Doctor Who – “Hell Bent”: A proper goodbye

  • Writing
  • Use of Clara
  • Cleverness


Season 9, Episode 12

Aired: Dec. 5, 2015

Director: Rachel Talalay

Writer: Steven Moffat

In the end, Steven Moffat is a big ol’ softy.

He often gets a bad wrap. He can come across cold and cynical in interviews. But previous showrunner Russell T. Davies seemed much more willing to sign off on tragic endings. It was Davies, after all, who gave us the most heart-wrenching companion send off in modern Doctor Who – Donna Noble, tears streaming down her face, being forced to have her memory wiped in order save her life.

It’s interesting that the end of season nine sees a reversal of Donna’s infamous fate. Once again, we are left with one of our heroes tragically unable to remember their traveling companion. But this time, it’s the Doctor who will never remember his adventures with Clara. Realizing that their relationship is problematic and pushes them both to take unacceptable risks, they have to part ways, but it’s fitting that this time it is the Doctor, not Clara, who must suffer.

Moffat did a masterful job teasing this ending. I really liked the scenes in the diner, which at first seemed like the Doctor was testing Clara to see if she could remember anything. But it turned out that he was the one who couldn’t remember her and she was sitting there listening just to be sure before heading off in a TARDIS with me. This whole season has been about her slowly turning into the Doctor, taking risks and playing god, which is what got her killed. But after “regenerating,” she out Doctors the Doctor, wiping his memory before riding off into the sunset.

(Side note: With much made online about whether or not the Doctor can or will ever regenerate as a woman, it’s interesting that this episode gives us both a white male Time Lord regenerating into a black woman and the final shot of Clara essentially becoming a female version of the Doctor, complete with her own TARDIS and companion.)

There were a lot of other moments to like in the finale as well. I was particularly moved by the moment where the soldiers laid down their weapons at the Doctor’s feet before standing by his side. Moffat, at times, plays fast and loose with the Doctor’s “no gun” rule, but there is a real power in him defeating an army without ever raising a weapon.

I was very intrigued to see the Doctor’s status on Galifrey post-Time War. (And, I suppose, post the 4.5 billion years he spent trapped inside his confession dial.) I like that he’s a bit of a rock star and someone the powers-that-be fear. Much like his status on Earth, it seems right that eventually people would end up just differing to him in matters of life and death.

Of course, I wonder what Gallifrey officially being back means for the show going forward. Will we see other Time Lords out and about in different eras? Or are they content to just hang out at the end of the universe, living in relative obscurity?

Either way, I like where we end things this season. Clara gets a fitting send off after the tragic one she got a few weeks ago. The Doctor goes home again, albeit briefly, only to once again run off in a stolen TARDIS.

It’s been a really fun season overall. The show figured out how to best write for Peter Capaldi (I really love his “cool professor” vibe) and it got fun again after a lackluster season eight. The show is as good as it has ever been. I’m excited for the future.


And another thing …

  • How was the Doctor’s TARDIS brought to Nevada? It clearly wasn’t flown there, since moving it would have burned up the artwork and photo of Clara on the side (as we saw when the Doctor piloted it).
  • I imagine this will be the last we see of Clara and Me, but it sure would be fun to see what sort of adventures they get into.
  • Also, while Clara has to turn herself over to the Time Lords at some point, Me is immortal and has a TARDIS, which means she essentially could go on traveling through time forever.
  • While were at it, that makes it highly likely that Me and Captain Jack could (and frankly, should) cross points at some point.
  • The Sonic Sunglasses were a fun experiment, but I’m glad to see the Doctor return to the Screwdriver.


Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at

Comments (1)
  1. skids December 14, 2015

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