The Doctor and Clara find a community of aliens secretly living in London, and try to save their friend Rigsy from getting killed by a raven.
In the TARDIS, Clara gets a phone call from Rigsy, the guy from last season’s chalk episode. He woke up with a weird tattoo on the back of his neck that periodically changes.
The Doctor and Clara arrive at his place, and after examining the tattoo, the Doctor says it’s a countdown of some sort. A TARDIS scan reveals that Rigsy had recent contact with alien lifeforms in London, but he doesn’t remember anything.
The following scenes involve a lot of wandering as our trio tries to retrace Rigsy’s steps. Eventually they find a secret community full of tons of aliens; a perception filter makes them appear human, but we see flickers of their true selves: Ood, Judoon, Sontarans, Cybermen…
Wait, why are there Cybermen here? How does that work?
The mayor of this community is none other than me. I mean Me. As in, Ashildr. We learn that Rigsy received a death sentence for killing a two-faced alien lady who can see the future or something. But since Rigsy doesn’t remember, are we sure that Me telling the truth?
Once the tattoo timer on Rigsy’s neck runs out, a raven that lives in the town will come out and kill him. Uh, yeah, that sure is a convoluted way to kill someone.
The Doctor, Clara, and Rigsy splits up to gather clues. Clara learns that someone with a tattoo timer can transfer it to someone else; she has Rigsy transfer it to her because she’s a main character with her name in the opening credits, so there’s no way she can’t die.
The Doctor checks out the two-headed victim who is preserved in stasis. He learns she was protecting her daughter who was disguised as a boy because female two-headed people are important.
Hey, wait. She’s not dead…she’s still alive! None of this matters because it was all an elaborate plot to trap the Doctor and get his Timelord will thing (remember that from the beginning of the season?).
Because the murder was faked, Rigsy’s life wasn’t really in danger. But when Me sees that Clara now has the tattoo, she is unable to remove it; the terms of the contract changed when Clara got the tattoo transferred. Seriously, this bird has a contract (admittedly it’s a being that takes the form of a raven for some reason, but whatever). Anyway, there’s no way out and nothing anyone can do, so Clara dies and the Doctor is teleported elsewhere.
Doctor Who‘s been leaning more and more into fantasy and fairy tales since Moffat took over as showrunner, but these elements reached their apex in this episode, which felt way more magical than it should. Yes, there’s the famous Arthur C. Clarke quote that “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” but the “scientific” explanations felt half-assed. The raven, the tattoo, the two-headed lady – none of it really holds up, and one expects Doctor Who to be better than this.
Clara dies in this episode and her death scene is really overdramatic and takes a long time to actually happen. Lots of goodbyes, preparing for the end, swelling music, the works. Maybe the length would be warranted if she was totally dead forever, full stop. But Clara dies as often as Daniel Jackson, so this definitely isn’t the end.