It’s only a few weeks to go before Clara Oswald closes those big blue Tardis doors behind her one last time. Are we ready? She is, after all, one of the most popular and long-running companions. Clara has met all of the Doctors and once even encouraged the Eleventh to save Gallifrey. Does Doctor Who without Clara bear thinking about? Some might ask if the show can survive without her! Or has the moment been prepared for? Has Steven Moffat been paving the way for Clara’s departure right under our very noses?
Series 8 focussed on Clara. Teaching here. Boyfriend there. Popping in and out of the Tardis as if it were an intergalactic time taxi. We were all curious to see what the new Doctor was like, yet plots were often Clara-centric and quite understandably so. She was there to hold our hand and provide a sense of continuity whilst we got used to this new “tricky” Doctor.
If Clara had continued to be the focus in Series 9, we would run the risk that Doctor Who turned into “The Clara Show”. Viewers would then feel lost without her in Series 10. Fortunately the production team have had the foresight to take take preventive measures in the current series.
In “The Magician’s Apprentice” two-parter, Clara spent most of the adventure as a sidekick to Missy. This gave the Doctor moments to shine in his exchanges with Davros and the Daleks. Viewers could get used to seeing the Doctor on his own and more significantly without Clara.
In “Before the Flood” the Doctor and Clara were separated for practically the whole episode. This allowed the Doctor to interact with other non-regular characters. Every time we are allowed to see the Twelfth’s character and personality in all its aspects bounce off anyone who is not Clara, little by little we get to know the Doctor better. He is quite visibly becoming less and less grumpy and his rudeness seems to be used just as a gimmick or for brief comedic effect. The Doctor is actually becoming quite likeable.
Clara only appeared at the very end of “The Woman Who Lived”. Ashildr effectively took on the role of the Doctor’s “assistant”. We had the chance to see what the Twelfth could be like alongside a new companion. Long-term fans accept that companions regularly come and go in Doctor Who, but it is almost as if this episode has provided newcomers with a vaccination against Clara’s inevitable departure.
Many of us have seen “The Zygon Invasion”. It now seems that Clara is dead, zapped in a split-second and replaced by an evil Zygon clone, Bonnie. Could it be that Clara actually stays dead for the rest of Series 9 and the remaining stories are basically “Clara-lite”. My instinct is that she will indeed return, but only in the finale, with her presence explained with an ingenious touch of timey-wimey.
In whatever the circumstances, Clara will go – and the show will go on. Steven Moffat is gradually “weaning” us off the popular companion, so that we all will continue to tune in when she is no longer around. Her reduced presence in Series 9 has given the Twelfth Doctor space to grow and allow the audience to get to know him.
Let’s conclude with a Ms. Oswald quote from “The Name of the Doctor”.
“I’m born, I live, I die. And always, there’s the Doctor.”