Doctor Who’s season finale, “Hell Bent,” aired this Saturday, a follow-on to the knock-out episode, “Heaven Sent.” “Hell Bent” explored the consequences of that episode and added some new layers to the Time Lord we really don't know but love anyway.
SPOILERS to follow. You have been warned.
Backstory: In “Heaven Sent,” we learned that for thousands, then ten thousand, then two billion years, the Doctor had been killed and resurrected, all because he refused to share what he knew about an enemy known as the Hybrid.
“Hell Bent” starts with the Doctor on his home planet of Gallifrey. He soon maneuvers his way into rescuing Clara between her final heartbeat and death. Clara, who does not want to be rescued, winds up wiping the Doctor’s memory of her. After saying her goodbyes, she leaves.
Here’s what the episode taught us about the Doctor:
The Doctor is, indeed, the Hybrid.
Although the Doctor had ventured that the hybrid was Me, aka Ashildr, Me asks, “What if the hybrid wasn’t one person, but two,” the Doctor and Clara? But at the end of the episode, Clara leaves the Doctor’s side in a TARDIS that she and Me stole -- without the prophecy of “conquering Gallifrey and standing in its ruins” coming to life.
So, how do we really know he’s the Gallifreyan equivalent of Darth Vader? Because he said it himself when his memories were fading: “I went too far. I became the Hybrid.” Although he didn’t conquer Gallifrey, he did depose Rassilon. And as for standing in its ruins, he traveled to the end of the universe where Me, and only Me, remained.
It’s not the bloody image that the prophecy evoked, but it is nevertheless true.
The Doctor had actually looped for four and a half billion years …
… and the knowledge of that may have driven him a little bit insane.
We saw it in Clara’s face when he told her how long he had been imprisoned. A slight case of the crazies may have explained how determined he was to save her, even when she explicitly didn’t want saving.
Clara can outsmart the Doctor
The Doctor tried to wipe Clara’s memory, which is how he parted from Donna two regenerations ago. But when he wasn’t looking, Clara reprogrammed the neural block. When she told him, they grabbed the neural block together, and Clara managed to win the Whoniverse equivalent of a coin toss. The Doctor’s memory is wiped instead.
“One of us has to go,” she told him. So Clara leaves in a TARDIS of her (and Me’s) own, but not before she returns his TARDIS to him. From early Season 7 until the middle of Season 9, Clara has proven to be resourceful. But very few people have been able to beat the Doctor at his own game.
Missy may have had a hand in the Doctor’s torment.
Clara meets the Doctor back in “The Bells of Saint John” after receiving his phone number from Missy; in “The Magician’s Apprentice,” Missy is the one who gives Clara the Doctor’s Confession dial.
Ashildr/Me was quick to point out to the Doctor that Missy was a lover of chaos who wants him to love it, too. Why did Me bring Missy into the conversation? Perhaps she — and Moffat — know more than we do.
Time Lords are mean as hell.
When Time Lords die, their memories are uploaded into a matrix ... which is defended by captured enemies: “ghosts in a crypt made of more ghosts.” Considering how long the Dalek, the Cyberman and the Weeping Angels have been stuck down in the Matrix room — an unstated but weighty length of time -- you almost feel sorry for them.
When the Doctor arrives on Gallifrey, he quickly orders Rasillon and the High Council off of "his" planet. Shortly thereafter, he shoots another Time Lord, one of the few times he has scratched an itchy trigger finger. Damn, you bring the Doctor to Gallifrey even for a few minutes, and he gets gangsta. (On the plus side, he delivers one of the episode's best lines, "Dead is just Time Lord for 'man flu.'")
QUESTIONS THAT NEED ANSWERS:
Can the Doctor regenerate again?
We’ve learned that Time Lords can regenerate into Time Ladies ever since Missy Michelle Gomez stepped into Master John Simm’s shoes. But here the president of Gallifrey, Rassilon, mentioned that people are granted regenerations.
Was that a poor choice of verbiage on Steven Moffat’s part? Or does it mean the Doctor will somehow acquire more lives? We hope to learn more before our favorite BBC show faces its self-imposed expiration date.
Why was there a TARDIS within a TARDIS without consequences?
We first saw a TARDIS-within-a-TARDIS configuration in the episode "Logopolis," in which the Doctor materialized around a police box ... that just happened to be the Master’s TARDIS in disguise. There it produced a recursive loop. Later, in a two-parter "Space and Time," produced for the charity Comic Relief, the consequences were made very clear: The whole timeline could collapse, sudden death, that sort of thing.
But in “Hell Bent,” when Clara and Me dematerialize, they leave the Doctor’s TARDIS behind, which means that Me and Clara had wrapped their new-yet-classic TARDIS -- one that had the look of the original control room, a heart-fluttering touch for us old-school fans -- around the Doctor’s time machine. Where’s the kaboom? There’s supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom.