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Clara Oswald: looking back at “The Bells of St John” and some Wild Speculation about The Time of the Doctor

Tonight I am revisiting the Clara Oswald episodes from this past season of Doctor Who. While watching “The Bells of St John,” I noticed something interesting, a very specific detail that got my mind rambling off (as it does) on all sorts of little theories. I’m going to ramble about them now and see if I get anywhere. Coming with me? Geronimo!

“I don’t know where I am.”

The episode begins with a warning: people are being uploaded into a giant computer database and they all say this same phrase. They don’t know where they are because they have ceased to exist in the physical space.

Clara, of course, gets uploaded twice; the first time the Doctor interrupts but not before she’s received her “computer package” which makes her as smart at computers as the giant database, or so it seems. The second time, she’s “fully integrated” and the Doctor must get everyone in the database downloaded to get her back. Each time she keeps on repeating “I don’t know where I am,” just like all the others.

Clara really is one for the repeated phrase. We know, thanks to “The Name of the Doctor,” that her catchphrase is from the moment she jumps into the Doctor’s time stream. “Run, you clever boy, and remember” is repeated each time she’s about to die in the other episodes. What’s really interesting is that at the very beginning and at the very end of “Name,” she repeats another phrase: “I don’t know where I am.”

She says this as she’s falling through the Doctor’s time stream, living through his entire history and stopping the Great Intelligence from killing him at every point in time. She was born to save the Doctor and she saves the Doctor again and again by being born. The episode implies that she sends the leaf that causes her parents to meet and have her…

…which means that Clara is essentially a time loop. This is where we get into Wild Speculation with a dash of Theorizing and Guesswork for good measure.

If Clara sent the leaf that caused one of her selves to be born, and we think it is the “original” Clara (Clara Prime), then she creates herself. That’s a bit confusing and a bit too Bad Wolf for my liking. But, if the Clara that sends the leaf is a version created when she jumped into the Doctor’s time stream, then where does Clara Prime actually originate? Is the Doctor traveling with Clara Prime, or is he traveling with a “Saving the Doctor” Clara? Or is it a combination?

It bothered me in the 50th special, “Day of the Doctor,” that even though the season ended with Clara and the Doctor both inside his mind, that there was no explanation for how they got back out of his mind. He asks her to trust him, to let him save her, and they see the War Doctor… and then she’s in a school?

No. We’ve missed something.

So, then, is it possible that the entire 50th anniversary episode takes place in the Doctor’s mind? It would be tricky with all the other Doctors there, but, if versions of Clara are throughout the Doctor’s timeline, then couldn’t there also be versions of the Doctor scattered around, too? And I hope this doesn’t get too Timey Wimey, but couldn’t that also account for why the War Doctor was able to reach two future Doctors are once, and not just, say, Ten?

And what about that computer database? It is, of course, the Great Intelligence, but is it the original Great Intelligence, or is It one of Its own versions that also went into the Doctor’s time stream? Are the players in “Bells of St John” their Prime selves, or just copies?

It’s…complicated.

I’m hoping that the Christmas special “Time of the Doctor” will reveal how they got out of his mind, or at least give a hint to it. I know sometimes there are coincidences, but repetition of key phrases? That’s very Moffat, isn’t it Sweetie?

“I don’t know where I am.” And we don’t know where the Doctor and Clara are, either.

Note: On a second watching of “Bells of St John” and other episodes, I have to say that I still think Clara’s character isn’t written well, but with my newly found affection for her thanks to the 50th special, I’m enjoying her a lot more in these. I hope the writers continue to give her more depth, because I like her attitude and independence. She’s the first modern companion who isn’t either A) interested in the Doctor or B) has or is looking for another love interest (remember, even Donna was constantly dealing with weddings and marriage). I like that she’s perfectly content to just wheel around the universe with him, having a laugh. She’s got a lot of potential.

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