Face the Raven

First of all, there is no way in hell that this is a self-contained story, despite what the official lists will have you believe. I recall that the series was initially billed as having a three-part finale, and that’s what it is as far as I’m concerned; despite how different the three episodes are, it’s clearly one continuous sequence of events.

Nevertheless, this blog must slavishly follow the rules, so I find myself contemplating a still incomplete tale. Luckily, it’s an absolute corker. The trap street is such a good idea, although perhaps it would have been a bit more fun if it wasn’t for the perception filter that made every member of the alien menagerie look human – which is admittedly another good idea, from a budgetary perspective.

Ashildr/Me is back as the mayor of the street (can you be a mayor of a street?), and she’s a full on villain here. This is surprising after she seemingly turned a corner at the end of The Woman Who Lived – no sign of her immortality buddy Rufus Hound either. It sounds like I’m moaning, but I only mention this because I spent the majority of the episode totally gripped and thus unable to make many notes – even the second time around, the twists in the mystery that ensnares the Doctor kept me guessing.

I was worried that the knowledge of what’s to come would lessen the impact of what happens to Clara, but not a bit of it. Her recklessness has been a theme of this series, and this is what it’s all leading up to. The realisation that Clara can’t be saved is heartbreaking to watch, and the Doctor being so furious and vengeful is strangely touching. There must be very few actors who can make you cry by being angry.

But cry I did, as Clara was killed by a big crow. Despite how daft it sounds on paper, it’s incredibly emotional and expertly crafted. Even the mural Rigsy paints on the abandoned TARDIS makes me sniffle again, after I’d been snapped out of it by the power of the Doctor’s furious threat to Ashildr. It’s pretty hard to forgive her for what she does, but it reminds me of the recent series finale of Peaky Blinders, in which (SPOILERS) Alfie Solomons agrees to set a trap for the Shelbys, even though he knew he’d be killed in retribution, mostly just for a quiet life. The Doctor must forgive her to some extent by the end of the finale, but I guess he has lots of time to think it over…

RATING: 9

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Flatline

Two episodes in a row by the same writer (has that ever been done by someone other than a showrunner before?), and they share a few things in common, starting with the short and snappy pretitles depicting the first of many grisly deaths. And much like MOTOE, it’s absolutely brilliant. I’d never heard of Jamie Mathieson before he did Who, yet he went and delivered two of the best episodes of the series.

The tiny TARDIS is a hell of a hook, as well as being totally adorable, and also a means of getting Capaldi out of a load of location filming. It’s a Doctor-lite story that doesn’t feel like one, as he’s constantly there, he’s just in Clara’s handbag. The setup allows Clara to be the Doctor for the day, and she’s brilliant at it. It hasn’t been that long since I was watching her earliest appearances, and the difference is staggering. I think this episode was the tipping point that switched my opinion from “well, she’s definitely better than she was last year” to “ok, she’s actually a great companion now”.

With the companion being the Doctor, the companion’s very own companion was Rigsy, who did the job well. In another parallel with the last one, the first half of the episode was a creepy and careful constructed murder mystery, and I very much enjoyed the slow build up, taking the time to really explore the situation. Once the Doctor had figured it out, it segued into a traditional monster chase, complete with gang to be picked off one by one, and this was equally successful, providing the highlight of the episode when the Doctor had to “Addams Family” the TARDIS out of danger.

Among the ensemble were one of the coppers from Early Doors as a train driver, and Moxey from Auf Wiedersehen Pet as an irredeemably unpleasant prick, who seemingly exists to show that it’s not always the nice ones who survive. This is something that also happened in Voyage of the Damned, and as this is the second day in a row I’ve been reminded of that shambles, I reckon Mathieson is inexplicably a fan. It looked for a while like Rigsy would make the noble sacrifice, and I enjoyed the subversion as Clara drags him away, but it would have been interesting to explore why he was so keen to go on a suicide mission, albeit possibly too dark for Saturday teatime.

Instead, he gets to save the day through spraypainting a fake door, like he’s Wile E Coyote, allowing the Doctor to finally get out of the TARDIS and kick some arse. I bloody love Capaldi. The closing scene where the Doctor is perturbed by how well Clara deputised for him is – in retrospect – the first seeds of the hybrid thing that ran through the following series.

There’s just time for a tiny Missy cameo, where she implies that she “chose” Clara. We’re getting to the stage now where, even though I’ve never rewatched these episodes before, they’re recent enough that I can remember what all the foreshadowing refers to.

RATING: 10