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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Until then, it was a joy to watch the impossible girl run.
Other Discussions about Series Seven:
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