Hell Bent is the last episode of Doctor Who series 9 and features some recognisable faces and one or two places that seem quite familiar. I would recommend watching the episode first as this may contain spoilers.
If I hadn’t seen as much of the promotional stuff for the finale I think I would have ben quite surprised at where this episode began, especially because of where we left of at the end of the previous episode. However it was good to see the Dinner that the 11th doctor took Amy and Rory to and I though it was interesting that we got to see the Doctor interacting with a very familiar face, in fact so familiar that it was barely two episodes ago that we last saw her. Yes you’ve guessed it, Clara is back or at least some version of her but don’t worry the episode will tell you all about it.
Meanwhile back on Gallifrey the Doctor heads back to another familiar location that many fans will recognise as the place where the War Doctor planned to set of the moment and from series 8 when Clara went back and comforted the Doctor in an episode called Listen. The whole sequence of the Doctor standing off against the military at the start of the episode was just incredible to watch, with barely a word spoken the Doctor is able to draw out Rassilon played by Donald Sumpter (Maester Luwin from Game of Thrones) and lead a successful coup against him. We last saw Rassilon in the end of time episode during the 10th Doctor’s run and back then he was played by Timothy Dalton so it was cool to see a new version of that character even if he wasn’t on screen for very long.
I was intrigued to see how the Doctors first run in with fully fledged time lords would go and it didn’t disappoint as the Doctor was able to assume control purely based on his reputation as a war hero, here is where it becomes clear just how much the events of the previous episode have affected him. Two episodes ago in face the raven I had respect for Clara as she bravely accepted her fate and faced the raven but with the Doctor in charge on Gallifrey and Clara extracted from her time line between one breath and her last I don’t know what to think. However it does go back to a point I made in a previous blog post about companions who have trouble staying dead, especially on new who.
It was good to see a few other familiar faces return after this moment including Claire Higgins form the sisterhood of Karn and I loved her interactions with the doctor, if only she had a bit more screen time with him. Another familiar face is the general played by Ken Bones and later T’Nia Miller after the Doctor forces him to regenerate which was just a bit unexpected as the Doctor doesn’t usually hold a gun, let alone fire one. However I thought it was interesting was that the general regeneration changed not only his race but his gender as well with his male regeneration being the odd one out, I only hope that we get to see more of T’Nia Miller in the future.
Two series have happened between finding out about the return of Gallifrey and it actually happening and it was good to finally see a bit more of it in this episode and also to learn a bit more about it as well. Finding out about the cloister wraiths, the matrix that the time lords get uploaded to at the end of their days and what guards it all was quite an interesting sequence of events that I am sure will give some people a few scares. At the beginning of Hell Bent an ordinary Gallifreyan soldier wouldn’t go in but the Doctor seems right at home as we learnt a bit more about him while they were down there and we also learnt about some of the lengths that the Doctor would go to save Clara. In fact the previous episode where the Doctor had been imprisoned in his own confession dial was closer to 4 and a half billion years, way longer than anyone else had thought and who knows how much that would affect someone like the Doctor.
What does the Doctor do when he brings back a companion that he thought he had lost and he is on Gallifrey, well he steals a tardis and runs a way of course. Now I honestly didn’t expect that to happen so it was a rather nice surprise to see a pristine looking Tardis, one that reminded me a lot of William Hartnell’s Tardis back when he was travelling though time as the Doctor. This was a really cool moment of the episode with the Doctor and Clara travelling to the end of the universe itself and who should be there by Ashildr/me and I absolutely loved the conversation that the Doctor had with me. This part of the finale also included four knocks on the door which is a nice reference to the episodes ‘End of TIme’ and ‘The Sound of Drums’ and at this moment I thought that the Doctor and Ashildr/me work so well together. I think it is a good decision to not make her the new companion but on the other hand I do hope that she will turn up again at some point in the future or in the past.
That whole finale sequence was very reminiscent of the scene where the Doctor had to wipe Donna’s memory of him in order to save her from burning up but I like that this moment featured a nice little twist. Clara’ pulled the age old sci-fi trick of reversing the polarity, making the memory wipe a gamble for the Doctor as he wouldn’t know who would have there memory wipe and as it turned out it was the Doctor who was to forget. Forcing the Doctor to forget a companion who did so much for him including entering his time stream at one point was truly heart breaking but a necessary step in order to save the Doctor, without this he would have continued to break his own rules and it was good to see that even the Doctor thought that he had gone to far.
Lastly I wanted to talk about how the entire episode was intercut with moments in a diner that I had mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. I liked the Doctor use of the Guitar to play clara’s theme and his own from the big bad wolf days. The idea of memories turning into stories or songs when they are forgotten was pretty interesting to say the least and made for a very touching moment right at the end of the episode. The ending would have been more poignant if Clara had gone back to Gallifrey in order to face the raven as she did before but taking the long way round in the new Tardis with Ashildr does raise some interesting questions. Clara became increasingly more like the Doctor as series 9 has progressed and now not only does she have a tardis but she also has a companion as well and I would defiantly be up for watching a spin off focusing on there adventures.
Doctor Who series 9 has focused a lot more on two parters and that has been a really good thing and while there have been a few moments that have not been up to standard, series 9 as a whole has been one of the best yet. I liked seeing some new elements of the Doctor in series including the sonic shades which many disliked although I am glad that the sonic screwdriver is back and the new design is actually really cool. There have been some truly incredible episodes with some absolutely amazing performances. I have really enjoyed watching this series of Doctor Who and I can’t wait for the christmas special and the return of River Song.
Previous Episode: Heaven Sent