Doctor Who is a brilliant show, but it can also be very cruel. It reinvents itself every few years or so through a completely new cast and style, yet at the same time remain the same as it has done for over fifty years. Because of this, viewers get attached to and fall in love with actors and characters, only to see them die or leave once their time is up, and then have to get used to a bunch of new guys. I’d say the pros outweigh the cons, but there of course are a few exceptions. I think this might be one of those.
News broke today via The Mirror that Jenna Coleman will be leaving the show after Series 9 ends later this year in order to play Queen Victoria for rival channel ITV in an awesome-sounding £10m new drama. Bear in mind that this is just a rumour for now, but it’s been picked up by a variety of sources and fans have been predicting that this year would be her last for a while. It was originally supposed to be the Series 8 finale, Death in Heaven, but then Coleman asked for her final appearance to be in the Christmas special, Last Christmas, so Steven Moffat wrote her in. Right at the last minute, she changed her mind again and decided she would stay on for Series 9 – and so she did. That’s why both those episodes had scenes that could have worked as a fitting end for Clara. Now, it seems she’s finally made her mind up.
Clara Oswald made her debut in Asylum of the Daleks just over three years ago, popped up again in The Snowmen, and then finally appeared as the full-time companion in The Bells of St. John. This would actually make her the longest-serving companion since the show came back in 2005, just edging out Amy Pond. Although if you do want to get technical about it then she does actually match Amy’s time in the TARDIS; while Clara appeared twice in 2012, she didn’t become the companion until 2013, and in fact Amy was still the main companion back then. But hey, we’ll go with it.
Similar to Rose’s relationship with Ten (David Tennant), Clara will be remembered as Twelve’s (Peter Capaldi) companion rather than Eleven’s (Matt Smith). The actors had decent on-screen chemistry but the whole ‘Impossible Girl’ arc – while interesting – really stunted her development. When she came back for the eighth series, Moffat and co were suddenly tasked with the horrific job of making her interesting. We didn’t know an awful lot about Clara at the time, but with that storyline out of the way the character was free to become anything at all, and she certainly has. She has blossomed into one of the best New Who companions, matching Twelve’s snark and cynicism with well-placed optimism, calling him out on his shit and acting as his equal. The last time a companion was the Doctor’s equal was Donna Noble, and even then she could seem more in-control than the Doctor himself. Clara is certainly a control freak but I wouldn’t say one wholly outweighs the other. Plenty of fans call her “boring,” however I’d argue this is just because she’s a complete change from what we’ve seen since 2005 – she’s just a normal person.
She isn’t in love with the Doctor like Rose, she isn’t boring like Martha, she isn’t loud and brash and entertaining like Donna, she isn’t feisty like Amy, she isn’t mild-mannered like Rory and she’s not a badass like River Song. At times she does embody some of those things, but for so long in film and TV those are the only categories which female characters can fall into; Clara isn’t exclusively any of those, and subsequently she feels more like a real human being than some of those do.
That’s why I’ll be sad to see her go, but at the same time I get it has to happen. I’d argue that it’s the companions who are the main source of character development on this show – while the Doctor’s personality always changes, his core is the same, so it’s impossible to continue growing him after fifty years. Eventually characters become dull or outlive their potential, and that’s what would happen to Clara if she stayed on for Series 10 and so on. Nobody wants to see that.
And hey, playing Queen Victoria in a £10m ITV drama is a good get. Hopefully this shall be one of many things that Jenna Coleman goes on to do! I met her at a convention last year; she’s incredibly lovely (and beautiful) and I successfully made her laugh, so we’re basically best friends.
But seriously, she’ll definitely be going on to great things.
Now we just wait for the inevitable announcement, however the speculation can now begin on who – or what – could be the Doctor’s next companion(s), as well as the manner of Clara’s exit on Doctor Who…