Though there was a quite a divide about Series 8 as a whole I don't think any Whovian had anything but love for the Christmas special "Last Christmas". It had horror, mind-twists, and for what hopefully is the foreseeable future Clara and the Twelfth Doctor finally seemed to come clean and start anew with each. It was like Series 8 was six-hour version of "Power of the Daleks" with Clara standing in for Ben Jackson and finally accepting The Doctor had changed.
It also sparked a rumor regarding a new companion in the Tardis in the form of Shona McCullough played by Faye Marsay. Shona stole a lot of the spotlight in the episode, even from the guest starring Nick Frost as Santa. From her lily-white dance moves in her first scene to her threatening The Doctor with "I will mark you, old man" she stood out as a combination of childish need and gutsy heroism.
The clues are all there. She refers to The Doctor as a magician and the announced first episode of Series 9 is "The Magician's Apprentice". In the scene where the remaining crew all hold hands The Doctor is deeply reluctant to be touched by anyone other than Clara until Clara instructs him to hold onto Shona. When the dreamers disappear at the end of the episode Shona goes last after promising to meet up for curry with Clara in the real world.
All speculative, of course, but Series 8 also turned out to be the season where every fan's first guess about Missy turned out to be right so maybe we're seeing the end of the Moffatshyamalan big twist approach and the start of something new. I hope it's true because the Tardis crew needs a third very badly and has for some time.
It's fairly rare to see a companion like Clara have The Doctor all to herself for so long. Traveling with a single companion for an entire season didn't really come into vogue in the show until Colin Baker's time and even in the modern show where it's more common recurring guests in the Tardis like Captain Jack Harkness and River Song break up the monotony. Clara has only the Paternoster Gang, and they hardly count as proper companions considering that they barely travel with them.
All that weight on Jenna Coleman's shoulders coupled with the fact that she had to be a lynchpin in the show during both the events of the 50th anniversary and the regeneration of the Eleventh Doctor has brought out a lot of the flaws in how her character is written. She spent all of Series 7 as a walking puzzle box, and even when she shone like in "Rings of Akhaten" and "Hide" there was always that nagging feeling about her answer that distracted you from her as companion.
Then it all got resolved, "Day of The Doctor" happened, and Matt Smith exited. There simply wasn't much left for Clara to do and throughout Series 8 it really showed.
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I like Jenna Coleman and I like Clara, but she simply can't carry the human side of the show on her own. That's why we need someone like Shona on board. Shona, it turns out at the end of "Last Christmas" is a shopgirl living on her own on Christmas making her way through movie marathons and pining over someone named Dave. She's got that same ache in her that Rose and Donna had, the desire to step up and become something a little bit more than she is. She clearly wants to go somewhere and feels trapped. That's something that's been missing from the Tardis since the end of the Russell T. Davies era.
Amy's relationship with The Doctor was based on how he came into her life and Rory was an extension of that. They liked running away with him, but were just a little too happy to keep up the run as long as they did. Time after time they settled into a routine without him.
Clara is even worse. The Doctor literally forces his way into her life because of the actions of her alternative time echoes meetings with him. Ironically, out of the three Claras we meet the only one that doesn't immediately want to join The Doctor is the one that actually does.
She's mostly happy and contented with her life. She has a nice job, romantic prospects, friends and an adopted family. She has The Doctor on her schedule usually, not as part of an overall grand adventure. That's very hard for the average viewer to identify with. Regular working person can't pick and choose amazing outings across space and time at our leisure; we know we would have to take the one opportunity we got and hold onto it as hard as we can. For that reason Clara can sometimes be distant from the stand-in role companions play for the audience.
The small bits of her personality that have been allowed to germinate wild are good ones, but she needs a Nyssa for her Tegan or a Zoe for her Jamie. She needs someone that's not The Doctor to play off of and the brief time she and Shona shared in "Last Christmas" has the makings of one of the great companion friendships. Let's hope the rumors are true.
Doctor Who returns later this year with "The Magician's Apprentice".
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