Doctor Who “Hell Bent” Review (Season 9 Episode 12)

As big and momentous as the return of Gallifrey and the Time Lords could have been, “Hell Bent” was never really about them. Yes, after what’s now been a solid decade-long absence, it was a big deal to see the Doctor’s former home world restored, but that hasn’t been the heart of this season. Instead of some year-long mystery with cryptic teases along the way, this season was all about the relationship between the Doctor and Clara Oswald, and what it means for a human to start thinking like and become as reckless as a Time Lord. So it’s only right that this episode was truly about bringing one of the best friendships in the revival era of Doctor Who to a close.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it? The Doctor has never cared much for the Time Lords, first running away from them and then doing all he could to stop their madness in the Time War. His only care for them is making sure they know their place and don’t think themselves as gods of the universe, even as the Doctor himself flirts with that notion. There are serious shades of the Time Lord Victorious in his actions tonight, but they come less from a desire to master everything than it does from a desperate attempt to save his dearest friend.

And it’s important to note how important Clara is to the Twelfth Doctor in particular. She was truly his companion in a way she wasn’t to the Eleventh, the person who helped him find himself again after regenerating. All the way back in the season eight premiere, the Doctor asked Clara if he was a good man or not. She didn’t know the answer then, but she gave a definitive answer here by not allowing the Doctor to give in to his one selfish impulse, however heartfelt it might have been.

The two just worked together, with Capaldi and Coleman having a wonderful screen chemistry that helped deepen both characters. It’s amazingly satisfying to see how Clara has evolved from the walking plot point she served as in her first season, to the point that she truly earned the opportunity to travel the stars in her diner-shaped TARDIS. She may not rank among the top companions to ever travel with the Doctor, but hers was one of the best send-offs in modern Who.

And so the Doctor stands alone once again, once more wearing his traditional outfit and wielding an awesome new screwdriver. However, he’s in a better place than we’ve perhaps ever seen him post-companion, ready to take on the universe and be the man he truly is once more. It’s a hopeful place to leave things, and a fitting cap to the best season of the show in years.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!