The Impossible Girl, the Writer of Her Own Story: A Look at Clara Oswald’s First Year

Clara's eyes

My Impossible Girl, Writer of Her Own Story: A Retrospective of Clara’s First Season

From the beginning she was impossible. She turned up without warning several episodes before the fans were told she was going to be introduced. She held her mind together against the terrors of the Daleks by making soufflés and playing Carmen.

clara 1

Then she was in Victorian London. And she started doing what the Doctor probably thought was impossible: she drew him back into life by turning his world on its head. Usually the Doctor asks a companion along, and they refuse or accept. But Clara kept following the Doctor no matter how many times he tried to ditch her, until she ended up almost sneaking into the TARDIS. She drew the Doctor kicking and screaming back into the universe. Because maybe the universe doesn’t care about the Doctor, but Clara always does.

clara and the tardis

And then she was just Clara. Her third introduction was less thorough than her first two, which some have complained about. But there’s method to the madness: all the Claras were Clara. The personalities we met earlier were also Clara all along. She didn’t have clearly defined reasons for running away with the Doctor, because she wasn’t running away with the Doctor. She refused from day one to twist her life to fit him, instead making him fit himself into her life. She didn’t move in with him as every other companion has. She introduced him to her non-traditional family unit, and by the last episode he was familiar enough to be (unwisely) left babysitting.

clara the nanny

They spent the season running. Clara defeated planet monsters, commanded soldiers, and bullied the TARDIS into doing the impossible. She damseled when necessary but she never acted like a damsel in distress. She was sassy and fun. And is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a teeny bit sexy?

And then we got to the end. The essential problems of the last two lady Doctor’s companions was that they weren’t writing their own stories. Amy’s choices were always between who was going to write her story. River wrote the story for a while, and then she turned it over to the Doctor.

Clara was ALWAYS the writer of her own story. She was very, very afraid, but she made the choices to walk into danger in spite of that fear. She made the decisions about how her relationship with the Doctor was going to play out. The Doctor may always know more than she does, but because he needs her more than she needs him, she is the dominant partner as often as he is. Clara once said that she was only alive because she did as the Doctor said, but that wasn’t really true. Clara survived because she knew what all the best companions know: when to do what the Doctor says, and when to ignore him or ask more questions.

Clara becomes bad wolf

And, as I predicted here back during “Bells of St. John,” Clara was the one who made the decision to become impossible. She knew she could do it because she’d already done it. She ignored the Doctor’s protests and walked to her death. She spread herself through time and space, and saved the Doctor a thousand times.

And not only did she save him, but she was awesome doing it.

She set him up with the TARDIS (ungrateful old sexy).

So she was sort of a time lord...

So she was sort of a time lord…

She didn’t just save him in the Dalek Asylum: she utterly devastated the Dalek’s secret base, then erased the memory of their greatest predator, saving him from Daleks for the rest of the future.

clara is cool

She didn’t just save him from the Great Intelligence: she made him get down off his cloud and engage in real life again. Her death directly resulted in the disintegration of the Great Intelligence.

clara governess

A soufflé isn’t a soufflé, a soufflé is the recipe. She was always Clara, all through time. And she was always the one writing the story.

In the end, the Doctor saved her, because she was his impossible girl. It was impossible that she should save him. And it would have been impossible for her to survive, except that she had him.

end of name of doc

Until then, it was a joy to watch the impossible girl run.

On Clara:

Are the Doctor and Clara in Love?

Comparing the Mysteries of Clara and River

Clara Oswald as Bad Wolf

Clara and Rose

Best Clara Oswald Moments of Awesome

Why this Season was a Humanist Parable

Other Discussions about Series Seven:

Rest In Peace, River Song

The Doctor: Destroyer of Lives

Episode Reviews:

The Name of the Doctor

Nightmare in Silver

The Crimson Horror

Journey to the Center of the TARDIS


Cold War

The Rings of Akhaten

The Bells of St John



5 thoughts on “The Impossible Girl, the Writer of Her Own Story: A Look at Clara Oswald’s First Year

  1. Pingback: “The name I chose is ‘The Doctor.’ The name you choose is like a promise you make”: The Name of the Doctor | Remember the Ladies
  2. Pingback: Rest in Peace River Song | Remember the Ladies
  3. “And whatever the hell makes Clara keep coming back, it’ll have something to do with love.”
    She was just a girl, who decided to be brave and save her friend.

    Although I have to disagree with you on Amy and River. In particular, the idea that Amy didn’t write her own story–after the end of TATM, (this is the story of Amelia Pond, and the Doctor doesn’t appear, and Rory is just one small part) I just can’t believe that.

  4. I’m *interested* in Clara Oswald, I *want* to know more about her but what I want to know *most* is what separates her, personality-wise, from similar companions. What is it, aside from her story line, that makes her *unique*?
    Maybe I’m just not an observant person when it comes to details and I need to have things spelled out for me sometimes, but when I try to describe her to myself in my head I find myself seeing similarities to characters from the past rather than differences.

    • Well, in a show this big I’d say it’s totally normal for characters to be defined largely by how they differ from the past. Each character has to be, like the Doctor himself, old-new, combined references to other characters with their own unique traits.
      Clara’s personality actually ended up being summed up on screen: “bubbly personality masking bossy control freak.” She gets scared a lot, but mostly she’s a savvy (and benevolent) manipulator. You can see it when she directs her relationship with the Doctor, the terms by which she travels with him. This evolves over time as she gets to know him, so that by the time we hit “Day of the Doctor,” she’s deliberately shaping him to bring him closer to being a real person.
      That’s the long answer. The short answer is: she’s both bossy and manipulative, she’s increasingly self-assured, she’s positively bubbly, and (so far) she’s got the Doctor wrapped around her little finger 9/10 times. Does that answer your question?

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