Clara, Clara, Clara… love her or hate her, there’s one thing that absolutely nobody can deny. And that’s that she had more goodbyes than hot dinners during her time in the TARDIS.
Jenna Coleman’s plucky schoolteacher from Blackpool was The Doctor’s companion for 3 years. Friend to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors (and technically every other one too), she went on many exciting adventures with the Time Lord. However, all good things come to an end – more than once, in Clara’s case. She’s the companion that kept coming back for more, time and time again. The very fact that we’ve been able to compile a Top 5 list for her goodbyes is proof of that! And if you want to be picky, she’s arguably had even more.
For the purposes of this list, we’re not counting her deaths in Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen. This is purely the Top 5 farewells for “Clara prime”, the original 21st Century incarnation from The Bells of Saint John up to the end of Series 9. Please also note that this list is focused solely on the exit scenes, not the entire episodes.
So, as we welcome Jenna back to our screens tonight in ITV’s Victoria, let’s take a look back on when we said goodbye to her in Doctor Who. Well, all the times we nearly did, anyway…
5. “You go a long way away” (Kill The Moon)
Was this really a goodbye? The production team certainly wanted us to think it was. It definitely ended with Clara, supposedly, leaving the TARDIS for good. But did anyone honestly think she’d leave here, slap bang in the middle of the season? After being abandoned to make an earth-shattering (well, moon-shattering) decision, Clara kicked off at The Doctor. Finally snapping at Twelve’s hands-off approach, she put him in his place in a surprisingly angry rant. Series 8 had been building to this moment, showing Clara out of her depth with this new Doctor. This was the straw that broke the Clara’s back.
The last we saw, she was in the arms of Danny Pink, convinced her time-travelling days were over. But Dan the soldier man had ever the word of wisdom. “You can never finish with anyone while they can still make you angry”. And, of course, he was right. It wouldn’t really be the end, and she’d return the very next week to fight a mummy on the Orient Express. Back to business as usual then…
4. “Thank you for making me feel special” (Death In Heaven)
Clara’s second Series 8 goodbye was originally meant to be the real deal. Jenna’s contract was up, the series needed a big emotional wallop for its finale… you get the idea. Danny Pink was dead, and then undead, and then dead again to save the world from Missy. The Doctor assumed he’d escaped the Nethersphere, but instead Danny left Clara with an unnamed, back-from-the-grave child standing in her flat. Anyone else find that a bit weird…?
Anyway, that’s besides the point. Thinking he was letting Clara stay with Danny, The Doctor lied that he’d finally found Gallifrey. Believing this, Clara lied in return that Danny had found his way home. Two best friends, both desperately in need of someone, leaving on a lie. Their “never trust a hug” moment in the cafe was touching, as was their parting exchange in the street. We end with Clara, alone, walking along through town… and then Santa appears in the TARDIS! Ho ho ho, there’s more to come yet!
3. “Gallifrey… the long way round!” (Hell Bent)
Clara’s actual, definitely-real-this-time goodbye came at the end of the Series 9 finale. Pulled from an extraction chamber on Gallifrey, she shared a final farewell with her best friend in a classic era TARDIS. But then, to spare the world from their toxic relationship, The Doctor erased his memory of her in an unexpected reversal of Donna Noble’s exit. It brought a whole new meaning to Clara’s iconic phrase: “run you clever boy… and remember me”.
Tears were shed and Clara was clearly pained as The Doctor failed to recognise her in the diner. But, for such a sad goodbye, there was something rather triumphant about it. Every end is a new beginning, and Clara’s time wasn’t over yet. With her very own TARDIS and Me/Ashildr for a companion, all of time and space is now hers to explore. Her death may be fixed, but there’s still a bit of wiggle room if she ever wants to return in the future. It’s an adventure we may never get to see, but the possibilities are endless…
2. “Every Christmas is Last Christmas” (Last Christmas)
After Death in Heaven, Jenna changed her mind and decided to come back for Christmas. Everyone really, really thought she would be leaving this time. Tabloid speculation was rife and all signs pointed to a not-so-merry Christmas for The Doctor. And it very nearly was. After admitting their lies and reconciling with the Time Lord, Clara was left at the mercy of the Kantrofarri. Or Dream Crabs, if you prefer. Thanks to Santa and some dreamy-weamy logic, The Doctor helped to save her from certain death.
Except, that wasn’t quite the end. Clearly envious of Matt Smith’s old man make-up the year before, it was Jenna’s turn to age 62 years. The elderly Clara shared a genuinely moving scene with The Doctor as they pulled one last cracker together. Had it been real, it would have been a beautiful send-off. But it was all another of The Doctor’s dreams and he rushes to save her once again. As the episode ended we were left with the same old, same old. Just The Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS!
1. “Let me be brave” (Face The Raven)
Best Clara Oswald goodbye? That’s understating it. This is up there as a contender for the best Doctor Who companion exit… ever! Emotional, powerful, and utterly heartbreaking. The climax of Sarah Dollard’s instant classic Face The Raven has gone down as one of the iconic moments of Series 9.
In a clever bid to save Rigsy (her own companion from Flatline), Clara puts her own life at risk. And it goes horribly, horribly wrong. Trying to be like The Doctor finally comes back to bite her as she’s caught out by a technicality. “The death’s already locked in. You can pass it on, but you can’t cheat it”. Forced to say goodbye to… well, everything, Clara doesn’t break down in the face of impending doom. She’s brave to the last and suffers the consequences head on.
Ultimately, this is where Clara’s story ends. True, she escaped her fate in Hell Bent and is now flying around in a TARDIS somewhere. But this is a fixed point, and she has to come back to Trap Street eventually. The moment the Quantum Shade pierces her soul is harrowing and it’s one of the most distressing farewells in Doctor Who history. The Doctor can only stand and watch as his best friend dies in horrible agony… and remember, the universe is a very small place when he’s angry with you.
Face The Raven gave us a fittingly memorable exit for a long-serving companion that we’ll never forget. Well, unless you’re The Doctor, that is… (too soon?)