It is that dreaded time for Doctor Who fans again: we’re losing a companion. Whether you have watched from the very beginning of the classic series or whether you are a ‘New Who’ fan, you have probably experienced the loss and pain of seeing your favorite companion leave. And it hurts almost as much, if not the same, as losing your favorite Doctor. After all, you know the Doctor comes back. Different face, same man. But companions leave and many times we do not get to see them again.
In the coming weeks (or even possibly next Saturday) we’re going to be saying goodbye to Clara Oswald. Clara has been a divisive companion by all means: she is by many loved and by many disliked. To me, however, she has been one of Doctor Who’s best elements since the reboot.
When we first saw Clara, she was introduced as an enigma. She was Oswin, space traveler trapped inside a Dalek, living in deep denial from her reality. Then she WAS indeed Clara Oswald, a bit of a Victorian Mary Poppins, fun and beloved by the children she took care of, with adventure in her soul. Both of them saved the Doctor and eventually died, leaving him with nothing but a message ‘Run you clever boy, and remember me”.
And he did remember her up until he came across her again, this time as the present Clara Oswald, the one we have grown to know and love. ‘The Impossible Girl’.
This was a title that for many dragged the character down. She became a story device, just another mystery for the Doctor to solve, but watching it back, I think Clara asserting herself as no one else but herself to the Doctor was important when the time came for the Doctor to assert himself as the same person he used to be when she met him (there was an understanding between them about the inability to see who beyond their outside appearance changing, or in her case, being the same). But her mystery was resolved soon enough with her stopping his death, and though her being thrown into the Doctor’s timeline angered many, it comes to explain many things about the way he feels about her now.
It is fair to admit, however, that since the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, Clara’s story has taken a turn for the better. Her entire arc is based on a simple question: what happens when a companion is so influenced by The Doctor that her own moral code switches?
Clara tried to be normal, despite her appetite for adventure. She tried to have a boyfriend, a job as a teacher and continue traveling with the Doctor. But after losing Danny Pink, she realized she no longer wanted a normal life. She wanted the adventure she craved, wanted danger, wanted the New Year’s parties where she lost her sunglasses, the kissing Jane Austen, the bases under siege and the space restaurants. She wanted to be in charge, and not just because she wanted to have control over everything, but because it felt right to the person she had become. She was left to make some tough choices, some of which ended in someone’s death, like many of the Doctor’s have before. She was no longer the apprentice and much more an equal, to the point where her interventions have been as crucial to saving the Universe as the Doctor’s himself.
That is Clara’s story. She has become less and less the companion that stops the Doctor and more like the one who enables him, and that’s scary for the Doctor to see. Not only because he knows her change is inevitable, but because he is in much part responsible for it (remember “Kill the Moon” and “Mummy on the Orient Express”?)
There has been an imminent sense of doom over Clara and her relationship with Twelve all through this season. We had Ashildr ask the Doctor ‘how many Claras’ has he lost, but he has never lost someone quite like Clara, not only because of the influence she has had in his life since childhood, but because of the type of person she has become. He knows what comes with being the Doctor: an extreme amount of loss and death. She has experienced loss now and he cannot help but feel death is in her path too. And yet she has become so essential to him he would come back for her a thousand times. It would be so easy for him with their arrangement of being picked up and dropped back on Earth to just disappear and never come back, but he always does, like she came back for him in Trenzalore.
But that’s what has been so great about the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. Their co-dependence has never been painted in a positive light. Quite different to what we saw in series 2 with the Tenth Doctor and Rose, we have always known that the way the Doctor and Clara depend on each other is kind of unhealthy, no matter how happy it makes us or how beautiful it is. They would defy the laws of time and space for each other knowing that it is something they shouldn’t do, and eventually it’s going to come back to bite them. Seems like that time is now.
That doesn’t mean that Clara has brought darkness and doom over the show. Quite the opposite. She has brought kindness, bravery, intelligence, a bit of conceitedness, many smiles and quite some tears (Jenna Coleman has shown herself to be quite the strong actress, and she has absolutely nailed every nuance in Clara’s personality all through her evolution as well as having magnificent chemistry with Peter Capaldi). She has been an amazing companion, with one of the most complicated arcs that we have seen in the show and that’s why I consider her one of Doctor Who’s best.
“Let me be brave”, Clara Oswald. I’ll miss you.