Doctor Who 9.12 – Hell Bent

So one day the Time Lords, who can monitor all of time and space, wanted to talk to the Doctor. We’ve seen them teleport to his exact location at least twice, and we’ve seen them take control of his TARDIS several times, but now they figure their best option is a trap. As bait, a boy from London who the Doctor has met exactly once. Contracted to spring the trap, a woman the Doctor has met exactly twice, and who has not interacted with him in more than 350 years, and who lives in an invisible street. Despite the apparent urgency in talking to the Doctor, the Time Lords are content to wait 4.5 billion years for him.

Okay, so about that last point, I’d like to think that 4.5 billion years just pass in the fixed, closed universe of the confession dial, and however long the Doctor spends in it, he’d be spat out into the same moment in the “real” world. Otherwise, in a series where the impermanence of memory has been discussed twice, you’d think that after 4.5 billion years, Rassilon would have forgotten what the heck it was they wanted to discuss. But this urgency didn’t lead them to leave the dial in the High Council’s office or a prison cell. No, the dial’s in the desert for no other reason than the opportunity to take advantage of some nice location filming, just like the only reason they’ve involved Mayor Me is to take advantage of the popular actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones instead of, say, Osgood and Kate Stewart, or the Paternoster Gang, or River Song, or Clara’s grandmother. Maybe the Time Lords have lost the ability to teleport or control the TARDIS. But they’ve also lost their brains if they’re using Rigsy and Me instead of people who actually have Clara’s telephone number.

What I’m getting at, of course, is that series nine ends on yet another massive disappointment. Nine’s a weird series that way: it’s bookended by two huge turkeys but I really love the ten episodes between them enormously. Like “The Magician’s Apprentice”, this whole storyline takes something that should have been stripped down to its core – because it really is a simple thing – and complicates it with set piece after set piece. There’s all this nonsense with the soup and the barn and the line in the sand that doesn’t have anything at all to do with the problem of the Doctor and Clara’s friendship being unsafely intense.

Worse, it’s just tedious. There are several very good lines of dialogue, and our son liked the visual of the time-traveling diner if nothing else, but it’s sixty minutes long and you feel every one of them. Even accepting that goodbyes in the modern show take a very long time, this is bloated and weighed down by its length. Clara and the Doctor don’t converse; they debate. At least it begins promisingly, with the Doctor meeting who we are meant to think is another of Clara’s lost-in-time splinters from series seven and playing her “Clara’s Theme” on his guitar, but it falls apart immediately after that. It’s such a shame this season didn’t end with something imaginative and fun. We’d have to wait another three weeks for the Christmas special for fun.

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