In her time on Doctor Who, Clara Oswald won the hearts of many fans. First appearing as the souffle-baking actual-Dalek Oswin in season 6, Jenna Coleman has portrayed several versions of Clara, and the episode Hell Bent bid farewell to the character. After Face The Raven broke our hearts with Clara's death, Hell Bent exceeded all our expectations in a plot that offered an excellent commentary on Doctor Who's recent companion departures, while giving Clara the triumphant conclusion she deserved. And here's why that makes it one of the best moments in 50 years of Doctor Who history...
The Tragedy Of A Companion
The Doctor's companions don't usually get an easy departure. Their exists are usually due to tragic circumstances: Rose gets trapped in an alternate dimension, Donna is forced to forget the Doctor, Amy gets trapped in a timelock...
Obviously there are exceptions to this rule (Martha, for example, or multiple Classic Who companions). But since the show's return in 2005, the Doctor's companions have been brought down by their own hubris. The message seems to be that if you try to be the Doctor but you're not, you'll get a tragic end. And of all the companions, Clara is perhaps the most similar to the Doctor, leading many fans to predict that she was heading for disaster.
Clara has always been an adventurer, and in series 8 and 9 she grew more and more reckless.
Taking the lead in many different circumstances, and throwing herself into the adventure with abandon, Clara often took up the role of the Doctor by sweeping others along in her wake. She even got her own companions, in a way, especially in episodes like Into The Dalek, Flatline, and Under The Lake.
Although Clara Oswald seems like just a cute, quirky teacher, she has an iron will and refused to accept tragic circumstances. She has a definite ruthless streak, which caused Cass to criticise her methods in Before The Flood...
"Did traveling with the Doctor change you, or were you always happy to put others’ lives at risk?"
Ultimately though, Clara was willing to risk everything for others, which is why her initial death was so important.
Hubris & Sacrifice
Face The Raven was an excellent episode for Clara. Reuniting with her friend Rigsy, Clara was determined to save his life, and didn't rely on the Doctor to do this.
Taking the initiative, Clara made a bold move to buy more time for Rigsy, gambling her life for his. Of course, this turned out to not only futile but fatal, as the debt could not be transferred without Clara's death.
This was beautifully human and flawed and tragic in such a personal way. It was a heroic death for Clara, but still felt somewhat unsatisfactory. This is mostly because companions exiting the show in tragedy has become such a trend for Doctor Who, and so some fans criticised this initial apparent exit. However, Clara's willingness to sacrifice herself should not be played down. And fantastically, her revival did not undermine this.
Her Own Doctor
Against all expectation, Clara ended (or began) her story as a somewhat immortal time traveler, completely taking up the role of the Doctor.
This was a fitting conclusion to Clara's arc: instead of learning why she shouldn't be reckless, Clara was allowed to become her own hero, transcending the companion role. She even got her own companion in the form of Me, as the two time travelers flew off on their new adventures. After Clara's mournful experience at the end of series 8, and the last Christmas special which saw her deal with her grief, it was fantastic to see Clara finally get the happy ending that seemed impossible.
In an interesting twist to the tale, it was the Doctor who had to suffer the consequences at the end of Hell Bent. In a direct inversion of the Doctor-Donna plotline, the Doctor was the one to forget his companion. While somewhat tragic, he remembered Clara's impact on his life, which was all the more poignant when he inadvertently told Clara her own story.
And yet, Clara's death was not undermined. A fixed point in time, Clara's sacrifice is unavoidable, and as we saw it happen we know she eventually returned to this moment. How long she took to get there is debatable, but it could be any number of years (or decades, or even centuries). Which means that in many ways, Clara's story has just begun.
Personally, I couldn't be happier about this. Now I'll just patiently wait here for The Continuing Adventures Of Clara & Me, the spinoff show that will never get made...