TV Recap: Doctor Who, ‘Face the Raven’

Major Spoilers Ahead

Doctor Who Series 9 Poster

Face the Raven Plot Summary

Graffiti artist and friend of The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman), Rigsy (Joivan Wade) wakes up with a tattoo on the back of his neck that is counting down to zero. The tattoo is a countdown to his death, and it’s up to The Doctor and Clara to prevent his death. Their search takes them to a hidden street where a slew of aliens (including some of The Doctor’s most feared enemies), live in sanctuary under the protection of Me (the returning Maisie Williams).

We don’t even need to talk about the episode. Well, for what it’s worth, the idea and execution of ‘Face the Raven’ was solid, but a little underdone. The entire concept of a secret alien street where members of the most fearsome aliens in the galaxy can co-exist in tenuous peace should’ve (and hopefully will be) examined much more thoroughly.


Other than that, we don’t really need to go into the plot of the episode.

What we need to discuss is the passing of the torch, the end of an era — the death of Clara Oswald.

Her death, was obvious, she even says so herself right before she dies. When we left her last season she was devastated by the death of Danny Pink, but when we pick up with her this season — it’s as nothing happened. She’s bright-eyed, adventurous, and always with a smile on her face. In fact, she’s too positive. She’s too adventurous. That smile is always plastered on her face.

For any one who’s ever lost a loved one, or ended a serious relationship, there comes a period post-mourning where you just lose your mind. Whether you’re trying hard to mask the pain, or you’ve decided to kick your own death drive into high gear, there comes this manic period filled with irresponsibly audacious thrill seeking acts. Throughout this season Clara has laughed in death’s face, and she’s raced headlong into danger — something not overly typical of her character. Granted, the inherent nature of a companion is a bit of adventurer and thrill seeker, but Clara was over the top this season. You could tell her attitude frightened The Doctor. Do you think he became such more concerned and warmer towards Clara just because he had a change of heart? Probably not, he was concerned his friend was headed down the road of destruction.


The circumstances leading to Clara’s death were really well done. Clara using the classic Doctor tactics of using an opponent’s trap against them, and not telling anyone your plan until the very end. Clara trying to be clever like The Doctor cost her everything, and it makes perfect sense — The Doctor isn’t fragile like his companions — he can regenerate so he can afford to risk everything. Clara can never be The Doctor, and hence her plan completely backfired. It was a clever and creative way to bring about her demise, unlike the completely obtuse way The Ponds ‘left’ the series.

Then there was the final moments between Clara and The Doctor.

Capaldi and Coleman have delivered fantastic performances this season (Coleman as the ‘evil’ Clara and Capaldi’s anti-war speech really struck a chord this year), but this was their best scene together in their near two-year run together. Clara taking charge of the scene and telling The Doctor not to take revenge for her while Capaldi glares into the distance is just perfect. Coleman’s stern sweetness is the perfect panacea for Capaldi’s searing rage. The subsequent scene where Clara meets her maker is shot brilliantly and both actors, with no words uttered, break our hearts with their facial expressions. It’s a powerful, moving scene that only Doctor Who knows how to execute.


So, the big question — was it the right move to get rid of Clara?

To this reviewer, the answer is yes. What was left for Clara? She lost one Doctor (Matt Smith) after a tepid half-season together, she lost the love of her life, and now she’s lunging headlong into near-death scenarios.  If she survived this episode, what was there for her to do? Basically more of the same. And that’d be boring as all hell. The chemistry between Coleman and Capaldi was fantastic this season, but there needs to be a bit of a shake-up. We need someone else to bounce of the acerbic Capaldi. With rumors of the show’s ‘meh’ ratings (particularly in the U.K.), the show does need a change, and someone new and exciting could definitely lend the adrenaline shot this series is looking for. Making Maisie Williams full-time would be great, but her new character works so well right now. We could also pair him with Missy, but that might get old quick. How about the return of Captain Jack Harkness? Well, that’d be amazing, but there’s no indication they’ll ever bring him back.

Regardless, Jenna Coleman had an excellent run on Doctor Who. While character didn’t always make sense (particularly the ‘she’s a Dalek’ thing), Coleman always exuded so much charisma, and sympathy that she made for a dynamic companion. ‘Face the Raven’ is one of the most emotional episodes of the Capladi-era, so bring a tissue when you’re watching (or re-watching) this episode.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites