The problem with being properly introduced to a new Doctor Who companion like Clara in a Christmas special (plus one episode beforehand, of course) is that we have to wait before we get to know her. It means that regardless of our theories we have very little to go on, that is, minus a few quirks and oddities. One could argue that it’s the hardest part of Who, adjusting to new companions, particularly because it happens far more often than the Doctor’s regeneration. Still, there are ideas cropping up everywhere, from a living meme theory to Clara being the Doctor and River’s daughter. (Let’s hope not, because of the kissing stuff.)
But the odd thing is that, dying and re-dying aside, Clara appears to be shaping up into a brunette version of Rose Tyler. The details are almost too specific to ignore.
While I’d argue that the loss the ninth Doctor suffered was infinitely more acute than what Eleven went through following “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the trauma that they both sustained was very real and very powerful. The Doctor’s actions in the Time War and his inability to do more than stand by and watch as Amy and Rory were snatched away from him took an alarming toll. The Doctor lost family, and the grief it caused made him aloof, angry and cold. While Nine was not actively avoiding the universe, he was certainly not looking to share until Rose showed up.
However, Rose gets a trial of sorts when she starts traveling with the Doctor. Instead of aiming to dazzle and entice, Nine takes her to a space station to watch the Earth turn to dust, billions of years in the future—he literally forces her to undergo the same loss that he did, the destruction of her home planet. She passes the test by keeping her head and actively volunteering to end his loneliness, proving that she can’t be shaken off by something so simple as worldwide destruction.
Doctor: I’m left traveling on my own because there’s no one else.
Rose: There’s me.
And then we have Eleven, and his curmudgeonly withdrawal from friendly contact following the loss of the Ponds. (Apparently, River doesn’t count as much as we were led to believe.) He shuts himself away in an effective bell tower, observing from on high, but not keen on interacting. When Clara needs his help, she has to go through Madame Vastra, and lo and behold, she also has a test to pass. Granted, Madame Vastra is the one who designed this particular test, but it serves the same purpose; Clara has to prove that she is worth a break in the Doctor’s melancholy streak, has to use the right words to get him back in the game.
The attraction element is an easy connection to make as well. We’ve had plenty of companions who have found the Doctor handsome, worthy of a smooch or their affection, but the Doctor actually seems to be reciprocating this time around, in a way that he has not since Rose’s departure. It’s not surprising, exactly—it’s hard to have a lead character who is never romantically attached, and River practically doesn’t count in this capacity; while there is clearly a relationship going on, their connection was foisted on the Doctor as a result of future knowledge, and as an audience we never really get to see him fall in love with her. It’s all, at best, a lot of flirty talk and some married-couple spats. By that meter, it’s been a long while since the Doctor got truly cozy with a companion.
So Clara might be shaping up into a new proper love interest, which would give her even more in common with Rose. And then there’s that revival theme….
The Doctor would have thought Clara was lost by the end of “The Snowmen,” but for a choice phrase that she impossibly repeats: “Run, you clever boy. And remember.” With those words, he received a message of sorts—the realization that he had met her before, that she had died before, that she is destined to die but always return somehow, a perfect puzzle to get him back into the universe. And then there’s the funny coincidence that her command to him—Run!—is the very first word the Doctor ever said to Rose Tyler when he grabbed her hand in a retail store basement and dragged her away from homicidal shop window dummies.
There was a choice phrase that heralded Rose’s many returns as well: “Bad Wolf.” Over and over again, bringing her back to him when he needed her most.
The parallels are bleeding through all over, making a good case for Clara operating in the same fashion as Rose, serving the same sort of counterpoint to the Doctor. Steven Moffat himself has made the point of saying that the Doctor we saw in the the 2012 Christmas Special was actually meant to be reminiscent of the ninth Doctor in his approach to the universe, so the connection becomes an even more solid bet. In a similar emotional state, the Doctor craves the same kind of companion; someone resilient, who renews is sense of wonder in the universe, who returns to him despite all odds. Someone he might be able to fall in love with.
It would seem that when the Doctor retreats from us, what gets him back to playing form is simply a matter of the right kind of woman.