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Much has been said about Jenna Coleman's Doctor Who companion Clara Oswald since she joined the cast in the middle of Season 7 following the departure of fan-favorite Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). Her appearance in the Season 7 premiere as Oswin Oswald had been a pleasant surprise; it felt like a promise of exceptionally good things to come. She was intelligent, charming, and witty, and she seemed like a perfect companion for the Doctor. The same air of possibility surrounded her portrayal of Clara Oswin Oswald in "The Snowmen," but once Coleman officially joined the series as the Doctor's companion in "The Bells of Saint John," it became clear that there were some lingering issues with her character—namely, that the writers intended for her to be yet another riddle that needed solving, rather than an actual living, breathing human being. She wasn't a character or a companion, but a typical Doctor Who mystery, stretched out over an entire season under the guise of a companion. 

In a voiceover during "The Name of the Doctor," Clara said, "I was born to save the Doctor, but the Doctor is safe now. I’m the Impossible Girl, and my story is done." Clara's story wasn't over (it'd barely begun), but the Impossible Girl mystery was finally solved when she jumped into the Doctor's timestream. Unfortunately, that line gave many viewers the impression that Clara's sole purpose in life was to save a man, which I think we all know by now is not exactly how most writers would want one of their characters to be perceived. And now that Peter Capaldi has taken over the role of the Doctor, and Clara's mysterious backstory has (mostly) been unlocked, it's time for Coleman and Doctor Who's writers to ensure that the character evolves into an independent human who's capable of existing outside of what she can do for the Time Lord. If we only have until Christmas with Coleman—rumors of her departure have yet to be confirmed—now is the time for the show to develop her a bit, to dig into her life. And for us, as viewers, to give her another chance.

The simple fact that Coleman entered the world of Doctor Who as a companion to Eleven who wasn't Amy Pond was a major hurdle for the character, which is something I've touched on before. However, as was the case with many companions before her, the character's flaws are largely rooted in lazy writing. Her arc as the Impossible Girl made her into more of a puzzle than a person, just like Amy's arc as the Girl Who Waited sometimes reduced her to being little more than a plot device. But of course, Amy had Rory and they had lives outside and away from the Doctor during their tenure in the TARDIS. 

Looking back at the second half of Season 7, it seems that Doctor Who mistook Clara's quick wit and appearance of independence—she was a teacher who didn't travel with the Doctor at all times—for inner resilience. For someone who'd risked her life to save the Doctor time and again, this current incarnation of Clara felt like she was merely reacting to things that happened to her, rather than playing a role in them. She didn't have the strength of, say, Oswin, the first character Coleman portrayed. And she certainly didn't measure up to those who came before her. 

Each of New Who's companions have had their strengths: Amy was fierce and sassy, Martha (Freema Agyeman) was intelligent and level-headed, and Rose (Billie Piper), well, she had the advantage of being the first companion of this new era. She was strong in her convictions, and she added an emotional element to the series. But the only companion who I've ever seen as a truly independent, strong, and powerful woman was Catherine Tate's Donna Noble. Donna didn't have her personal life together—like, at all—yet she also never felt like a character who needed saving by the Doctor, at least not in the normal sense of the word. She was confident enough to stand up to him, she wasn't shy about calling him out for being an idiot, and she refused to be anything other than his equal. 

Meanwhile, we know that companions can change. Martha—who some fans initially saw as weak but who generally became pretty awesome—eventually realized that her place was not at the Doctor's side and had the strength to depart. And I think Clara could, and should, follow a similar path, especially now that she's no longer starring opposite Matt Smith's younger-looking, "possible boyfriend material" Doctor (and because I want to see her come into her own, not because I want her to leave the show). She's capable of being more than just a flirty girl in short skirts, and she's definitely capable of being more than just the Impossible Girl.

In the recent Season 8 premiere, "Deep Breath," as Clara struggled to come to terms with the Doctor's regeneration, she also found a voice. The moment when she believed that Capaldi's Doctor had left her to fend for herself was a turning point, because it forced Clara to finally become an active participant in her own life. She stopped being the Impossible Girl and became Clara, a human being who needed to figure out how to escape the unfortunate predicament she'd found herself in. By flashing back to a moment separate from her previous journeys with the Doctor, a moment in which she'd learned something on her own without his help, Clara was able to stall for time. She was, for all she knew, on her own—and even though she later came to realize the Doctor would always have her back, as we all knew he would, the short stint we spent alone with Clara and the droid was enough to make Clara feel like she existed outside the realm of the Doctor. All of a sudden, she felt like an intelligent and bold character worthy of traveling with the Doctor.

All of which is to say that somewhere within Clara, there's a spark—and now is the perfect time for Steven Moffat and the rest of Doctor Who's writers to step up and take advantage of the new dynamic between Coleman and Capaldi. If Season 8 really is going to be darker than previous seasons, it should also make a point to develop Clara into a woman who stands on her own, without naiveté. If she can shed her reputation of being a riddle or a damsel in distress, viewers will finally be able to see her as an actual human being. Clara is clever and she has spunk, and if given the opportunity, I think she can become someone we really care about. Doctor Who's writers just need to be brave enough to create a female character who can exist independently of the Doctor, but who also guides and helps him when necessary.


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 12/5/2015

Season 9 : Episode 12

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I have really come to dislike Clara in this series. They have written her as an unpleasant character who uses threats of violence with the Doctor and has already hit him this series, which I felt completely over-stepped the mark. "If you don't tell me what you know, I will slap you so hard you'll regenerate". Really? Is that what we want in the Doctor's companion? Then in the first episode of the finale "If you answer for me again I will cut off something vital" or words to that effect. I will be glad to see the back of her to be honest. Can you imagine what the outcry would be if the Doctor said something like that to her? Threatening to slap her? Very poor judgement on the part of the writers.
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Sorry but I think she needs to go. She is still struggling with the fact that "her doctor" is gone and the one who came in his place is not interested in her as anything other than a "silly human". Plus I really don't think these 2 mesh very well. Each of the others had a some sort of connection with their doctors....this one doesn't and its getting a bit draggy.
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Why is everyone so threatened to have an attractive companion? She is intelligent and clever. Seems like a lot of people don't like that she is nice to look at, as well as the best companion by far.

Donna? Really? Come on people, the Doctor Donna was by far the worst story line ever.

My list:
1 Clara
2 Martha
3 Amy/Rory
4 Rose
5 Captain Jack Harper(although was not really a companion)
6 Mickey
7 (Anyone who was ever on the Tardis)
8 Donna (Not her fault, she didn't write her script. But her character was NOT likable at all)
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I don't know why, I can't help but get the feeling that she is going to be 13.

They already considered the possibility of a woman to replace Tennant, but maybe they were afraid the audience would be traumatized by the Doctor suddenly becoming a woman. If I were in charge, I would then think of a way to introduce the woman first, have people like her, and then finding a way to explain how the doctor, after 11 male incarnations can become a woman.

Imagining a storyline where the companion is linked to the incarnations of the doctor would then be perfect. Some Moffat plot device to pretend it is all very logical and voila!

Or maybe it's just wishful thinking ^^
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A Time Lord regenerating to look like someone else they once knew? A Time Lord's future incarnation manifesting by some kind of weird projection as a separate person who hangs out a lot with their current incarnation? Neither of these things have happened ever to my knowledge with the Doctor - but both have happened with other Time Lords in the classic series - the former with Romana and the latter with K'anpo Rimpoche.
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If Clara leaves, Lexi would make a most interesting companion. Plus, Scarlett Byrne wouldn't have to hide her accent.

Of course, that would require crossovers, and weird explanations and such.

Still, I'd watch to see if they could pull it off.
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I don't know if Moffat is capable off seeing women as human beings.
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Ok, he is my take. If Clara was around all these other Doctor incarnations, why is she so shocked and bewildered with Capaldi's regeneration. This is 12 Doctors, this should be old hat for her. Everytime I watch Her, I just want to say, "And then...........?" The punch just goes limp and noodly.
Also, I agree that Donna was the best. She would get right in the Doctor's face and call him out. She wasn't all cutesy pie, tight jeans tailored shirts and short skirts. She was normal.
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No, it was *copies* of Clara that had been with those other Doctors. The *original* was only familiar with Matt Smith.
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Agreed, except that she still is the flirty girl who needs a man. The new Doctor told her that he wasn't her boyfriend. Not quite a rejection but he put up a solid wall and let her know it wasn't going to happen. So the first thing she does is find the new character Danny Pink.
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Excellent article. You have hit the nail on the head in every way possible. Also Rose is the best followed by Donna then Amy.
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A most important element that is missing in season eight is the unrequited romantic tension between the Doctor and his companions, I think that element as well as the youth and vitality of Tennant and Smith, will be sorely missed. No offense meant to Mr Capaldi, I am no spring chicken myself.
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I really didn't care to see 12 minutes of Clara's real life, with the most overdone storyline in history the meeting the new love interest.
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I love the character, Clara. But what's the point of this article since it's already confirmed she's leaving the series?
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Poll

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Donna
Jack
Rose
Rory
Amy
Martha
The American who had the antenna installed in his skull
Clara
River
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How I rate the companions of the new series
1) Amy and Rory
2) Martha
3) Donna
4) Clara
5) Rose
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I agree, i would rate it the same way!!
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1) Rose
2) Rory
3) Martha
4) River Song
5) Clara
6) Mickey
7) Donna
8) Captain Jack
.
.
11) Amy

Wilfred Mott would have been #1 if he had travelled with the doctor more than one time, he was a great character.
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Martha because she was intelligent
Clara because she is clever and sweet - yeah sweet, get over it
Amy because she was sassy
Captain Jack, much more fun than he is on Torchwood
Donna, she was not on long enough to develop character
Rory would have been good occasionally - without Amy
The guy that had the baby, he and Matt Smith were good together
Rose, I liked her better when she made a cameo as a spirit only the original Doctor could see or hear
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That is the problem with leadership; it takes the fun out of everything.
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I never felt Clara was more than ok when she was the impossible girl, and to me the first episode with the new Doctor was her second chance.
They had a chance to show why she was a deserving Doctor companion and boy did they fail!
She was absymal, and really dragged down the episode.
The only upside is that its gonna be very dificulty to actually make her worse.

So i hope you're right that she'll be leaving soon, because this show really deserves a better companion.


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If I was making a list of companions in order of how great they were, Donna Noble would be alllll the way at the bottom. What a shrill harpy.
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To each his/her own - Donna was easily my favorite of the 10th Doctor's companions. She challenged The Doctor in ways the others just wouldn't. She was the best!
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Donna was one of my all time favorite companions.
She wasn't all doe eyed crushing fan girl. She was a grown woman who was his partner, friend and equal.
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Donna was indeed great. Also love your Buffy pic.
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Well written! I was getting a little tired of the flirting going on between the Doctor and Clara. Capaldi was a great choice.
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I don't need to give her a second chance. Her departure might be the reason why I stop watching.
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I actually like Clara very much as a character. With her unique perspective on The Doctor (having met all of them), her character does an excellent job of standing alongside and in front of our titular character by showing people "I'm here! Pay attention to me as a threat to your nefarious plans!"
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Having watched up thorugh episode 5 I can tell you that they do develop Clara's past and future more.
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That is nice to know because I think Coleman is a good actress.
My favourite companions:
1) Donna
2) Martha
3) Jack
4) Rose
5) Amy

I will wait for the companion after Clara to reclassify!
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Staff
Sneaky!
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Clara was interesting in the beginning with her story but then it passed, she was still interesting, (but less so,) when she had her flirtations with the doctor, and now that passed....

she's now kind of like an appendix...(they threw in the new love interest to get people off the idea of her fixation with the doctor, as if his new grandpa-ness didn't do that enough.)
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Clara is my favorite companion with Martha coming in at a close second. They were/are both bright, and enjoyable as the doctor's sidekicks. To me, Donna was the worst, so loud and obnoxious and if that kind of a personality is what some think of as an independent and strong woman I think their definition of independent needs to be changed. When did independence and strength become equated a quarrelsome loud personality?
Amy Pond was neither here nor there for me, I didn't love her, but I didn't dislike her. I think that much of her popularity was because she was a companion during the Matt Smith era. He, in my opinion was funny, brilliant, entertaining and also my favorite doctor. If only he would have stayed for Clara, they worked so well together. I loved The Bells of St. John and the fact that he "saved" her and protected her was cool. I see nothing wrong with that.
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I would be upset and confused too if, like Clara, I met the doctor and he was my age and fun to be with and then he turned into an old crazy man. I still can't believe they went with Capaldi. So what if the doctor was old back in the good old doctor days. They started out with younger men in 2005 and it was refreshing and fun. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
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I totally agree. Hate to be pessimistic but I don"t think it will work.
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I cam in kind of late with the newer WHO. Clara was my first real look at a Companion from the very beginning. I like her...she's fun. I liked Amy but like I said...I didn't know her till after many out of order episodes.

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The actress that played Rose screwed that character up when they did her reunion episode, she went soft. Donna was just a companion with a big mouth (which did not make her strong). I liked Martha, I felt the writers just gave up on her and showed her the door like she was a rebound for the Doctor.. As for Clara she's shown from the start she could stand on her own. Yes she's the impossible girl, but that adds to her character the show can not jump the shark give us the one from the the asylum, Clara has to grow into who she is. The next two episodes are part of the new Doctor adjustment period so you might want to lower your expectations when it comes to companion development rate.
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(A+)I have need understood what they plan to do with Clara and after watching the season opening story I'm not sure if the production team know what thye are doing with Clara. It is one thing to disregard the storylines from the past but to disregard your own storyline? If any companion understood regeneration other than Romana it would be Clara. Shenot only seen all of the Doctor's past lives but she had interacted with them all. Idid not understand to whole storyline. Was it that bad or did I miss something? I may have to rewatch it when I'm alone but not sure if it will be anytime soon.
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I didn't know people disliked Clara, I've really enjoyed her on the show. She's also a million times better than that whiny entitled Amy Pond!
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Rory was such a boob too. Pond was the worst one so far.
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I actually liked Rory once he got into the swing of things. I would have liked to see him stick around after Amy left but their departure had to be sappy. The Doctor would have had a better companion (and better actress) if he had taken Amy Pond as a companion when he first met her as a ten year old girl.
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I agree with both points, Rory was cool and young Amelia Pond would have been a nice change for the show. A kid experiencing the world with the Dr would have led to a lot of fun episodes. Too bad it didn't work out like that.
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I totally agree - I was never a fan of Clara's when she was with Matt Smith but I loved her in last week's first ep with Capaldi. I don't know if I still wished she was Amy back with 11 but she really stepped up last week and gave a great performance. And since I did watch the leaked eps - no spoilers - she's great in them too!
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Clara is the worst companion!!! simple as that !!!
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It annoys me every time a character claims that Clara knows the Doctor the best. Because unless they mean "among people present i the room" (when it's like 3 people in a room), that doesn't feel true, at all.
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I fear it's not possible, it'd require better writers.
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if you don't like clara and you don't like the writers why not just sit this season out? just sayin...
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I don't dislike Clara but I do dislike how the writers created her character. She could be a real 3D character not just a 2D companion.
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Sometimes i feel a Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) in her, and think, this could be great!. But the writers pull her back, and that its a waste
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Great article, I don't see it so much as a damsel in distress issue because let's face it, at the end of the day they're all damsels in distress and that's never going to change when the companion has no scientific training and the Doctor doesn't put him/her to any use. I'm more concerned that her character was paper thin, especially following Amy who I believe was the most developed companion I've seen. But the season 8 premiere stepped it up and I think she'll be better in the future, and the actress has always been good.
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Staff
Despite my issues at times with Amy's arc, I think I'd agree that Amy was the most developed of all the companions. Part of that stems from the length of her tenure as a companion, but also the fact that we saw her with Rory, with Rory's father, and as a little girl. Plus, even though it was all wacky, there was the River Song connection. We got to experience a lot of Amy (and by extension, Rory) during her stay in the TARDIS.
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I really like Clara, so I don't need to give her a second chance! I agree about the show needing to make her into a real companion, though. I hope people who didn't like her last season will come around.
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I don't really get the hate for Clara, I mean she's not my favorite, but I think the majority of backlash regarding her directly stems from being the follow up to the Ponds and they are arguably the most fan favorite companions atleast in this 2005 series. I also don't think it helps Clara's situation that she's never had much character development. She was pretty much tossed in for a specific purpose that we didn't know yet, and I felt the Doctor was just trying to be showy and show her new places without any real depth to it other than trying to keep her around to figure out what was happening.

I like her enough, and in the s8 premiere, she was pretty much a proxy for how the audience feels everytime we get a new regen. We watch and grow to love the particular Doctor of the present, sometimes they even become our favorites, so we're gutted that they're gone and we are forced to deal with the change and have to relearn that it's still the Doctor, we get attached to the face just like Clara did.
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Clara was not written to be a character, she was born to be a set piece and a McGuffin and nothing else. Everything that made her interesting, and I mean "21st century actual companion Clara", was an echo of her much more interesting and creative versions - she herself did nothing except follow the Doctor and look pretty. It's not that the lines you cited are the reasons viewers took her as a shallowly-written character, it's that she was written shallowly.

Last week's season premier showed a whole new side to her, but it did so by grafting on a totally different character, one with out-of-the-woodwork flaws and personality traits that simply weren't there before. In short, this season's Clara so far is whole-cloth different from last season's, and trying to force a personality onto one that wasn't there before is just as clumsy as not giving her a personality at all. Nothing in her previous season showed her to be a control freak (a trait the prior companion, Amy Pond, had a bit of from the outset) until a week ago - it's not organic to what came before.

You are totally right that she just chiefly reacted to things, I wouldn't say we saw much actual independence from Clara though, we saw a few things that were written to suggest she might be when they needed to fill out the character lest she become even more a Mary Sue, but her actual actions rarely followed through on that.

Martha was written pretty generic too, her chief driving element during her time as companion was her love for the Doctor, and everything else about her melted into the background; Clara however didn't even have that going for her, she didn't have unrequited love and she didn't have anything in her background to melt away, she was just generic. That said, Martha totally sucked until after her time as companion was over, then she became a very different person.

Rose was youthful and caring and inquisitive and empathetic; Clara is youthful in appearance but not in behavior, and shows no interest in experiencing the new wonders brought to her by the Doctor (though she also wasn't given much in the way of wonders thanks to Moffat's bland season), she generally doesn't seem to connect to anybody other than the Doctor, and the girl who adapted so well to a new situation that she said of the TARDIS "it's smaller on the outside" tragically doesn't exist in regular Clara.

Amy was no-nonsense, she didn't take crap from the Doctor, she had a strong sense of self and a strong sense of right. She wasn't afraid to say no to the Doctor and to stamp her feet and make demands and be stern. And she was somewhat interested in the world beyond what she knew. None of which shows up in Clara.

Ultimately, I am hopeful they can make something of this new season, but I am not expecting miracles because Moffat is still at the helm and Moffat is far too hollywood in all the wrong ways to see what he's doing wrong, so the best I can hope for is the actress wanting to leave soon.
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I think part of the Clara issue was that this past week, the writers needed her to be a substitute for the audience to get used to a new doctor more than they needed to remember that the Impossible Girl knew all incarnations of the Doctor and always recognized him. Of course, I presume we will get some weird retconning (though that Matt Smith was where he was at....) that because she led him on that journey that led to the saving of Gallifrey and so the Doctor doesn't carry that guilt around...or something.

So, hopefully going forward there is the build up of a regular old identity for Clara (and even though this is a silly plot twist, she appears to be getting a boyfriend later on and that seems to solve things for the writers).
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I can't stand Dr. Who anymore .. they need to have an ending . It's just annoying to me
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Hahaha. Doctor Who ending. That's not happening for a good long while.
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You could always simply stop watching.
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I know right - seriously Boyo4000 please stop watching - and commenting if you have so little to offer. Thank you.
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Clara baffled me in this premiere...

She started out moronic; completely confused about the whole regeneration business when she shouldn't be. It's implied that she either A) remembers fragments of saving the Doctor or B) remembers meeting Warrior and Tennant or C) at least remembers seeing the various Doctors inside that time-cave or whatever. It was really odd that she was so confused.

Then, at the END of the episode, she remembers a lesson from her days of teaching and out-rationalizes a million year old Android. This was probably the first time I felt "proud" of THIS version of Clara. The other versions (future and Victorian) were better up until now.

So... hopefully we get more of the strong quick-thinking Clara than the boring Clara.
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She pretty much said she remembers fragments with varying degrees of vividness.
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And yet has massive problems with the Doctor regenerating. I hated that contrivance, so inconsistent: either she remembers all the Doctor's faces and was able to adapt, or she doesn't and can't; but not she does and can't, that doesn't make any damned sense at all.
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Why can't there be an inbetween? If she only has fragments, it's not that surprising that she'd be surprised by a fullblown regeneration. Especially if she only remembers some as dreams.
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But then again, that older doctor wasn't replacing the one with whom she was familiar.
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Well the War Doctor was quite different from the other two, not to mention OLD old. And she seemed to be cooler with meeting him than Tennant and Davis were in meeting him.

She recognized his inner self behind those eyes... AND acknowledged that he was different because he didn't yet have that sad memory of killing everyone.

So she met an old doctor, acknowledged he had a major difference, and related with him just fine before. And now...
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Because her behavior has to be consistent, not her memory, and her behavior was that she could handle it, it was natural for her to live out all those lives helping the Doctor at every moment, no matter how he acted or looked, even though she didn't remember any of her other lives when she was in those other parts of his timeline.
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