Is Clara really dead after Face the Raven?

Longtime Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman was apparently killed off in this week's episode - but we have our doubts

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After 3 years, 31 episodes and countless adventures, it appears that Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald has finally left Doctor Who – and it wasn’t a pretty exit.

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The longtime companion was apparently killed after she tried to outwit an alien “quantum shade” in this week’s episode Face the Raven, discovering she’d actually doomed herself to the death meant for her friend Rigsy (Jovian Wade) before being subjected to a painful end.

Clara’s death in Face the Raven

It was a sad and shocking goodbye to the character, which we’re sure will have repercussions in the two remaining episodes of this series, but we also can’t help but wonder – was the death real? Could she return in some form, or is she really gone for good?

Frankly, we have our doubts. If Clara has actually exited the show by being killed off it would make a first for the revived Doctor Who, which has generally explained its companions’ departures in different (though no less final) ways.

These definitive exits have included being exiled to a parallel universe, trapped in a paradox or having their memory wiped, and so far the only main companion to actually die since 2005 has been Arthur Darvill’s Rory (who was promptly resurrected a couple of episodes later). So who’s to say there isn’t a different, happier and more sci-fi way for Clara to leave?

For example, it could be that Clara’s death is temporary (just like Rory’s was), with the character brought back to life for a less brutal exit in the final episode of the series. After all, we know that the Jenna Coleman has filmed at least one more scene as a waitress in an American-style diner (thanks to the latest cover of Doctor Who magazine, above, and some set photos).

Alternatively, the unseen diner scene might be some sort of flashback or dream sequence – we’re not sure why Clara would pop up alive and well in a restaurant after dying, but there’s no reason why she couldn’t have been a waitress for a previous adventure that the Doctor’s remembering fondly (or even visiting with the Tardis). So Clara could be dead, but the Doctor might get to see her one last time anyway.

And of course we could be barking up the wrong tree entirely – because waitress Clara might not be Clara at all. It was established in 2013 episode The Name of the Doctor that she had scattered versions of herself throughout history to help the Doctor (see below), and while it seemed like that plotline had resolved itself who’s to say there wasn’t one last copy of her kicking around? Gosh, this is a complicated show.

There are probably even more possible explanations for what’s happened to Clara, but what’s clear is that we can’t know for sure whether she’s truly dead or not. While it’s unusual for Doctor Who to kill off main characters, the classic series did it from time to time (e.g. companions Adric and Katarina) and it could be that head writer Steven Moffat thought it was about time the stakes were raised. 

On the other hand, it seems strange for Clara to leave in such a brutally depressing manner (this is a kids’ show after all), and given the evidence of Jenna Coleman’s future involvement this series there’s certainly reason to believe there might be hope for her survival (and a happy ending) yet. 

Either way, we know only one thing for sure – whether Clara’s dead or not, this isn’t the last we’ll see of Jenna Coleman in series 9. There’ll be one final chance to say goodbye… 

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Doctor Who continues next Saturday at 8.05pm