Monday, February 11, 2013

Someone Impossible

Warning: This post contains spoilers (sweetie).  The episodes “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Snowmen” will be discussed in some detail, and there will be general references to the events of Doctor Who. If you don’t want to know, stop reading, and return to your own timeline.

Whovians knew that the Doctor was getting a new companion in Season 7. We even knew who it was going to be – actress Jenna-Louise Coleman. She would appear in the Christmas special, the break between the first and second halves of the season. Which she did. Except she was in the first episode of Season 7, “Asylum of the Daleks,” as well.

Which is a thing unremarkable on its own – Catherine Tate appeared as Donna Noble in the 2006 Christmas Special “The Runaway Bride” before later becoming the Tenth Doctor’s companion, and Freema Agyeman appeared in an unrelated minor role before being recast as companion Martha Jones. But Coleman’s character is something different.

In “Asylum of the Daleks,” we meet Oswin Oswald, survivor of a ship that’s crashed on a planet that serves as a Dalek prison. She’s in the wreckage of the ship, surviving by making soufflés and listening to the opera Carmen. And hacking into all of the Dalek technology. She’s smart, genius smart, smart enough even to impress the Doctor. Smart enough to impress the Daleks, who have converted her to one of their own. But Oswin is so very much herself that she retains her humanity, even after being made into a Dalek, and she saves the Doctor, telling him “Run. Run, you clever boy, and remember me.” The planet is destroyed. Oswin dies.

In “The Snowmen,” we meet Clara, sometime barmaid at “The Rose and Crown” and sometime governess, “Miss Montague.” And here is where we start to get hints. Upon introducing herself to the Doctor as Clara, he responds, “Nice name, you should definitely keep it.” When she returns to her life as a governess, the children in her charge ask her to “Do your secret voice.” There is more than one Clara, it seems. Clara, whatever else she is, is smart, and brave. She will follow the Doctor up into the sky, demand his help in words he cannot ignore, and when things get tricky, as they so often do, she is the one who grabs his hand and makes him run. Upon walking into the TARDIS, she observes that it is “smaller on the outside.”

She also asks if there is a kitchen – it’s just that she likes making soufflés.

Clara dies at the end of the episode, and it’s not until we see her tombstone that we see her full name – Clara Oswin Oswald. Her epitaph reads, “remember me, for we shall meet again.” Her final words to the Doctor are “Run. Run, you clever boy, and remember me.” As the show closes, we see Coleman walking through a graveyard, and pausing at Clara Oswin Oswald’s tombstone. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she says.

We’re left with the mystery of the new companion. She has been the same woman twice, and died both times. She has appeared in multiple times. She has resurrected – regenerated? – a third time. The Doctor in the TARDIS says, “Watch me run,” which suggests that he is at least as intrigued by her as we are.

I am intrigued. I like what I’ve seen of Clara Oswin Oswald. I like that she is smart, and brave, and that she has a story of her own, one outside of the madman in the blue box. She is not someone impossible, she is someone that has happened, and continues to happen, in recurring mystery. I’m looking forward to meeting her again.

By Kat Howard