A finale of two halves is given to us here. ‘Hell Bent’ is a piece of Sci-Fi with many layers which some multiple views shall be required to get them all. The first half was superb, the second maybe not so much. In the Nevada desert, The Doctor is wandering around until he enters a similar looking diner. He finds a woman there who looks like Clara, though neither of the two seems to recognise each other (we will come back to this after). The Doctor is a broken man, he has been pushed to his limits and is ready to take what is his own; Gallifrey. After fighting for billions of years to get out of his confession dial to get home, all he wants to do is just rest and take in being home. The high council all panicking and fearful of what The Doctor is going to do, the idea of the “hybrid” is obviously not sitting well with them (and being the main reason for locking him away). President Rassilon is intent on getting rid of The Doctor, knowing that The Doctor can defeat him. After sending soldiers and other members of the council to bring The Doctor into the capital, Rassilon eventually comes to claim The Doctor himself. The Doctor only has four words for him, “Get Off My Planet”. The Time Lords don’t want to fight The Doctor, and they all side with The Doctor and we eventually see Rassilon getting chucked off Gallifrey. The Doctor, still clearly very angry, is determined to get one more request fulfilled before he is willing to divulge information on the hybrid. They need to see Clara, acquire her just before she dies…
Using an extraction chamber, they are able to obtain Clara between her last two heartbeats of her life. The Doctor uses this as a way to keep her alive and take her away from her doom. Being frozen, she has no pulse and is ageless. The Doctor knows he is risking huge splinters in time by taking her away from her fate, and fights the Time Lords and the Sisterhood of Karn to get to The Cloisters. It is here The Doctor comes to steal a new TARDIS and hopes to pull Clara far enough away to give her life back and re-ignite her pulse. They go all the way to the end of time, just minutes away from the last remnants being destroyed. Clara is still frozen, but they do encounter Ashildr who has survived all the way to the end. The Doctor claims her to be the Hybrid, and this is denied. The Hybrid is by Ashildr to be The Doctor and Clara, a Time Lord and a human who both have the same characteristics and are willing to do anything. With The Doctor knowing he can’t save Clara, he decides he will have to wipe her mind of her time with The Doctor (similar to what he did to Donna in series 4). The device he goes to use is tampered with by Clara, and it results in The Doctor forgetting about Clara. Though he loses her face in his mind, he mostly remembers Clara by the time their chat in the diner finishes. Clara then leaves The Doctor in the stolen TARDIS with Ashildr and leaves his TARDIS for him. Clara tells Ashildr she will go back to Gallifrey to finally die, but wants to have some fun first. The Doctor takes to his TARDIS, and picks up a super-cool (I know, but it is) new sonic screwdriver and prepares for a new adventure.
I have heaps of praise for Peter Capaldi, this year he has been superb. From his top speeches, the quirky moments and the guitar solos have made him stand out as a top Doctor. Seeing The Doctor finally tread on Gallifrey again for the first time since the Time War, it was fantastic to embrace that and see what he would do with the power granted to him. Although this takes away somewhat from the epic death in ‘Face The Raven’, Jenna Coleman was great to see one more time. We see that she just wants to accept her fate, and knows she has to tear away from this hybrid combination that will destroy time if they stay together. Donald Sumpter gives a great move as Rassilon; it is just unfortunate we don’t get to see more of him in this episode (though this could be setting him up as the Minister Of War? Or am I looking into that too much?). Maisie Williams has done a superb job in this show, Ashildr has surely become the River Song of this series and I mean that very positively. Her character appears at the times when it is required and to see her right at the end of time is a nice touch and adds real solid ground to the shaky second half of this story. I feel Steven Moffat wanted to achieve so much in this story, and the call-backs to ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ and ‘Listen’ work well in creating this story (and the trapping of Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels in the cloister room). But, the whole aspect of bringing Clara back like that following her death was a bit too much. I was hoping she may appear pre-death sentence for The Doctor to say goodbye. Also, Ken Bones and Clare Higgins make great cast additions and really cement the re-emergence of the Time Lords that began with the 50th anniversary special. We now know that Gallifrey is back in the fold, The Doctor is free to travel again and it’s time for him to meet his wife again. But, has River Song been a bit naughty?
Overall, a great episode. Not as strong as the previous two leading into this story, but I feel Moffat should have just restricted the Clara role more as she was dead (and this is mentioned many times). Will the four billion years take a toll on The Doctor? I can’t wait to see. Such conflicting thoughts I have in certain aspects, but I still enjoyed this episode a lot and I can forgive the few problems to say series 9 has been nothing short of fantastic. Bring on Christmas!
Final rating: 8.5/10
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove