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Doctor Who Recap: “Nightmare in Silver”

Come one, come all, to the Neil Gaimanest show of all, well, the one episode of this season’s Doctor Who that was written by said author. Containing lots and lots of Gaiman elements including carnival sideshows, magic tricks that aren’t magic, sullen children smarter and more willing to help than they seem, and disembodied hands. In fact, this recap might spend some time talking about parallels to Gaiman’s other work, which I recognize is tangential to Doctor Who, but you’ll all just have to deal with it. So come on in as I talk about the best episode of Who so far this season, which is to say the only episode so far this season that managed to not make me roll my eyes for at least 99% of the way through it, an episode that actually makes Clara seem like she has a personality.

Today’s adventure is a day trip for the Doctor, Clara, and Clara’s kids Angie and Artie, and first stop is the Moon. Well, actually it’s Hedgewick’s World, a fabulous amusement park planet that the Doctor’s got a golden ticket for, and they’re in the Spacey Zoomer ride, though it’s not working at the moment. In masterfully quick succession we are introduced to almost the entire cast of the episode. First, there’s Webley, the proprietor of a sideshow attraction who arrived on the planet to set up shop without knowing that the park had been shut down and is waiting for his ride off. Next is Captain Alice and her punishment platoon stationed on the empty planet, and though the episode is a bit vague on the details it seems to be made up of soldiers who’ve all failed in soldiering in some way. Nothing the psychic paper can’t deal with, however, which convinces the Captain that the Doctor is a proconsul. Alice asks if there’s any news regarding the Emperor and says that the platoon prays for his return. I genuinely mistook this for a meaningless bit of setting polish, but it turns out it’s very important! Once the platoon leaves, Webley pops out again “They can’t stop me being here but they don’t like it!” and leads them along on a grand tour.

Of course since the park is shut down, this consists of a tour of his sideshow, complete with waxworks and oddities, a place where trick illusions are employed to rid the willing visitor of their real money and only a few can find the hard but still supernatural truth that always lies beneath the plaster artifice. These kinds of places are one of Gaiman’s favorite settings, from American Gods to “Mr. Punch” to “Queen of Knives.” Webley’s main attraction is none other than a gutted Cyberman shell that somehow mysteriously plays chess, though it lacks any innards. Don’t be afraid! There haven’t been any living Cybermen for a thousand years. Artie sits down to play, after paying a fee of one sandwich-that-he-had-in-his-pocket, and is quickly defeated while a couple of mysterious electronic thingies (cybermites) watch them from a nearby waxwork. Webley offers an imperial penny for anyone who can name how the machine works. Turns out, it works by Warwick Davis.

Sorry, I mean Porridge. Which is the name of Warwick Davis’ character. Angie nails this one when she says the machine works by “mirrors,” specifically the ones in the bottom of the chess table which conceal Porridge and his control center. She is rewarded with a shinny imperial penny which she compares to a waxwork of the missing emperor, just before everybody gets to ride the Spacey Zoomer. And… that’s it, apparently, for this day trip, at least until the Doctor notices the funny insects. So the Doctor and Clara go looking for bugs after they put down two teenagers for a… nap in the middle of a carnival waxworks, probably the most terrifying place to sleep ever? Instead of chucking them in the TARDIS or taking them home. In retrospect it seemed like there were some other options here. That said, I did like the Doctor’s little “don’t wander off” speech.

Meanwhile Webley resets the game of chess and the Cyberman grabs him by the arms, then the cybermites crawl out of its eyes and down its arms and up his arms and ooooohhhhhhhhh god and it says “UPGRADE IN PROGRESS” and nooooooo oh god.

Meanwhile, unable to play games on her phone, Angie wanders off. Unseen, the silverfish swarm over her phone. Clara, the Doctor and Porridge are definitely looking in the wrong place, but at least Porridge tells us all about the last Cyberwar, when the only way humanity could find to destroy the Cybermen was to destroy an entire galaxy and everyone in it. They notice Angie wandering into the barracks and follow. In the barracks a lot of the electronics are malfunctioning, which is to say that inexplicably there are actually no electronics left in their cases anymore. The soldiers are very gender diverse and I like that (it’s a very tiny nitpick, but I’d also like it if any of the female ones that were given any character actually had survived the episode).

Artie, understandably a little nervous about sleeping in the dark surrounded by lifelike wax figures, gets up and looks for the light switch. Which he finds, moments before a cyberman finds him. Meanwhile, a second cyberman arrives in the barracks. It uses advanced speed powers to grab Angie and book it out of there in what is actually a really well done action sequence, but apparently it used up all the speed powers for the episode because not a single cyberman does it ever again. The doctor puts himself in charge of rescuing the kids, and Clara in charge of the platoon, ordering her to find a defensible position and “Don’t let anyone blow up this planet.” They decide to head to Natty Longshoe’s comical castle, which is a real castle with a drawbridge and moat, “but,” as Captain Alice puts it with beautiful dead pan, “comical.” It’s a damn well delivered Neil Gaiman line, and if it weren’t for what’s about to happen to Matt Smith in a few moments, it could have been the best delivered line in the episode. In this scene, the Captain also calls Porridge “sir,” which I thought meant he was probably going to be revealed as some kind of war hero. Shows what I know.

As they’re walking over to Natty Longshoe’s, Clara backs up her orders with ”the only reason I’m still alive is because I do what they Doctor says,” I’m just mentioning it because I’ll be returning to it much later.

The Doctor heads back to the sideshow, finds a cybermite and uses its frequency to teleport to hits home in the planet’s cybertombs. Artie, Angie and Webley are there and have all been upgraded, although for the purposes of this episode’s highly adaptable, advanced Cybermen, this means Webley has less robotic parts than your average Borg and the kids basically have bluetooth headsets. CyberWebly explains “We needed children, but the children had stopped coming,” which is funny because there’s a bit of a parallel there to a very, very disturbing The Sandman character. He says that during the end of the war, the cyberplanners built a valkyrie to rescue and repair damaged cybermen them. The Doctor says something here about how people who vanished from the park became used as parts for the cybermen, which feels like it may have been part of a deleted bit that explained that the park was shut down because folks started disappearing. In order to make a new cyberplanner to control the cybermen, they needed the creative, inventive minds of children. However, unlike before, the cybermen can convert non-humans now. And now you know where this is going. The cybermites upgrade the Doctor! Welcome to the war of consciousnesses: Cyberdoctor vs. the Doctor. Actually, the cyberman consciousness inside the Doctor calles himself Mr. Clever. It wants all of the Doctors brain and memories, the secrets of time travel, but it can’t get to it while the Doctor is still holding 49.881% of his brain. The Doctor gives it access to memories on Timelord regeneration to show that he could regenerate right now to burn out Mr. Clever’s circuitry, but he’d rather not. With .238% of the Brain locked off from either of them, it’s a stalemate. They agree to a game of chess. If Mr. Clever wins, the Cyberiad gets the Doctor’s brain. If the Doctor wins, he gets his brain and body back, the children and everyone’s lives. Both sides of this argument are acted brilliantly by Matt Smith. Should the guy ever get tired of playing the Doctor, I would watch him play pretty much any villain.

Meanwhile, on the perimeter of Natty Longshoes, a Cyberman takes out a platoon soldier by detaching its hand and OH GOD it grabs her face as she’s screaming. Happy Other Mother‘s Day! The cyberman is on its way, so Clara takes an inventory of their weapons: one giant gun that’s the only thing that works on cybermen and that’s still being used after one thousand years of not fighting them, a crate full of handpulsers (taser gloves that only work if you can touch the back of a cyberman’s head), and, of course, a bomb that will implode the planet. Clara takes the firing mechanism for the bomb and clashes with Captain Alice, whose protocols state that if the cybermen are not wiped out immediately upon encountering them, they are to be destroyed by blowing up the planet. Clara’s being a right badass in this episode, with a platoon to order around and another character to contradict in a way that establishes her power and not her impotence, and it’s really, really refreshing to see her showing a bit of spine aside from conversational sass, which, lets face it, is the bare minimum of spine that is required from all companions. Porridge asks for one of the handpulsers like it ain’t no thang, and the Captain insists on teaching him how to use it, obviously so she can get some time alone with him.

Captain Alice and Porridge appear to have some kind of history, but at this point I was still assuming it was shared military service. Porridge forbids her to activate the bomb, which she’s brought with her, indicating that whatever he is, he’s of higher rank than she is. She says she was sent here because she didn’t follow orders, and she can make up for that with this suicidal gesture, and almost does, but gets shot by the cyberman. Under Clara’s orders the rest of the platoon blast the cyberman to smithereens.

Mr. Clever tries to find info on the Doctor from the Cyberiad’s databases, and points out that though the Doctor has been eliminating himself from history he can be detected by the hole left behind. The Doctor, however, knows weaknesses of the cybermen, slaps the gold ticket onto his facial circuitry to temporarily disrupt Mr. Clever, and  larks off with CyberWebley, the kids, and the chess set. They rondevoux with Clara and the platoon, who immediately recognize facial circuitry as a bad thing. Clara doesn’t let her giant gun’s sights stray from the Doctor, and gets very righteously pissed at him for endangering the kids, which is great. The Doctor orders them to tie him up in front of a table, because Mr. Clever will get around his gold gambit any moment now, and they do so.

Good thing too, because Mr. Clever gets control very quickly, and in quick succession tosses off the Ninth Doctor’s “fantastic” and the Tenth’s “allons-y,” so I’ll be right back after I rewatch the entire Davies era. Except I don’t leave, because just after that he starts telling Clara all about what the Doctor thinks of her, about how she’s the “Impossible Girl” and that the cybermen are coming and I start, once again, thinking that we might actually get to the episode where the Doctor actually tells Clara important things that she deserves to know. The Doctor manages to use his right arm to write “hit me!” on a notepad that has materialized, and so Clara slaps him, which gives him control of his mouth again. “Why am I the impossible girl,” Clara grills him, and it seems, instead, that she thinks he means “impossible,” like, difficult. But I was still holding out hope (you’d think I’d have learned by now). “It’s just a thing in my head I’ll explain later,” he says before Mr. Clever takes control again, and so Clara leaves to take charge of her platoon.

Mr. Clever wakes all of the cybermen in the valkyrie, which I’m assuming is only happening now because the cybermen lacked a cyberplanner, which was facilitated by the arrival of the children. And presumably they’d never made a cyberplanner before the park shut down because they were making an army? Since the airing of the show on Saturday, Neil Gaiman has been responding to questions about how his script, and even what was shot, was pared down to fit the time constraints of the episode. According to those posts, some of the things that were hit hardest were Artie and Angie’s dialogue and some scenes that “explained something that otherwise would leave you going ‘But why would they do X…? That doesn’t make sense.’” I feel like this is a common thread this season; episodes that are clearly missing a scene that made X plot event make more sense, but I’m not entirely certain whether that’s because it’s actually new this season or if I’m just noticing it more as I think harder about the episodes for recapping. In any case, the fact that making sure the plot hangs together in a logical fashion does not appear to be a paramount priority for Doctor Who‘s editing team bothers me. “Well the show is really meant for kids” is a very poor argument to excuse this sort of thing, since it A) implies that children do not necessarily need well done storytelling because they’re too dumb to know it from poor storytelling and B) I think Doctor Who, based on its time slot and viewing numbers, is pretty damn certain that it’s not being watched primarily by kids. But I digress.

The Doctor calls for Clara and casually asks to see the detonator that will implode the world. You could read what happens next a number of ways, but to me it seemed like she figured out immediately that only Mr. Clever would actually ask for the detonator in this situation, and asks him to prove he’s the Doctor right now just to play with him. He answers that “I’m the only one who knows how I feel about you right now,” and starts talking about how he is just so in love with her. She slaps him and the Doctor actually has to ask how she knew it wasn’t him, the egotistical sillybilly: “Because even if that was true, which it is obviously not, I know you well enough to know that you would rather die than say it.” This is the most perceptive thing a new companion has said about the Doctor in a long time.

Also, hey, look, Neil Gaiman understands that it’s gross and sinister and villain behavior for Mr. Clever to use the Doctor’s own body to make advances someone he is not attracted to without the Doctor’s consent, it’s too bad that according to other episodes this season it’s adorable when the Doctor, of his own volition, forces women to kiss him.

Anyway, Mr. Clever takes control of the Doctor’s left arm, grabs the detonator and destroys it anyway. Oh well.

The oodles and oodles of Cybermen are lined up outside, and while Clara and the platoon desperately fight them off (I was really hoping Clara would get in at least one good hit with that giant mace), while the Doctor and Mr. Clever duke it out on the chessboard, and Porridge, unexpectedly, retrieves the planet-imploding bomb. The important part here (nestled amid all the action) is that Mr. Clever offers the Doctor a deal: if he makes a move that leaves his queen open for the taking (and thus ensuring his defeat in a handful of moves), Mr. Clever will release Artie and Angie from the Cyberiad. The Doctor takes the deal, Mr. Clever releases them and starts spouting the usual Doctor Who villain stuff about how useless emotions are, and uses CyberWebley to try to kill them. Fortunately, Porridge has just arrived with the bomb, and uses his borrowed handpulser to short circuit CyberWebley, after which he is knocked unconscious at the Doctor’s feet.

The Doctor, however, has a trap for Mr. Clever: a win in three moves, and he challenges Mr. Clever to figure it out, if he’s got the processing power. Incensed by the challenge to his cyberballs, Mr. Clever stops the advancing cybermen so that he can take advantage of their processing power as well, which is good, because they were about to kill everybody. The Doctor’s moves are to amplify the power of Porridge’s handpulser with the sonic screwdriver in order to pulse Mr. Clever out of his head. Hooray! The Doctor is saved. Everybody from the courtyard dashes in, and by way of a Turing test, Clara asks if he thinks she’s pretty. He tells her no, that she’s short, bossy, and has a funny nose, which is rich because, as she herself says earlier in the episode, she does everything he says.

But it’s not all sunshine yet: Mr. Clever is stil in all of the cybermen, and they’ve got no way to destroy the whole army except the planetary bomb. Unfortunately, everybody and everything that could set off the bomb is dead or destroyed. Angie, then, to the rescue, and this is a Neil Gaiman story, so it should not come as a surprise that the petulant, bored teenage girl actually turned out to be whipsmart, perceptive, and resourceful. She drops the metaphorical bomb that Porridge is actually the lost the emperor, since his face is the same as on the wax figure (despite its embellished height) and on her imperial penny, and he should know the activation codes for it. Porridge doesn’t want to activate the bomb, because he doesn’t want to go back to being Emperor yet, which is a bit confusing until he explains that as soon as he speaks the activation codes, the bomb’s countdown will begin, but it’ll still be more than enough time for Imperial navy to find him and teleport everybody out before the planet goes. The Doctor makes sure they grab the TARDIS too, and the planet goes up as they watch, with a wistful emperor Porridge musing, “it was good to get away. Good to be a person.” Then he proposes to Clara in a scene that’s actually cute and very regal, when it could easily have been kind of creepy and possesive. The Doctor gets very nervous at this idea and tries to give her advice, but Clara lets him down nicely enough on her own, and they VWORP off in the TARDIS, leaving the lonely emperor on his own.

Then the TARDIS gives Angie a new cell phone for the one the cybermites ate (which might possibly become plot relevant?) and Clara and her kids troop off back to their house and their time (he tells her “See you next wednesday. One of the wednesdays.” And I wonder if this is an actual indication that the Doctor has been interacting with Clara non-linearly from her perspective without her realizing it, or just a joke.). Then the Doctor talks to himself about how tight Clara’s skirt is, before apparently drifting off into a reverie of thinking about her butt. Seriously. It could not be more clear that this was a moment tacked on by a staff writer in charge of making sure the last scene of the episode dovetailed into next week’s reveal of Clara’s identity, and not something written by the guy who put in a scene based around the fundamental fact that the Doctor does not see Clara as a sexual or romantic conquest in this episode. All of this happens without Clara asking why she’s the impossible girl again AAAAGHGH

Welcome to Doctor Who, Series 7, where the writers wanted to set up a season long mystery that turns out to actually only be complicated enough for the finale episode. This is, I think, Series 7′s biggest problem. The writers want to have their cake and eat it too.

It started with the last episode of Pond Life, with Amy and Rory’s divorce. Maybe we were going to get a half season where the common thread of all episodes was Amy and Rory’s healing relationship? Nope, nipped that in one episode. Instead we were promised a central mystery: who was Clara and why had identical versions of her popped up elsewhere in history? But instead, of, say, a half season of Clara and the Doctor working together to travel time and unravel her true identity, we got a season that has almost completely lacked companion-specific qualities in any way. Since the Doctor hasn’t actually told Clara that he has an ulterior motive in taking her on as a companion, she hasn’t been able to participate in that aspect of the plot. When it does come up, it’s been furtively, at the end of an episode, or quickly, in a way that characters can’t stop to consider it, and reveal of it has even been part of a retconned timeline.

This is the show wanting to have its cake and eat it too. In the case of Amy and Rory, wanting to throw relationship turmoil in the paths of its characters to set up drama and suspense for the audience, but not wanting to spend the time to follow through on any of the emotional fallout, as if we can’t be expected to sit patiently while the show pretends its characters are actual people when there are space dinosaurs to get to. In the case of Clara, Doctor Who wants to create an impenetrable mystery at the center of its plot, but it also wants to not have to actually address that mystery in any way during the season, even though half the season features her as a companion. This has created a number of side effects, all of which are, well, bad writing.

For example, the show clearly wants the audience to become obsessed with Clara because she is a mystery, but has almost entirely failed so far to give us any other character traits to hold onto for her. So she’s a bit bossy (except for how, because it makes plots easier, she does everything the Doctor tells her), she’s got a dead mom and some near-dead traveling ambitions, and she likes kids. This leaves us hanging on her mystery as the most unique thing about her, and because the show refuses to address it, it means that she doesn’t actually have enough character traits to be singular among companions. For another example, this means that the Doctor has been unable or unallowed to tell Clara that he’s not actually been travelling with her because he likes her (though he does clearly like her), he’s been traveling with her because she represents a thing that he doesn’t know and must find out about because he’s become obsessed. This makes the Doctor look like a lot of things but among them, creepy, untrustworthy, and like a stalker and a jerk. Like he doesn’t believe Clara could handle basic facts about her own identity and the initial impetus for their relationship and it’s his job to protect her from them.

So, the result of delaying all of this until the last episode of the season? Clara’s far too generic than any companion or indeed any female character (who are so often genericized when appearing alongside male characters intended to be charismatic scene hogs) deserves, and the Doctor is made to look unfit for companionship.  But most importantly, the central relationship of the show, between the Doctor and his current companion, can’t actually reach the honest emotional link that’s so necessary for an audience to care what happens to it, because it’s based on a grossly unequal sharing of information between the two parties.

See you next Monday. One of the Mondays, when we finally (hopefully) get some resolution on this.

PS: I was really looking forward to finding out what was so comical about Natty Longshoe’s Comical Castle, but I suppose it was probably deleted for time.

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  • Elias Algorithm

    Mr Clever was spooky. It was really a chance to see Matt Smith stretch a little. As others have pointed out the fault in the episode was more in the direction. There were several moments where I just kind of glared at the screen, annoyed. Like when the Cybermen wound down inches from Clara and the others’ faces and they just stood there instead of getting the hell out of there.

    I was worried about this episode more than the rest of this season because I knew it wouldn’t matter. There was no way it could be better than The Doctor’s Wife, which was so damn cute I cried at the end. And it wasn’t. But even I’m getting worn out by this Clara nonsense.

  • Elwyne

    It is a problem of the entire Moffat era that things don’t make sense, that interesting character storylines are cut short, that loose ends are left dangling. We know these things can be done better, and they have been done better; Moffat’s regime simply can’t be bothered.

    That said, I LOVED THIS EPISODE. Matt Smith was completely brilliant – I too would love to see him as any villain ever. I was happy to see bossy, self-assured Clara Oswin again. Porridge was wonderful. And the Cybermen were scary again. Neil Gaiman is visiting my city next month and I CAN’T WAIT.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    I love the new Cybermen design. So smooth and organic, and SOOOOO much better than those block action-figury Cybusmen bodies. Faces were a dramatic improvement as well. Also, was I the only one who noticed Warwick Davis’ face on a coin and the wax statue? It IS a pretty unmistakable face, even with embellishments.

  • niki greer davis

    I’m wondering if all the subcontracted writing may be to blame. ? Moffat had a mystery in River and gave her an actual personality and character to work with, as well. We’re bouncing around willy-nilly from one writer to the next each week.

  • Katy

    I loved Matt Smith in the episode and Gaiman’s dialogue between the Doctor and Mr. Clever was hilarious. That being said, I felt this was a weak episode in comparison to Gaiman’s The Doctor’s Wife. Anything with Clara and the kids was dull and felt undeveloped. I just don’t care about Clara and her big mystery. I’m hoping the next episode will be give me something to care about because otherwise this second half of the season felt like a snore and I’m hoping she’s a one season companion. The most entertaining episode for me was the Crimson Horror because it featured very little Clara and lots of Jenny, Vastra, and Strax interacting with the Doctor. Those three with Matt Smith had way more pop and chemistry than Clara and the Doctor.

  • CompassRing

    Moffat does seem better suited as a guest writer. Davies probably was a bit more meticulous with overall story arcs and cohesiveness, and since Mark Gatiss’ episode this season was very well done I get the feeling he plays that role when he and Moffat work on Sherlock.
    Also, Moffat super-loves frenetic characters and speeches, which is fine when Ten is slowly becoming a happier Doctor, but is kind of annoying while Eleven is just getting grumpier.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve got to ask – has the writer watched the rest of NuWho? Because every season-long mystery has been handled in exactly the same way. Bad Wolf – random references scattered throughout the season, but no actual explanation or even much interest until the finale. Torchwood – again, random references, no meat until the finale. Mr. Saxon – same deal. And the same again with the Missing Planets.

    The arrival of 11th Doctor changed the pattern marginally – now we’d get an introduction in the first episode, another big reference in the middle of the season, some odd, minor references scattered here and there, and then the resolution in the finale. Cracks in Space, The Death of the Doctor, and now the Impossible Girl are all following this pattern.

    That’s not saying you can’t be annoyed by this pattern, but to be surprised by it, seven seasons in, suggests you aren’t paying attention.

    Also – all of the Doctor’s relationships with companions are based on grossly unequal sharing of information, except maybe River (and even then an argument could be made).

  • Rosie Best

    I was starting to wonder if I was the only person who really was not feeling the Clara love. I mean, spunky and with a desire to travel – that’s the absolute basic requirement for a Doctor Who companion. I can’t put my finger on why I find her so bland compared to Amy, either. I just don’t care what her mystery is. At this point my headcanon is that she’s not even real, she’s a creation, the perfect companion, put on Earth to lure the Doctor into doing… something.

    Also the line about her skirt was so creepy and so out of sync with the whole Mr Clever come-on earlier that I thought at the time that it meant Mr Clever was still in there. But in the context of Clara in general and the rest of the series so far… I’m not holding out much hope.

  • malkavian

    The thing is, the other companions actually had personalities. Clara doesn’t, really.

  • Julianna Condor

    I really need to stop watching Doctor Who _after_ Orphan Black. They’re really so different in terms of quality, pacing and character development that DW just doesn’t compare well at all. I didn’t really like this episode, though I like Gaiman; Doc is just -so- unsympathetic these days. He doesn’t even much bother to care about saving people anymore, have you noticed? Half the time I think he only bothers saving Clara because he doesn’t want to go to the trouble of finding her next doppleganger.

    I think it’s about time for a regeneration. Eleven’s just gotten too dark and grim and manic — I had trouble telling Mr. Clever and Eleven apart, and that should be quite telling.

  • Robin S

    I loved this episode for the most part. Great acting from Matt Smith. Interesting secondary characters. Clara got to be commanding and kickass and really DO THINGS for the first time since Snowmen. The Cybermen were back and bein’ creepy. The setting of an abandoned amusement park was great and atmospheric.

    Compare what Clara got to do in this episode to every other episode this season and you see a marked difference. Instead of having things happen to her, she took control. Clara made decisions that impacted the plot and got to literally be in-command. Every other episode, she’s just sort of been there, either to do one small thing or to be kidnapped. This is the first episode since Snowmen where I feel like she’s a person instead of a generic companionish girl-shaped quasi-person.

    Good things aside, I HATED the line about the skirt. So what, you’re a creeper now, Doctor? I believe the Doctor is capable of falling in love and having feelings for his companions. We see it time and time again. But commenting on physical attractiveness like a horny teenaged boy seems so very shallow for a being of his age, especially for a man who is supposed to see the beauty in everything.

    You’re better than that, Doctor. And you’re not supposed to have those thoughts at all. You’re supposed to fall in love with people (if you do at all) for who they are, not their clothing and asses. He’s alone when he says this line, so it can’t be passed off as him doing the deflection thing he often does while in the company of others.

    You might make an argument that Mr. Clever is still a remnant in this scene, but frankly, that’s more terrifying than the Doc being an ass momentarily. I too felt like that was a staff writer addition rather than something Gaiman wrote. It totally didn’t work, especially with his earlier line of ‘you’re too short and have a funny nose.’

  • Rosie Best

    I think part of the difference some of us feel is that the Davies mysteries tended to be a bit subtler at first. And it’s not often you can accuse RTD of being subtle! You got Bad Wolf and Torchwood and Mr Saxon and the disappearing planets mentioned once an episode, often without any big fanfare. They were intriguing because the writers left the audience to pick up on them and then explained why they were important later on.

    With Clara, and with River a bit but less so, every single episode is explicitly saying ‘ooh look at this mystery isn’t it mysterious don’t you want to know about the mystery?’ and then at the very same time every time the Doctor wonders what the mystery is the only answer he gets is ‘Clara is totally ordinary’. So they’re trying really overly hard to get us interested while constantly cutting the Doctor, the audience and (especially) Clara from any kind of answers. It’s frustrating and feels clunky.

    The thing about Clara being completely ordinary is that it isn’t true of the Oswin we met in Asylum of the Daleks or even the double life governess Clara we met in the Snowmen. They would both have made better companions than this Clara. I was really into the Clara mystery after Asylum of the Daleks, but it just wore off, the more we learned that there was so little to learn about her. It’s like there were a million Claras out there and for some reason the writers chose the only completely ordinary one to actually have get in the TARDIS.

    Sorry for the huge waffle response – I’m still working all this out in my own head.

  • Anonymous

    The season arc structure is new to the new series (although they tried to play with it in Pertwee’s final series with the Metebelis crystal) and to a degree, it’s somewhat hobbling the series.

    With Bad Wolf, it was a surprise, and people were excited by it. By the second season, everyone knew to look for it, and we knew what it was before the season started.

    Moffat has changed it from a Big Bad to a Big Event – instead of a bad guy revealed at the end, it’s a big story point that needs fixing. This season it’s a mix of the same, with the return of the Great Intelligence, and clearly some massive events will occur next episode.

    If they went without such an arc-theme next season, I expect some would be happy to see the back of them, and some would be annoyed.

  • Anonymous

    The season arc structure is new to the new series (although they tried to play with it in Pertwee’s final series with the Metebelis crystal) and to a degree, it’s somewhat hobbling the series.

    With Bad Wolf, it was a surprise, and people were excited by it. By the second season, everyone knew to look for it, and we knew what it was before the season started.

    Moffat has changed it from a Big Bad to a Big Event – instead of a bad guy revealed at the end, it’s a big story point that needs fixing. This season it’s a mix of the same, with the return of the Great Intelligence, and clearly some massive events will occur next episode.

    If they went without such an arc-theme next season, I expect some would be happy to see the back of them, and some would be annoyed.

  • Robin S

    Yeah, that’s my theory as well. That Clara is some kind of creation by the Doctor’s enemies, so they can pull her into peril and lead him into a trap that’s meant to kill him. But man, they did that already. Pandorica, anyone?

  • Robin S

    Yeah, that’s my theory as well. That Clara is some kind of creation by the Doctor’s enemies, so they can pull her into peril and lead him into a trap that’s meant to kill him. But man, they did that already. Pandorica, anyone?

  • Robin S

    I feel like it’s a difference between show and tell. The writers are telling us that Clara is a mystery ad-nauseum instead of showing us how she’s mysterious and interesting. They’re telling us she’s special somehow and that the Doctor cares for her, instead of showing us their chemistry and that they care for each other. They’re telling us she’s brave and clever instead of showing her being brave and clever (except for a few small isolated incidents.)

    You can’t create real affinity between character and audience without showing them what’s interesting about a character. Emotional connections can’t be dictated. The audience has to come at that affection on their own.

  • Rosie Best

    In fact I’d guess there’s a direct correlation between how blatantly a show wants the audience to like someone and how little they actually like them. Even if they also do have actual character going for them.

  • Anonymous

    I concur with your analysis, but there is a striking difference to the way they’ve played the mystery surrounding Clara. In fact, I would argue that the actual mystery which follows the standard structure you’ve identified is the Doctors name – the mysterious references to ‘that time when the question in plain sight would be answered’ etc.

    Clara’s mystery was sold to us somewhat differently. The entire reason the Doctor is traveling with her is supposedly to uncover the explanation behind ‘the impossible woman’, yet we have seen no progression on that front, save for a few false starts and ret-cons.

    To seem to make the central premise of the season around a particular companion’s story is one thing, but then to give that companion less personality and character traits – less actual story – than previous ones is terribly frustrating. I can also see why it would be particularly frustrating to the feminist geeks here at the Mary Sue.

  • Anonymous

    It seems like he’s not so good at sustaining a season-long plot. His one off episodes were all good. Coupling was all self-contained episodes, and really good. Meanwhile, Jekyll had the same problems as this season, and the Moriarty plot on Sherlock was just… meh. Way to waste a good character.

  • Anonymous

    I wish they’d kept Dalek Clara.

    Mystery: Why is the companion a Dalek?
    Solution: Because it’s AWESOME

  • Anonymous

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the Bad Wolf thing. Maybe the reveal wasn’t that great, but there was also no expectation. We didn’t know where they were going with it. Now, every season has to have even bigger consequences, and it doesn’t work so well… I don’t really care about the Fate of the Universe, that’s not something I can conceptualize, it’s just vague.

  • Travis Fischer

    The Doctor isn’t just protecting Clara from the big secret. He’s protecting himself.

    He says it outright. He doesn’t know if Clara is a trick or a trap. She is an impossible girl that he cannot explain and Eleven in particular has a tendency to not tell his companions what’s going on until he knows himself.

    Add that to his more recent habit of paranoia and it makes sense that he’s playing it close to the chest. A policy made complicated by their mutual attraction, which leads to a mutual denial of attraction.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure how different it actually is – why did the Doctor start travelling with Amy? Because her life didn’t make sense; the crack in her wall was eating parts of it. We (the audience) didn’t find that out until Amy did however, late in the season.

    This time, we’re in on it with the Doctor. We’re privy to some of his secrets well before other characters – we know his motivations before Clara does. It’s less satisfying, like the couple of Sherlock Holmes stories not told from Watson’s point of view.

  • Anonymous

    Also, the Doctor constantly calls attention to the Impossible Girl mystery every single freaking episode. With Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr. Saxon, and Rose’s return, we got much more subtle references–throwaway lines uttered here or there, a sign, a graffiti on the TARDIS, without the Doctor calling attention to it until the very end of the season. By having the Doctor comment on the Impossible Girl every episode and not divulging any real information about her, all we have is frustration. It doesn’t even make Clara seem all that mysterious. It’s like we’re being beaten over the head with the same piece of information over and over with someone screaming in our ear “MYSTERY” and we’re just supposed to take that at face value. Moffat should SHOW us why Clara is so impossible. We’ve seen people in the show die multiple times before, it’s really not that mysterious.

  • Katy

    That’s an intriguing point!

  • Anonymous

    Douglas Adams did it best. Arthur is unable to fathom the idea of the Earth being gone. So he tries to grasp England being gone. Can’t do it. So he keeps scrolling down until he realizes “There is no longer such a thing as a McDonalds hamburger”, and faints from the shock.

  • Katy

    I think you nailed it right there in your last paragraph. Clara has no personality. It’s been hinted at with the missing mom, but otherwise she’s pretty much, in her own words, “does everything the Doctor says”. All the previous companions had personality, even Martha, who was a bit of a lovesick puppy, had her own personality. If I had to describe Clara, I would only be able to say nanny and ?.

  • Katy

    I would have loved it Clara was in fact Oswin and the big mystery was how Oswin became a Dalek. Imagine the emotional expression we’d get from Matt Smith, knowing Clara/Oswin was doomed to become a Dalek, but unable to stop it because of fixed points.

  • Sabrina

    I liked this episode for the most part but it had its problems. From what I hear most seem to be a result of Moffat completely reworking Clara’s backstory. She was supposed to be Victorian!Clara at first, with a couple of scenes with her and the Victorian!kids sprinkled thorough the season – but then Moffat killed off that version of Clara and we got Modern!Clara with a new family to look after. He also cut out all those initially planned scenes with the kids from the other episodes but somehow wanted to keep them in NiS even though the audience doesn’t really know about (and I suppose neither does it care for) them. Gaiman wrote a few scenes that would have shown us how the kids found out about Clara and the Doctor and how they’d persuade him to make a trip with the TARDIS. Moffat cut these scenes and cobbled together that awkward ending from last week. Many other scenes with the kids also got cut which left us ultimately with two characters that were just shoved into the story for no good reason.

    I fear the handling of this episode is symptomatic for many other in this series. It feels like character moments get cut left and right prioritizing the plot to such an extend that whatever character is left feels more like a cog that is there to keep the plot machine going sacrificing whatever growth and personality they might have had to begin with. And sadly Clara seems to suffer the most from this. We got a good start with her. I liked her in Bells, I loved her in Rings, but then she got rather bland from story to story. If I had to describe her all I could say is “She’s nice.” which is not a particularly good thing with her being the main character next to the Doctor.

    On top of that her “mystery” hasn’t been written well. I want to punch the Doctor every time he’s blurting out “SHE’S IMPOSSIBLE!!11eleven” It’s particularly annoying since he hasn’t thought of the most obvious answer: That this Clara is the original one and that something in her future happens that makes her “impossible”. Hey, probably has even something to do with you dragging her through time and space, don’t ya think? Wouldn’t be the first time it happens, Doctor!

    It also doesn’t help that Eleven has squarely ventured into creeper territory with a handful sexist/objectifying remarks and questionable behaviour in the last 3 episodes alone. It’s getting a bit much.

    To end on a more positive note: I loved Davies and the Doctor vs. Mr. Clever scenes were fun (I like my Doctor Who with ham and cheese, thank you very much!) and the inside of the Doctor’s mind was ridiculously pretty. The new Cybermen were also a big step into the right direction (although they became a bit too Borg-ish is some aspects). So yeah, a potentially great episode that sadly got butchered in the process of making it but still enjoyable enough.

  • Robin S

    I just had a revelation: what if the reason Clara has sucked so badly for most of the episodes is Moffat’s secrecy? What if he wanted to control things so much that the contracted writers got no real character notes on Clara? It would be very hard to write for her if Moffat’s got some kind of big end-game plan in mind for next week’s episode that could be contradicted by any of the writers breathing any life into her.

    That would explain a few things, such as why Clara is so bland and why the writers don’t seem to be giving her very much to do. Moffat could have said “you can’t make her develop much because I have PLANS” and as a result, she stagnates.

    If I was the writer contracted for the episode (which I wouldn’t be because Who doesn’t have women writers, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing) I would not know what the hell to do with Clara if I was given no character notes and none of her episodes had aired yet. Thus, she’s written as a generic companion to avoid stepping on Moff’s toes.

    Gaiman’s a big name. If anyone could get more details out of Moffat, it’s him. That and because his episode is quite late in the season, he would have had a chance to see Oswin and maybe Victorian Clara.

    Just a conspiracy theory. Tin hats on, everyone.

  • Hannele Kormano

    They’re getting a little comfortable with the word clever…

  • Dave

    The “mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a tight skirt” line bothered me not just because ugh, ew, but because CLARA’S SKIRTS ARE NOT EVEN TIGHT. I do not understand how someone who traveled with Amy Pond can suddenly be confused about what constitutes a tight skirt.

  • Janis Wright

    THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one that thinks Clara is the cocker spaniel of the companions. I do not know if it is just the writing, or the acting too, but Clara’s emotional range is retarded. By this time in the season the other companions had had to face many deaths, wide scale genocides and catastrophes, (Donna) and the deaths of friends and family. (Rose, Donna, Martha) Wacky and madcap are not themes for a season. That is why I originally hoped she was a construct scattered through time, but I am giving up hope. Especially after reading all of the great plot ideas here which never will materialize. Dalek companion=awesome! I will now spend the rest of the season hoping she turns evil because that at least has a chance of making her interesting. meh.

  • Janis Wright

    The writers could have her react to the problems within the episode with compassion, fear, revulsion, etc and build her character, without touching any of the mystery. They have not shown her react and build relationships in the episodes with anything that dies. If Clara likes it, it is safe.

  • CompassRing

    I really hope Moriarty is actually Sebastian Moran.

  • Jessica Stank

    I was really looking forward to this episode. As soon as I found out it was a Gaiman episode, I was thrilled! He wrote my very favorite episode of Doctor Who EVER! Which was, The Doctor’s Wife. You know, the one where the TARDIS turns into a lady? I thought that episode was beyond brilliant. The dinosaur one was good too, but the TARDIS as a girl? That rocked my world. This episode, thankfully, did not disappoint. I’m not really sure about Clara and I keep pawing through the episode for a shred of a clue. Is she related to River? To Rose? What ‘s the deal with this, “impossible girl?”

  • LizbethAnne

    “I do not understand how someone who traveled with Amy Pond can suddenly be confused about what constitutes a tight skirt.”

    I loved Amy’s clothes, don’t get me wrong, but her style was a lot more
    short/tight than everything Clara wears. Breaking it out, based on
    the main outfit worn in each episode:
    Asylum of the Daleks: We see her in a tight skirt/dress, but the Doctor only sees a Dalek.
    The Snowmen: Victorian outfits. Nothing short, the bodice of the dresses was tight, but the skirts were not.
    The Bells of St. John: Asymmetrical dress, knee-length in front,
    calf-length in back. Loose/flowy. Dress also has a very high
    neckline/long sleeves. Worn with opaque tights and a jacket.
    The Rings of Akhaten: Loose/flowy asymmetrical skirt (knee length at the shortest point) with opaque tights. Leather jacket.
    Cold War: Knee-length dress. Flares out quite a bit to the knees (not sure what it’s called–A-line?). Dress does cling when wet, but, you know, on a leaking submarine.
    Hide: Mid-thigh length dress (again with opaque tights). Dress flares out at the bottom (not tight). Blazer.
    Journey to the Center of the TARDIS: Mid-thigh length dress. Dress has pleats/folds, does not appear tight.
    The Crimson Horror: Again, Victorian-appropriate clothing. More prim and proper looking than the Snowmen outfits (maybe the hair?), but same idea.
    Nightmare in Silver: Mid-thigh floral skirt. Flowy. Worn with
    mostly-opaque tights (based on promo pictures, I don’t remember from the episode) and a jacket.

    Literally, the only time she wears a “tight” skirt is when she is in her own Dalek head. The Doctor (unless he did a lot more stalking than we were privy to) has never seen her in anything that could be called tight. I literally don’t even understand this.

  • Anonymous

    What I don’t understand is everyone raving about how “good” Matt Smith has been as the Doctor, not just in this episode, but during his entire run. I’d say he does an okay job, but nothing that blows me away. Every single episode I watch with him just makes me think of how much better both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant were in the role. He just comes across as a watered down version of the two of them to me.

    This episode really hammered this home for me. Watching how amazingly good Warwick Davis was as Porridge, and then watching Matt flail through his scenes was just painful. I know something like this would never happen (just like we’ll never get a female or non-Caucasian Doctor), but it made me fervently wish to see Davis get a shot as the Doctor.

    Now, that said, I am in complete agreement about all of the other issues people have been highlighting about the show lately. I certainly had my issues with Davies’ period of tenure, but they certainly were minor in how good I thought the show was overall. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Moffat’s time on the show.

  • Kate

    If Clara is the Dalek Emperor from season 1 — which is the best theory I’ve heard so far — then the proposal at the end was not creepy, but the most important scene in the episode.

    If she is the emperor and the Doctor finds out (if he doesn’t already know), then the fact that she rejected this chance to have power and dominion over the universe will likely be proof the Doctor needs to trust in her goodness and humanity at a critical point later on.

    It was so exaggerated here, “do you want to be empress of the universe?” “no way thanks”, that if it turns out that she’s NOT the Dalek emperor, then the writers are definitely playing with us and that idea.

  • Vera

    I’m going to take issue with how you said the Doctor and Clara’s relationship is “based on a grossly unequal sharing of information,” which therefore invalidates the entire thing.

    I think what the writers were trying to do, with varying degrees of success, was show a relationship that was actually radically more equal than most Doctor-Companion relationships. I agree with you that the Doctor should absolutely have told Clara about meeting her before, but although The Doctor constantly and deliberately conceals all information he possibly can from his companions, the fact is that he actually doesn’t have that much information about Clara. He knows she’s not possible, but that’s literally it. And the writers have failed to adequately explore why he hasn’t told her: I”m of the opinion that he’s scared she’ll leave, or whatever she is will be bad. Still should have told her…

    Anyway, look at the prequel, when Clara and the Doctor both ask each other questions, and talk about how they “got used to not knowing.” The Doctor’s never been in a situation like that before, where he had to get used to not knowing. Not only does he not know–he doesn’t even know if Clara’s hiding it from him. We saw in “Journey” that he expected her to know, and now he’s back in that mindset. And we saw in “Crimson” that not only has he accepted his ignorance, he’s even started smiling about it.

    Most Doctor-Companion relationships are based on a radical unbalance of power. The Doctor plucks them out of their ordinary life, they go traveling together, and he hides everything he possibly can about himself from them. Their lives become ruled by their relationship with him.

    But what’s been implied over this season is a reversal of that normal relationship. The Doctor doesn’t have all the answers, all the knowledge, in his relationship with Clara. She’s the one who decides when she goes with him, and she’s maintaining her life while going on sort of “dates” with him. His life has become ruled by his relationship with her (maybe why the TARDIS doesn’t like her).

    And although the Doctor does have the high ground in information in their relationship, Clara has the high ground in emotions. It’s been clear right from the start that the Doctor needs Clara much, much more than she needs him. Anyway, we’ll see on Saturday!

    I love your analysis of the “have your cake and eat it too” problem this season. It’s so frustrating to see all these chopped up plots!

    For vaguely obsessive analyses of the unique nature of the Doctor and Clara’s relationship, come up and see me sometime at

  • Your Edward

    Yet another example of the Doctor becoming more and more a cartoon figure. This “Borg meets Sarah Jane Adventures” episode was a huge disappointment. I was left with the feeling that I didn’t care if they all got blown up along with the planet. And as far as Clara goes, I don’t care about her at all except as eye candy. I hope Doctor 12 brings back the heroic, no nonsense, take charge Time Lord this series used to have before Matt Smith arrived. With NO spoiled bratty annoying children and fake mysteries involving people we don’t care about.

  • Vera

    On Clara’s behalf, Hey! Things don’t just happen to her, she does stuff constantly. I’m gonna go down the list:

    Bells of St. John: Browbeat the Doctor into giving up computer control, then tracked down the bad guys. Then became one of the rare companions to refuse the Doctor’s first offer.

    Rings of Akhaten: ran after Merry when the Doctor wandered off, became involved in alien religious politics, then came back to help the Doctor and defeated the planet monster while he was literally on the ground.

    Cold War: talked the Ice Warrior into showing compassion, thereby keeping him from blowing up the planet.

    Hide: Talked the TARDIS into going to a parallel universe, then went along for the ride (possibly steering–that wasn’t clear)

    The Crimson Horror: Spotted the chimney the Doctor missed, and more importantly found a new use for chairs.

    That’s every episode except TARDIS, when she got so frustrated with the damseling her reaction to being rescued was to sock the Doctor.

  • Robin S

    She reacts to situations, which I would argue is not the same as acting. Bells of Saint John is one of the rare examples when her particular skillset is actually used, and when we see her demonstrating the fact that she’s clever.

    Let’s take Crimson Horror: in an entire episode, pretty much the only things she gets to do are point to a chimney and uses a chair to break down a door. That’s it. She was kidnapped for half the episode, and the two things she does could have come from a supporting character and it would have made no difference.

    Cold War, again, all she did that was active in the entire episode was talk to the Ice Warrior. Granted, this was brave, but the rest of the episode, she was observing and following.

    Hide: Again, one moment of active participation in an episode where Clara otherwise just was there and followed the Doctor around.

    Look, I’m not saying that she does absolutely nothing. Of course she does things and isn’t just a prop. What she does, however, is not nearly enough; not to make her an interesting, whole person, and certainly not compared to past companions. We shouldn’t be satisfied with a handful of useful or semi-useful thing from her per episode. She should hold her own and be critical to the success or failure of an encounter in multiple ways per episode.

    “Nightmare in Silver” showed us how a companion should be used. She got to shoot Cybermen, organize an evacuation, coordinate a defense strategy and command a resistance force. She also snapped the Doctor out of his stupor to give him back control of his own body, and stopped the soldiers from blowing up the planet. Things may have very well turned out for the worse had the Doctor ended up there solo. That should be the case in every episode, otherwise, what’s the point of the Doctor even having a companion?

  • Vera

    I agree with you the Clara hasn’t been very well integrated into the show. There do need to be more episodes where she is taking an active and highly individualized role, and hopefully next year they’ll flex the damn blockbuster format and it’ll be better.
    That said, Clara has played an essential role in almost every episode she’s been in. The episodes are generic “Doctor Who” stories, and thus it would have been possible for them to take place at any point in the show’s run, with any companion (or Doctor for that matter). But that doesn’t mean Clara’s presence hasn’t added anything. She’s earned her spot on that TARDIS helping save the day in every episode she’s been in.
    And just to nitpick with you on Hide: when one moment of participation=doing the impossible and saving the damsel-in-distress Doctor, that’s a pretty good one moment.

  • Robin S

    We shouldn’t be satisfied with this, though. We shouldn’t be satisfied with one moment that isn’t actually tied to her as a person and what makes her unique. Someone who has top billing in a show like this should be active and active frequently. Anything less is just weak writing and poor characterization.

    The Doctor’s companion is unique (or should be) because there’s something about that person in particular who does extraordinary things that shows the Doctor needs them.

    I’m going to pluck a random Donna episode.”Planet of the Ood.” Donna’s deep compassion for the Ood drives this episode and influences the Doctor’s actions. She is also instrumental in both saving and freeing the Ood. Had she not been there, you can point to several things that would have gone terribly in her absence.

    Certainly not all episodes show all companions to always be critical, but we’ve had more accessory-Clara episodes than we’ve had important-Clara, and I think that’s a real problem that’s worth criticizing.

  • Robin S

    I think it’s a problem that we’ve been taught to be happy with one moment of badassery or heroics from a female character when the male counterparts have a dozen in the same episode. It’s something I’ve only become conscious of myself, in recent months. As I’ve become more aware of it, I’ve realized how much it happens. I’m not saying the companion should be the equal of the Doctor when it comes to driving plot, but he or she should come close, or at least do several things that are absolutely critical to saving the day.

    We’ve let ourselves be satisfied when the girl gets to do one or two cool things, as if that makes up for a lot of other things that aren’t so cool or active. The princess punching the guard after she gets rescued is pretty cool, but that doesn’t change the fact that she was kidnapped and had to be rescued, if you know what I mean. Clara pointing out a chimney and using a chair to break down a door doesn’t change the fact that she was literally immobile for half the episode and needed saving.

  • Vera

    I take your point that we’ve had more nonessential-Clara episodes than essential-Clara episodes, (although even including Hide and Cold War as nonessential, that still 5/9 where it couldn’t have happened that way without her) and I agree that it’s a problem they need to address. But I do think you’re overstating the importance of various companions to plots in the past, and the degree to which Clara has been extraneous. I’m a diehard Donna fan, but her episodes could have been written with another companion (they’re all outspoken and compassionate) or with another Doctor. Both 10 and Donna’s presence altered the dynamic of the episode and the details of the plot, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened without them.
    Unfortunately, I think the attitude the writers have adopted this year is that, without Clara, the Doctor wouldn’t be doing anything at all, just moping about. That makes Clara emotionally important to the show because her presence changes the dynamic, but you are right: it doesn’t make her an active participant in the action. which we need to happen a bit more often.
    I really think a lot of this is down to the blockbuster format, with the writers trying to make every episode conceivably accessible to newbies. That kills overt long-term character development, which they’ll have to remedy next year. That said, I’m of the opinion that (mostly due to great acting) Clara does have a distinct personality, and her presence on the show and the TARDIS has altered the show in a really interesting way.
    And (this might just be an agree-to-disagree place) I don’t think any other companion (other than Donna) would bully the TARDIS or preempt the Doctor’s disabling a rocket ship. But that one’s open to interpretation, I admit.

  • Robin S

    I feel like there are moments of Clara being a real person amidst the overall blandness, and you seem to be picking up on those. I see them too, which makes it even more frustrating when they don’t consistently have her acting more like she did in this most recent episode and more like we see in those (entirely too brief) moments. I know I’m not the only one who feels her characterization is incredibly thin (one glance at the comments on all of her episodes shows I’m not alone.)

    So maybe we agree more than we think we do. I think you’re seeing her characterization in places I’m not. I think it might just be the case of you wanting to like her more than I do, so you’ve put more effort into finding the good bits. That’s not a criticism! I suppose I’m just more cynical.

  • Vera

    I understand, and I get that you and quite a few other people are upset because the show hasn’t been as good lately as we all know it can be. And I am a Clara fan. I just try to keep an open mind to Moffat’s run(although episodes like the Wedding of River Song and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, trainwrecks that have been pleasantly absent lately, have pushed me) and find the good bits over the bad bits. I’d hope you’re right and we do agree more than we think we do :)

  • Sophie

    This has been pretty common with Moffat’s female characters I think. I had the exact same issue with River Song, and the exact same feeling of ‘I should like this character, but I find her hard to connect to’. With River the backwards timeline means that it’s built into her character, but it shows why this is such a huge writing issue. Telling us what we should feel about a character rather than allowing those feelings to grow naturally creates a huge emotional disconnect.

  • Brian Adkins

    Also felt the episode could have been better if stretched out to a 2 parter. It had a rather abrupt end. Loved the Cybermen/Cyber-mites. As for a “Cyberiad” here’s an old cartoon with a villain by the same name-and he’s robotic too!

  • Rizz Rustbolt

    I loved how Gaiman covered his ass in this one. “Nobody will notice that the majority of the deaths in this episode are female, because the majority of the platoon is female. REPRESENTATION!”

  • Tegan Dumpleton

    I agree with your thoughts on dragging out Clara’s story. I really hope that the mystery of the impossible girl doesn’t get completely resolved in the last episode, but that some of it is carried over to the next season (i have no idea if Clara is planned in the next season)
    As for the odd line at the end, it felt so out of place that it sounded like something Mr. Clever would say. Which could mean that either an echo of Mr. Clever’s personality hadn’t quite faded yet, or Mr. Clever might still be alive and well, hiding in the doctor’s head.
    Or I could be over thinking things XD

  • Mandy

    “In the case of Clara, Doctor Who wants to create an impenetrable mystery at the center of its plot, but it also wants to not have to actually address that mystery in any way during the season, even though half the season features her as a companion. This has created a number of side effects, all of which are, well, bad writing.”

    Thank you for expressing thoughts in this article that I could not about why Clara’s arc is not only not sucking me in and not leaving me on the edge of my seat but straight up bothersome. What is this, something like the 3rd episode where someone has came out and asked the Doctor face to face WTF is up with this girl? And he deflects. Not answering the question. Even twice now when Clara asks! How long can we like/support the Doctor when he is willfully holding back information/lying to his compaignion? WHY doesn’t he trust her with information about herself? Will knowing fuck up her timeline somehow? I need a reason why he is withholding evidence here besides the writers wanting to drag this out to some not so epic climax.

    Now I’m pretty new to who. Only came in since around S5. Is this something the Doctor has done before? Withheld personal information about a companion? The writers seemingly aren’t doing a very good job this season IMO. Lazy writing/characterization? Not sure where they want the plot to go? Trying to drag something out over too many episodes? Matt Smith and JLC are really bringing it on the acting front and trying to hold up the weaker writing bless them, but there is only so much they can do. Thank goodness for Gaiman to come help pick up the quality for a bit.

    (looking back on my comment I feel like it seems like I hate Who but I really don’t. I guess I’m just frustrated. The show has been just okay lately IMO, while it should be great! I’m just not feeling as emotionally attached to the charcters anymore, esp Clara. I want to care when we find out her Big Grand Mystery but I don’t yet. She just has such giant holes in what we know about her. She seems to be just a plot driven character.)

  • Mandy

    This is a really interesting take on the Doctor/Clara relationship that I never would have thought of. Thanks for writing this out and making me consider something new!

  • Vera

    Thank YOU for reading!

  • Mandy

    Aww. Not I’m sad that we were supposed get more Victorian!Clara and not aren’t. & Not just because I love period films/shows. I’ve been saying I loved what they did with Clara more in the one episode each of Dalek/Owsin & then the Victorian nanny Clara. Modern Clara for some reason just isn’t doing much for me but I really enjoyed her first apperance(s).

  • Mandy

    I’m gonna add that not only does “Doctor constantly calls attention to the Impossible Girl mystery every single freaking episode” but then when people (including Clara) outright ASK him WTF is going on here please explain SOMETHING. He just brushes them off. Every time. The Doctor (aka the writers) keep bringing it up but then NOT telling us anything! And that’s frustrating. Maybe there are other clues spinkled in the episodes that we’ll only get after the Big Grand Mystery is revealed but atm it doesn’t seem like it.

  • Mandy

    Spot on comment!

  • Abel Undercity

    I, also, thought that was where it was going.

  • Ayan Lang

    This should have been a double episode, period, paragraph, full stop. They tried to jam too damn much into one show.

    Also: Clara has become Mary Poppins. What?

  • Ayan Lang

    She’s Clara Poppins. Practically perfect in every way.

    Marching in and taking over an army – I was expecting her to start singing “Votes for women, step in time!”

  • Anonymous

    Good review, but I just have to comment: “rondevoux”? Really?

  • Cerberus

    Why did the Cybermen look like Iron Man?

  • Mandy

    Right away with Amy we learn things about her. I think that helped. We learned she works as a kissagram (I’ve seen people suggest that meant she took cotrol of her sexualty), we learn about her friend/bf Rory, we learn about her life that doesn’t make sense but she isn’t scared when a strange dude pops into her backyard, we learn she ignores the doctor and confronts weird things in her house. We learn about her lifelong interest/obsession with the Ragedy Man. I think that helps. What do you know about Clara? She is a Mystery. So we haven’t gotten much backstory yet. This episode was the best so far IMO because I liked seeing her connection to another person (the kids). Other compnions seem to have networks of friends/family of some kind. Until now, Clara doesn’t have much of that. We see her and the Doctor. Nothing else about her home life (besides dead parents). Hopefully her connection to the kids will be expanded on or added too.

  • Thomas Hayes

    It’s the writing. Coleman has nothing to work with here at all.

  • Stephanie Eversole Vandenburg

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one not on board the Clara train, destination “Big Secret.” I do not like Clara at all. And I WANT to, that’s the frustrating bit! I really want to like her! But quite honestly, I haven’t really enjoyed one episode in this second half of the series. I LOVED the first half with Amy and Rory, brilliant. But this half? It just…it’s lacking something, and I can’t put my finger on it. It feels sort of…empty.

    I already know what happens this Saturday (someone ruined it for me), and I sincerely hope this upcoming episode makes up for the past few episodes.

  • Joshua Paul Hawkins

    You got your wish.

  • Reeves Stroud


    This must be the Amy Pond lover’s site?

    The ratings of the show have been so good since she; Matt
    Smith and Rori were on the show. Nott.

    The writing in the Moffat era has not been good.
    That’s a big reason for a rating decline

    90% of Smiths doctor since he has been on the
    show except for the Clara episodes have been stuck on earth. In the Clara ones
    they have had a few but at least they leave or make you feel your not on it

    River married to the doctor, River being Amy’s
    daughter. River in love with the Doctor, Amy in love with the Doctor, River
    being Amy’s Daughter, River way older then Amy, River Amy Rory Triangle.
    Mother, Daughter, Father. Sounds more like an episode of as the Doctor who
    turns or General Doc Hospital East Enders, than sci fi. (Some like the love
    triangles, that’s part of why they like Amy) Yuck Yuck Yuck

    Clara being bland. Patrick Troughton the second doctor
    is the one that Smith Credits his current acting in sync with. Trought on companion
    Zoe reminds me of Clara without the Kung Fu.

    Smith has not been the best doctor. But some of
    it has to do with the writing. Disagree with that if you like but the ratings hit
    are combination of the writing and Smith

    Amy she treated the doctor at times like her
    second boyfriend and at other times like his mother if she saw her daughter
    (river getting to close to him)

    Clara is sarcastic and bossy sure. To say that
    is not personality. Then sarcasm and bossiness aren’t personality traits? See personality
    traits in studies

    I was glad to see Amy leave. There has been on
    other sites so much about Amy and the triangle. Follow Amy to her other
    ventures if you love her so much. Clara
    is smarter, speaks her mind more, travels with the doctor once a week, and
    almost did not go when asked. That’s different from the other companions.

    Hope Smith and Moffat leave soon. Perhaps the
    ratings will go back up. But Clara over Amy please. Clara did not make the
    doctor or ratings go down

  • Reeves Stroud

    The dinosaur and the Doctors wife as the best ever? How long have you watched the show. I have since the late 1970′s early 1980′s. Matt smith is no were near the best doctor or even in the top 10. Part for the writing part because of him. THE RATINGS SHOW THIS as they have gone down since his time as the Doctor. The Doctors wife. Gee if that was your best ever then you have not seen much of the doctor who over the decades. Smith says he feels like the second Doctor. Ok troughton was kind of goofy. He had some good episodes sure and he played some good parts but overall, to say you are like him. Its like OK. Some fans like the love triangles or love in Doctor Who. Which has its place. Taris as a girl. Ugh ok. if that rocked your world ok…but as you see them go over all the doctors…there was so much better doctors, acting and plots….I do like Clara, she is sarcastic, smart and bosy. To say by some thats BLAND ugh WHAT???

  • Reeves Stroud

    I like Clara. I agree. The Amy Mother Daughter, Husband Boyfriend Triangle is gone. The SCI Opera is over. Those who love Soaps not just have a passing interest probably, love Amy and her role with the Doctor. Believe me as I said the ratings have gone down with Amy, Matt Smith and the writing. Clara if anything has been a good change instead of a LOVE Triangle almost incest type thing with River being pregnant in the seen where they thought the doctor was dead and they are outside with a pregnant belly river, amy is a grandmother but she is in love with the doctor too. Alot of fans did not like Amy the ratings show it too. There is a fan club on this site it appears but not alot..alot of us are glad amy is gone and the doctor has a new assitant

  • Vic Horsham

    Re: the creeper comment, I agree totally! But also, even though The Doctor in general does understand and experience love (and presumably lust – he’s been married twice and had kids once upon a time), THIS Doctor has specifically been shown to not really get sex. Remember his confusion about why Amy and Rory weren’t happy with bunk beds during their honeymoon? I kind of felt like his current incarnation was a lot more child-like, and the creeper comment about her arse, combined with the forced kiss of a canon gay woman in a LTR in the previous episode is just… ew.

  • Jessica Stank

    I haven’t been around since the 70′s so you win on that one. I actually started watching with Tennant and I highly doubt I am the only one who enjoys Gaiman’s episodes or Matt Smith, for that matter. It is okay that I like something that you don’t. I don’t have time for Whovian snobs. Carry on.

  • Ursula L

    As far as Clara doing what the Doctor says, versus being bossy, she genuinely is both.

    Within each adventure, she does what the Doctor says. Which is sensible – when you’re off on adventures with a thousand-year-old time traveler, he’s the expert on staying alive.

    But Clara sets the terms of their relationship. She refused the Doctor’s offer for her to run away with him, and told him to come back the next day and ask again. She doesn’t move into the TARDIS. When the kids want a trip, she gets them one, a trip that was supposed to be a safe and age-appropriate day at an amusement park. She seems to be even more a part-time companion than Amy and Rory were in the first half of the season. A day-long outing with the Doctor, once a week.

    It has to be baffling to the Doctor to have a companion who likes him but doesn’t need him. Who insists on spending ninety percent of her time at home, and makes the Doctor keep a schedule and make an appointment if he wants her time.