Face the Raven by Sarah Dollard
I have been writing up my reviews of episodes 5-9, but this seemed more important so I got this done first.
Warning: Major Spoilers! DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU’VE WATCHED THE EPISODE!!!!
The rumours have been around for weeks. The past few days had whispers in corners of the internet (particularly fandom websites). The whole season had been building to it. But part of me didn’t think they’d actually do it. But they did.
Before I get to the point (and the SPOILER), a few notes about the episode itself. It’s a confident and momentous debut from Sarah Dollard – kudos to Moffat for giving one of the series’ most important episodes to an unproven writer (on who anyway). She can definitely come back next season. Murray Gold’s work on the soundtrack, always sublime, was superb here and really added to the tension and foreboding in the episode. The direction wasn’t bad either.
The idea of a Quantum shade was a good one, and the return of both Rigsy (another good turn from Jovian Wade) and Ashildr (Maisie Williams continues to be on top form) was welcome. Like in the Woman Who Lived, Ashildr’s motives were uncertain for much of the episode, and the series continues to dabble in the Grey areas of morality it works best in. I also really liked the idea of Ashildr creating a ‘trap street’ as a refuge for aliens trapped on earth, so they live peacefully rather than causing chaos (yet can live as they wish, unlike the Zygons two weeks ago). The idea of a Janus species that can see both into the future and past has a lot of potential too (might they be due a return next season?).
And now… the crux of the episode. Clara’s exit. The whole season has had a theme of Clara’s desire to become ‘the Doctor’ and here she finally (and inevitably) bites off more than she can chew in her desire to save Rigsy. Her reckless streak was always going to be her downfall, and unlike the Doctor she can’t just regenerate when she makes a mistake. Unlike previous companions who died on the show (in the 60’s and 80’s) Clara gets time to contemplate her fate. This lessons the shock factor but not the impact, if anything it increases it. Her last act? Trying to stop the Doctor becoming vengeful (we saw a worrying glimpse of 12’s dark side when he was threatening Ashildr) and resolving to face (the raven) her death bravely. Jenna Coleman and Capaldi were both fantastic here (it almost goes without saying now).
So Clara’s dead. Ashildr’s taken the Tardis Key. And the Doctor’s been kidnapped by some unknown enemies (unless you’ve read the synopsis for episodes 11 and 12 or seen the rumours). The stage is set for a hell of a finale (the hybrid, the confession dial, a vengeful doctor?). Don’t let us down Moffat, if the finale works this might just be the best series since the revival.
Overall… I can’t see how they could have done this better. The script, acting and ideas all came together. It seems inevitable Coleman will have an appearance of some sort in the finale, but if this is her last hurrah, it’s a fitting one.
Rating: 5 out of 5!
Next Time: The Doctor is alone and trapped and facing an unknown enemy… and his promise to Clara doesn’t look like holding…