Jenna Coleman's cameo appearance in the Doctor Who Christmas special was almost very different, as details have emerged regarding her final episode on the show with the departing Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi. 'Twice Upon a Time' saw an avatar of Clara Oswald restore lost memories to the regenerating Doctor during an emotional farewell. However, if it had been shot as originally written, the scene would have seen Coleman interact more with the cast, and have Capaldi leave on one final mischievous note.
Coleman's role as Clara Oswald was one of the most significant and important companions to the Doctor in recent years. She bridged the gap between the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and the Twelfth, having established that she had multiple lives in the time-stream and influenced him at key points in his existence. After cheating death for a limited time, she later wiped the Doctor's memories of her and starts travelling with the immortal Ashildr (Maisie Williams) in a stolen TARDIS, knowing that she will have to return to Gallifrey to meet her end at some point. With Capaldi's departure confirmed in the Christmas episode, rumors soon circulated that Clara would make an appearance and these were subsequently proven to be true.
As it was finally filmed, Coleman's scene saw her talking to Capaldi alone and not actually sharing the screen with any of the cast. This was due to scheduling conflicts, as the actress was tied up at the time with filming on the UK historical drama Victoria, where she plays the titular Monarch. Despite showrunner Steven Moffat re-writing the script several times, it just wasn't possible to organise a reunion. Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine (via Radio Times), episode director Rachel Talalay explained how they got around the situation:
“Peter had to play to a tennis ball, and so did Jenna, on green screen later, in the [former] Top Gear office in the middle of London, with fire engines going by...It’s incredibly hard making those things match up so that it really felt like they were in the same space. But I think we pulled it off... The entire story is about memories... The fact that the Doctor, having lost his memories of her, got them back in the Christmas episode, I just felt was so brilliant.”
However if the scene had been shot as per the original draft, it would have seen Coleman physically on-set as the same time as Capaldi, Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts), and Matt Lucas (Nardole). The script would then have seen Clara interact directly with the cast, and would have ended on one last cheeky joke from the Time Lord as he left during this exchange with his former companions (albeit the avatars of them);
Doctor: “I’ll tell you something, though. You were always my favorite."
Clara: “Who was?”
Bill: “Which one?”
Nardole: “I know.”
With that last tease, the Eleventh Doctor was to have left them hanging with a chuckle and move on to his regeneration into the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).
Whilst it doesn't make a huge difference to the ending, it's a witty moment that emphasises the humorous touches that Capaldi brought to the role and acknowledges his history. It also provides an insight as to how productions can change during the development of time-critical episodes. Coleman continues to verbally support the show and recently voiced her approval of Whittaker's casting.
Doctor Who returns with new episodes sometime later this year.
Source: Radio Times