If you haven’t seen the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, there might be spoilers, but I’ll try to keep the details vague.
When I first heard about Doctor Who, I didn’t know what to think. I remember the show from my childhood as a goofy, schlocky, low-budget affair that was just too British to understand. I watched it anyway when it was rebooted in 2005 and fell in love.
Fast forward to the Moffat era. I was excited for Moffat to become show runner because he’d written some of my favorite episodes, BLINK foremost among them. But a problem arose as his tenure ran along. A problem of his companions becoming objects to the Doctor rather than people. Amy was The Girl Who Waited, River became The Doctor’s Wife, and Clara was always The Impossible Girl. Unlike the companions from the Davies run, the companions lacked personalities of their own. They were constructs rather than people. And regardless of how you felt about specific Davies-era companions (Donna was my favorite), they had their own lives and were complex individuals. They existed, not simply as vessels the Doctor uses to fulfill some cosmic destiny, but rather as people.
So as the 50th Anniversary Special grew nearer, I found myself apathetic. I’d watch it because David Tennant, Matt Smith, and John Hurt all playing the Doctor at once would be awesome no matter what. But I didn’t have high hopes for Clara.
I was happily surprised to see Clara grow into a person in this episode and I hope to see it continue. Now that The Impossible Girl’s destiny has been fulfilled, the writers are able to develop Clara into a worthy companion. One who isn’t defined BY the Doctor but rather by her own actions.
Her change was crystalized in one hilarious scene where the three Doctors devise a highly complicated plan to open a door when Clara comes bursting through it because it’s unlocked. She looks and them and says, “Seriously? Didn’t any of you think to check whether it was locked?” It seems that the writers are developing Clara into a sunny, optimist whose common sense is a wonderful foil to the Doctor’s overly complex, timey-whimey thinking, and I love that; it gives me hope for the series.
To me, the companions have always been the strength of Doctor Who. Who they are determines who the Doctor can be. Their strength of character, their convictions, their loves and hates and prejudices influence and guide The Doctor. They become better people because of the Doctor and he becomes a better person because of them. When the companions are empty vessels, neither they or the Doctor grow. And I would argue that the Doctor has not grown at all with Clara as his companion thus far. I’m excited to see that change.
My other thoughts on the special? I loved it. I loved seeing the Time War, I loved that they brought Rose back in a way that wasn’t convoluted or bat shit crazy (like RTD always did), I loved the humor. I haven’t laughed that hard at Doctor Who in two seasons. It was brilliant. There were some…dangling threads like, what happened to the Zygons? They were all left alone in the room without their memories, but nothing was resolved. Also, if the 3 Doctors went back and saved Gallifrey, then does that mean that Timothy Dalton from Tennant’s last episode was also saved and will be back to trouble us again? Is Finding Gallifrey going to be the theme of Peter Capaldi’s turn as the Doctor? I’m not sure how I feel about reintroducing Time Lords back to the universe. The theme of The Doctor as the lone Time Lord, a man without a planet, is a wonderful story to explore.
Either way, I’m genuinely anxious to see what comes next. I just hope that Moffat continues to develop Clara and future companions. The entire Doctor Who universe will be richer for it.