I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. When Clara was first introduced, and when her arc with Matt Smith ended I considered her one of the better characters.

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Image taken from Pinterest for character study purposes.

However, from the moment Capaldi’s arc started, I’m of the opinion that the writers weren’t ready to let Smith go so Capaldi could shine, and no character suffered more for that than Clara.

During Capaldi’s entire arc, Clara’s character degraded to such a degree that I’m of the opinion there are some who think of her as one of the worst companions of the modern era. But why?

 

Here are my reasons:

  1. Continuity Conflict: We established that Clara’s arc at the end of Smith’s tenure was wonderful. The problem is, when Smith left and Capaldi came in Clara was resentful of the “older” Capaldi. She had an entire episode where she “came to grips” with the Doctor being a different person.  The problem is, if anyone were able to roll with the regeneration mojo, it would be the companion who has helped every doctor to have been or to come. In fact, she should have recognized that doctor.
    1. Very_Ancient_Eleven
      Image taken from the TARDIS Data Core website.

      Some might argue, “But her memory reset!”  Really, then explain the scene when Clara speaks with the aged Smith in “Time of the Doctor.” She told him, “You’ll just pop up with a new face.” This is when the show went on to account for the cannon’s established number of regenerations (12).  She knew that Smith would go, and another new face would appear.

    2. Only she didn’t. She acted with shock and even asked if there was a way to change him back. This rather bigoted point of view from a character who should know the Doctor better than most just felt half-hearted. Especially in the “argument” she posed on why she wasn’t bigoted (but then continued to doubt the Doctor.
  2. gallery_uktv-doctor-who-s08-e04-2A Love Story with No Love: The show went on to push the love story between her and Danny Pink. The problem, they never developed that love story. Compare the love story between Rory and Amy, a story that was so compelling, Amy’s choice to stay go be with Rory (while the reason I hate her (she was the only character the Doctor begged to stay with him)) made sense because they established several times through  multiple season just how much they mean to one another.  Meanwhile, Pink went on one awful date and had one speech (in which she lied to this man she was supposed to love so much she betrayed the doctor). So when that episode happened, her heartbreak over Pink’s death just didn’t mean anything. For crying out loud, she professed her love over the phone. (eye roll)
    1. This love story didn’t have any development or growth, so her reaction to his death just felt like an excuse.
  3. A Fall From Grace with No Consequence: I think this is the most tragic reason this character just fell apart. The following season, we saw Clara begin to get pretty dark. (The justification did feel off from the beginning since we’re still just finding it hard to believe she cared so much for a man she willfully lied to.) Anyway, justification aside, this arc was fascinating…
    1. face-the-raven-16x9
      Image taken from The Ultimate Guide to the Fashion of Doctor Who website.

      … until she never had to face the consequences for her fall.  This season was one of the most frustrating for me because we’d see an episode that was just fantastic (Face the Raven or Heaven Sent) are undercut by episodes that render the tragic cost of those episodes moot. Clara makes a huge mistake and heroically accepts her fate (until the Doctor brings her back). I even disliked the return of the Doctor’s memories.

    2. When character makes poor decision after poor decision but doesn’t face consequences, it annoys the audience. They start to doubt the story will unfold with any real suspension of disbelief.  Comic books kill characters and bring them back all the time; however, those characters are at least dead for more than two episodes.

All of these reasons have nothing to do with Jenna Coleman or her acting ability to act (which I feel is outstanding). The problem is, in my opinion, with the writing. The plotting for Clara’s arc lacked respect for her previously established cannon and enough foreshadowing to make her plot twists convincing.

I think this is all unfortunate as she was such a great companion through Smith’s tenure.  Whatever happens with this new Doctor, I’m glad this new Doctor is getting a new companion. This will let us judge the pair together and individually.

What do you think? Do you still like Clara? Do you have more reasons her arc didn’t work? (Please don’t just bash characters or actors. I always seek to analyze based on definable characteristics not just raw emotion.)

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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10 thoughts on “Why Clara Oswald Fell Apart as a Character

  1. You make some good points, but they’re all symptoms of a larger issue with Steven Moffat’s writing: his refusal, or inability, to ever properly end a story or answer the questions he raises (OK, Amy sort of got an ending, but she’s the only one who really did)-

    The problem with Clara is that Moffat NEVER explores anything about what it really means that she’s the Impossible Girl who jumped into the Doctor’s timeline and was a part of every one of his lives. He never properly resolves anything that happened in Name of the Doctor at all.

    I totally agree about Danny Pink. None of that was done well at all, and I didn’t feel anything when he died, either. But again, that’s a smaller piece of a larger problem.

    A big part of the problem with Clara and Twelve stems from the fact that she was supposed to leave at the end of the Christmas special, and the end of the season was written that way. When Jenna Coleman decided to come back, her story was already told.

    I could go on about the writing sins of Moffat, but I think I’ll stop here…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Being a writer who’s made a fair number of mistakes, I try very hard not to go off on anyone, especially someone who created characters we’re all so passionate about. In fact, the very discussion an passion we have in this proves at least some sort of ability. Yes, I could (and many could) poke and prod at Moffat’s era, but we have the Doctor back because of him, and I’ll always bless him for that. Capaldi and Coleman’s run was unfortunate in how it was handled, but I’m glad the show is on and going strong.

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    1. I love character studies. I always will. Clara’s Impossible Girl act was inspired. I just wish it had ended there in some form. Honestly, I wanted her to die, and for it to be the Doctor’s fault. I thought that would have opened the door for some amazing stories.

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  2. Clara was brilliant during the Matt Smith era. Her character was absolute genius. But midway through Capaldi her genius fell flat. The dynamic was so poor I stopped watching.
    It’s clear the writing changed somewhere around there, and it’s too bad. I loved Capaldi as the doctor.

    Liked by 1 person

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