Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 12 Review: Hell Bent

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To call this episode jam-packed is a serious, serious understatement. Though I have to say, Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 12 did not at all go the way I was expecting. Of course, Steven Moffat is notorious for messing with expectations, so I shouldn't be surprised.

There is a significant subset of Whovians who are, shall we say, not fans of Clara Oswald, claiming that her turn as Companion transformed Doctor Who into The Clara Oswald Show. Turns out, they're actually not far wrong, from an in-universe perspective.

Facing Off - Doctor Who

At some level, I was honestly frustrated by this episode. Given the huge role that Gallifrey has played in the Doctor's backstory, especially since the return of Doctor Who in 2005, I was seriously hoping to have an story that focused on the Doctor and his return home, which had been his goal since "The Day of the Doctor."

Instead, we got a story that was all about Clara, which was sort of annoying since I though she got quite a good send-off in the previous episode. Don't get me wrong: I don't hate Clara. But the way that her departure had been dragging out was altogether rather irritating.

At the very end of the universe, the Doctor held a conversation with Ashildr regarding the nature of the much-feared Hybrid. Moffat toyed with us by offering up both prime theories that had been bandied about the fandom, that the Hybrid was Ashildr (Me), or that it was the Doctor himself.

Ashildr suggested that it was, in fact, a combination of two people: the Doctor and Clara, brought together by Missy, the "lover of chaos." Look at how this all turned out: The Doctor went to insane lengths to save Clara, despite the fact that she was already dead, to the point where the Time Lord Victorious reared its ugly head.

Why? Why does everyone think I'm so scared? We all face the raven in the end.

Clara

Frankly, Clara came off as pretty hypocritical, given that she was all going on about not being afraid to face the raven, and yet at the end she was gallivanting off into time and space with Ashildr.

It was just plain frustrating, especially since I was hoping for more with Gallifrey. For instance, why was everyone all scared of the Cloister wraiths? They just glided around creepily, but they never actually did anything. Who were all the civilians around the barn? And what will happen with Gallifrey at the end of the universe?

In the category of "just plain odd" was Clara's hang-up on the fate of the General. She was well aware of the concept of regeration, and the Doctor had already told her that they were on Gallifrey. Did she think that regeneration was a Doctor-only trick?

We're on Gallifrey! 'Dead' is just Time Lord for 'man flu'!

The Doctor

Also rather strange was the apparent "total jerk" pill everyone apparently took during the middle of the episode. I can forgive the General due to the regeration psychosis, but what was Ohila's excuse? She just got all hostile for no apparent reason. It felt like something crucial accidently got edited out.

"Hell Bent" was, like its predecessor, absolutely full of continuity references like this. Here are just a few of the ones I spotted:

  • "Four knocks" heralded the end of the Tenth Doctor's life on "The End of Time."
  • Ashildr's TARDIS was disguised as the diner visited by the Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River during "The Impossible Astronaut," as the Doctor recalled.
  • The Doctor mentioned wiping the memories of a previous companion using telepathy: he did this to Donna Noble on "Journey's End."
  • Rassilon, the Lord President, made a return appearance; it seems that the Master got him good during "The End of Time," as Rassilon was played by a new actor in this episode.
  • The Doctor returned to the barn, previously featured prominently on Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 15, "The Day of the Doctor"¬†and appearing briefly near the end of Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 4 "Listen."
  • When ordered by the Gallifreyan soldier to put down any weapons he has, the Doctor dropped his spoon to the table. The Doctor won a duel with Robin Hood using a spoon on Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 3.

Murray Gold's score for this episode was absolutely brilliant, with one particular tune that stood out from the others: The Doctor's Theme, which had featured heavily during the Ninth and Tenth Doctor's tenures and made a very brief return on "The Day of the Doctor."

There was also the song that Capaldi himself was playing, a rather amusing little meta moment there when he identified it as being called "Clara." Yes, he was indeed playing Clara's theme from the score.

A few final thoughts and musings before I wind things up:

  • The Doctor has a brand-new sonic screwdriver! Though the way it shot through the air was rather over-the-top, it hopefully signals that we will never see the much-reviled sonic sunglasses ever again.
  • The memory device was described as human-compatible, yet it worked just fine on the Doctor. Read into this however you will.
  • The General was confirmed to be a Time Lord (rather than just Gallifreyan), complete with regenerations. The look on his face when the Doctor asked what regeneration he was on was actually pretty funny.
  • The diner TARDIS is indicated to be in Nevada by the caption. That should have served as a clue that something was up, because the actual diner visited back in "The Impossible Astronaut" was in Utah.
  • The Doctor remarks that nothing is sad until it's over, and then everything is sad; in "The Doctor's Wife," the TARDIS told him that being alive ("a big word, yet so sad") is sad when it's over.
  • I still want to throw Ashildr into a black hole. She is a Karma Houdini, no two ways about it, and now she has a TARDIS, too.
  • Be sure to check out the Doctor Who quotes page; there were a bunch of excellent lines throughout the episode.

So, what did you think of "Hell Bent"? Was it a good way to wrap up the season? Was it an acceptable final farewell to Clara (...maybe?)? Were you hoping to spend more time on Gallifrey? Let us know what you thought in the comments section below!

Never be cruel, and never be cowardly, and if you are, always make amends.

The Doctor

If you missed any of the action, be sure to watch Doctor Who online to catch up before the Doctor Who Christmas Special airs on Christmas Day!

Hell Bent Review

Editor Rating: 3.2 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (92 Votes)
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Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 12 Quotes

Gallifreyan Soldier: There was a saying, sir, in the Time War.
Lord President Rassilon: A saying?!
Gallifreyan Soldier: First thing you notice about the Doctor of War is that he is unarmed. For many, it's also the last.

Clara: Is this a story, or did this really happen?
The Doctor: Everything ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they're forgotten.