?
The Doctor’s plan is this: he will take Clara far away from Gallifrey as he can go in the hope that this will allow her to regain her heartbeat and life. Clara’s death is a fixed point in time, so either the universe will collapse when she regains her heartbeat… Erm… Or it won’t. Does this not ignore the fact that the Quantum Raven thing will simply depart the trap street and just find Clara whether she is?
When her heartbeat still doesn’t start beating, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to the last few minutes of the universe. But they are not alone, there is a knocking at his chamber door. It is Ashildr and she ain’t saying, “Nevermore.”
Ashildr has apparently lived for countless trillions of years and is now the last immortal standing. Think Highlander but with immortals dying of old age rather than having their head lopped off with a sword.
Ashildr is in the mood for a chat. In particular about the Hybrid, the price of bacon and just what did happen to Mr and Mrs Pakoo. Ashildr is accused by the Doctor of being the Hybrid for the legend only specifies two warrior races. The humans and the Mire would fit quite well. She counters this by saying that the Hybrid might be half-human and half-Time Lord. Which is what the Doctor is.
Ashildr then says that maybe the Hybrid could possibly be the Doctor and Clara because they egg each other on recklessly. I don’t buy this theory. The Tenth Doctor and Rose were more or less the same and they were never fated to destroy Gallifrey.
With that out of the way, the Doctor tells Ashildr his cunning plan. He will wipe all memories of himself from Clara’s mind. This will make it impossible for the Time Lords to find her. Probably. Forgetting the fact that the Quantum Shade will kill her as soon as her heart starts beating, is it really plausible that the Time Lords would not be able to find someone simply because they had forgotten a tiny bit of knowledge?
Clara, who had been earwigging the conversation via the monitor, reverses the polarity of the neuro blocker. This will effectively cause it to backfire on the Doctor. When he re-enters with Ashildr in tow, she tells him that she knows what he plans to do. She can accept her death but not losing her memories of the Doctor. She then plays her trump card and tells him what she did with the neuro doohickey.
The Doctor doesn’t believe that she reversed the neuro blocker but given how far he has gone to save Clara, he figures that he has nothing to lose. He has burnt a lot of bridges. So both he and Clara decide to activate it together. They press the button and…
…and the Doctor slumps to the floor. He only has time to say his farewell to Clara before the neuro blocker takes his memories of her away.
Technically, the neuro blocker should take the Doctor’s memory of himself away, surely? Meh, doesn’t really matter I guess.
When the Doctor wakes up, he is in the Nevada desert. With all Clara-related memories wiped…ish.
And we return to where we started with the Doctor telling his story to someone who looks like Clara about him and Clara. Only now, we know that this is Clara. The Doctor has worked out what happened but still has no idea as to what Clara looks like. He even knows that she smells of turpentine.
Clara the waitress encourages him to keep going before leaving for the back room, with that painting of Elvis on the door. Inside is Ashildr in the classic TARDIS interior. Yup, the diner is the TARDIS that the Doctor stole.
The diner dematerialises around the Doctor and this is where he twigs that maybe the waitress was Clara. But the real clue comes when he sees his TARDIS complete with the murals that Rigsy had painted upon it.
In their TARDIS, Ashildr tells Clara that the chameleon circuit isn’t working. Their TARDIS is now stuck as a American diner. Thank goodness for the perception filter, eh?
Clara wants to return to Gallifrey but given her unique status, she is going to “take the long way around” with Ashildr. Who knows, they might even see the elephant.
The Doctor, alone again, finds a message from Clara on his blackboard. “Run you clever boy, and be a doctor. Oh, and the fridge is running low on milk again”.
The TARDIS console has made a new sonic screwdriver which it promptly fires at him, he catches it and does a bit of dad-dancing before closing the TARDIS doors with a click of his fingers.
And that it is. Another series of Doctor Who has finished. And the Doctor now has a sonic screwdriver that looks like a nightstick. Mischief managed.
I liked Hell Bent. It was good to see more of Gallifrey in a non-war setting. While it doesn’t contradict what we have seen previously of the planet, it adds details and richness to Gallifrey that we have not seen for years. A return to form.
The story was great. In combination with Heaven Sent, Hell Bent works really well. If in the first part, the Doctor is slowly recovering and making his plans after the death of Clara, then in the second part he tries to bring his plans to fruition. A story of hubris? Hmmm no. A story of misguidedness then.
Peter Capaldi is as excellent as usual. He is great to watch when you can almost see his thoughts pass over his face like shadows over a cliff face. Superb and other superlatives etc.
Jenna Coleman plays Clara for the last time. Again. Her character is still going to die but she is on a reprieve as it were. I really hope that this doesn’t mean that we will see more of her next year. The Clara story has been played out and having her return would be a case of diminishing returns.
All in a great end to a wonderful series. Last year, the show felt a little unsure of which direction it wanted to go but now there is a stern hand at the rudder and the show is back on course. Huzzah!