Hello everyone! 🙂
Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!
I’ve wanted to do this blog post for quite some time as I know I’ve been talking about this character a lot on my blog. This is a ‘Doctor Who’ companion that tends to really divide fan opinion. Some like her; some loathe her. Me personally, I quite like Clara Oswald as a companion. There you are, I said it.
I consider Clara Oswald to be one of the saving graces of the Steven Moffat era of ‘Doctor Who’. She’s not perfect, there’s no question about it. But despite some of the inconsistent writing and characterization on Clara’s character, I feel Jenna Coleman’s performances as the character are excellent.
It’s a shame how Clara’s character has turned out as she could have been one of the best companions in the TV show’s history through Jenna’s performances. I feel there’s a lot to like about her character, but due to Steven Moffat’s handling of the character as well as the TV series, it comes across as…average.
How can I put this? Well, let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Jenna Coleman made her first TV appearance in ‘Doctor Who’ in the 2012 episode, ‘Asylum of the Daleks’. She wasn’t playing Clara in that episode though. She was playing Oswin Oswald. And she gets killed off at the episode’s end. Okay.
The next time we see Jenna Coleman was in the 2012 Christmas Special called ‘The Snowmen’. Again, she wasn’t playing Clara in that either. She was playing Clara Oswin Oswald, who was a Victorian barmaid/governess. And she gets killed off at that episode’s end too. She dies before we know her! 😀
Anyway, we finally meet Clara Oswald as the Eleventh Doctor’s new companion in the second half of Series 7 in 2013, starting with ‘The Bells of Saint John’. Okay, this is a bit of problem in terms of introducing Clara as we’ve seen two versions of her character get killed early on during Series 7.
But to be honest, it is actually a clever idea. As we’ll discover later on in Series 7 by the time we get to ‘The Name of the Doctor’, the Doctor has been meeting alternative aspects of Clara Oswald in Oswin from ‘Asylum’ and Clara Oswin in ‘The Snowmen’. This is due to Clarad jumping in the Doctor’s time-stream.
But by this point in the series from ‘The Bells of Saint John’, the Eleventh Doctor doesn’t know who Clara is and considers her as a mystery which he has to solve. Clara is actually a normal girl to which the Doctor is finding hard to understand. He considers her ‘impossible’, labelling her ‘the impossible girl’.
It is rather clever to have Clara be introduced that way where the Doctor considers her a mystery and where he seems to have met her twice over before she died twice over. It’s almost like River Song’s introduction in Series 4, except we see Clara becoming a companion rather than appearing on and off.
However there is an issue I have with this approach and it’s mostly down to how Steven Moffat applies it. For the most part of ‘Series 7 – Part 2’, Clara comes across as a companion who doesn’t need adventure. She does not need to travel in the TARDIS as she does not go with the Doctor in an instant.
At the end of ‘The Bells of Saint John’, she doesn’t immediately say “Yes!” to travelling with the Doctor in the TARDIS. She tells him to come back tomorrow so that she can have an adventure with him in ‘The Rings of Akhaten’. Once that adventure is done, she returns to her normal life again till next time.
This seems to be a repetitive pattern with Clara’s character in how she travels with the Doctor. She has an adventure with him; then goes back to her normal life; then has another adventure with him. Wouldn’t it be better for Clara to keep on travelling in the TARDIS and never return to her normal life?
This was done to a similar extent with Amy and Rory in the first half of Series 7, but not too much. I liked it when companions would constantly want to keep on travelling with the Doctor in time and space such as Rose, Martha and Donna. Clara did want some adventure, but it wasn’t a constant thing.
But let’s go back and talk some positives about Clara’s character. Initially I found her likeable and easy-going. I was hoping she would become a compassionate and caring character in the series. There were hints of promise in that, especially in terms of her family background and with being set up as a nanny.
My favourite moment with Clara in Series 7 is when she encourages and supports a little girl, Merry Gejelh, before some special ceremony in ‘The Rings of Akhaten’. Despite many fans not liking that episode, I feel this is one of the highpoints in Series 7 and Clara’s journey in terms of a character.
It would’ve been nice to explore more on why Clara became a nanny in the first place and why she wanted to be around children. At least that would give her more maternal, caring qualities which seemed evident in Series 7. But that did seem to go to waste as Clara was going in a different direction.
I can’t deny I find Clara an attractive-looking girl and it would’ve been nice if some of her attractiveness was reflected in the character she played. But there were occasions when she tended to be a rather bitchy, especially towards the Doctor. In ‘Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS’, Clara slaps the Doctor.
What?! Where did that come from? I’m all for Clara being feisty and getting rattled about being lost in the TARDIS for a bit, but there’s no call for her to slap the Doctor unnecessarily. Clara could’ve been a mild-mannered soul and be reasonable in her attitude towards the strange things that happen.
But most of the time, it seems that Clara wants to be control of everything especially when she has the Doctor come to her beckoning call as well as her normal life on Earth. It’s also suggested that Clara is somewhat seeing the Eleventh Doctor as a potential…boyfriend…toy boy…I’m not entirely sure here.
Again, back to positives, let’s talk about the Eleventh Doctor and Clara’s relationship. Now I know there are some out there who might find this team-up a bit annoying. But me personally, I like the Eleventh Doctor and Clara together. I actually prefer it more than the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory.
I enjoyed the Eleventh Doctor and Clara’s chemistry together especially in ‘The Bells of Saint John’ and how it gets progressed in Series 7 despite some awkward moments. The two do gel together and it’s clear that Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman enjoyed working together as they were making the TV series.
I also like how Clara becomes a moral support to the Doctor on occasion, both to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors in the series. The moments where Clara encourages the Doctor to ‘be a Doctor’ in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is probably one of the best defining moments of her character in the TV series.
I just think it’s a shame Clara and the Eleventh Doctor didn’t spend more time together on screen. I think it would’ve been great if Clara and Eleven spent more time together after ‘the impossible girl’ arc in Series 7 ended and if Matt Smith did one more season since I was getting to like his Doctor more.
Sadly that didn’t happen, but there you are. Hopefully Big Finish can do stories with Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman as the Eleventh Doctor and Clara on audio someday. Anyway, let’s talk about how ‘the impossible girl’ arc gets resolved in style in ‘The Name of the Doctor’. And it is actually pretty good.
Despite the criticisms I’ve made about Clara already so far, I like how her character bravely runs into the Doctor’s time-stream to save him from the Great Intelligence. It goes to show how her travels in the TARDIS have made her come to like the Doctor as a friend. She risks her own life in order to rescue him.
Even after the mystery is solved on who Clara is to the Doctor and why he had seen her die twice before, I hoped there would be some progression of that in the next number of seasons we’d see her in. But that’s not what happened. The ‘impossible girl’ arc in Series 7 never gets mentioned again! EVER!
How can Steven Moffat reveal such an amazing plot twist to Clara’s character in the series and never follow it up. Imagine the stories that could’ve come out of the arc being resolved. The Doctor and Clara could’ve encountered another version of Clara that had splintered from the Doctor’s time-stream.
It’s like once Clara’s journey in Series 7 had ended, there was nothing more left to say anything interesting about her character. Oh wait, I take it back. There are a few more things to say something interesting with Clara’s character. The first of course is when she becomes a teacher at Coal Hill School.
I got to be honest, I’m not really happy with how Clara’s promotion to being an English school teacher was handled in the series. It was only there because Steven Moffat needed a reason for ‘The Day of the Doctor’ to open on Coal Hill School as a reference to the first ‘Doctor Who’ episode on TV in 1963.
It’s nice it gets shown now and again with Clara being a school teacher in Series 8. But I feel once Clara became the school teacher, the compassionate sides to her character ebbed away. She wasn’t the maternal, caring, compassionate nanny character that we’d watched from the second half of Series 7.
She became more of a ‘control freak’ despite her denying it in ‘Deep Breath’. She got snappy and bitchier compared to how she was in Series 7. I feel the English teacher character in the 2018 film ‘Patrick’ fared better compared to how Clara did as a teacher. Clara should’ve followed that example.
The second interesting thing with Clara’s character is when she witnesses the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration into the Twelfth. Now while I enjoyed the relationship between Clara and the Eleventh Doctor for Series 7, that enjoyment wasn’t there with Clara and the Twelfth Doctor for Series 8 and 9.
Now that’s not to say I didn’t like the Twelfth Doctor and Clara together. On the contrary, I enjoyed Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman together. But it wasn’t the happy, comfortable atmosphere between Clara and the Eleventh Doctor. The Twelfth Doctor was grumpier and less friendlier than the Eleventh Doctor.
The journey of the Twelfth Doctor in Series 8 was interesting in him wanting to find out whether he was a good man or not. Clara is there in Series 8 to guide him on finding out whether he is the good man he wants to be. It’s explored to a certain extent in ‘Into The Dalek’ where there could be a good Dalek.
However there are occasions where Clara can get really annoyed and upset by the Twelfth Doctor’s inhuman behaviour at times. This is especially the case when Clara yells at him at the end of ‘Kill The Moon’. Despite me not liking that episode very much, Jenna Coleman delivers a brilliant performance.
I didn’t like it when Clara seemed upset about being scared by the Doctor abandoning her in that episode, despite him giving her a chance to show how humanity can be better than what they were with ‘killing the moon’. But it does demonstrate how vulnerable Clara can be and could be an intriguing trait.
After that episode though, it seems like Clara’s forgiven the Doctor over the events of ‘Kill The Moon’. Even though it does feel forced and haphazardly handled in terms of character development, it was nice to see Clara go back to the Doctor and consider him a friend, despite alien traits he seems to possess.
The third interesting thing with Clara’s character after Series 7 is the romantic relationship she has with Danny Pink in Series 8. I like that Clara does form a romantic relationship with somebody, especially at Coal Hill School. The less said about Clara’s relationship with Jane Austen the better I think.
It’s clear from Series 8 that the relationship between Clara and Danny is flawed. Even Clara admits she wasn’t good at the romance thing with Danny. But it’s good she took an interest in Danny and clearly loved him, even up to the point where she had uncharacteristically threatened the Doctor to save him.
The balance of Clara’s relationship with Danny and her relationship with the Doctor was uneven. Most of the time, Clara wanted to spend more time with the Doctor than with Danny. It tended to make Clara and Danny’s relationship fractious as she didn’t tell him of her continuing travels with the Doctor.
There’s also a sense that Clara wanted to be more like the Doctor rather than be the companion. This is an approach that shouldn’t be applied when trying to make the companion connect more with the audience than the Doctor did. Sarah Sutton has said this herself at ‘Science of the Time Lords’ in 2016.
There are occasions when Clara can be glamorous and made me want to fall in love with her in episodes like ‘Robot of Sherwood’ and ‘Mummy On The Orient Express’. Even episodes like ‘Flatline’ had me see Clara proving her best when she got to be ‘the Doctor’ for a change with Rigsy at her side.
I wish those qualities had been shown more in Clara’s character throughout the series as she could come across as glamorous, caring, kind, compassionate and full of adventure like other companions before her. But it’s difficult to ignore the flaws where she can be a bit selfish and not an ideal role model.
Now admittedly, not every ‘Doctor Who’ companion needs to be perfect as they are allowed to have their flaws and come across as learning from their mistakes at times. But it’s the inconsistency of Clara’s character development in the series that frustrates me, which is mostly Steven Moffat’s doing.
The epitome of Clara’s inconsistency is highlighted in Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’ where her character journey seems to be rather side-lined for most of the season. I’ve stated in my reviews for Series 9, but it’s not one of my favourite seasons due to the lack of the proper character development for Clara.
There are some good moments with Clara’s character and Jenna Coleman’s performances are excellent as ever. But I think the episodes that show Clara having any kind of development are in the last three where she leaves the series. For the rest of the season, she doesn’t seem to stand out very well.
This is due to Jenna Coleman changing her mind in wanting to stay on in the series during the making of ‘Last Christmas’. I appreciate Steven Moffat putting Clara in Series 9 at Jenna’s request, but I wish he had a story arc for her in which we can enjoy. Whether this would be with Danny Pink or the Doctor, I didn’t mind.
But that’s not what occurs in Series 9 as Clara’s insertion into the season is rather shoehorned and more of an afterthought. Also the way Clara’s exit is handled in Series 9 feels rather haphazard. In ‘Face The Raven’, she gets the most very shocking and emotional death scene given to any companion.
Now to be fair, I was deeply affected by that death scene of Clara Oswald. Despite all the flaws she had, I liked her as a companion and Jenna Coleman was a reassuring presence for me in the series. I was so upset by Clara’s death scene that I shared how I felt about it in a ‘Goodbye Clara Oswald’ post.
But in ‘Hell Bent’, that death gets reversed and Clara is alive and well before she travels off in her own TARDIS with Ashildr as her companion. I’ve stressed how I’ve felt about ‘the Doctor and Clara being the Hybrid theory’ in my ‘Hell Bent’ review, but I have more to say about Clara’s departure in the series.
Again, I feel the departure of Clara Oswald was poorly handled. Whilst I’m glad she’s still alive by the end of Series 9, the whole explanation for how she’s alive and the universe not being destroyed after getting extracted out of time before her death is shoddy. It just gives headaches the more you think about it.
Steven Moffat is clearly appealing to more sci-fi audiences watching this episode than he is to the general public. Yet he forgets there are bound to be people who won’t get his clever timey-wimey stuff and more time was needed to explain everything about what was going on for that season finale.
Maybe it would’ve been better to keep Clara dead at the end of ‘Face The Raven’ to make her exit more memorable. It’s something I personally wouldn’t want, but maybe it would best to leave her death alone to signify the self-sacrifice she made in that episode and to demonstrate how brave she can be.
Instead we see Clara travelling with Ashildr in the TARDIS where she fulfils her desire to be…the Doctor. Again, how is it Clara gets to be a Doctor-like person at the end where she’s supposed to be the companion? This is certainly not the direction I would have gone for in terms of Clara’s development.
I can talk more about the inconsistencies of Clara’s character development in this article, but I better round up my final thoughts with something positive. Simply saying, I do find Clara’s character pretty flawed for most of the time she was in ‘Doctor Who’. But I still can’t help like her in some certain way.
There are times when she can be annoying, but there are times when Clara can be compassionate, caring and full of adventure as every ‘Doctor Who’ companion should be. It’s a shame about the inconsistencies in her character, but Jenna Coleman’s performances radiated throughout in the series for me.
I wish Clara could’ve been the companion I wanted her to be rather than what she ended up being. But then again, this is what happens in a long-running TV show such as ‘Doctor Who’. Not everything’s going to be great. But for the most part, I have enjoyed Jenna Coleman’s time as Clara in the TV series.
I’ve demonstrated that enjoyment when I wrote for Clara in my own ending for Series 9 in ‘The Impossible Girl Returns’ featuring her and Danny Pink. That goes to show how Clara had a huge impression on me as a character. She wasn’t the best ‘Doctor Who’ companion, but I’m very fond of her.
Thanks for reading!
Bye for now!