Hell Bent: Facing the Consequences

OHILA: You have gone too far. You have broken every code you ever lived by.
DOCTOR: After all this time, after everything I’ve done, don’t you think the universe owes me this?
OHILA: Owes you what? All you’re doing is giving her hope.
DOCTOR: Since when is hope a bad thing?
OHILA: Hope is a terrible thing on the scaffold.

When Clara died, the Doctor suffered. The pain he felt was excruciating. So he does whatever he can in order to bring Clara back. But there are consequences to his actions. There are always consequences. What happened to the Doctor and Clara in Face the Raven, wasn’t fair. Especially after everything the Doctor and Clara had done for Gallifrey and the Time Lords. Although the High Council never intended Clara to die-it happened. It was an unintended consequence. But the Doctor wasn’t going to let Clara stay dead. Not if he had the power or the access to technology to do anything about it. And damn it, Gallifrey and the High Council owed it to him and to Clara. Clara and the Doctor rescued them numerous times and the Doctor was going to make sure that he got what he was owed.

The problem with this sense of entitlement is that it obscures the role that the Doctor’s and Clara’s played in Clara’s death, and it downplays the negative consequences that could have resulted from the Doctor’s actions. The reality is that Clara died not just because of the situation that the High Council placed her in, but the Doctor’s and Clara’s carelessness, combined with Clara’s compassion, also contributed to her death. Clara and the Doctor always assumed that death could never touch them. The Doctor always saves Clara and there are very little consequences, at least for them. They became sloppy and reckless.  And Clara of course, was going to head to her death with dignity. She wasn’t going to allow the Doctor to use her death as a means to go on a murderous rampage. But the Doctor (and Moffat) were not going to let Clara stay dead.  But there are consequences to the Doctor’s decision. Maybe in the scheme of things not as drastic or destructive as they could have been. The Doctor’s memory of their relationship is wiped out and while Clara is still technically dead, at the end of the episode she and Me/Ashildr are ostensibly traveling throughout the universe before she supposedly heads back to Gallifrey to be plucked back into her time stream. For Doctor Who, this is as close to a happy ending as the show sometimes get. In real life, the consequences for acting out a sense of entitlement and a disregard for the potential destruction that arise from said actions, can reverberate for years. And unlike in Doctor Who, going back in time, or plucking people out of their time streams before death snatches them away, is impossible.


Fifteen years ago, four planes were hijacked by terrorists. Two hit the twin towers in NYC, one hit the Pentagon, and one crashed in a field in PA after the passengers managed to wrestle control away the hijackers. In total, nearly 3,000 people were murdered and thousands of other people continue to experience mental and physical anguish from losing loved ones, surviving the carnage, or even just being near ground zero and breathing in the toxic fumes.

After the attacks, people were hurting and angry. People wanted revenge. We wanted to get back at those who planned such horrific violence. We demanded to know who would do this to us. Even those who did not lose anyone, had a desire for revenge and war.  But if we are honest with ourselves, looking back at the collective grief and national mourning the country experienced as we grappled with the aftermath of the attack, we revealed our sense of entitlement.  We were angry not just that so many lives were lost in a horrific action, but that it was American lives that were killed. Innocent American civilians were slaughtered. And we couldn’t bring them back so we wanted to do the next best thing: get revenge.

But what we failed to realize then, and what many continue to realize now, is that the 9/11 attacks did not occur in a vacuum. 19 people didn’t randomly wake up one day and think, “I think I’m going to just attack and massacre thousands of people today.” The 9/11 attacks were responses to the horrific foreign policy designs that the government made in the previous decades, in the name of the American people. 9/11 resulted from policies that armed and trained the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The mujahedeen used the language of jihad and militancy to defend their actions. Those ideas didn’t die just because we stopped supporting this faction.

Moreover, the US government’s  involvement in the Middle East, from our blind support of Israel at the expense of Palestinians,   to the sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children,  helped foster a sense of hatred and resentment against America. While the US government’s foreign policy decisions do not justify or excuse the deaths of innocent American civilians, they do provide some historical and political context for the attacks.

In Hell Bent, the Doctor banished the president of Gallifrey and broke some rules but, the consequences appear to be pretty limited. His relationship with Clara has ended and his memories of her have disappeared. But in the real world, revenge and anger have deadly consequences. In a desire “to make things right,” and “defeat terrorism,” the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and have used military force in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, etc. The consequences have been catastrophic. At the very least, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been slaughtered, and millions more have been terrorized. While the US hasn’t suffered another major terrorist attack on such a large scale, our wars and bad decisions have led to the rise of even more brutal terrorist groups such as ISIS  that have killed thousands of innocent civilians. But because those deaths weren’t American, their lives are automatically deemed less valuable.

In this season of Doctor Who, the mythological “Hybrid” was a source of worry and fear for the Doctor and for those on Gallifrey.

ASHILDR: What if the Hybrid wasn’t one person, but two?
ASHILDR: A dangerous combination of a passionate and powerful Time Lord and a young woman so very similar to him.

ASHILDR [on scanner]: Companions who are willing to push each other to extremes

The Hybrid that caused so much fear, wasn’t an offspring from the Daleks and the Time Lords, but it was the Doctor and Clara. They were the ones who apparently posed such a great threat to Gallifrey.

DOCTOR : She’s my friend. She’s just my friend.

We waged wars and military operations throughout the world in the name of terrorism and to stop those that planned and executed the 9/11 attacks. But in the fifteen years since, has the US government gotten any closer to stopping terrorist groups from thriving? Have we truly saved lives? Some say that because al-Qaeda or other terrorists groups haven’t pulled off such a massive attack in the US that this proves that the US government’s military operations have been successful. But thinking about the broken and wounded military veterans and the children and civilians in the Middle East blown to bits, one has to ask, at what price have we achieved this illusion of security? We wanted to hunt down and eliminate terrorists, but in doing so, we ourselves became terrorists. I’m not asking us to forget what happened or to stop mourning. I am asking us to reflect on how our nation’s desire for revenge ensured that millions of people in the Middle East experienced a version of 9/11 over and over again.


Running Away

I promise, next week I will eventually finish my countdown of my favorite episodes from Matt Smith’s era.

On the surface, running away seems to be a sure fire way to protect oneself from getting hurt, and occasionally it can be fun. Amy Pond ran away with her raggedy man the night before her wedding and even after she got married, in many ways she was very much the young little girl that the Doctor originally left behind. Rose ran away with the Doctor to get away from her boring repetitive life, even though it meant leaving behind her then boyfriend Mickey and her mother. Martha put her life on hold, not just for the chance to travel through time and space but also in hopes of getting the Doctor would notice her and care about her. Donna, quickly realizes she made a mistake when she turned down the Doctor’s offer of traveling with him. And of course the Doctor is known for running away-from his past in the Time War and from his past relationships. In Journey’s End, Davros characterizes the Doctor as “The man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not, out of shame.” And of course we see his shame-over the Time War, over the many deaths throughout his travels that he could not stop or that because directly or indirectly. Shame can be a powerful impetus for running away.

Yet mixed in with the Doctor’s sense of shame is also a large measure of fear, especially in relation to his companions: he knows that eventually they will die or they will leave, and as a result he fears getting close to them. In fact once they leave, or he leaves them, he rarely mentions them again:
In a tv show, it is vital that the main character retain a sense of mystery. When the title of the finale of season 7 part two was released, The Name of the Doctor, fans were freaking out because they felt as if knowing the Doctor’s true name would essentially ruin the show. As an audience we want to get to know our beloved characters-but we do not want to know everything about them. A character that remains a bit closed off and that tends to run away from close relationships-at least initially, is a fascinating character watch develop. Yet even in the fictional world, running away never lasts forever. Even the Doctor needs to stop running even briefly. For example, every time he says goodbye to a companion he is forced to stop running.

However, while on a TV show it is  entertaining to watch a character run away from his past or his fears only to be confronted by them later on-in real life the results are much more painful and the obstacles that force us to stop running are not the type that can be solved within an hour or within a season. They often leave scars. Today I realized that an acquaintance I knew died from cancer. I didn’t really think I would be impacted by this person’s death. Why? Because I made sure that this person was just an acquaintance. In fact, like a coward I ran away. I avoided any discussion about this person and I avoided going to the place where I knew he might show up or at the very least where his name would be mentioned. I avoided getting to know him and his family even because I didn’t want to get involved. To be quite frank I was incredibly selfish-I didn’t want to get to know someone only to be forced to say goodbye to him in a few months. I didn’t want to be privy to the anguish that his family would be experiencing as they attempted to make sense of a tragedy that should not befall anyone-but especially a family as kind and caring as this one. I was only thinking about myself and I realized I didn’t’ want to get hurt so I ran away and graduate school became the perfect excuse to hide away.

During the past few days I read the emails about his deteriorating situation and the pain of his family and friends but I managed to compartmentalize said emails into a little corner in my mind and keep on running. However, no matter how much you try to outdistance death it always catches up. He died yesterday and I am left feeling incredible sadness for his friends and family, and also an overwhelming amount of guilt over a missed opportunity. I thought that keeping him and his family at arm’s length would protect me but instead I robbed myself of the chance to be of some use to those who were hurting and to get to know a wonderful person. I didn’t want to say goodbye so instead I shut myself off and continued on my own selfish little path. And the fact is, that this is not an isolated case. Distancing myself from others has become a way of life. In fact it’s the only way I know how to live. Am I really protecting myself by running away or am I wasting my life reacting out of fear? Running away is supposed to offer protection against loss but instead it causes it.