[Note: The following post contains SPOILERS for Doctor Who season 8]
In the last two years, Doctor Who fans have weathered a significant number of changes: a fan-favorite Doctor and set of companions left the series - paving the way for a darker (and more alien) chapter in the tales of a traveling Time Lord. Then, even before Peter Capaldi officially debuted as the Twelfth Doctor, speculation was already circulating that the Impossible Girl, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), was also planning an exit and would finish out her run during the 2014 Christmas Special. In the time since, viewers are not any closer to knowing the truth - as Coleman and Capaldi have both used the rumors to keep fans guessing.
After all, in the absence of knowing whether Clara will return for season 9, the character's arc in season 8 was a bit more suspenseful, since viewers couldn't fall back on outside knowledge that would otherwise undercut onscreen uncertainty. Yet, with the 2014 Christmas Special quickly approaching, and showrunner Steven Moffat already hard at work on the season 9 premiere script, the mystery surrounding Coleman's future with series has once again been put front and center.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Steven Moffat confirmed that, unsurprisingly, Peter Capaldi will return as the Doctor in season 9 but remained tight-lipped about whether or not Coleman would reprise the role of Clara - specifically stating that the actress was not signed for season 9 (at least not yet).
As a result, there are three possibilities:
- Jenna Coleman has already decided to leave and will exit the show at the end of the 2014 Christmas Special (or early in season 9).
- Coleman has yet to sign-on for season 9 but is either undecided about returning or still negotiating her contract.
- Coleman has already signed-on for season 9 but Steven Moffat is simply lying - in the interest of maintaining dramatic tension.
While readers might scoff at the third possibility, fans of the show know this wouldn't be the first (or likely the last) time that Moffat has outright lied in order to protect the show's secrets. Just three months back, during the season 8 premiere press tour, the showrunner was asked if Michelle Gomez would be portraying a female Master in season 8 - which Moffat outright denied on record. Of course, the speculation turned out to be true, when Missy's identity was revealed in the episode "Dark Water". Commenting on his deception, Moffat stated that he did not feel guilty about deceiving fans because knowing ahead of time would have "ruined the surprise."
For months, fans expected Danny Pink to woo Clara away from the TARDIS, making room for a new companion to join the show, but in the aftermath of a dour season 8 finale, "Death in Heaven", it's hard to know exactly how and when Clara will exit Doctor Who. Without a doubt, Santa Claus could find a way to reverse the heartbreaking consequences of season 8 but, given that the finale's closing moments seemed to suggest that the Doctor and Clara need each other (maybe now more than ever), it's hard to imagine that the 2014 Christmas Special will manage to wrap-up Clara's storyline, help the Doctor recover from the losses he's suffered, all while providing a fun one-off holiday adventure.
Initially, it was unclear how big of a role Clara would even play in the holiday episode, given that Doctor Who Christmas Specials often take a break from recurring companions, limiting their roles to minor side characters ("A Christmas Carol") or cameos ("The Doctor, The Window, and The Wardrobe"). However, a recent BBC Children in Need sneak peek seems to suggest that Coleman will enjoy a substantial amount of screen time and be directly involved in the upcoming adventure.
Check out the 2014 Christmas Special preview clip below:
That all said, the actress has previously indicated that the episode is "written in sections and it’s about dreaming – what is real and what is not." As a result, there's no guarantee that the Coleman we see in the clip is actually the real Clara and, even if so, it's still uncertain whether or not the actress will continue on with the series in 2015. For now, Moffat and Coleman seem set on keeping viewers guessing until after the 2014 Christmas Special has aired.
On the other hand, news that Capaldi is now confirmed for season 9 comes as little surprise. When it was first announced that the 56 year-old actor would be taking over for Matt Smith (who is 24 years younger), some fans were hoping that Capaldi was simply hired to portray a one-season arc - where the Doctor adopts a darker and more alien personality before ultimately regenerating into another young and whimsical actor (or actress). After all, it wouldn't have been the only time that an actor portrayed the Doctor for a single season (read: Christopher Eccleston).
Nevertheless, the BAFTA-winning star has been a hit with Doctor Who fans (young and old) - bringing a fresh element to the series while paying homage to prior Doctors with some familiar quirks. Season 8 spent a significant amount of time with the Doctor pondering whether or not he's a good man but, as the episodes rolled on, Moffat and his team relied less on heavy-handed ruminating and allowed Capaldi to simply revel in this "ruder" and "less huggable" take on the role.
At this point, it's unclear how long the actor will continue to play his "Idiot in a Box", or who will be accompanying him along the way, but it's exciting to know, now that his introduction is out of the way, fans can officially look forward to Capaldi full-on exploring new layers in the 2,000 year-old Time Lord.
The 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Special will air December 25, 2014 on BBC and BBC America.
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