TV Review: Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 10 “Face The Raven” (UK, 2015)

Clara Oswald’s death is something that has been foreshadowed incessantly throughout this season. We’ve caught glimpses into the Doctor understanding that he will inevitably outlive his best friend; we’ve understood that Clara has become dangerously similar to the Doctor; and in the opening chords of this weeks episode “Face The Raven”, it seems that Clara was almost too happy – something that, as we all know, only serves as a reminder in Doctor Who that something really, really bad is about to happen. And it’s true – happiness doesn’t last long in this universe.

“Face The Raven” brings the return of both Maisie Williams as Ashildr and Joivan Wade as Rigsy – that guy that we all are supposed to remember from an episode way back in Season 8. As the Doctor and Clara meet up with him again, it becomes apparent that Rigsy has a tattoo on the back of his neck that he doesn’t remember getting. But this isn’t any bad-night-at-Kings-Cross tattoo, this is one that is counting down to his death. Pretty grim, right?

In investigating the cause of this tattoo and Rigsy’s shotty memory, the Doctor and Clara are led to a Harry Potter-esque alleyway filled with all of the Doctors worst enemies disguised as humans. It turns out that Ashildr is living up to her name as frenemy of the Doctor, creating a refugee camp for those who have been trapped on Earth. Maisie Williams excels here, delivering a convincing consciousness of a woman who has lived for a few thousand years. In great attention to detail, Ashildr keeps diaries of her interactions with people – only remembering Clara from her notes, not her memory.

It’s revealed that Rigsy is (almost) guilty of committing a murder that he doesn’t recall. Ashildr isn’t convinced that he’s guilty exactly, but in real governmental style, she insists that there must be someone held accountable or else Diagon Alley goes up in the flames of anarchy. The Doctor begins investigating as to who the real murderer is, but Clara has other plans. Ashildr promises that no harm will come of Clara, essentially guaranteeing that the exact opposite will happen.

In true Doctor Clara style, she tries to outwit Ashildr and takes Rigsy’s tattoo from him as she is promised safety, certain that she’s outsmarted the final fate. But in the realm of Doctor Who, things can’t be solved that easily. Everything comes to a head when the Doctor solves Rigsy’s case – the woman he was accused of killing isn’t actually dead. It was all just Ashildr’s elaborate plan to trap the Doctor. Oh snap.

The Doctor soon finds himself wearing a teleport bracelet and without a Tardis key. Ashildr’s plan was to release Rigsy from his sentence once she captured the Doctor, but Clara’s momentous Doctor screw-up changes everything, essentially meaning that for some reason, Clara cannot be saved (though I have a few hundred alternatives). Peter Capaldi delivers some of his best moments of Who here, threatening Ashildr that she must save Clara or “I will rain hell on you for the rest of time.”

But then Clara chimes in – and for once I’m glad for it. She valiantly says “If Danny Pink can do it, so can I.” And everyone knows what it means in this instance – it means dying right. As Clara puts on a brave face in her anticipation to face the raven, I kept wondering – is this for real, or are we going to be given another copout ending of an episode where Clara is actually a hologram? And it turns out – nope. The writers stuck to their guts on this one and Clara as actually, properly, legitimately dead. It’s a bit of a long sequence, but it captures who the character of Clara is meant to be – a carer of the Doctor, ensuring that even until her last breath, that people would not suffer for her mistakes. Jenna Coleman really captures the mixed emotions of Clara here; she’s fearful because she knows her fate; she’s brave because she needs to take care of the Doctor and Rigsby; and there’s even a little happiness there, possibly due to the fact that she might just be able to see her beloved Danny Pink again.

But it’s the next part that got the skin on my back standing up. The Doctor knows that Clara’s pleas weren’t to save him – they were to save Ashildr. In a tremendous delivery, Capaldi delivers the best sequence in his acting career. Looking directly at Ashildr, he informs her that “I was lost a long time ago. She was saving you. I’ll do my best, but I strongly advise you to keep out of my way. You’ll find that it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you.” And it is this kind of Doctor that I have been waiting all season for – the terrifying, truly angry Doctor that lives within Capaldi’s incarnation.

We’re left with those words as the screen fades to black and the ever familiar “TO BE CONTINUED…” is displayed. Now, we just need to find out who Ashildr sold the Doctor to. I’ve got a feeling the finale is going to be as terrifying as coming face-to-face with the Doctor would be.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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