Last night marked the end of the 9th series of “Doctor Who” (barring the upcoming Christmas special) and with it the departure (finally!) of Clara Oswald. I’ve said in the past how I disliked the character while still liking Jenna Coleman as an actress, but today’s blog isn’t about all that. No, today’s blog will be talking about an issue I’ve had with this series thanks to our good friend Steven Moffat: the impact of death.
In a show where the main character can regenerate upon death, this series (made up mostly of two-parters) sure seems to push the idea that the Doctor and Clara would/could die. From the beginning, cliffhangers would spring up putting either of them in peril. While that CAN build dramatic tension, it was used so often that by the finale, I was just rolling my eyes and sighing whenever such a cliffhanger would arise. Now, you could argue that since it was established this would be Jenna’s last season, those instances involving Clara had more impact. But I think most people knew that Moffat would save her departure, no matter how it went, for the end and that’s exactly what happened in “Face the Raven.” Despite my grievances with Clara, I thought her exit was tastefully done. I still would’ve preferred the “exit” they seemed to set up in “Last Christmas,” but overall it was one of the better moments all season with her.
That brings me to last night’s finale, and boy, did it shoot any good will I had toward both Moffat and Clara down the toilet. I’m sure many Clara fans will see it as a happy ending, but for me, her exit in “Face the Raven” was so much stronger. In “Hell Bent,” I felt she ended up learning next to nothing. She got to go on another adventure with the Doctor, didn’t seem nearly as perturbed by his actions as she rightfully should be, and played the Doctor 2.0 once more for kicks. They hint that she’ll eventually have to return to her point of departure in “Face the Raven,” but I get the feeling we’ll never know just WHEN she’ll do so. It’s left completely ambiguous and I was just not a fan of it. That’s not to say the finale didn’t have other issues (seriously, Gallifrey needed more love), but these events got me thinking back on the series (mostly about those stupid cliffhangers) and how Moffat continuously made death seem…well, almost meaningless.
Speaking of Gallifrey, there’s a moment where a Time Lord is basically forced into regenerating after being shot. This thing that the Doctor has in the past toted as being like dying and being replaced, this thing that has always been a grand spectacle and held importance for him (such as by saving others at the cost of his own life), is brushed off as being like a “flu” in regards to this other Time Lord. It was a bizarre scene in many ways for the Doctor, but that particular part just had me shaking my head. There have been many episodes in past seasons where supporting characters are killed, some with impact because of their strong characterization and others without due to a lack of it. THIS season had several episodes with decently done characters who are killed off without a thought or any sign of grief (barring Ashildr/Me, until she was brought back to life therefore “erasing” her death). I’m just sick and tired of Moffat reversing deaths like they’re nothing. It makes all the tension instantly dissipate (like in those aforementioned cliffhanger endings).
I’m sure this season isn’t the first example of all of this, but it sure was noticeable. That being said, I would like to see Moffat helm the show for at least one more year. And while I prefer his style over RTD’s, the flaws in his writing are becoming more and more apparent as each season goes by. I still consider myself a fan of his, but, unfortunately, not quite as big of one as I once was.