By Jorge Solis
In this latest season of “Doctor Who,” The Doctor has moved on, seeking out adventures in time and space with a new companion. But the loss of Amy and Rory still lingers on the Doctor’s (and fans) minds. Which leads us to wonder, how does Clara rate amongst the previous companions? And, can Clara stand out on her own, just as Amy did?
Don’t get me wrong when I say I’m sort of disappointed with this season of “Doctor Who.” As Clara, I think Jenna-Louise Coleman is doing a terrific job with her comedic timing and dramatic moments. In the season premiere, “Bells of St. John,” I laughed-out-loud when Coleman delivered the Twitter joke. I was still laughing when the Doctor mentioned she knew nothing about computers before and Clara had that look of awe on her face. In “Cold War,” Coleman looked frightened and confused as she stared at the corpses of the two shipmates. But what defines the series is really the chemistry between the Doctor and his companion. So ask yourself this, does Jenna-Louise Coleman have any chemistry with Matt Smith?
Maybe I’m expecting too much after just three episodes, but I’m just not feeling the chemistry between Coleman and Smith. The tone has indeed changed this season after Amy and Rory left in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Because the Doctor witnessed Clara die in two previous episodes, “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Snowmen,” he doesn’t completely trust her. The Doctor has always trusted his companions, from Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) to Rose (Billie Piper). The Doctor knows his companion will be there when he finds himself in trouble. In “The Rings of Akhaten,” The Doctor realizes he has seen different incarnations of Clara and shouts, “She’s not supposed to exist!” As a viewer, why should I care about Clara if the Doctor is always going to be suspicious of her?
Previously, the chemistry developed over time between Amy and the Doctor in a story arc. I felt Karen Gillan came out as her own in the episode, “Vincent and the Doctor,” as Amy was reeling from Rory’s death. This season started off with two guest writers, Mark Gatiss (“Sherlock”) and Neil Cross (“Luther”). Their episodes were entertaining to watch, but they were also standalones. Notice how there was no back-story to Clara in “The Cold War.” They’re not thinking about the long haul, how the rest of season will turn out. Gatiss and Cross were writing the episodes as if the relationship between Clara and the Doctor was established; that the chemistry between Coleman and Smith was already there. Steven Moffat should have focused on an overall story arc first, then brought in the guest writers.
This season has started off rocky for me but, I do see hope though. In “Rings of Akhaten,” Clara doesn’t stay with the Doctor at the end of their adventure. Clara chooses to stay on Earth because she doesn’t want to abandon her responsibilities. As a caretaker, Clara has two children who need her. There’s something here to look into and I want to believe Moffat sees that potential.
As Clara, Jenna-Louise Coleman demonstrates that she is a terrific actress with her skills. But in her scenes with the Doctor, there is no chemistry on screen between her and Matt Smith. I’m rooting for Clara to come out on her own just as Amy did. I hope this problem will resolve itself as the rest of the “Doctor Who” season continues.
The next episode of Doctor Who airs Sunday at 8pm on BBC America.