The end of Clara’s run on Doctor Who is finally in sight and though I expected to be dancing (possibly like a giraffe, possibly not), I’m actually rather sad to know she’s going. Sure, she bogged down the end of Matt Smith’s run as the show demanded that we have a crush on her whether we wanted to or not, but once he was out of the picture and Peter Capaldi was on board, Clara was allowed to be more than just something to be adored. Once freed from the demands of being a walking, talking MacGuffin, she turned into an actual person - and quite an interesting one at that. Just in time for her to leave. Dammit.
By virtue of being the companion who happened to have the job when the show’s 50th anniversary rolled around, Clara was suddenly - literally - the single most important person in the Doctor’s life, and we were expected to sigh with heavy appreciation whenever The Impossible Girl came on screen. The more the show demanded we love her, the more insufferable she became. That’s not Jenna Coleman’s fault, of course. To her credit, she threw herself with gusto into the part, doing her level best to make the most out of the utter shit she was being given to work with. But shit it was, and as showrunner Stephen Moffat repeatedly tried to make us believe she was Terribly, Terribly Important, the episodes floundered. It’s a shame that Moffat decided, for whatever reason, to shoehorn Clara into such a limited role, because once Eyebrows showed up and winsomeness was no longer her raison d’etre, she became infinitely more worthwhile.
It didn’t start out entirely smoothly - that whole line about “I’m not your boyfriend” was beyond awkward and stiff - but once the line between Old Clara and New Clara had been fully established, she started to grow. She had interests beyond the TARDIS, had a job she enjoyed and a boyfriend who had depths of his own. She reminded us of why we found Souffle Girl to be so charming when we first met her - back when she was still Oswin. There were stumbles along the way, certainly. Robot of Sherwood was dreadful and the less said about Kill the Moon the better, but Clara began to find her footing in Flatline and the final moments with her in Last Christmas were delicate and poignant.
Clara’s been an even more engaging companion this season. She’s admired the Doctor without being in awe of him, loved him without fawning or simpering. She’s been smart, capable, reasonable, vulnerable, and flawed. And not the endearing, oh, but isn’t just just so charmingly imperfect kind of flawed, either: the new Clara has an unhealthy interest in adventure, something she’s not really willing to admit to herself. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if she’s actually a good person. She’s behaving, in fact, rather a lot like an addict, which is yet another way for New Who to examine the Doctor’s negative influence on the people around him. The dark side of the Doctor is something that got a bit lost while D11 was palling around with Clara, and it’s wonderful to have it back.
Try, for a moment, to forget everything that happened with Clara and Matt Smith’s Doctor. Forget his bizarre obsession with her and the absurd idea that she’s the one who inspired him to do everything important in his life. In fact, forget everything Clara did before the Doctor’s most recent regeneration. Forget all of that and just consider what Clara has been like since she sat on the steps of the TARDIS control room and told the Doctor that she didn’t know if he was a good man. Isn’t she a great companion? Isn’t she someone whose story you’d like to see play out? To see if she fully gives into her addiction or pulls away after hitting rock bottom? If nothing else, don’t you want to see her spar with Missy again? I do. I can’t really believe I’m saying this, but I do.
Clara Oswald, you are wonderful. I just wish we’d met you sooner. Or, in fact, later.