Doctor Who: Hell Bent (EPISODE REVIEW)

Don’t think for a second that I’ve forgotten about Doctor Who. I haven’t written a review for a handful of weeks, but that’s simply because I’ve been so busy/preoccupied with getting content onto the site from other mediums. Series 9 has been a wild ride. And there isn’t a dud to be found throughout. It’ll go down as one of the best seasons in a while, perhaps the best of Moffat’s run. And this was perhaps one of the bravest season finales we’ve had in the whole run of the show’s long history.

You may be under the impression that it felt disjointed, but going back you’ll find the subtle nuances in the writing incredibly foreshadowing, and the themes were played to precision. (I’m not even referring to ‘the Hybrid’.) But more on that later in the week – I have a guest contributor who’s writing a substantial post on the true theme of the series; the theme most people missed. Stay tuned.

Hell Bent, jumping off the fascinatingly offbeat tale of the previous Heaven Sent, finds the Doctor landing himself in the midst of the planet Gallifrey, which is hiding at the tail-end of history. But he’s not there to find Gallifrey. He’s not there to bring it back, as we thought was the case after it was revealed that Gallifrey still existed in the Day of the Doctor. He’s here for vengeance. Not for trapping his self inside his confession dial, to reclaim the secrets of the Hybrid. It was because they, inadvertently, orchestrated the death of his loyal companion, Clara Oswald. And they had a way to bring her back, if only briefly.

The Doctor ends up becoming the Lord President of Gallifrey, literally stripping the title out of Rassilon’s hands. He then abuses this power, without regard for anyone on Gallifrey else in the universe! Just to save his companion.

The inclusion of the Cloister Wraiths was, ultimately, only a mood changer, and doesn’t really add to the story. Cool idea, but you can tell most of their backstory was left on the cutting board.

Meanwhile, on Earth, the Doctor is telling Clara the story about how he got where he was. The entire time we’re privy to their conversation we assume Clara has somehow lost her memory of the Doctor. This is a happening we’ve seen previously, most notably with Donna Noble in series 4. And I’m not super picky. If we get a reused tool down the line, I can suspend disbelief long enough to let the story win me over. I wasn’t expecting the eventual twist.

The Doctor broke all of his own rules in this episode. And in the end we see the tragic inevitability of his folly. He not only lost Clara, but all memory associated with her. This is a first for Doctor Who. The Doctor has never forgotten a companion. And it was handled with such beautiful, tragic finesse. I felt that Clara had an appropriate exit a few episodes back in Face the Raven – but this was exceptional. It is left open-ended on her part, and with Ashildr by her side, she’s sure to have many more offscreen adventures after the fact. But eventually, she will have to face the raven, and Clara isn’t scared of that fact.

There’s so much more to dissect from this story. Rassilon is going to bite the Doctor in the butt eventually. Where’s the Master gone off to? Will the Doctor unknowingly meet Clara and her TARDIS (with the classic First Doctor design) again? We have a new screwdriver to play around with, and Gallifrey’s back, and we can assume the Doctor’s next companion will be revealed soon. It’s a great time to be a fan of the show. Now if only we can finally get Moffat out of office…

Be on the lookout later this week for a special in-depth study of Series 9’s themes!

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8 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Hell Bent (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. I’m going to stay away from the negative… and I did have a few nits to pick… but I loved seeing the retro-Tardis interior. I actually kind of wish they’d make that the main one for a series. It would probably save some money over the current set design that they could use elsewhere AND it still looks really cool. In fact, one of the things the classic show always did well was those console room scenes. Even going back to the oldest of old and cheapest of cheap, that classic Tardis console always worked.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah… I’ve thought about it before, but figured it would cost them new money to make a new set, even a less-complicated one… but now that they’ve built one for this episode I really hope they keep it and use it some more! There was never anything wrong with the classic set designs that they tweaked over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think I read that it was the console from An Adventure in Space and Time, but painted white (the original console, as can be seen in Season 7, was green). However, the console room was new — the Gatiss-episode console room set had to look old and cheap, but the new one had to stand out and look great in HD.

        Not gonna lie, seeing the original Hartnell console room (with Fault Locator!) was the highlight of the episode to me, up to the halfway point. The last 25 minutes, with basically a cast of just 3 people, was an incredible bit of television…

        Liked by 1 person

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