Hell Bent is a fantastic episode and a fitting ending to a superb season of Doctor Who.
As this is the final episode of the season, I would just like to take this opportunity to say how impressed I’ve been by series 9. I can wholeheartedly say that I’ve really enjoyed 11/12 of the episodes all series; Sleep No More being the only one that I found to be subpar. Yet, even though I didn’t like that episode, it still pleased me to see how the showrunners at Doctor Who were willing to make risky and unconventional television at a primetime slot. Series 9 has made me laugh, cry (poor Clara) and even made me pick my jaw up from the floor in awe. I cannot wait to see which direction Moffat takes us in the show’s tenth series.
As we’ve come to expect, Peter Capaldi delivers another acting masterclass, yet in a more understated way from Heaven Sent. Although, you would expect that to be the case considering how he’s not completely alone and isolated in this episode, in fact he spends most of his time in different areas of Gallifrey, and a very familiar diner. Capaldi also brilliantly portrays the extent The Doctor is willing to go to for Clara. He shoots the General in cold blood (albeit after making sure he has regenerations left) and inflicted the immense pain of regeneration onto him. You could really see the pain behind Capaldi’s eyes when he pulled the trigger, but it was also a cold-bloodedness that we rarely get to see from the violence-free Doctor.
We must also address how wonderful Jenna Coleman was in this episode. Yes you read that right. Clara returned. The Doctor pulled Clara out of time, just one heartbeat before she died. Anyway, when The Doctor told her exactly what he had been through (4.5 billion years in a Confession Dial) the look on Clara’s face told all the story we could ever need; the bitter sadness of knowing the pain The Doctor went through for her, as well as the pure hatred and disgust she shows for the other Timelords for putting him through that.
Now, onto Gallifrey, director Rachel Talatay does a fabulous job of allowing the viewer optimum opportunities to explore Gallifrey through the use of semi-frequent establishing shots. Thus, allowing us to learn more about The Doctor’s homeland, by seeing the architecture and terrain of ever-elusive Gallifrey. However, surprising as it is, considering the struggle it took to get there, we actually don’t spend too much time on Gallifrey, minus the shed The Doctor housed-up in from Day of The Doctor. For me, this was a bit of a let-down, as I was really interested in further storylines involving Gallifrey; and judging on the terms The Doctor left there on, I don’t think that’ll be happening anytime soon.
Onto Clara and The Doctor now, in order to protect them both, Clara’s memory of The Doctor had to be erased, otherwise the Timelords would be able to trace them. Why are the Timelords after them I hear you cry? That’s because the Hybrid is them, as hypothesised by Ashildr. The combination of The Doctor and Clara Oswald will result in the end and destruction of Gallifrey.
By this point I was having some very depressing Donna Noble flashbacks! However, The Doctor and Clara came to the realisation that only one of them needed to wipe their memory, and they basically took a 50/50 chance each; resulting in The Doctor’s memories of Clara being eradicated. This was a deeply moving scene, with Clara weeping over The Doctor as he tries to give her some last minute advice before he forgets her ( “Don’t eat pears” ). I feel like we got a better ending for Clara here, as I didn’t what her to be Donna Noble-d and I also wanted her to live. Although, a slight quibble is that is kind of nullifies the emotional impact Face The Raven had on me, but in hindsight I prefer having Clara alive.
On a personal positive note for me- the sonic sunglasses are a goner, and we get a brand new, awesome Sonic Screwdriver! Throughout the whole of this series, the only thing I’ve consistently hated was the sonic sunglasses, so I am thrilled that they’re gone in favour of a timeless Sonic Screwdriver.
I also want to mention how Clara’s story ends. We see her and Ashildr flying away in their own TARDIS that the Doctor stole from Gallifrey. I really loved this. Ashildr finally got what she always wanted; the ability to time travel, whilst Clara got to really take on the role of The Doctor. All in favour of an Ashildr/ Clara spin-off please raise you hand!
Whilst Hell Bent doesn’t reach the dizzy heights of its predecessor, Heaven Sent (which is basically an impossible task!), it is an excellent round-up of a marvellous series of Doctor Who.
Bring on the Christmas special, and the return of River Song!