Face the Raven

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When Rigsy loses his memory of the previous day, and finds a tattoo on his neck which is counting down to zero, he calls the Doctor and Clara for help.

Rigsy, the graffiti artist from last year’s Flatline returns for a second very strong episode. It’s particularly apt for him to return for what could be Clara’s final adventure, as he was companion to her de facto ‘Doctor’ in their last meeting. In fact the quantum shade’s target could have been any modern-day character from the last couple of years. Almost in recognition of him not being that memorable, he’s furnished here with a girlfriend and baby to give the threat to his life more resonance.

The story starts to unfold like The Hangover, with the heroes having to piece together what happened when Rigsy visited a trap street, which is ruled by Ashildr from The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived. Like the best Doctor Who stories, it doesn’t rest on laurels with one idea, and turns into something far more epic.

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Writer Sarah Dollard’s first Doctor Who script is a belter. The hidden streets of alien refugees is a fantastic idea that can be explored further in any city in the world that the Doctor visits in the future. The whole approach feels fresh, she is this series Jamie Mathiesoon or Peter Harness, and will hopefully be back for series ten. It’s good to see the TARDIS team doing some legwork: visiting the British Library, and having to manually search for the trap streets from the air.

IMG_3620The look of the episode is also  beautiful, and the extended time inside the TARDIS highlights that current console room’s similarity to the trap street. Both are hidden, unexpected spaces with a steampunk aesthetic. It’s also great to see the Doctor dressing like the Doctor again, his hoodie replaced with a look vaguely reminiscent of that early promo photo of him with Clara from Deep Breath.

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Life in the trap street is well-drawn, with clear rules and interesting characters. Dollard weaves much of this series together  – the Doctor’s confession dial, the flash cards, the secret Zygon population, Ashildr/Mayor Me and Clara’s recklessness. The street’s place in the wider Doctor Who universe makes sense, with repeated viewings necessary to try and catch the quick flashes of alien faces beneath the human facades. We understand the lurkworms, which provide light create the illusion of a human population, immediately as they are surely from the same genus as the memory worms from The Snowmen and Time Heist.

Dollard wisely mines the emotion building up to Clara’s death more than the actual moment itself. The helplessness that the characters feel when having to face the inevitability of her demise, for me, delivers an emotional kick similar to the conclusion of Father’s Day. There is a grim finality to to the moment when Clara walks out, never looking lovelier, to face the raven. The main complaints I’ve seen on Twitter afterwards are that no-one believes we’ve really seen the end of her (the Doctor Who Magazine cover, the fact the the show runner didn’t write this himself etc). This is where the massive appetite for coverage of the show can slightly count against it, and potential spoilers arrive on your doormat unsolicited. It’s a shame to let anything external spoil the enjoyment of such a strong episode though,

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Order Series 9, Part 2 on DVD:

Doctor Who: Series 9 – Part 2 [DVD]

On Blu-Ray:

Doctor Who: Series 9 – Part 2 [Blu-ray]

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