“Hell Bent” is an interesting episode that once again, has broken fandom in half. Despite many people liking “Heaven Sent”, there were many who did not like it because it was too different. This episode really follows along that path.
The Doctor is now on Gallifrey and he is there just to get Clara back. Everything is all about saving Clara. This whole thing about the Hybrid? Forget it. So the Doctor does get her back but at what price. Clara can't believe the Doctor did all this and is risking terrible disaster. She is willing to let things go and die as she was supposed to. The Doctor will have none of it and sort of loses his mind. In the end it appears that the Hybrid is indeed the Doctor and Clara together and so Clara dying would eliminate that problem. The Doctor decides to erase her memory of her time with the Doctor. This worked once before with Donna, why not again. Clara will have none of it and alters the device so that perhaps the Doctor will lose his memory of her. In one of the better twists in the series we see the answer to who has forgotten whom and it is an perfectly executed twist.
So Me is back and she and the Doctor discuss the end of the Universe, Clara and the Hybrid. What this season and the past few episodes have done is given these characters, especially the Doctor a chance to breathe. The Doctor is not running around shouting off the plot to the viewers (something it seems most fans would prefer unfortunately). Instead he is have discussions with himself or other characters. This has really put Peter Capaldi in some good light of late and he is quickly becoming my favorite new Doctor. He is not dancing around like a goof. He is plotting and thinking and Moffat seems to write that format with much more care than his over the top grandstanding and yelling. Don't get me wrong, Moffat is still superb at elevating the Doctor and his companions to almost god like standing which is usually not that appealing after a time but he is at least showing their weaknesses as well. There is so much that Moffat is still doing wrong with this show but I basically have given into it. At no point does this season finale even remotely come close to being as bad as last season's ender. Not even close. Since I am judging Doctor Who by it's recent history, this season has had some excellent episodes and the finale was superb.
This story, just like “Heaven Sent”, can be vastly confusing if you start to question every part of it. Did the Doctor remember all his time in the Confession Dial? Did 4 billion years pass? He did all that to save Clara? Might there have been an easier way? What is the status of Gallifrey? Were they not in ruin and hiding somewhere in the Universe? Will there be a spin-off with Me and Clara? What does the Doctor remember of Clara? He seems to remember the events of his adventures but just doesn't remember Clara herself.
There are some confusing moments but I think because this story was more focused and the pacing was slow enough that people pick up on inconsistencies more often than in the episodes littered with running around, explosions and fast paced music. I enjoyed elements of this episode but there are some familiar aspects of the episode. We are dealing with death again. The Doctor is a magical being that can do anything. There are promises of death and destruction for all and yet the Doctor does what he wants to do. The Doctor is a superhero and can snap his fingers and the TARDIS doors open and Gallifrey kneels to the ground. Clara is way smarter than she should be and Moffat wimped out on killing her off.
I think her death was a bit empty but this return gave us some more great moments with Jenna Coleman. Again, the character of Clara seems to be ready to sacrifice herself for the well being of the Universe and the Doctor but then changes her mind.
So overall I found this episode to be as satisfying as some of the better Moffat season enders – “Journey's End”, “The Big Bang” and “The Name of the Doctor”. Each of those have some good moments but have enough bad about them to not make them rank among my top episodes. Thankfully the other end of the spectrum includes horrible stories that rank the episodes in my worst of the worst. “Hell Bent” is not one of those episodes.
What gets me riled is when a half way decent episode is ripped into and people criticize Moffat and his Moffatisms. Where were you three seasons ago when he did the same mistakes even worse? I guess people are finally getting sick of Moffat and while I don't think he has turned things around for the show (I only thought one episode this season was excellent) he didn't deliver anything as bad as last season's “Death in Heaven”. Which brings me to the Christmas special. Fans of the show who did not like the past two episodes will have the next one, “The Husbands of River Song” to look to right the ship. We will be back to light hearted comedy and hopefully a flirting Song and Doctor will highlight the story and allow people to bask in the mediocre that the Christmas specials always give us.