The Girl Who Died…Not

I really enjoyed this epsiode. Jamie amethiesan and Stven Moffat wrote too many funny lines for me to fit into my quotation block this week. The story was well-written, without any serious plot problems and, as always, beautifully acted. Frankly, there was not a ton of squee, but many satisfied sighs were heard in my living room Saturday evening. 

I gave this epsiode a Doctor Clara score of 7. (So, I just made this up.) The greater the degree of agency Clara has in any given episode indicates her Doctor Clara score. It is completely objective, of course.  So, episodes in which she actually took the place of the Doctor, such as Flatline and Death In Heaven are 10’s and episodes in which she did little but try and keep up, think Last Christmas, are 0’s. We could apply this to any companion…Doctor Amy, anyone?

Personally, I like a high Doctor Clara score. Her management of “Odin” in the Mire spaceship and the way she tackled the Doctor about his willingness to save/not save the village deserved a 7 in my book. What Doctor Clara score would you give this episode?

What really pulled on my DW heartstrings this episode, however, were the narrative breadcrumbs leading us to Clara’s departure from the TARDIS. It’s not Clara’s leaving that catches my imagination, though. No, it’s the Doctor’s complicated, self-aware reaction to her leaving that I am finding compelling. Let’s face it, the Doctor has not traditionally been all that psychologically insightful into his own self, at least not in a way that admitted the viewers into the inner sanctum of his ego. This doctor, however, seems to balance is inability to read the people around him (excepting Clara) with a much greater capacity at self-reflection. I like it.

The Doctor is talking, out loud, about his fear of pain and loss. He is verbalizing his ambivalence about her risk-taking behavior (“I have a duty of care.”) In contrast to his mild tug-of-war with Danny Pink over Clara during the last series, the Doctor now seems to have much more investment in Clara’s happiness and well-being as he admonisher’s her to “get a hobby.” In this episode, I believe Jamie Matheison and Steven Moffat used the relationship between Ashildr and her father as a mirror for the Doctor’s experience of his relationship with Clara. The episode painted a picture of the Doctor as father figure to Clara (though it is not clear if Clara shares this experience with the Doctor.) While there wasn’t any dialogue that made this reflection explicit, there were a series of directorial choices that twin the relationships between the two dyads. 

When Clara returns from the Mire ship, the Doctor runs towards her, pauses, then hugs her.  Immediately, before we can even drop into the emotionality of the hug, the frame cuts to Ashildr and her father also hugging. Later, the Doctor talks about the terrible pain he will feel if anything should happen to Clara, and in the next scene we are with Ashildr’s father as he holds her dead body and mourns. It is only after his speech about Clara’s eyes, and how they will haunt him when she is gone, that he impulsively decides he can do whatever the hell he wants and goes to save Ashildr. Freud called this defense mechanism Displacement. We use it to manage difficult, overwhelming feelings about one issue by channeling that emotion into a substitute. 

I did this once. I had just adopted my first puppy, Jackson. I fell really hard for that little guy and spent the first five days we had him frantically researching and acquiring pet insurance for him. It was only after I bought the policy that I realized I had been taking all my fear that something bad would happen to my new puppy and channeled it into buying insurance, believing that if I bought the right pet insurance policy, nothing bad would happen to him. See-even shrinks unconsciously do ridiculous things!

The Doctor’s love for Clara and his fear of losing her drove him to do something he shouldn’t have done, make Ashildr immortal. Like I said, we all do stupid things. 

I wonder if Mr. Moffat is carefully placing together the pieces of the puzzle, not for when, how and why Clara will leave the doctor, but for the unique loss this incarnation of our beloved protagonist will experience when Clara leaves him. In a connection that has been repeated in several ways through Series 8 and now 9, Twelve, the first of a new set of regenerations, echoes One. In this experience, the loss of a cherished companion, I wonder if we will have a direct call-back to the loss of the Doctor’s first companion, also a daughter figure. 

As the First Doctor leaves Susan in Invasion of the Daleks, he says, “I want you to belong somewhere. To have roots of your own.”  In each episode this series, Clara has told the Doctor that she is not ready to be separated from him. Perhaps Clara will leave the TARDIS and the Doctor when she is ready to grow roots of her own. 

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3 thoughts on “The Girl Who Died…Not

  1. I’m guessing he does have specific knowledge and also that Clara’s not going to die. The Doctor has told her a couple of times that she needs a hobby (besides him!), which I’m reading as him encouraging her to find a life outside of him and the TARDIS that she can hold on to in the “after.”

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  2. This is my favorite piece you’ve written…lots of good psychological insights, especially around the mirroring of Doctor/Clara and Ashildr/father relationships. I agree that the Doctor’s reflections on the loss of Clara is touching and wonderful to watch, and am wondering if you think he knows she will be leaving soon? Much of his emotional reaction seems sort of a general “won’t it be sad when she eventually leaves,” but he has given her a couple of meaningful looks that seemed to me as if he knows it’s coming soon.

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    1. Thanks for the compliment! It does seem like he knows, doesn’t it? Eleven also seemed to know. I wonder how Mr. Moffat and the writers think about it? Does the Doctor just know how long a companion lasts before they move on? Does he have specific foreknowledge? It is interesting how they deal with it. Eleven was clearly surprised when Amy and Rory’s day arrived, even though he had been talking about it for several episodes. I am looking forward to see how they play this out (and desperately wishing that they don’t kill Clara off).

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