He’d break every rule and come close to breaking time, but there would come a time that he’d just have to let her go.
The season finale shows how he finally did that, but in an unusual way.
*** SPOILERS BELOW ***
For some reason, the episode starts at a diner somewhere in Nevada. He goes in, and sees a waitress that looks like Clara. He wonders how an English girl is working at an American diner. She says it could be magic. He plays a song on his guitar, and he calls the tune “Clara”.
Later, we find out that the Doctor had indeed been trapped in his confession dial last week, used as a way by the Time Lords and Sisterhood of Karn to figure out what he knows of the Hybrid, the creature that would stand in the ruins of Gallifrey. When he escapes, Lord President Rassilon (Donald Sumpter) and the head General (Ken Bones) both wonder what the Doctor wants. Ohila (Claire Higgins) leader of the sisterhood, is there for the fireworks.
It soon turns out the Doctor has a long game going. He wants to use Gallifreyan tech to save Clara from the Raven. He manages to do that thanks to an extraction chamber, and she is stunned to say the least. This can’t last, because if he tries to cheat death, it could fracture time itself. That doesn’t matter, because he will do anything to save Clara. He even kicks the President off of his own planet, and shoots the General only to have him regenerate into a woman (T’Nia Miller). It also turns out that was the General’s original gender.
Also, apparently even billions of years in the future, the Doctor is a highly respected war hero, which is why the Gallifreyan soldiers refuse to kill him
Occasionally, we go back to the diner, and the waitress seems intrigued by the Doctor’s story. It also seems strange she looks just like Clara, but it can’t be her…right?
He heads to the planet’s ultimate database, The Matrix, where the brains of dead Time Lords are uploaded. It also includes those who tried to hack it, like a Dalek and a Weeping Angel. He talks about a student who invaded the Matrix, and apparently went mad. Clara’s not fooled, figuring it was the Doctor. He’s hoping to get another TARDIS, and thanks to Clara distracting the officials, he does just that. The model is a nice callback to the TARDIS interior during the first era of the show.
He heads to the last moments of time itself, to keep Clara away and alive, She doesn’t have a heartbeat, though, and wonders if this is all worth it. He thinks so, because they are at the end of time, and he doesn’t answer to anyone.
That is, until there are four knocks on the door. They were delivered by Me, or rather Ashildr (Maisie Williams), who is still quite alive and kicking even at the end of time. She even thinks who the Hybrid really is. It’s not one person, but two. Any guesses who they could be?
Yes, the Doctor and Clara, a Time Lord and a Companion who are a little too alike. The Doctor admits to Ashildr that to keep her safe, he has to wipe her memories of him. Clara, though, saw this conversation, and doesn’t like it. “Tomorrow is promised to no one, Doctor,” she says, “but I insist upon my past.”
Still, they go through the process while Ashildr looks on. It turns out it’s the Doctor whose memories of Clara will be removed. Before he faints, he gives her advice; especially laugh at everything, always make amends and don’t eat pears. He also asks her to smile one more time, and she does. The moment is almost as sad as seeing her die.
Then he wakes up in the Nevada desert. Some man tells him that Clara wanted to make sure the Doctor was OK, but the Doctor wonders who Clara is. Come to think of it, how did she know he’d wind up there?
The waitress was Clara after all, and he talks about all the memories he had in the past three seasons. He just couldn’t remember who this Clara is. She says this “Clara” could be anyone, even her. He also thinks he’s been in the diner before, with Amy and Rory, but it was somewhere else. Strange.
Before he leaves playing that song, the waitress reminds him that stories are where memories go when they are forgotten, or even songs. Even if he’s forgotten parts of his past, at least he still has the stories. Just after he leaves, we see what the diner really is….
Clara and Ashildr’s TARDIS. The universe expects Clara to be a good girl and go back to the moment of her death. She’ll go back to Gallifrey and set things right with Ashildr. Eventually.
“The Doctor Who Cafe”, now that’d be a great spinoff! However, Jenna Coleman and Maisie Williams will be pretty busy for a while, but we can always hope. At least we see the Doctor’s choice to make Ashildr immortal actually saved two lives…and maybe a third.
As for him, he’s got his TARDIS back, with a new sonic screwdriver, and one last piece of advice on his blackboard, “Run, you clever boy.” Maybe that jogged his memory a little.
Now that’s an ending.
However, there’s still a Christmas special coming in three weeks, as he has to try to get River Song to remember him while battling a very angry head.