“Clara who?” –the Doctor
“Doctor who?” –Clara
Some have been flabbergasted, others impatient and irritated that Clara featured so heavily in the series arc, almost supplanting the Doctor in the action. And she has most definitely been portrayed as being on more equal footing with the Doctor this time around. She even claims to be the Doctor in not one, but two episodes, most crucially in the finale, Death in Heaven. Jenna Coleman’s name soars by first in the credits, and it is her eyes–and fearsome eyebrows–not Peter Capaldi’s, that stare out at us from the final series 8 title sequence.
And you know what? I believed her. For a few minutes at least during Death in Heaven, I wracked my brain for possible solutions to how the Doctor could’ve been transplanted to or regenerated into or just somehow become Clara. Was Clara the Doctor all series or just recently? The clues were all there: the lying, the cleverness, not being able to give up life in the TARDIS, and the avoidance of consequences. Jenna Coleman played the evolution of Clara into a Doctor-like figure so well over the course of this series, I actually believed she might have become the Doctor. But was she ever really so different from the Doctor in the first place?
First up: Oswin Oswald, Junior Entertainment Manager of the starliner Alaska. I really, really liked Oswin–just the sort of cheeky genius who would be tons of fun yet wouldn’t moon about or let the Doctor get away with much. A kind of Donna 2.0, if you like. (Full disclosure: Donna is perhaps my favorite New Who companion. Rose, Wilf, and Captain Jack follow.) But then she had to die, albeit spectacularly. Brief though her appearance may have been, Oswin still managed to pull off some very Doctor-like feats:
- Hacked into the Dalek asylum’s automated security systems
- Was able to tamper with and alter said systems at will
- Managed to maintain her identity and consciousness a full year after being converted physically into a Dalek
- Erased all record of the Doctor in the Dalek Pathweb
Not bad, eh?
Next up: Clara Oswin Oswald, part-time barmaid at the Rose & Crown, regular caretaker of two Victorian children and their emotionally-wounded widower father, very perceptive and quick on her feet, with a brilliant sense of curiosity and adventure, and a knack for nurturing wounded souls without coming across as schmaltzy. I loved Clara O². (I am a sucker for historicals.) And you could tell the Doctor warmed up to her quite quickly as well; she managed to make him smile while still in the depths of his post-Pond despair. When her eyes misted over upon first entering the TARDIS and being invited to travel with the Doctor, I also teared up. Finally, a companion who somehow recognized the import of the moment! Needless to say, I was devastated when she perished at the icy hands of the previous governess. Why couldn’t she stay?
- Very perceptive of her surroundings: noticed right away the snowman appearing out of nowhere and the fact that the pond hadn’t melted with the rest of the snow
- Did not falter upon meeting a Silurian woman in Victorian garb, speaking English and asking her very pointed questions
- But most Doctor-ish of all: lying to the children and Mr. Latimer to get what she wants (a respectable position and relative freedom)
Next up: The ways in which Clara Oswald, or Clara Prime herself, has always had “Doctor potential.”
“The most important leaf in human history. It’s full of stories. Full of history. And full of a future that never got lived. Days that should have been that never were, passed on to me. This leaf isn’t just the past. It’s a whole future that never happened. There are billions and millions of unlived days for every day we live, an infinity. All the days that never came. And these are all my mum’s.”
—Clara, The Rings of Akhaten
(If that isn’t a Doctor-ish speech, I don’t know what is.)