Clara Oswin Oswald. The impossible girl. The girl who was born to save the Doctor.
Since her first appearance in The Dalek Asylum, fans had mixed feelings about the character of Clara. It was known that she would be the Doctor’s next companion, but we still had the Ponds, who had become the Doctor’s family–and, in a way, ours. How could some doe-eyed tart take over after Amy and Rory left?
Then Clara appeared again in The Snowmen, this time as a nanny in Victorian London. She was a mystery to the Doctor, and many fan theories sprouted as to her identity. Was she a Time Lady? Perhaps the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, or (as many fans hoped) his cloned daughter Jenny. Some theorized that she was an incarnation of River Song. Who but a Time Lord/Lady could be in a Dalek asylum in the future and also live in Victorian London?
In both The Dalek Asylum and The Snowmen, Clara Oswald died. They were sad, tragic deaths. They brought tears to the eyes of the fans.
Why, then, was Clara’s death in last week’s episode, Face the Raven, so…meh?
Fans knew it would be her last episode. The actress, Jenna Coleman, who had once before considered leaving the show, had been confirmed as leaving the Doctor’s side for good. Internet rumors had also let slip that her character would be dying in the episode.
Perhaps that is why the death left no particular impact on me, and many other viewers. “Oh, Clara’s dying again. Okay.” Combine that with the fact that her dynamic with the Doctor had never been the same since her near-exit last series, and the most tragic death of that episode was the death of the drama, of the feelings normally associated with a Doctor Who episode.
In Face the Raven, one of Clara’s students is branded for death by a secret society of alien refugees living right in the middle of London. In order to save her student’s life, Clara takes the brand for herself, believing that the Doctor would figure out a solution and save her. Maybe if I hadn’t known that this would be the episode in which she finally dies for good, I might have felt a sliver of suspense during this episode. As it was, I just wanted it to be over.
Sure, the writers tried to put some drama into the predictable ending. They tried, but they failed. Yes, Clara has a long, “heart-wrenching” speech where she tells the Doctor that he mustn’t try to exact revenge on anyone for what happens to her. She tells him that it’s her own fault, that he can’t be angry at anyone else for her death. Then, as she walks towards the raven that will take her life, she tells herself that she’s going to be brave. It’s all written to be quite sad. Somehow, though, the writers missed the mark there.
Or maybe it’s just that viewers like myself grew tired of the drawn-out Clara story line. It was written once, and if she had died then it might have had more impact, but Jenna Coleman decided to stay with the show and thus the death had to be rewritten to life again.
Even on Doctor Who, a character can only die so many times before their death becomes meaningless.