A lonely guitarist travels from time to time, The War Doctor returns, and stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten.
The Doctor has returned to Galifrey! Bells are ringing! The President and General are preparing for his arrival, and The Doctor… The Doctor draws a line in the sand. Now that The Doctor has returned to Galifrey, the very long way around, there are some issues requiring his attention. First and foremost, dealing with the President, Rassilon, who The Doctor blames for the atrocities of the Time War. After their brief encounter as the Tenth Doctor where they tried to kill each other, along with the The Master, Rassilon is willing to put things behind him. The Doctor, however, is not yet ready to forgive him for torturing him in the Confession Dial for four and a half billion years to sate his fear of the Hybrid.
With The President exiled, The Doctor assumes the mantle of Lord President and sets to work as Galifrey sits on the end of the universe. In order to discover information of the Hybrid, he must use Time Lord technology to extract Clara Oswald from the moment before her death. Once she is extracted, however, The Doctor has other plans, revealing that his bluff of the Hybrid to the Time Lords was simply a means to save Clara, an act that will have consequences throughout Time and Space.
Much of “Hell Bent” revisits the idea of the title of The Doctor. This theme was introduced in “The Name of the Doctor” and “Day of the Doctor,” and the short webisode “Night of the Doctor.” To the Time Lord known as The Doctor, the title carries with it a promise;
Never cruel, nor cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.
This promise is to be upheld by every regeneration of The Doctor, and we’ve seen the Time Lord when he wasn’t The Doctor, but was the War Doctor, or The Doctor of War. Twelve revisits this idea as he goes to the literal end of the universe, not caring for who he hurts or how much of Time and Space he’s damaged, to save Clara. In these moments he sheds the title of The Doctor and has once again become The War Doctor, or at least Not the Doctor.
It takes some of the iconic lore figures of recent Doctor Who, Rassilon, The Sisterhood of Karn, the High General of Galifrey, Me, and Clara Oswald to redeem himself. They all impress upon The Doctor that he’s gone too far. This theme of going too far has happened before, as the Tenth Doctor in “Waters of Mars.” For so long The Doctor has acted in this new series as the last of the Time Lords, and has come to the conclusion more than once that he makes the rules. But, as before, he realizes that doing as he pleases has dire consequences that do not live up to the name of The Doctor.
The idea of the Hybrid is also tossed around in this episode, as it’s been brought up throughout the season, and the prophecy of it. According to The Doctor, the Hybrid is Me, or Ashildr, the being who is meant to stand upon the ruins of Galifrey. This theory is supported as The Doctor travels to the ends of the universe, in the ruins of Galifrey, and speaks with Me. Me has other theories, however, wondering if the Hybrid could be the Doctor himself, as he is a high born Galifreyan, but relates so much with humans. Or could the Hybrid be two people, a human and a Time Lord, who push each other and care for each other so much that one would destroy the universe just to keep the other safe? Ultimately, the actual answer to the question of the Hybrid doesn’t matter, as The Doctor looks around him and sees the destruction of his actions and stubbornness.
This episode shows The Doctor throwing a tantrum, something that is one of the universal characteristics of The Doctor, that for so much as he does, for everyone he saves, every once in awhile it’s too much and he’s going to throw a tantrum. As The Doctor is The Doctor, his tantrums often shake the very foundations of Time itself.
After the admittedly weak season eight, season nine has not only been a relief, but an exciting and fantastic adventure, the likes of which I’ve always wanted from Doctor Who. So many episodes I screamed and slammed my fists against pillows trying to contain my excitement and fear for how The Doctor will get himself out of this one and save the day. “Hell Bent” pushed that excitement and anxiety to new levels. But, for all the greatness this season had, there were weakness, and unfortunately those weaknesses were in the character of Maisie Williams’ Me.
She was only featured in four episodes, three of which felt dull and boring and, dare I say, dumb. It was hard to feel the character of Me had earned her awesome nature from one episode to the next as we were told she had. Fortunately, Maisie Williams managed to find her character in the end of the season in “Hell Bent,” and for that I’m grateful.
Now, The Doctor is without a companion, Galifrey has returned, and Clara Oswald and Me are flying through Space and Time in a restaurant at the end of the universe. As we wait patiently for the Christmas special, and the excitement of seeing River and Twelve together, I wonder what more adventures and what new companions The Doctor will come across.