By the time Series 7 of Nu “Doctor Who” came around, Whovians knew that they would be bracing themselves for the departure of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), causing many to speculate who would be filling up the companion’s job aboard the TARDIS next. And interestingly enough, we met Jenna Coleman’s character in a highly unusual way, which is fitting, as her character wasn’t just an “enigma” and divisive among Whovians, but she went through a pretty rough and crazy character journey as well.
Many were shocked when Jenna Coleman appeared as Oswin Oswald, a woman from the future, in the Series 7 opener, “The Asylum of the Daleks”, especially as the Ponds hadn’t left the TARDIS yet. And yet again, many were surprised when a Victorian version of the character, Clara, appeared in “The Snowmen”, and yet again in modern day London as the Lancashire native Clara Oswald, also in the same episode.
This, of course, intrigued the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), and got him to stop sulking over the departure of the Ponds as he had a new mystery to solve- the mystery of the woman he then dubbed as “The Impossible Girl”.
“The Impossible Girl” was supposed to be a fresh start for the Eleventh Doctor, which she was, but at the same time, Clara became a divisive figure, as many began to wonder when Clara the plot device would end, and when we’d be able to start enjoying her as a better written character.
Series 8 and 9, which saw Clara transition into traveling with the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), then managed to do just that, as Steven Moffat was able to give Clara an actual character arc, with a conclusion that still is pretty divisive among Whovians until today.
Coleman’s acting however, while it was strong in Series 7, was allowed to stretch and grow in Series 8, and in particular in Series 9, where she was allowed to shine.
Sassy, fresh, nurturing, a control freak, with the best looking wardrobe that any companion in Nu Who yet has had, Clara Oswald is definitely one companion who made a huge impression on the Doctor, and among Whovians, even though she was very much a controversial topic among them.
Now, before we move forward, you know the drill….
Both the Eleventh Doctor and the viewers first met Clara as Oswin Oswald, in the Series 7 opener, “The Asylum of the Daleks”. Oswin was a bright, sassy, strong willed genius from the future who became the Junior Entertainment Manager of the Starship Alaska so that she could go out and see the stars. Unfortunately for her, Oswin crashed onto the planet used by the Daleks as their insane asylum, and was fully converted, but she didn’t realize that she was a Dalek until the Eleventh Doctor tried to rescue her after she helped him, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), while they were there. The Doctor dubbed her as the “Souffle Girl” because she said that she passed the time by baking souffle’s, but that was actually just a hallucination. Before she died there, she helped the Doctor to escape, erased all information on the Doctor in the Dalek database, and told him these parting words- “Run You Clever Boy, and Remember”. Of course, this dashed everyone’s hopes that the new companion would be from the future.
The next time we met her was in Victorian London, where she, Clara, was living a double life as a barmaid and as a governess. Here, she was bright, had lots of initiative, and actively sought out the Doctor after bumping into him, and following him to his TARDIS, which had been parked on a cloud as he had been sulking after the departure of the Ponds. This Clara was subjected to a rigorous testing process by both the Paternoster Gang and the Doctor, before he decided to invite her to join him. Unfortunately, this version died once again, and the Doctor began to realize who she was after she told him the same parting words that Oswin did. And after seeing her full name- Clara Oswin Oswald, he decided to look into the mystery of this “Impossible Girl”.
And so, he met her once again in modern day London as Clara Oswald- a nanny, who later on became a school teacher at Coal Hill School- in the most unexpected way possible. A mysterious woman gave her the number of the TARDIS saying that he was the computer helpline, which she ended up calling, and the rest was history.
Later on, it was discovered that he kept on meeting different iterations of Clara throughout his timeline as she had stepped into his time stream to help save him after the Great Intelligence entered it in an attempt to destroy him.
Afterwards, Clara was no longer “The Impossible Girl”, leading many to wonder what would be next for her, with the hope that her character would be able to be fully realized now that she is no longer just a plot device.
During the events of “The Time of the Doctor”, it was Clara who asked the Time Lords to help the Doctor, and help they did by giving him a new cycle of regenerations.
As the Eleventh’s time was up, and Twelve (Peter Capaldi) entered into the picture, Clara became the second Nu Who companion to witness a regeneration and travel with the subsequent Doctor.
At first, however, Clara wasn’t sure about Twelve as he was very much different from the Eleventh Doctor, whom she had, at a particular point, fancied.
However, she ends up accepting him, and traveled with him all throughout Series 8 and 9, where she was, indeed, fleshed out and given a two series long character arc.
Throughout Series 8, the relationship between the Doctor and Clara changed, and although the Doctor was the expert in most things, he and Clara were almost equals, with Clara taking charge of certain moments in which the Doctor was too busy thinking of a plan, or when he couldn’t.
She also began a relationship with another teacher from Coal Hill School, a former soldier named Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), whom the Doctor didn’t approve of for a time. He was her grounding force, as Clara began to live another double life- her real life, and “Doctor” life.
However, things began to take a different turn after the Doctor left her to figure out, along with a student and an astronaut, in a very difficult moral dilemma. He had pushed her too far, and she decided to stop traveling with him, until, during their supposed last adventure together, she realized that she was addicted to the Doctor’s lifestyle, and because he did the most Doctor-ish thing possible- he saved people.
Staying on with the Doctor meant that she began lying to both the Doctor and Danny, something that the Doctor quickly picked up on in “Flatline”, when Clara was forced to become the Doctor for that situation. It was also here in which Moffat was seeding in the beginning of Clara’s downfall, and the Doctor began realizing that his relationship with her might not be healthy for her at all.
Danny’s death drove Clara to edge as she decided to stop travelling with the Doctor, but ended up getting a rare second chance to travel with him, which led into the events of Series 9.
Coleman, however, was given great opportunities to shine as an actress, and she was particularly great in “Kill the Moon”, and in “Dark Water/Death in Heaven”. It was also here that Missy or the Mistress (Michelle Gomez) revealed that it was her who orchestrated gave Clara the TARDIS’ number so that they would meet.
Without Danny’s grounding force, things took a turn for the worse for Clara. She became reckless, and an adrenaline junkie.
At first, the Doctor would try to reign her in by reminding her that he’s the Doctor, and not her, and tried to get her to have an interest in other things aside from their travels. He was able to reign her in sometimes, and she would fall back into the role of the companion, but as the days went by, the two ended up enabling each other, and Clara ended up dying because of a reckless decision she made.
Clara’s death caused the Doctor to become furious to the point that he staged a coup on Gallifrey, removed Clara just before her final heartbeat on Trap Street, and brought her to the end of time so that he could wipe her memory of him so that she could continue living on Earth. However, the only problem is that if this did push through, it could fracture all of time and space, thus, the two of them together became the “hybrid” that everyone was afraid about. This, though, was foreshadowed in the Series 9 premiere “The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar”, in which it was clear that the Doctor would go to any length to keep her safe and avenge her death, which Clara forbade him to do.
In the end, instead of Clara forgetting, the Doctor ended up being the one who forgot her; and she ended up traveling throughout time and space in her very own TARDIS, with her very own companion, Ashildr (Maisie Williams), journeying to Gallifrey “the long way round”, where she would be placed back in her own timeline and die. In a way, even though many didn’t like this, and compared this to Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) getting her own Doctor, or Amy’s reappearance in “Time of the Doctor” before he regenerated into the Twelfth Doctor. However, I do believe that this was a great way for Clara to go, as the woman who became like the Doctor, is one as of the moment.
Coleman once again shone here, with her best performances being in “The Witch’s Familiar”, while in a Dalek tank; “The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion” as her Zygon copy named Bonnie; and in “Face the Raven”, and “Hell Bent”.
Clara, as a character, became a little bit controversial among fans as the series or seasons went by. There were those that were annoyed at her being just another plot device as “The Impossible Girl”, and those who got annoyed when they started to have Clara be almost Doctor-like.
In my opinion, Clara was able to get a fuller and richer character arc throughout Series 8 and 9 as compared to Series 7, but the way it was fleshed out and shown made sense for her particular character. I think it was deliberate that they made her Doctor-like, which meant that they knew that Clara would get on people’s nerves. Again, I think that those were all deliberate choices that served her character arc well. She was also written more consistently in her last two series.
In the annals of “Doctor Who” history, Clara has gone above and beyond to save the Doctor, especially as she willingly allowed herself to be ripped up and become echoes of herself just to save him. I think that that is one of the reasons why the Doctor trusts her so much, and why there is a strong bond between them, especially in the case of Twelve and Clara.
As usual, Murray Gold composed a great theme for Clara. It sounded fresh, plucky and bright, and it encapsulated Clara’s personality to the core.
I also made a playlist for Clara, which will be updated as soon as the Series 9 soundtrack is released so that I can include the music from “Face the Raven” and “Hell Bent”.
In the end, Clara was a divisive figure who went through a lot in her own journey, as well as to keep the Doctor safe. Like it or not, “The Impossible Girl” who became the Doctor definitely left an impression on both Whovians and the Doctor alike, it is just a pity that he cannot seem to fully remember who she is.
Did you like Clara Oswald and her other iterations? Which one of them was your favorite? What were your favorite moments of Clara and which ones were your least favorite? Would you like to see Big Finish Productions do audio dramas about Clara’s and Ashildr’s adventures someday? Let me know what you think in the comments below!