We all know Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) was split into multiple personalities spread across time and space. But the Clara of series 7 seems vastly different from the Clara of series 8. Why was that?
Last year I had the privilege of seeing the world premier of series eight of Doctor Who. During the screening something got to me and made me raise an eyebrow or two. Clara hadn’t changed much that I could see, and yet the characters around her seemed to have a very different impression of her. It was one I had trouble making sense of in light of everything we knew about the character up to that point.
Strax, when examining Clara’s subconscious, detects “Deflected narcissism. Traces of passive aggressive.” And later the Doctor says, “Never try and control a control freak.” when talking about Clara.
I recall being quite stunned by this assertion. Back in season seven, when alongside the Eleventh Doctor, Clara was seen acting very selflessly, very open, and above all considerate and caring. She gave up on her dreams of travelling the world to become a nanny to Artie and Angie Maitland. She had a chance to explore the alien world of Akhaten, but she forewent that opportunity and spent time comforting and encouraging the distraught Merry Galel. She showed tremendous sympathy and empathy for the Ice Warrior Skaldak, tapping into his deep seated love of his daughter. She even gave up living on the TARDIS, opting for occasional adventures as she still had responsibilities on earth. And ultimately, she sacrificed her own life in order to save the Doctor (and the universe) from the Great Intelligence.
These did not strike me as the actions of a narcissist, nor of a control freak. So why, when we had been shown all of these instances of Clara’s kindness and self sacrifice, why when her character had been built up so positively, were we suddenly told that she was ultimately the opposite of these things?
Perhaps her experiences with the Doctor have changed her. In The Time of the Doctor, she is constantly being put aside, left behind, almost ignored by him. Perhaps this new character stance is a result of her new attitude – refusing to be left behind like baggage on the road, refusing to let the Doctor get away with his less than perfect behaviour, and refusing to let others dictate her life.
If you were told that your life’s purpose had been pre-established for you (in her case, always saving the Doctor) you might be pretty miffed and do anything to take back control. Clara discovered that when she stepped into the Doctor’s life-line (Name of the doctor), that her ambition to save him spread into all of her incarnations, giving them all a destiny they could not change. Knowing this, is the new Clara trying to take control into her own hands again?
Why this is seen as a negative turn for her character is a little worrying to me. The Doctor, perhaps, does not like the idea of a companion he is less able to manipulate. But Madam Vastra spends time berating and belittling Clara for her attitude, but she then stands up to her (applauded by Jenny).
Eventually, Clara finds she can no longer travel with the Doctor and seriously questions his moral decisions. The Doctor convinces her to stay only after a demonstration of why he makes the decisions he makes (Mummy on the Orient Express). Rather than expecting her to trust him for no reason, he allows her to see into his world on a new level, and so she learns to trust him a little, or at least understand him. Will this lead to new and mutual respect between them?
Time will tell, perhaps, and we can but wait to see what is to come from the character.
Will all of this be resolved? Will we get an insight into how and why Clara has changed so much?