In a previous post, I expressed how disgruntled I was at the Doctor’s companion, Clara Oswald, for two brief reasons during the course of Series 7 (there were plenty of others, but The Name of the Doctor holds particular distinction).
There are several notable events that occurred during Series 8 which will bring me to my conclusion.
Deep Breath: Although Clara functioned away from the confused Twelfth Doctor during the course of this episode, she still banked on the Twelfth Doctor saving her from the Half-Faced Man, placing her as a damsel in distress, still.
Into the Dalek: This episode saw Clara in a more active role than before with relation to her identity as a teacher, an improvement from the previous seasons job as a babysitter.
Listen: In this episode, Clara, through an unexplainable fluke manages to arrive on Gallifrey when the Doctor was a child and unexpectedly take on the role of his nightmare.
Kill the Moon: This episode in particular was by far the worst of the season, clearly meant to undermine Clara’s personal autonomy. The Doctor disappears to leave Clara, and Courtney Woods, to make a serious decision without him, and Clara subsequently reverts to an extreme childish state by end of the episode with this exchange. It’s cringe worthy to see a character like Clara, with such potential, go to such waste here:
Clara: Tell me what you knew.
Doctor: Nothing. I told you, I’ve got grey areas.
Clara: Yeah. I noticed. Tell me what you knew, Doctor, or else I’ll smack you so hard you’ll regenerate.
Doctor: I knew that eggs are not bombs. I know they don’t usually destroy their nests. Essentially, what I knew was that you would always make the best choice. I had faith that you would always make the right choice.
Clara: Honestly, do you have music playing in your head when you say rubbish like that?
Doctor: It wasn’t my decision to make. I told you.
Clara: Well, why did you do it? Was it for Courtney, was that it?
Doctor: Well, she really is something special now, isn’t she? First woman on the moon, saved the Earth from itself, and, rather bizarrely, she becomes the President of the United States. She met this bloke called Blinovitch
Clara: Do you know what? Shut up! I am so sick of listening to you!
Doctor: Well, I didn’t do it for Courtney. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Do you think I’m lying?
(Clara is crying with rage.)
Clara: I don’t know. I don’t know. If you didn’t do it for her, I mean. Do you know what? It was, it was cheap, it was pathetic. No, no, no. It was patronizing. That was you patting us on the back, saying, you’re big enough to go to the shops by yourself now. Go on, toddle along.
Doctor: No, that was me allowing you to make a choice about your own future. That was me respecting you.
Clara: Oh, my God, really? Was it? Yeah, well, respected is not how I feel.
Doctor: Right. Okay. Er.
Clara: I nearly didn’t press that button. I nearly got it wrong. That was you, my friend, making me scared. Making me feel like a bloody idiot.
Clara: Oh, don’t you ever tell me to mind my language. Don’t you ever tell me to take the stabilisers off my bike. And don’t you dare lump me in with the rest of all the little humans that you think are so tiny and silly and predictable. You walk our Earth, Doctor, you breathe our air. You make us your friend, and that is your moon too. And you can damn well help us when we need it.
Doctor: I was helping.
Clara: What, by clearing off?
Clara: Yeah, well, clear off! Go on. You can clear off. Get back in your lonely, your lonely bloody Tardis and you don’t come back.
Doctor: Clara. Clara.
Clara: You go away. Okay? You go a long way away.
Mummy on the Orient Express: This episode proves to be no better than the rest with this exchange comparing travelling with the Doctor to having an addiction problem. Clearly, people have no real choice to whom they travel with, why, and even how?:
Clara: Do you love it?
Doctor: Love what?
Clara: I know it’s scary and difficult, but do you love being the man making the impossible choice?
Doctor: Why would I?
Clara: Because it’s what you do, all day, every day.
Doctor: It’s my life.
Clara: Doesn’t have to be. Is it like
Doctor: Like what?
Clara: An addiction?
Doctor: You can’t really tell if something’s an addiction till you try and give it up.
Clara: And you never have.
Doctor: Let me know how it goes.
Just prior to this conversation the Doctor spared Clara the pain of a really ‘bad’ choice by not allowing her to decide because it was ‘easier.’ Ugh.
Flatline: By far the best episode of the season, it places Clara in her most independent position yet, by eventually having to make a difficult decision (with a successful atmosphere, a change from Kill the Moon). Still, at the end of the episode, the Doctor saves the day (video clip above). Additionally, the end scene with Missy drastically undermines Clara’s personal autonomy by suggesting Clara herself a tool in a massive conspiracy against the Doctor (as suggested in Deep Breath previously).
Dark Water: This episode does little to really expand on Clara that much, certainly in comparison to other companions. Clara was willing to destroy all the TARDIS keys through a threat to “bring back Danny Pink,” which she would later say was kind of dumb thing to do (unbeknownst to her, the Doctor was tricking her anyways). Another companion willing to do anything for another male. That’s hardly unusual or even entertaining, because it continues to put the focus on the men as a source of strength.
Death in Heaven: The teaser serves as the best portion of the entire episode, even though it is a false teaser. Throughout the episode, Clara is again saved by the males: First, she is incapacitated by a converted Cyberman of Danny Pink (note the violence to done to accomplish this), then taken to a graveyard by him, before he decides to eventually save the world, including her by sacrificing himself. Granted Clara threatens to kill Missy for converting her boyfriend into a Cyberman, but doing such a thing, including the threat itself, displays a possible bad moral issue.
Last Christmas: This episode doesn’t make any compliments either for Clara. During the episode, we find that Clara would rather spend time with Danny Pink in a Dream Crab created fantasy rather then the real world, as such severely undermining the decisions of her character.
Between what has happened in Series 7 and Series 8, there has been no real change (despite what Moffat says), due to any decision she makes on her own is undermined by another male (Deep Breath, Flatline, Dark Water, Death in Heaven), or is negated in another way by her own character (Listen, Kill the Moon, Last Christmas). Certainly, I wouldn’t say the show isn’t political (it seriously is!), which is why I continue to watch what the content is, and how it is display to the general audience.
Like Amelia Pond before, I don’t suspect change in the fast-approaching Series 9.