Doctor Who series 11 episode one ended with a funeral – SPOILERS to follow.
Sharon D Clarke’s character Grace O’Brien died while fighting to save the Doctor and friends from Tim Shaw and his electrifying Gathering Coil.
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While Grace had not been referred to as an official companion, her death in The Woman Who Fell To Earth was still a shock, given that she had been trailed in the run-up to the series as ‘a returning role’.
When Clarke’s casting was first announced in October 2017, some fans took a guess that she could be playing yet another incarnation of the Master, although as details began to solidify – mainly that Grace was human, and the wife of Bradley Walsh’s Graham – RadioTimes.com speculated that she could be playing a role in the vein of someone like Wilfred Mott – the grandfather of former companion Donna played by Bernard Cribbins.
In hindsight, promoting her as a ‘returning role’ now seems like a red herring.
Or is it?
For while it is true that Grace doesn’t appear in the trailers for the series – suggesting that she doesn’t appear in upcoming episodes – we are talking about a show here that A) is very good at keeping secrets, B) isn’t usually keen on the whole ‘staying dead forever’ thing, and C) is about time travel.
Could we potentially see a Father’s Day scenario – in which Rose Tyler used time travel to try and save her father – in the future? Or maybe a Clara Oswald or Bill Potts solution, where they’re still technically dead, but have been kept alive in some way?
It’s difficult to tell. With new showrunner Chris Chibnall comes a new approach – perhaps he is more of a fan of the ‘Adric method’, in which the dead remain dead. But given that Sharon D Clarke is an actor of great renown, and how scarce details are about the stories that are yet to come in this series, this might not be the last we’ve seen of Grace.
If only because her death has made Bradley Walsh sad – and this nation cannot take Bradley Walsh being sad.
Doctor Who series 11 continues with The Ghost Monument next Sunday 14th October on BBC1
This article was originally published on 7 October 2018