Villordsutch reviews Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 10 – ‘Face the Raven’…
Doctor (to Clara) – Stay with me.
After last week’s rather dire episode “Sleep No More” [review here] I was unsure what we were getting in this episode. From the trailers we observed the return of Rigsy from the last series episode Flatline plus a glimpse of a second rate Diagon Alley from Harry Potter, and things really weren’t looking good for us, but then I watched “Face the Raven” and it will be staying with me for a very long time.
With Clara and the Doctor rushing into the TARDIS from an unseen adventure and recounting their previous deeds, they are interrupted as Rigsy calls up on the emergency number. He has no recollection whatsoever in relation to the day before, his phone has been smashed with data deleted, his memory has been wiped (à la Torchwood) and he has received a tattoo which is counting down. The Doctor and Clara bring Rigsy aboard the TARDIS then upon further investigation discover these are minutes leading to his final breath; with Rigsy pleading for the Doctor to help, the Time Lord pauses and agrees.
Going to the Great British Library the Doctor explains that there are secret places hidden amongst the streets of London, so taking to examining numerous maps of the capital city Clara mentions the famous “Trap Street”. With this spark of knowledge igniting a larger idea within the Doctor’s head, he takes to the skies over London with Clara leaning over the edge wearing the Sonic Shades. After a quick fly around there are a number of points on the map which Clara has unknowingly ignored and the threesome take to investigating these areas.
After a number of odd moments the three gather in one area and as Clara returns from the TARDIS, she brings information about Rigsy’s morning which she’s discovered from his phone. This instantly brings back a harrowing memory of him near an injured woman and two aliens above the woman saying, “She’s dead!” It’s at this moment Rigsy can see the entrance to the hidden street and he then highlights it to the other two; making their way in, the floor glows and holds them in place.
Thanks to the welcoming party of this hidden street we discover that this is a refugee camp, then we meet the leader of this place, Ashildr – last seen in The Woman Who Lived – however at this point she’s forgotten her name. Clara is pleased to see her and let’s slip the Doctor has been keeping a close eye on her but lost track around the 18th Century. They begin to question her about Rigsy’s tattoo, when we discover that she placed it upon him due to the crimes he committed. The Doctor demands an explanation and Ashildr insists on taking the three into the hidden street to explain. The Doctor refuses to enter unless she promises no harm will come to his friends and with that Ashildr gives her word no harm will come to Clara Oswald. As they being to walk into the place of refuge Rigsy is called a murderer.
We see that this street is not actually filled with humans, but camouflaged aliens from all across the universe and some are the Doctor’s enemies including Sontarans and Cybermen. Clara enquiries how Rigsy got into the hidden street when they’re shown the murdered woman – nobody knows how she died though Ashildr’s people believe it to be Rigsy. The woman was a Janus and the Doctor asks if her child was a girl or a boy, for it was a girl they could have asked her daughter to look into Rigsy’s past to see if he committed the crime. Mid-discussion there is a commotion in the street and Ashildr needs to attend; it appears that a resident had previously stolen medical supplies and he has been tattooed also with his time coming to an end. Ashildr explains that she can remove the Chrono-lock which will end his life, but she won’t due to the rules that are set to keep them safe. The wife of the doomed man asks for the man to give her the coming fate – which is allowed – however he won’t and a raven takes flight towards the man. The Doctor explains that this Quantum-shade is bound to a victim; it will find you no matter where you go across Time or the Universe. As the man attempts to run from the raven it swoops into his chest and takes his life.
With this witnessed the Doctor and his companions ramp up their effort to prove Rigsy’s innocence. Unbeknownst to the Doctor, Clara attempts to make a trump card to win the day if all else fails, by convincing Rigsy to give his Tattoo/Chrono-lock to her, that way at the end Ashildr won’t be able to kill her as she’s promised and the Doctor also won’t let it happen; after a lot of arm twisting Rigsy agrees. Upon the Doctor questioning a resident of the street it’s revealed that after the crime he was asked for specifically, looking even further we discover that the Janus’s son was actually a daughter. The daughter reveals Rigsy didn’t murder her mother and Ashildr needed to create a mystery to bring the Doctor to this street, but for what reason she doesn’t know.
Running back to Ashildr’s home the Doctor realises that the murdered Janus woman is actually alive, but being kept in status and the only way he can release her is by using the TARDIS key – in a lock within the machine – in doing this a teleport bracelet becomes wrapped around his forearm. Ashildr informs the Doctor that she needed to do this to protect her people and as she goes to remove the Chrono-lock from Rigsy, who reveals that it was passed to Clara; both the Doctor and Ashildr look horrified as they know now this cannot be undone due to it being passed on. As Clara looks to the Doctor for help he cannot give her any. He becomes furious at Ashildr and begins to threatening her, even going so far as to say he’ll bring the Daleks down upon her people. Clara demands that he stop, as she doesn’t want to see him like this at her final moment. After her final words, requests, along with a last hug, she steps outside to face the raven, reciting to herself, “Let me brave!” With her arms out-stretched the raven bursts into and her life-force leaves her. With a final piece of advice given to Ashildr the Doctor is then teleported to an unknown location.
When people look back at classic Doctor Who episodes, they would list ones like the Caves of Androzani, The City of Death, The Curse of Fenric, Human Nature etc. They will now include on their list Face the Raven. To start with so much fun and excitement, to lead into a mystery then finally when it was revealed Rigsy was nothing but bait – even I couldn’t smell the trap until it began to swing shut. Sarah Dollard has written a Doctor Who episode that we will remember.
Watching the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) react to the incoming fate of his constant, to see the veil of kindness and compassion drop as the venom is released in Ashildr’s face – “I’ll show you and all your funny little friends to the whole laughing world!” – is shocking, but this is where panic and desperation has took our Doctor to save this companion he sees as a daughter.
Then finally to watch the Companion who – with Matt Smith – grated upon my skull before becoming a true person alongside Peter Capaldi, playing her role in the closing stages was truly heart-breaking. We heard the rumble that Jenna Coleman was leaving this season and we knew it was on the cards, but I didn’t for one moment expect it to punch me so hard in the stomach like this. I want to secretly be handed a document that says, “She’s back next series!”, but I know Clara Oswald has gone and I don’t want her to leave. She has brought a spark of humanity to Doctor Who, a woman who teaches in a school first and travels in time second.
Face the Raven will be remembered as a classic and Clara Oswald will be remembered as a companion to the Doctor.
Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.