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REVIEW: Doctor Who 9×12 “Hell Bent”

There’s a running theme across Doctor Who that a series finale has to be explosive in its action and emotional in its depth, with such finales as “Bad Wolf”/”Parting of the Ways” and “Army of Ghosts”/”Doomsday” setting that standard. “Hell Bent” doesn’t deliver either of those things. On paper, it’s the complete antithesis of what a Doctor Who finale should be. But it’s still got a whopping big heart to it.

“Hell Bent” sees the Doctor returning to his home planet, Gallifrey, his torture from “Heaven Sent” all an elaborate plot to both punish and bring him back to his world in order to face the consequences for creating the Hybrid. However, the Doctor is still a broken and desperate man over the events of Clara’s death, and scrambles to recovery whatever trace of her he can when the opportunity arises, even if it means fracturing all of space and time itself.

“Hell Bent” is an aptly named episode, as it seems hell bent in collapsing in on itself. What begins as a tense, exciting confrontation between the Doctor and the rulers of his race crumbles into a heartbreaking character study about the lengths we may go to to preserve the people we’ve lost in our lives. Does “Hell Bent” pull things off in a spectacular fashion? Errrrrr… Kinda, sort of. I think. Maybe.

This definitely felt like an episode tailor-made to divide fans. Those who cried with happiness when the raven tore through Clara’s chest may not find a lot to enjoy here, as (SPOILERS!) her deceased persona plays a fairly vital role in the story. But what’s more vital here is the Doctor’s uncontrollable state of mind. He snatches Clara moments from her death in an attempt to escape from the realisation that he is the most possible candidate for being the Hybrid. This reaction of the Doctor’s really does sum up what I both love and hate about this recent era of Doctor Who.

We have a Doctor who always seems to be on the bring of madness, and it’s so refreshing to watch a Doctor who has a hint of unpredictability about him after the puppy-eyed Matt Smith and all-round good egg that is David Tennant. But that madness can be seen as plaguing “Hell Bent”. The focus on the character aspect of the story effectively halts the story itself. “Hell Bent” offers no solid conclusion to Series 9 as a whole, and the opening element of the Doctor on the run from the Time Lords feels like a crisp, rollicking adventure to finish the series on, but it’s ultimately left unfinished in favour of seeing the Doctor spill out his desperate emotions to Clara and Me.

“Hell Bent” is an episode that tries to soar through the stars but has trouble flapping its wings. Starting as a full-blown adventure and finishing as quite a tender conclusion, the two have trouble complimenting each other. Which perhaps the cynics will say can be applied to the Doctor and Clara throughout their entire time together. “Hell Bent” still manages to be an effective ending to the series, and pulls on the heartstrings in just the right ways.

Overall Grade – B

+ The Sonic Screwdriver’s back!

+ This really did feel like the end to Clara’s story. Thank God.

+ Retro TARDIS!

+ The Doctor pissing off the Time Lords near the beginning was more than hilarious.

+ Capaldi and Coleman gave sublime performances.

+ That parting moment between the Doctor and Clara, with the Doctor strumming away on his guitar and Clara rejoining Me in the TARDIS control room, was more than a little heartbreaking.

– So… what happens to Me now?

– Are the Time Lords still pissed at the Doctor for creating the Hybrid? Now that he has no memory of Clara, and Clara returning to her death, they’re both as safe as can be, but will the Time Lords realise this?

– For a dead girl Clara sure enjoys being alive

– Seriously, the Time Lords were just forgotten about for the last half of the episode.

Extra Thought

I’m pretty convinced that it was the Doctor who was the Hybrid all along, but it feels for the weakest of reasons. Essentially, he’s the Hybrid because he spends so much time on Earth, surrounded by humans. That doesn’t make him a Hybrid in the literal sense, does it? Surely Davros is the more palpable suspect, as he stole some of the Doctor’s regeneration energy to heal himself way back in the opening two-parter.

What did you make of “Hell Bent”? Was it the finale you wanted? Let us know in the comments section or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara