Just before we talk about Clara…
Peter Capaldi is not an Old Man
So give it a rest already.
We have had the media droning on and on and on about Peter Capaldi’s age for months, with some gigantic moron at the BBC calling him “elderly’ in a recent interview. John Hurt, who is in his seventies, received instant worldwide adulation for his portrayal of the War Doctor. I didn’t hear any fans grumbling about how old he was. Paul McGann is only two years younger than Peter and the internet exploded after his Night of the Doctor last year.
Let’s get something straight, very few fans actually care how old Peter Capaldi is. Nor that anyone would be really so dim as to assume the BBC would depict a romantic relationship between a man and woman with a thirty-year age gap on a family show that has a large audience of children. They’ve been harping on about Peter’s age and the Doctor’s new relationship with Clara from almost the moment he was announced. I thought we would be free of it now that Series 8 has commenced.
I’m Not Your Boyfriend
I absolutely loved Deep Breath for the most part. What I really didn’t enjoy in was the very forceful references to the Doctor’s new face and age and that Clara would not accept his new incarnation because he is older and less “pretty” than his previous one. Basically Clara Oswald’s character was thrown under a bus for this episode in an attempt to lecture the (largely imaginary) fans who won’t accept Peter Capaldi because he is 56.
Firstly let’s discuss the (also imaginary) romance between Clara and the Eleventh Doctor. What I don’t like about all of this Clara/Eleventh Doctor alleged-romance rubbish is that is really cheapens the camaraderie between the two of them. Yes the Doctor had a bit of a crush on Clara, which had rather lot more to do with the fact that not only was she more independent and more of an intellectual equal than his last few companions, she was an intriguing mystery that the Doctor had to solve. Yes Clara had a bit of a crush on the Doctor, he has a time machine after all, but a bit of high-fiving and hugging hardly compares to the rather suffocating romance between the Ninth and Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler.
Selfish, flighty Rose had a rather bad reaction to her Doctor’s regeneration. I was very surprised to see Clara Oswald follow suit.
I was fully prepared for Clara to have a bit of a difficult time adjusting to the Doctor’s new incarnation. I was completely nonplussed to see the kind-hearted Clara Oswald unmoved by the Doctor’s post-regeneration malady and not reach out to help him because she was fretting about his grey hair and wrinkles. They did reference that the Doctor was the one flirting with Clara, rather than the other way around, yet it didn’t quite cancel out Clara’s shallow reaction to him.
It would be understandable that Clara would be a bit ruffled – after all she’s just been through rather a lot on Trenzalore, watching the Doctor age centuries in a day, then almost die, then revert to his young self before regenerating with a new face, and the TARDIS being swallowed up and spat out by a dinosaur into Victorian London. She probably needed a good cup of tea.
But considering Clara has recently spent time with two of the Doctor’s older incarnations in The Day of the Doctor and even forged a fleeting bond with John Hurt’s War Doctor I really think they overdid her difficulty adjusting to the Doctor’s regeneration. Yes Clara was often flippant, but she was never mean. This is Clara who lied to River Song about the Doctor not mentioning her so she wouldn’t hurt River’s feelings, not Rose snarking at Sarah-Jane because she was jealous. This is Clara who didn’t think twice about hurling herself into the Doctor’s timestream and shattering herself into millions of fragments to save both the Doctor and the world. The Doctor would never have had to beg Clara for help. So BBC I hope you’re done with your lecture now. I’ve had quite enough of it thank you.
At least Clara got her own back in the end, telling the Doctor he had no vote with the hugging. You hug him some more Clara.
The Regeneration of Clara Oswald
On the flip side, Deep Breath allowed for some rather intriguing character development for Clara.I am hoping the rumours that Jenna will leave after the Christmas Special are just that, because after two seasons we’re finally getting a glimpse of a very different Clara Oswald. For two seasons we’ve seen a confident, self-assured, unflappable Clara, a picture-perfect companion and an unwaveringly loyal friend. The Doctor was equally devoted to Clara, so a Clara that was unsure of her situation and her ‘new’ Doctor was quite interesting.
And despite my dislike of Clara’s reaction to the Doctor, her heated exchange with Madame Vastra was an eye-opener. Clara stands up for herself under Madame Vastra’s intense scrutiny, a seething, spitting fiery side of Clara we have never seen before, and it was superb. It also gave us some insight into Madame Vastra’s experiences of living among humans who judge her. So will our new Clara be the girl with the ‘muscular young men playing sports’ in her subconscious or the Marcus Aurelius fan-girl?
The entire Half Face Man sequence from the Doctor and Clara bickering in the restaurant – a delightful indication of how their relationship will pan out over the coming season – to Clara battling the Half Face Man on her own, and her (almost) final moments with the Paternoster gang were wonderfully done. The scene where Clara thinks she has been abandoned by the Doctor was interesting on many levels. Firstly the Eleventh Doctor wouldn’t have left Clara to fend for herself, yet the Twelfth Doctor leaves her on her own because he has absolute trust in her. “Five-foot-one and crying, you never stood a chance,” he crows at the Half Face Man. Yet Clara doesn’t know that. Clara thinks this ‘new’ Doctor has abandoned her. The tension in the scene where Clara has to hold her breath, ultimately doomed to fail, is palpable. Clara’s memories of her failure to control her classroom are also very interesting, it’s the first time we’ve seen this vulnerable, fallible Clara, yet true to form she uses the memory of her failure to assert herself in her current situation. Clara faces her demons all on her own. And just when you might be slightly unsure that the Doctor will be there to save this Clara that won’t accept him, and Clara clings to her last vestige of faith in the Doctor, he grasps her hand.
Now that the ‘Impossible Girl” story arc is finished Clara is going in a new direction. In an interview with BBC Jenna discussed various aspects of her storyline, saying that we will see more of Clara’s home life, her day job and her struggle to lead a ‘double-life’, including concealing her adventures with the Doctor from her new boyfriend Danny Pink.
“She becomes very torn between the two,” Jenna said. “It’s almost as if she’s having an affair, without having an affair, but the lying becomes more and more. Basically she’s trying to manage the two, and have these two men in her life. It becomes quite a hurtful thing and quite a hard thing for her because she’s totally torn between the two, and trying to have both at once without being able to do it successfully.”
Even if we only have Jenna for one more season – and perhaps Clara’s struggles with balancing a normal life may indicate her story arc is wrapping up – I am really looking forward to spending the next season with the wonderful new Doctor, and a new Clara Oswald.