The Doctor’s Hell Bent On Settling A Score In Doctor Who’s Season Finale
We’ve been here before. It was in this same Elvis-trimmed diner where the Eleventh Doctor organized a meeting between Rory, Amy, River and himself in “The Impossible Astronaut”. Now we’re back—but it isn’t the Doctor who has arranged the rendezvous.
In “Hell Bent,” the finale to the ninth season of Who, the toll the Doctor’s 4.5 billion-year confinement took begins to show. Little by little, cracks are revealed—though it isn’t until the end that we find out the extent of the damage done.
Back on Gallifrey, the Doctor takes refuge in a dusty barn in the Dry Lands. When he eats, the entire village gathers round to watch. He waits. The Lords in the city centre have been alerted to his arrival. They send emissary after emissary to collect him and bring him back there. It’s no use. He’ll answer only to Rassilon, Lord President (Game of Thrones’ Donald Sumpter, stepping in for Timothy Dalton), to whom he has just one thing to say: “Get off my planet.”
The Doctor blames him and the rest of the high council for the Time War, for his imprisonment, of course, but for Clara’s death, too. She was collateral damage in the scheme to lure the Doctor to the trap street in London where Me made him her captive and shipped him off to a prison tailored to his worst nightmares. What they hadn’t counted on was that the Doctor would wait out his sentence rather than admit what he knows (or doesn’t know) about the Hybrid.
As the episode cuts back to the diner, we see the Doctor telling all this to Clara, who appears not to remember any of it, her own identity and role in the story included.
Aided by Gallifreyan technology, the Doctor has managed to steal Clara back from the brink of death, extracting her from that moment on the trap street just before the raven strikes. There’s only one catch—she no longer has a pulse. The two escape to the cloisters below the Capital, the Doctor having broken nearly every one of his rules in order to save his friend. There, after a showdown with Gallifrey’s top (newly regenerated) General and the Sisterhood of Karn, the Doctor and Clara hijack a retro TARDIS and attempt to make their escape, running all the way to the end of time and space.
That’s where the Doctor finds Me. “At the end of everything,” he says, “we should expect the company of immortals.” She’s watching the stars die, he’s searching for a place to hide Clara, and Clara, observing them both from inside the stolen TARDIS, learns that the Doctor plans to wipe her memory and return her to Earth. That gives her enough time to attempt to reverse the polarity on the memory wipe device, creating a sort of Russian Roulette in which neither she nor the Doctor are certain about whose memories will be erased once the trigger is pulled. The bait and switch Steven Moffat has set us up for since the episode’s opening scene in the diner is revealed—it’s Clara who’s kept her memories and the Doctor who’s lost his.
But he hasn’t lost everything. In the end he’s reunited with his TARDIS and sonic (screwdriver, thankyouverymuch) and his 4.5 billion years of suffering have at least earned Clara a reprieve—and temporary custodianship of a diner-shaped TARDIS co-piloted by Me. Still determined to face her unalterable death, Clara has sworn to return to Gallifrey. She’ll take the long way round, though.