‘FACE THE RAVEN’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Death of Clara Oswald
(deep breath) Well, we’ve come to it at last! We begin what could possibly be considered a three episode story arc consisting of the final act of Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’. And here it gets very painful.
Like ‘The Girl Who Died’ and ‘The Woman Who Lived’ before this, these last three episodes of Series 9 aren’t listened as being a three-parter. They’re listed individually as being three standalone stories.
The ‘Series Nine Facts’ DVD booklet confirms this just as ‘The Complete History’ books do. Therefore I’m abiding by that listing and consider each of the last three episodes of Series 9 as separate stories.
Which begs the question, why didn’t Steven Moffat write all three episodes of the final act of Series 9? It would make sense and it would save it being a three-parter rather than three separate stories.
Anyway, this is one of the few episodes of Series 9 in ‘Doctor Who’ that I reacted to on my blog immediately after I watched it on original transmission in 2015. I realise this was probably a mistake.
At the time, I was very emotionally shaken from seeing the episode on original transmission that I wasn’t thinking clearly. I should’ve shared my thoughts on this episode a day or so after I had seen it.
I got better in sharing initial reviews on ‘Doctor Who’ episodes from initial transmissions on my blog in later years. I suppose in a way this was a really good learning curve for me on how to use my blog.
As for my emotional state from seeing this episode – well you see; this is the episode that features the departure of Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald. And it was done in a dramatic, gut-wrenching way.
Before Series 9 began, I heard that this was Jenna Coleman’s last season already and knew she’d leave in the tenth episode of the season. This really upset me before I watched Clara’s TV departure.
Despite the flaws in her character, I really like Jenna Coleman as Clara and found her to be one of the highlights of the Steven Moffat era. I was saddened about her leaving and was going to miss her.
‘Face the Raven’ is also a rather underrated episode. You see, this episode is by Sarah Dollard, who makes her first contribution to the series. And from seeing the episode again, it is a very decent one.
I admit there are things about it that don’t fit right with me and I was coloured by Clara’s dramatic departure to remember what it was about. But on the whole, the story was rather intriguing to watch.
It’s such a shame because a lot of the concepts and ideas featured in this episode are pretty interesting. Had this episode ended in a different way than it did, I would’ve appreciate it a lot more.
Anyway, the episode features the return of Jovian Wade as Rigsy. Rigsy was Clara’s companion in the episode, ‘Flatline’. I was pleased to see Rigsy again. I like him and it was good to have this follow-up.
So what’s Rigsy been up to lately? Well, he’s moved to Central London; he’s partnered with someone called Jen and he now has a baby daughter named Lucy. Rigsy is a dad! Well, good for him!
Oh and he’s got a tattoo on the back of his neck. A tattoo of some numbers that seem to be counting down to zero! Weird! Rigsy calls Clara and the Doctor for help. He can’t recall how he got the tattoo.
Clara and the Doctor eventually help and they soon search the area of London to find out what Rigsy has been doing for the past 24 hours. This leads them to eventually finding a ‘trap street’ in London.
Yeah, apparently a trap street is a thing. It’s a fictitious entry on a map in the form of a misrepresented street. This idea comes from the writer Sarah Dollard. I admit it is an intriguing one.
The Doctor, Clara and Rigsy soon enter the London trap street where they find a refugee camp. This refugee camp has these alien exiles disguised as humans like Sontarans, Cybermen, Judoon and Ood.
The refugee camp is led by its mayor. The mayor happens to be…Maisie Williams as Ashildr. Ah, I wondered when she was going to come back. She’d previously appeared in ‘The Woman Who Lived’.
So anyway, Ashildr – Yes, yes, I know she calls herself Lady Me, but I’m calling her Ashildr whether she likes it or not – welcomes the Doctor, Clara and Rigsy to the trap street. She’s got some answers.
Apparently it was Ashildr who placed the tattoo that’s counting down to zero on Rigsy’s back. The tattoo happens to be called a chronolock. It seems Rigsy had committed a murder in the trap street.
This is something Rigsy doesn’t recall and yet all the refugees in that trap street despise him. Anyway, because of Rigsy’s act, Ashildr placed a chronolock on his neck so that he can pay the price.
Once the countdown goes down to zero, a Quantum Shade in the shape of a raven is to humanely kill Rigsy. Why do I get the awful feeling Ashildr shows no mercy or compassion in this certain situation?
To illustrate this humane death by the Quantum Shade, here’s an example. A man who has a chronolock on his neck for stealing medical rations pleads mercy. The man is played by…Robin Soans!
Oh hi, Luvic! How’s it going being ‘The Keeper of Traken’? Yeah, okay. He’s not Luvic in this. Although thinking about it, it would’ve been interesting had Luvic appeared in this and received a chronolock.
Anyway, when the chronolock guy asks to be spared by Ashildr, she says that she ‘can’ remove the chronlock…and yet she will ‘not’. And it’s all before the chronolock man gets killed off by that raven!
(sighs) You see what I mean about me finding Ashildr an unlikeable character in ‘Doctor Who’? How am I supposed to root for her when she’s so mean-spirited? And I’m afraid this is only the beginning!
Meanwhile, Clara discovers that it is possible for the chronolock to be transferred from one person to another willingly. Believing she’s protected by Ashildr, Clara takes Rigsy’s chronolock off from him.
Now this is an example of where Clara can show her compassionate side as well as being reckless at the same time. She willingly takes the chronolock from Rigsy in order for him to see his family again.
Admittedly she later says that it was a back-up plan to give her and the others more time on saving Rigsy. But it demonstrates how Clara can be willing to put other lives first before her own at times.
However, it also goes to show how reckless Clara can be. She seems confident that all will be okay and that she will be alive by the end of this adventure, without acknowledging the risks she’s taken.
Anyway, the Doctor and Clara are given time by Ashildr to prove Rigsy’s innocence as they ask questions around the trap street. This soon leads them to finding the son of the murder victim here.
To make a long story short, they find the murder victim in a stasis chamber. The victim is actually alive! Rigsy didn’t kill anyone! But the only way to open the stasis chamber is by using a TARDIS key.
The Doctor uses his TARDIS key to open the stasis chamber. In doing so, he falls into a trap and gets his right wrist cuffed with a teleportation bracelet. It transpires that this was all a trap set by Ashildr.
There was no murder committed. Ashildr wanted to lure the Doctor into her London trap street so that she can send him off to some place elsewhere on behalf of a certain client she is working for.
Once she’s got the Doctor, Ashildr asks the Doctor for his confession dial from ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’. She’s about to remove the chronolock from Rigsy, but he hasn’t got it. Clara has it.
Once Ashildr and the Doctor realise what’s happened, they’re shocked. Apparently Ashildr arranged for the chronolock to be used on Rigsy so that nobody would be killed. Things have now changed.
Clara broke the contract when she took Rigsy’s chronolock off from him. Because of this, Ashildr cannot take the chronlock off from Clara. It seems Clara is doomed to die when the raven is to come for her.
Ashildr is apologetic as she didn’t intend to harm anyone. (ironically) Yeah! Such a shame that you didn’t live up to your word on looking after the companions the Doctor left behind, Ashildr! ARGH!!!
The Doctor of course is furious, as he threatens Ashildr to save Clara’s life or else he’ll unleash hell upon her. He even seems to remove his own title ‘the Doctor’ when he’s threatening Ashildr about this.
Clara then tells the Doctor not to exact his revenge on Ashildr as she decides to go through with her death by the raven. The final scene between the Doctor and Clara in this episode is so heartbreaking.
I found myself overcome with emotion from watching this scene. It was so painful and sad, yet it was a great scene performed by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman as their characters in saying goodbye.
And then that final scene where Clara goes out into the street and faces the raven to meet her death was painfully emotional to watch. I couldn’t help but be reduced to tears after I watched that scene.
At the time, it felt like Clara wasn’t coming back. I couldn’t believe that her death seemed so final and that there was no chance of resurrection on her part. It was all so sad and very upsetting for me.
The episode ends with the Doctor sent off to some place else via the teleportation bracelet. Before that happens, the Doctor warns Ashildr not to cross his path ever again as he’s very angry with her.
In a post-credits scene set sometime later, Rigsy does a graffiti mural as a dedication to Clara on the TARDIS exterior. Seeing that moment was beautiful for me and this definitely kept with Rigsy’s character.
‘Face the Raven’ is one of the most heartbreaking episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ I have ever seen and it is rare to find that in the series. Clara’s death greatly affected me both on TV and on DVD for this review.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘Series 9 – Part 2’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Face the Raven’ – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette.
On Disc 4 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, the ‘Face the Raven’ – ‘Doctor Who Extra’ featurette can also be found on there. There’s also the ‘Writing Who Episode 10’ featurette and the ‘Face the Raven’ trailer.
‘Face the Raven’ rating – 7/10
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