[Potential SPOILERS for Doctor Who season 9 ahead.]
The sixth episode of Doctor Who's ninth season, 'The Woman Who Lived', saw the return of Maisie Williams’ character, Ashildr, whom the Doctor made immortal during the previous episode, 'The Girl Who Died'. Once again the episode gave us a deeper insight into the more emotive side of the Doctor as he realized, very clearly, the consequence of his actions; namely that making Ashildr immortal had, in effect, sentenced her to an eternity of loss resulting in little desire to forge any relationships with those around her.
The end of the episode gave us less than three minutes of screen time for Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), but it was a touching and affectionate scene between the pair as the Doctor admitted to having missed his Impossible Girl. Those few moments, along with the reappearance of Ashildr in the background of a selfie of one of Clara’s students, all seem to be building up to something - namely Clara’s exit from the show - and it has now been confirmed: the reappearance of Williams' character will happen in episode 10, 'Face the Raven'.
The Mirror (among other sites) is reporting that at the London Comic-Con, current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, writer/producer Mark Gatiss, and writer Sarah Dollard (who penned 'Face the Raven'), confirmed that Williams will once more reprise her role this season - and it just so happens that 'Face the Raven' is also marked as the episode that will signal the departure of Jenna Coleman. The title sounds rather ominous and it seems as though Clara could meet an untimely and very permanent end.
If further reports by The Mirror are to be believed, Clara will become the first Doctor Who companion to be directly killed off since 1982, when then Doctor Peter Davidson’s companion Adric died. It brings us once again around to the question of the hybrid that keeps being brought up. Surely Clara and/or Ashildr are it or something to do with it?
For an additional tease of the episode, check out this synopsis for 'Face the Raven' (hat tip Combom):
Have you ever found yourself in a street you’ve never seen before? The next day, could you not find that street again? You weren’t dreaming. Your memory isn’t playing tricks. Like many lost souls throughout the ages, you have stumbled on an extraordinary secret - be grateful you survived it. The Doctor and Clara, with their old friend Rigsy, find themselves in a secret alien world, folded away among the streets of London. Not all of them will get out alive. One of the three intruders must face the raven...
The remaining two episodes of Doctor Who season 9 are titled 'Heaven Sent' and 'Hell Bent.' We know that 'Heaven Sent' is another Doctor Who first; a one hander for Capaldi as he mourns the departure (death?) of his companion. Moffat is quoted as saying: “We’re pushing the boundaries once again with the most experimental episode Doctor Who has ever made.” It should give Capaldi a great vehicle for really showcasing his incredible acting chops and once again it gives viewers the chance to really connect with the character of the Doctor on a human level.
Given Ashildr’s repeated request, that she be allowed to travel with the Doctor, one could jump to a fairly logical conclusion that she will be the next companion. However, not only did the panel at London Comic Con insist that that wasn’t the case, at the end of 'The Woman Who Lived' Ashildr had seemingly settled on the decision to follow her linear immortality in order that she might keep an eye on those the Doctor leaves behind.
Could we possibly see the Doctor travelling alone for a time, ready for the next companion to be revealed in the Christmas special? Everything seems to point that way. As for Clara’s rumored death, while we hope that the speculation proves false, and she exits the show in some other way, gut instinct is telling us otherwise.
Doctor Who continues next Saturday with ‘The Zygon Invasion’ at 9pm on BBC America.