So, Series 9. I realise I haven’t done a review since Before the Flood. Truth is, I’ve been too busy to write reviews, but I will have an overview of the series soon. But, with this being the finale, I thought I would review another episode individually.
As usual, major spoilers ahead.
So, Hell Bent. To be honest, none of the finales have been perfectly satisfactory to me. They’ve all had major major problems, and while I loved Death in Heaven, upon reflection there are holes and the plot is a mess. None of the finales have successfully wrapped up the characters and plot in a 100% way, to me anyway. I was hoping that Series 9 would be the first to have a brilliant finale through both parts, especially after Heaven Sent. Uhhh, no. While this episode isn’t the worst finale, it is still an underwhelming episode to a very consistent series.
Let’s talk about Gallifrey first. The big twist of Heaven Sent was the return of Gallifrey, a story arc which had been built up from the very first series. I was hyped to see the Doctor return to Gallifrey and it really didn’t add much to the story. The Doctor arrived, moped for a bit and then used the Time Lords to rescue Clara. Not only is this stupid, as the Doctor would never really do something like that (why didn’t he do it with Adric if this whole “freezing heartbeat” business is allowed?), but it also robs the Time Lords of any power. If the whole reason for Gallifrey returning was so Clara could not die (more on that later) then what was the point of making such a big deal out of it? It was a huge waste of Gallifrey.
So, Clara’s not dead. Well, she is, but not really. She’s flying around in an American diner for a million years before she faced the raven. Urgh. In my opinion, the episode fell apart the instant Clara was rescued. But, I remained positive as this episode could have established the themes in Heaven Sent about letting go of Clara.
So, here’s a what-could-have-been: the Doctor rescues her, but through the episode Clara is determined for the Doctor to let her go. In the end, with the universe at stake and the Time Lords ready to destroy the Doctor, he lets Clara return to Trap Street and she dies. He ends the series furious at the Time Lords but optimistic and ready for new adventures.
Except that’s not what happened. Instead, the Doctor left in a 60’s Tardis and the rest of the story is spent talking in the Tardis. There’s already been three talky episodes this series, we didn’t need another one. Why this doesn’t work is because the themes being discussed betray the themes of the series. This series is all about consequences and choice, and Clara’s death in Face the Raven was the pinnacle of the emotional arc of the series. Here, the episode ends with no consequence. Clara still has to die, but she has any time she wants, and the Doctor has no memory of Clara or what he went through emotionally. The Doctor, for some reason, thinks the memory wipe is the best option, but unlike Journey’s End, Clara’s life wasn’t at stake. Why was the memory wipe in the episode? The conflict should have been about the Doctor letting go of Clara and the Time Lords ripping the universe apart to try and threaten the Doctor.
So let’s talk about the memory wipe. As I’ve mentioned, the mind wipe was really poorly executed. Now the Doctor has no remorse or guilt over the events of the series, which means Series 10 will either have a guitar playing, rocking Doctor with no character growth for no reason or a snarly, angry Doctor for no reason. This is really annoying, but thankfully the new companion should shake up the show in a new way.
The final big problem is the plot and the resolution to the Hybrid arc. The Hybrid should have been a physical threat, and through Heaven Sent the Doctor was protecting the secret, and it was even the reason why he fled Gallifrey. With all that hype, the reveal that the Hybrid was the Doctor and Clara together was incredibly underwhelming. As a result, the episode had no threat and the plot wasn’t that engaging.
So overall, this episode wasn’t the best. It certainly wasn’t the finale that I was expecting, but it didn’t make me want to stop watching the show. I’m just really annoyed that the series ended on a low. At least the Christmas special looks fun and Series 10 will hopefully bring a new direction to the show.