The Doctor is "Hell Bent" on fixing his mistakes in the season finale (Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 12)

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Doctor Who Series 9 - Episode 12 – Hell Bent

  • Writer:   Steven Moffat
  • Director: Rachel Talalay


  • The Doctor - Peter Capaldi
  • Clara Oswald - Jenna Coleman
  • Donald Sumpter – The President
  • Ken Bones – The General
  • Maisie Williams – Ashildr
  • T'nia Miller – Female General
  • Malachi Kirby – Gastron
  • Clare Higgins – Ohila
  • Linda Broughton – The Woman
  • Martin T. Sherman – Man
  • Jami Reid-Quarrell, Nick Ash, Ross Mullen – Wraiths
  • Nicholas Briggs – Voice of the Dalek

Quick Synopsis:  The Doctor has arrived on Gallifrey.  The Time Lords have put Gallifrey at the end of the universe to ensure its safety.  They were responsible for trapping The Doctor in the confession dial, out of fear of a being called the Hybrid, which is prophesied to destroy Gallifrey and stand in its ruins.  They believe The Doctor knows who the Hybrid is and were trying to force him to reveal that information. 

With everything that has happened, The Doctor works to manipulate events to bring Clara back to life.  He manages to pull her out of the time stream at the moment before she was supposed to die.  This is potentially damaging to the timestream.  He realizes how dangerous the combination of himself and Clara is, and tries to wipe her memories.  In the end, she turns it against him, erasing his memories of her instead.  Clara and Ashildr decide to have a few adventures in time and space before Clara goes back to her proper place in the timestream to die.  The Doctor gets a new sonic screwdriver and heads off for some new adventures of his own.

Commentary:  - I will be posting a season wrap-up column in the new few days, so I don’t want to dwell too much on the whole season here.  But I did think “Hell Bent” was a great end to a great season.  I definitely think this was the best season of Doctor Who since the relaunch, and for the most part, I thought everything came to a satisfying conclusion.

- I was expecting a little more action in this one, but I thought The Doctor’s "revenge" made a lot of sense, and built nicely on The Doctor’s past.  He didn't need to fight the leaders of the Time Lords, he just needed to convince the people of Gallifrey that their leaders were not acting in their best interest.  The Doctor has been President of Gallifrey before, and he served bravely during the Time War.  So when the Time Lords tried to have him executed, he had no problem convincing the soldiers and civilians to stand with him.  I thought this was a great touch, especially when someone comments that The Doctor's greatest weapon has always been his words.

- I also liked that we got to revisit the Time Lord’s Matrix, though I will admit a few of these scenes felt a little padded, just to give The Doctor one last adventure with Clara.  The “Cloister Wraiths” were not all those imposing a threat.  Even the glimpses of the Daleks, Cyberman, and Weeping Angels stuck in the Cloisters was kind of weak since they just didn’t seem to do much.  This episode was more about the characterization than anything else, but usually Doctor Who manages to slip in some scares or action at least.  But I will say, I still really enjoyed this episode, and didn’t feel too much of a loss because of this.

- I have seen quite a few negative responses to this episode, which surprised me.  A lot of people seem to be saying that Moffat cheated by not revealing the Hybrid and by “reversing” Clara’s death.  I am not sure what they expect from Doctor Who, a show that typically has always been optimistic and most of the time has happy endings.  There were definitely consequences to The Doctor’s actions here.  I also thought it was odd that people seemed to suggest Clara deserved her fate because she was trying to be too much like the Doctor.  Her actions were brave and heroic…why would someone want to see her punished for those actions?

- As for the Hybrid, I thought it was great that we didn’t give us a clear, set in stone answer.  Vague prophecies that real specific answers always feel like a bit of a contrivance.  There was no way for any of the characters to know for sure who the Hybrid was.  The Doctor seemed to have lied a bit in the past about knowing for sure who the Hybrid is, but The Doctor always lies. That’s rule number 1.  In the end, the audience gets to make their own determination.  Was the Hybrid, Clara, The Doctor, Ashildr, or some combination of all of the above.  In the end, the question of “Who is the Hybrid?” was a far more compelling plot point than any answer they could have given.  For my money, I would say that The Doctor was probably right, and the real Hybrid was probably the two headed monster he and Clara made.  

-  Once again Peter Capaldi’s performance was incredible.  He’s been an amazing Doctor.  He packs so much heart into his performance.  Every emotion his character feels, no matter how conflicted, is on full display.  There were points at this episode where I felt like my heart was being torn in two.  Not because the episode itself was all that sad, but just because of how much Capaldi was putting out there.  You felt The Doctor’s pain in ridiculous detail.

- The idea of a Clara-shaped hole in The Doctor’s memory was rather beautiful.  The Doctor’s struggle to remember Clara and finally being able to move on was just incredibly powerful. I definitely felt like it was the perfect way to end Clara’s story. 

- Moffat continues to troll viewers with the idea of Time Lords changing sex.  It was funny when the General hinted that only her most recent incarnation was male.  When she regenerates to a black woman, she says, “finally back to normal.”  Do I think the next incarnation of the Doctor will be a woman?  Nah, probably not.  But Moffat keeps teasing viewers with the fact that there is nothing stopping them from doing it.

- Clara and Ashildr’s TARDIS is awesome.  An old school diner!  As a New Jersey resident, I approve.  NJ was basically the diner capital of the world back in the day, and many diners were actually built here and shipped around the country and the world.

Next Episode:  The Husbands of River Song – It looks like after the emotional ringer we’ve been through the last few episodes, it looks like this year’s Christmas special will be a fun, crazy adventure.  There is one point in the trailer where we see the Doctor lying in the snow laughing hysterically about “a head in a bag threatening us.”    I am always happy to see Alex Kingston back in Doctor Who…now if we can just get John Barrowman back for a few episodes too.

It’s also nice that with the late start to this season, we only have to wait a few weeks for the Christmas special!  Bonus!

5.0 / 5.0