The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 12 – “Hell Bent” – Of Letting Go, Healing and Adventure

Doctor Who Hell Bent

     I really liked this episode, it is no “Heaven Sent” but it is still a great episode and I was initially furious when I heard a spoiler about a character who returns. Due to how Moffat executes the story though, I’m okay with who he brought back as the character relationships are still phenomenal and we learn a lot about Time Lord Society and a few arcs are brought to a close.

     “Hell Bent” was directed by Rachel Talalay and written by Steven Moffat.

SPOILERS ahead

    The story involves the Doctor’s return to Gallifrey in order to use and confront the Time Lords to bring back Clara from her death in “Face the Raven.” The Doctor must confront his recklessness from this as the consequences spread through time and space.

The Pros: The Doctor’s Past – This episode is full of references to the Doctor’s past. As we learn where he was going to use The Moment in “Day of the Doctor” was his home from “Listen” and that he grew up on the outskirts of Gallifrey and Ashildr makes allusions to him most likely being not fully Time Lord and being part human and that is why he always returns to Earth and can’t stay on Gallifrey and also shows how he could be the Hybrid as well as the Hybrid relationship of Doctor and Companion who together can be forces of good or destruction. These moments are extremely well done. I can’t wait to see the Doctor’s past explored more in the future.

Gallifrey – Gallifrey is strange, mystical and mysterious and I enjoyed how it was handled. For example the Matrix is protected by ghosts and it is also where the TARDIS factory is so that it is always guarded. The Time Lords are also very stratified and we see those who live outside the City, the soldiers and the Time Lord High Council all being detached from one another with those on the outskirts being the closest to the Doctor and the Time Lords and Rassilon being exiled for what they did with the Confession Dial and during the Time War.

Ohila – Ohila is the leader of the Sisterhood of Karn and I’m curious to see what role she plays as she isn’t exiled and she sees destruction in the Doctor’s future. She is worried about the Hybrid and I never got bad intent from her as I did from Rassilon. I think she just wants to protect the Universe and can only do so by calling out the Doctor on his selfishness or using him.

The General – The General is fantastic! Ken Bones plays him at first but after the Doctor shoots him he regenerates into T’Nia Miller and we see her doing everything to protect her men and stop the Doctor. She is the leader of Gallifrey at this point since the Doctor ran away again. I could see her being a Javert role to capture Clara to bring her back to the moment of her death of Clara and Me have a spin-off series.

Sisterhood of Karn – The Sisterhood makes an appearance and are pretty much on equal footing with the Time Lords showing that they are a pretty powerful organization.

Ashildr/Me – Ashildr has grown in wisdom and by the end of the Universe she is there calling the Doctor out for denying Clara her choice to die and for not letting her go. She is the one who has embraced her role as an immortal, though in the end she gets her wish of exploring all of space and time as the TARDIS the Doctor stole is used by her and Clara to see the Universe on their way back to Gallifrey for Clara’s eventual moment of death from the Raven.

Clara – Clara has agency Donna was never given and I love that she calls the Doctor out on attempting to steal her agency, both with her death and later when he was going to try and wipe her memories of him. Instead they do it random and both take the risk and she watches the Doctor lose all memories of her making it possible for him to move on and for their self destructive relationship to end. She fully becomes the Doctor at this point as the Doctor was her companion and with Ashildr they travel in the new stolen TARDIS on their way back to Gallifrey and her death.

Letting Go – This episode continues the process of letting go and that began in “Heaven Sent.” Here we see how toxic it is not to let go as the Doctor is willing to risk all of time and space for Clara and in the end will lose everything because he is so attached and would even take her agency. He realizes this and gives up his memories of her in the end, stopping their relationship from destroying everything and fulfilling the Hybrid prophecy and most likely Missy’s end designs on where their relationship would go. It’s sad and powerful but we see the Doctor grow and become the Doctor once more.

The Doctor – This episode is all about the Doctor letting go and healing and we see him let go in one of the hardest ways possible, he loses all memory of Clara in order to save them both. It’s powerful and we see just how destructive their attachment to each other is and it is when the Doctor finally realizes that and lets go of those memories and forgets that we see him begin to heal and ends it with a new Sonic Screwdriver as he returns to his role as a Doctor.

The Cons: Rassilon – Donald Sumpter does alright but his Rassilon is never threatening. For someone who was able to use the Master to nearly destroy Earth and save Gallifrey I was pretty underwhelmed. He’s exiled and out there with the High Council now so there is a chance to fix this. I really want to see Rassilon as a threatening threat, haven’t felt that yet in any of the new series episodes.

Should Have Been Two Parts – The Hybrid, Gallifrey, what happened to Rassilon and the consequences of the Time War are never fully explored and that is what could have made this story truly great. Elements of this are there but never fully explored.

This was a great episode, but could have been more. I don’t think Clara should have been brought back but I thought that was handled well…especially with Me playing a role in how things ended. This episode was all about the Doctor and his finally moving on from Clara, which was a huge theme of the season, especially when we see what that attachment is dong to the Universe. The Doctor has always had trouble letting go and the fact that he loses his memory is something that hasn’t been done before, not like this. So I really liked that. There are a lot of stories that are open now because of this episode and in the end it is a great edition to the Whoniverse.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.

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