Thoughts on Clara Oswald

I’m concerned about Clara Oswald. Since Amy Pond’s plotline turned into such a mess, there was always the hope that a new companion meant a new start, a clean slate, and the ability to enjoy the show again. But although it seems premature to criticize a character who hasn’t properly appeared yet, warning bells are going off in my head.

Clara Oswald’s character is built to fail, because Clara is not being set up as a character; she’s a plot device. She’s been introduced as a mystery that has piqued the Doctor’s interest, just like a crack in a bedroom wall or a monster in the window of one of Van Gogh’s paintings, and the plot isn’t about this awesome person who adventures with the Doctor, but the Doctor’s attempt to figure out something that, in Moffat’s hands, is never going to make sense.

All my fingers are crossed that Clara doesn’t continue to die. If our companion dies at the end of every episode, and is replaced with someone from another time who looks the same, all chance for character development, or the development of a proper relationship between the Doctor and Clara, is lost. In this scenario, Clara is truly nothing more than a walking, talking plot device, as individual as the cracks across the universe (although possibly less deadly).

But even if the Clara we find in Saturday’s episode remains with us throughout the season, things are already looking ropey. In the prequel episode that was released at the weekend, the Doctor talks to a random young girl about the friend he’s lost. The girl, of course, turns out to be a young Clara. Which leaves me wondering… has Moffat ever written a major female character who doesn’t meet the Doctor as a child, obsess about him throughout her life, and then kiss him when she meets up with him again? Amy does it, River does it when her timeline is flipped, even minor, one-episode characters do it. Hopefully, in a realistic world, young!Clara won’t remember meeting the Doctor for more than a day… but in Moffat’s world, that seems unlikely. Once again, she seems like a female character primed to have her whole life built around the Doctor. And Clara, even more so than Amy, seems like a character whose personality, interests and life don’t matter. She is the same person across time, a person who keeps dying and reappearing, and the Doctor is determined to hunt her down to figure her out, rather than because he thinks “she was an interesting person. I want to see her again.”

New Who has always been about the somewhat-crazy, deeply flawed Doctor, and the amazing, seemingly-normal human being who shares his adventures. The narrative focus has always been on the companion. They’re our point of entry into the show, our emotional connection, the surrogate for the viewer — and, amazingly, they’re fully-fledged female characters. The narrative has had its problems, but it features real women who often drive the story and achieve great things. Now the female companion has been reduced to a point of interest, another piece of the convoluted plot that is the Doctor’s world. They are there for eye-candy, for some male-gaze camera angles, and for some Strong Female Character sexualized fighting, but they are not developed, do not have family or friends, do not have emotional consistency or long-term thoughts, opinions or problems of their own. Only lip service is paid to them being actual individuals, while the Doctor runs the show.

This is all speculation, of course, and I hope that I’m wrong. But everything about Doctor Who makes me nervous these days, and with Moffat still at the helm, reusing old, problematic tropes before the season has even begun, I doubt my concern is misplaced.

One comment on “Thoughts on Clara Oswald

  • Andrea K Host , Direct link to comment

    I really enjoy the actress for Clara – she comes across as immensely likeable. She’s most definitely been cast on the primary criteria of “Moffat thinks she’s hot”, but I can live with that for the potentially wonderful character.

    But I by now have learned to expect that:

    1. Story coherency and consistency will be sacrificed for the season arc. Individual stories will simply be a vehicle for Clara to say “Run you clever boy” and drop a few more clues. [I don’t think she will die every episode, unless she dies and is resurrected as the same Clara.]

    2. She will vacillate between sassy competence and crying out for help and needing to be rescued/sacrificing herself. There will be little consistency in this.

    3. She will hardly ever ever EVER talk to other female characters.

    4. She will turn out to be all about the Doctor. She’ll either be the TARDIS again, or the Doctor’s daughter, or a future incarnation of the Doctor (unlikely since she’s female, but would be pretty stunning) or some fragment of the Doctor’s mind which was separated from him and spread throughout the universe, taking the image of Clara because. Or even the Key to Time, which did much the same thing.

    5. She won’t have a personal development arc – she’s already sassy and super-intelligent and evidently when she’s about to die she knows what’s going on and wants the Doctor to remember.

    6. At the end of the season, she will make me sigh and hope that she/the current Doctor/Moffat leaves the franchise sooner rather than later.

    I shouldn’t feel this way. But I have little optimism left.

What do you think?

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