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Doctor Who S09 E10: Face the Raven

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You wake up and you don’t remember anything at all from the last twenty-four hours. All you have is a countdown number tattoo on the back of your neck, and it’s ticking away. Somebody call The Doctor! Pulling together several of the themes of “Doctor Who” this season, this one may break some of your hearts, so bring tissues. Meet me after the time and space jump for my thoughts on “Face the Raven.”

Rigsy’s Tattoo

We are dropped down in the middle of the end of an adventure again, making me wonder just how many ‘lost’ Doctor and Clara adventures there are for the “Doctor Who” novels and radio dramas to catch up on. As the two are hungover with adrenaline talking about their exploit, the TARDIS phone rings – never a good thing, because so few folks actually have the number. It’s Rigsy, the graffiti artist who helped out the Doctor and Clara against The Boneless back in series eight’s “Flatline.” He apparently has a tattoo problem, a three digit tattoo on the back of his neck he doesn’t remember getting, and it’s counting down to zero. Yeah, that qualifies a TARDIS call, cue credit sequence.

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Rigsy has been retconned in the last twenty-four hours. Now that’s not retcon as in retroactive continuity that is used far, far too much in comics, this is a drug called retcon that was used far, far too often on the old “Torchwood” series to make folks forget the operations of Torchwood so they could stay a secret organization. It’s very similar to the neuralyser in Men in Black movies, but much cooler, but then again, I’m biased. Either way, Rigsy doesn’t remember how he got the tattoo, but it definitely had to do with, as Giorgio A. Tsoukalos is wont to say, aliens.

The Doctor

Rigsy is played by Jovian Wade, a YouTube star who made a name for himself while also making it on TV in “Big School” and “Youngers.” His star was already rising when he showed up last season in “Doctor Who.” Here as The Doctor examines him on the TARDIS, he does a great standing frozen double take for minutes on end before The Doctor must resort to his cards – but too late, there’s no nice way to tell someone they’re going to die.

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Yeah, speaking of cards, Rigsy (who when it comes to telling him about his death, The Death actually uses his name as opposed to the ‘Local Knowledge’ nickname he’s always used) plays the Doctor card. Remember how The Doctor chose his name, it’s because he helps people, he solves problems, he provides a cure, like a doctor. And then we also have that warning and request from The Doctor as played by David Tennant, in the form of Peter Capaldi’s visage, that he needs to make sure everyone is saved. After all, he is The Doctor and he saves people. Rigsy is real glad of that.

Trap Street

All right, so once The Doctor is in true doctor mode (and looking snazzy in a jacket that would make Jon Pertwee jealous), and out to save Rigsy, he decides he needs to find another world underneath or hidden by our world. Now this jump in logic that really doesn’t make much sense is a true Moffatism, named after showrunner Steven Moffat. It’s an absurdist thought, completely illogical, yet so well done and magical, that you forget how dumb it is or how you got there. This hunt for a trap street is a near-perfect Moffatism.

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The best line of the bit – “My god, a London street just up and disappears and you lot think it’s a copyright infringement.” The scene with the TARDIS flying high above London as Clara leans out the door looking down with the sonic sunglasses is mad mad fun. But again, any scene that makes me like Clara even a little bit is a tiny miracle. Once on the ground though, they are looking for what is essentially 221B Baker Street, or more accurately platform nine and three-quarters in Harry Potter, because, ya know, magic.

Ashildr

Once the trap street is found, the trio are met by another surprise, or at least a surprise to them – Ashildr, or Me, is there, running some sort of refugee camp for aliens as its mayor. While I love seeing Maisie Williams, I’m not sure how I feel about the arrogant girl with the finite memory and the infinite lifespan, especially when she is so easily misled. I don’t trust her on principle, and what happened in “The Woman Who Lived.”

The refugee camp has a very strict rule of non-violence, which is a very good thing for The Doctor as there are Cybermen, Sontarans, and even Ood here. Lots of enemies, and only a rule and Me to protect him. Rigsy apparently committed murder and was sent home to say goodbye, thus the countdown tattoo. It’s all circumstantial evidence of course.

Peace on the Street

While The Doctor and company are trying to make heads or tails of what happened with Rigsy and the alien Janus woman he apparently killed, someone else’s tattoo number is up out in the street. His wife begs him to let her take it, apparently something that can be done, but he forbids it. When his number is up, a raven (thus the title of the episode, and a possible connection to Odin? Ashildr is Norse after all, right?) that was in me’s office becomes ethereal smoke and chases the man down. It is a quantum shade, and cannot be stopped, like a Terminator it will pursue its prey until the end. Flying into him and then billowing out of his mouth as smoke, it is a painful, grisly and special effects laden death. This is peace in the street.

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With some forty-odd minutes left on Rigsy’s clock, The Doctor and Clara are left to find their own peace in the street. It is not a matter of proving to Me that Rigsy is innocent, they must convince the people on the street, mostly The Doctor’s enemies, that Rigsy is innocent. Clever Clara’s plan is to take Rigsy’s countdown clock for herself, because she is under Me’s personal protection. Great plan, but immediately makes viewers remember that Clara is coming to a foreshadowed end soon anyway. Is this it?

Street Trap

When The Doctor finds that Rigsy’s murder victim is not dead but in suspended animation, things get dicey and weird. To remove her from her sleep, the TARDIS key is required, and long before Ashildr reappears and places a teleportation band on The Doctor’s wrist, we know that the trap street is really a street trap. Once again, Me has been tricked, and she keeps talking about ‘they,’ they who promised to spare the street if she delivered The Doctor, the TARDIS key, and even his confession dial. I had a bad feeling at that point and already knew at least one of that ‘they’ was Missy AKA The Master.

The Doctor seems ready to go willingly, but when Me is unable (or unwilling) to prevent the quantum shade from taking Clara, he begins to take action, at least verbally. He demands that Ashildr remove the time stamp tattoo from Clara or he’ll reveal the street to the authorities – bringing UNIT, the Zygons, even the Daleks and the Cybermen down upon her and her street. He is mad, he is driven, he is… in love. Oh no.

Clara

Not again. I am struck by how much he cares for Clara. My gosh, like Rose Tyler before her, the old fool has really fallen for another one, hasn’t he? And just to show us, the viewers, how much the showrunners like Clara, they start playing her theme, and she is the voice of reason that stops The Doctor – even after he threatened Ashildr by telling her that no one has ever stopped him. Clara gives The Doctor the advice he has needed to learn, the advice that has been beaten into himself this season. Be The Doctor, not the warrior. Thematically, this has been the way of the new series though – John Hurt, Christopher Eccleston, David Tenant, Matt Smith were all warriors in their way.

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Clara shuts him down, slows him down, and makes him think, and that’s all beyond being the Impossible Girl and making soufflés. She bravely faces the raven and is gone. And as someone who hated Clara from the start, I have to say I’m not happy. Clara went out on top, as a heroine, saving not only Rigsy, but Me as well. Now who’s going to save The Doctor? Rigsy? I doubt it. Me? I couldn’t trust her as far as I could thrown her (and I bet I could throw her pretty far). Missy? There’s a scary thought, but it could work.

Threats

Yes, Clara saved Ashildr, to a point. Clara asked The Doctor not to be the warrior, and not make war on Me, but even watered down, The Doctor is still angry, and biting down his wrath, he does impart the advice to Ashildr to stay out of his way, because You’ll find it’s a very small universe when I’m angry with you.” And that’s when the teleportation bracelet takes him away. Good thing for Me… bad thing for The Doctor.

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So who are they? Obviously it’s Missy, but who else? Davros? The Supreme Dalek? Colony Sarff? Or some other villain stalking The Doctor this season? And that’s the problem, like walking through the trap street, The Doctor has far too many enemies. It could be anyone, and any one would be enough… but this is a ‘they’…

The End?

It was intriguing to have Rigsy graffiti-ing up the TARDIS in the last bit after the credits. It’s a nice memorial to Clara, and a fitting end to The Doctor, who in Rigsy’s mind at least might as well be gone too. The TARDIS has been graffiti-ed before (remember Bad Wolf?), but I’m not fond of this mess, I mean design. Still it’s a bittersweet but nice ending to an episode that featured some good performances, and thankfully not over the top ones, from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.

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And although Jenna Coleman is leaving the show, we know this probably isn’t the end of her. How many Claras are wandering through time saving Doctors as the Impossible Girl still? And who knows, she could be a Zygon. There are a number of ways that we could still see Clara again in the next couple episodes. That’s why I’m not holding my breath. There will be more soufflé, trust me.

Next: Heaven Sent!

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About Glenn Walker

Glenn Walker is a professional writer, and editor-in-chief and contributing writer at Biff Bam Pop!. A blogger, podcaster, and reviewer of pop culture in all its forms, he's done stints in radio, journalism and video retail. Ask him anything about movies, television, music, or especially comics or French fries, and you’ll be hard pressed to stump him or shut him up.

Posted on November 21, 2015, in Doctor Who, Glenn Walker, science fiction, television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It isn’t Saturday without Glenn’s awesome review of Doctor Who

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