The Doctor must solve a murder mystery, Mayor Me builds an alien refugee camp in the heart of London, and Clara Oswald was clever.
Rigsy, who helped Clara and The Doctor fight defeat the Boneless, reaches out to Clara after receiving a strange tattoo that is counting down. The Doctor discovers there’s no nice way to say “you’re about to die” and quickly gets to work finding a way to save him. Their investigation brings them to a hidden street in London that serves as a safe zone for alien refugees on Earth, presided over by Mayor Me, a.k.a. Ashildr.
Mayor Me informs The Doctor that Rigsy has been found guilty of murder of murder, they think, of one of the street’s most loved residents. His death is to be carried out by a Quantum Shade, a being that leaves a mark on its victim counting down to their death, and in this case takes the form of a raven controlled by Mayor Me. As The Doctor tries to prove Rigsy’s innocence, Clara comes up with a clever strategy to trick Mayor Me and The Raven and ultimately save Rigsy’s life. However, as most of their adventures, hidden agendas stalk the street which will lead to a timely demise.
“Face the Raven” was written by Sarah Dollard, but the entire episode has the feel of Neil Gaiman. Did he consult on this episode? Is Dollard a fan? The hidden street, the shade and the raven, this story feels like it’s jumping out of Gaiman’s book “Neverwhere” and into a Doctor Who episode. Whether this story is Dollard or Gaiman, it ultimately comes off as flat.
From the beginning of the episode, The Doctor and Clara bounce around from plot point to plot point, easily uncovering the mystery without any sense of danger or earning, aside from the literal clock counting down. Once the mystery is solved, there is still very few answers to the greater conflict and who was pulling the strings, though this particular question is likely to be answered in the next episode. The ending of this mystery just doesn’t feel like there was much behind it, or that it wasn’t earned. The same can be said for Clara’s end.
This episode is, as far as we know, the episode of Clara’s departure. Clara Oswald has been a controversial companion not in action but in how viewers have responded to her character. My own feelings towards Clara is that she was written inconsistently, and because of this we were never able to fully connect with her. Throughout this season Clara’s cleverness and risky behavior has been a common theme, so even though there is little impact to her loss, it’s interesting to see her end come by her own means, accepting her own consequences of trying to outsmart the conflict.
While the ends of companions is often a sad event, this particular ending, while well filmed, gets a mere shrug in reaction and an eagerness to see what happens next.