Is Hell Bent boring to watch? Certainly not. Is it the most flawed story of all time? Yes. Series 9’s finale actually started well. The first twenty minutes were brilliant in fact. It’s just a shame that what followed was a disaster.
November 2015 and it was over ten years since Doctor Who returned to our screens back in “Rose”. For all that time the Doctor had been effectively homeless as up until “The Day of the Doctor” he believed his home planet, Gallifrey had gone. So when Peter Calapdi arrived on Gallifrey at the end of “Heaven Sent” it looked as though the finale promised what we’d all been longing for. The Doctor was finally home and we were going to see how he’d be received by his people who he thought he’d wiped out but in fact saved. The opening to “Hell Bent” was everything we could’ve hoped for. Capaldi was on top form and what a moment it was when he told the legendary Rassilon to “get off his planet”. However, from then on it, the episode was a complete shambles. The direction completely changed when the Doctor entered the High Council’s office-like headquarters. We were then subjected to one of the worst pieces of writing in the show’s history. Everything that had happened in the show’s history was just completely overlooked by Steven Moffat as the Doctor’s desire to save Clara shone through.
Saving her from the Raven on Trap Street ruined one of the most perfect companion exits we’d seen. Yes, most of the fans didn’t want Clara to die but it’s hard to argue any other exit would’ve suited her. She was determined to travel with the Doctor and her urge for adventure and risk had to lead to her eventual downfall. The Doctor even knew this so it didn’t make sense when he opened up a time portal at the end of her timeline and extracted her. Yes Capaldi is a rebel Time Lord, but to meddle with time in such a way was just down right dumb. And then he inexplicably shot the General, a likeable character who the Doctor got on with throughout the episode and in his last appearance in “The Day of the Doctor”. Referring back to “The End of Time”, the Doctor dreads regeneration as it “feels like dying”. So why would the man who saves everybody so willingly shoot an apparent friend in cold blood? It was so un-Doctor-like. Also, Steven Moffat treated viewers like idiots, forcing the fact Time Lords can change gender and ethnicity after regenerating down our throats. As if we didn’t know that already after “The Night of the Doctor” and the appearance of Missy. The General’s drastic change only caused some confusion and she lacked relatablility to her previous incarnation.
Moving on to later in the episode and the Doctor arrived at the end of the universe with Clara, trying to restart her pulse. Here he meets Ashildr/Me who seems to be the last survivor of the universe. The series arc of the hybrid had been teased throughout but did we find out what it was? No. In fact it was worse than that. The Doctor and Me then just theorised about what it could be, extremely frustrating to watch. Why put so much effort into an arc only to not resolve it? Even if the hybrid is uncovered in series ten, that scene will still be redundant.
Onto the conclusion of the episode and even more infuriatingly, the Doctor forgot Clara. Yes, the person he went to such extreme lengths to save. He needlessly used the neuroblock and forgot everything about her. It was a 50:50 chance, either he would forget her or Clara would forget him and it was such an unnecessary moment. Why couldn’t Clara just be returned to Trap Street to die, memories intact? And then in the diner when the Doctor was talking to Clara about finding her, she showed an astounding lack of emotion for someone who loved the Doctor so much. He was pouring his heart out about how much he loved his time with his companion and that he was looking for her and she reacted to his tale as if she was a stranger. Why wouldn’t she plead with the Doctor that she is the Clara he’s looking for? Even just a shred of sadness on her face would’ve been an improvement.
The strange thing is I actually enjoyed “Hell Bent” on first viewing. It was undoubtedly an easy on the eye and entertaining finale. It was only on second and third viewing that it really sunk in how flawed the episode was. We were teased with a Doctor versus Time Lord battle on Gallifrey, something we’d been eagerly anticipating for over ten years, and what did we get? A stupid, non-sensical plot twist that left me scratching my head. In what world could Steven Moffat possible come to the conclusion that Clara’s “Face The Raven” death could be topped by this infuriating piece of nonsense? How can you just dismiss Gallifrey as if the Doctor was on a usual weekly visit? I hope my frustration has come across as this was an episode that promised so much and left me feeling that what could’ve been a monumental finale, was taken away.