Doctor Ex Machina, or The Rise And Fall Of Clara Oswald - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Ex Machina, or The Rise And Fall Of Clara Oswald

Isa Gunther takes an alternative look at the Doctor Who series nine finale.

Well, fandom. That was certainly quite the finish to a series of Doctor Who: from the Doctor being a complete badass just by finishing a bowl of soup and staring down the Lord President, to the return of Clara Oswald. Hell Bent is, on first glance, the perfect Doctor Who episode. And yet, there was something about it that didn't sit right with me; a smudge on an otherwise perfect series closer. I rewatched the episode, trying to figure out what it was. My qualm was Clara Oswald. Not the character. She acted as she always does. My problem was that she was dead.

Clara wanted to be the Doctor. She looked up to him and even briefly took his title while he was trapped in the shrunken TARDIS. He went so far as to agree with her that she “made an excellent Doctor,” before qualifying it with “goodness had nothing to do with it.” As her time with Twelve progressed, she became more and more like him. We see her recklessness increase. We also see her lying and manipulation, and eventually her abandonment of her Earth-bound life when she leaves in the middle of teaching a class to answer a summons from UNIT.

Ultimately, Clara's final story is one of profound wasted potential. I'm reminded of Clara's last words to the Doctor in Face the Raven: “ a little proud of me?” If he were to remember her and see her now, with Me, would he be proud of her? Looking at her actions and his, I would have to say that not only would he not be proud of her, he'd be horrified and heartsbroken.

Clara's death by Raven was noble, if a bit misguided due to her complete lack of common sense in taking Rigsy's death sentence on herself. It was brave, and it was an end worthy of the strong character she had become. She died as the Doctor would die: saving someone she cared about and accepting the consequences. She also died selfish, walking away when the one thing the Doctor asked of her was “don't run, stay with me.” It is that selfishness that would ruin her death and the way she had lived.

In bringing her back from the dead, the writers (and by extension, the Doctor) completely negate Clara's realization of what it means to die as yourself; the way she acts once she is given that second lease on life makes Clara less like the Doctor she admires. The Doctor and Clara together make up the Hybrid. The Doctor realizes this, realizes he has gone too far, and tries to set things right. As his memory of Clara fades, he tells her “never be cruel or cowardly, and if you ever are, make amends.” His final message to her is a lesson in what it truly means to be the Doctor: take responsibility. Clara knows that she should be dead. She knows that her very continued existence is a threat to Time itself. If she were to follow the Doctor's example, she would go back to the Trap Street to complete her story as she had asked when she was first removed from her timeline.

When all is said and done, Clara could have been a second Doctor. She has her own TARDIS, even her own Companion. But, despite this opportunity to be the person the Doctor saw in her, and the person he aspired to be because of her, Clara decides to not be the Doctor. Though she is aware of her course of action, which would be going back to Gallifrey and her own timeline, she flouts the Laws of Time, risking the safety of Reality itself, for more adventure. Her companion is the person who faked the murder of a Trap Street resident, framed Clara's friend for that murder, used it to lure the Doctor into being kidnapped and imprisoned, and the same person that the Doctor himself turned on because Me was going to kill Clara.

Clara has not become the Doctor. Clara has become an avatar of the Doctor's worst qualities: his rule-breaking, recklessness, and running away from facing the consequences of his actions. She is the one who kept her memory, yet she has forgotten what being the Doctor entails, seeking all of the adventure but none of the responsibility. As the Doctor remembers how to be the Doctor and sets aside the Oncoming Storm, the Impossible Girl who became the Doctor's teacher, the one who sought to embody the Doctor's most noble aspects, instead becomes a mirror of the very qualities that the Doctor has fought against to become who he is now.

Isa Gunther

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