Clara Oswald Won’t Run From Her Fate In “Face The Raven”
“Sometimes people can’t come back. Sometimes things happen that they can’t come back from.” These words, spoken by Peter Capaldi in an interview on the Graham Norton Show this past weekend, marks the end of Clara Oswald. Jenna Coleman’s departure from the show was announced earlier this autumn but nothing could have prepared us for what Saturday’s episode brought to the screen.
In “Face the Raven” Clara Oswald gets the most regrettable tattoo in human history (and that’s saying something—right, Zac Efron?). Initially a “strategy” (read: scheme) to save her pal Rigsy, back for a second appearance since his season eight debut in ‘Flatline’, Clara contrives a plot that she thinks will outwit a quantum shade. Death, as it turns out, cannot be cheated.
Lured by the immortal Ashildr once again, the Doctor and Clara uncover a hidden alien alcove smack in the centre of London. Dubbed a “trap street” by Clara (so literal), it’s an area of the city camouflaged by misdirection circuits. It serves as a refugee camp for various intergalactic species and its mayor (Me/Ashildr) has managed to maintain the peace by adhering to a strict penal code: break the rules and pay for it with your life. Death by otherworldly raven is her execution method of choice.
When Ashildr and her alien pals accuse Rigsy of murder, he ends up with the tattoo of the damned: a number branded on the back of his neck (in a terrible font) that counts down the minutes he has left until the raven strikes.
Thinking that she can buy more time to prove that Rigsy was set up, Clara willingly transfers the inky curse to herself—she has Ashildr’s promise that nothing bad will happen to her while she’s in the refugee camp, so hey, what could go wrong? If only she’d considered Murphy’s Quantum Law. She is, after all, dealing with a quantum shade.
When it’s finally ascertained that no murder was ever committed (the whole drama was concocted by Ashildr to trap the Doctor for a yet-to-be-revealed reason—tune in next week!) it’s far too late for Clara. Ashildr actually looks remorseful when she admits that there’s nothing she can do to help her—by transferring the shade Clara has cut her out of the deal. No one can save this companion now.
With a teleport bracelet locked around his arm, the Doctor is helpless—and enraged. Threatening to “rain down hell” on Ashildr for the rest of time as revenge for the deal she’s made for him and for what it’s cost Clara, we see a side of the Doctor that’s been percolating just below the surface for two seasons now. In this moment he’d happily destroy a galaxy in Clara’s name. Luckily she still has a few minutes to convince him to do otherwise.
In the end, she ignores her own oft-repeated advice: she refuses to run despite imploring her “clever boy” to do just that so many times. Clara faces her death bravely after giving him strict orders not to let this loss change him. “Don’t be a warrior,” she tells him, “be a Doctor.”