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EDIT: This was originally published before the broadcast of “The Name of the Doctor” and before we found out how Clara Oswin Oswald managed to be in three places at once, and die in two of them.
This profile will have to remain unfinished, as the key feature of Clara’s existence as a companion is her impossibility. She can’t be three people, in three different places in time and space, even if two of those people have died. And we don’t even know if there are only three of her. We don’t know if the current her, modern Clara, the one the Doctor has started having new adventures with, is the latest, the last, the first, or anything.
We may find these things out over the course of the next few weeks, or we may not, and when we do, we’ll come back to this very spot and talk about the latest developments, but in the meantime, what do we really know about this (or possibly these) woman (or women)?
• We know that she is great with kids. A real Mary Poppins, in fact. She’s been a Victorian nanny, an unofficial childminder, and she gained the trust of the Queen of Years, a very frightened child.
• We know that she’s great with computers, or at least, the non-Victorian Claras are great with computers. And we know the reason for this is her upload and download from the Great Intelligence. This will come in useful later (or possibly earlier) on.
• We know that she is adept at living more than one existence at once. Dalek Oswin Clara constructed a reality around herself that protected her from the horrific reality of her existence. Victoria Clara was a nanny and a barmaid with two different names. Even modern Clara is a traveller at heart, but one that could never escape her responsibilities to actually, y’know, go travelling.
• We know that modern Clara lost her mum, and we know that her dad called the leaf that caused her parents to meet “the most important leaf in human history.” This may be a red herring, but doesn’t that seem a little grand a statement to make? Will this leaf prove to be something else?
• We know that the phrase “run you clever boy, and remember” is key to her relationship with the Doctor, but as yet we don’t entirely know why.
• And we know that thanks to the delightful chemistry between Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman, she is really, and I mean REALLY good at bickerflirting:
• And that this seems to make the Doctor squirm, possibly because he is old enough to be her ancestor:
• Oh and we know she likes to make soufflés. Or at least Dalek Oswin Clara and Victorian Clara do.
Other than that, she remains inscrutable and impossible. Despite enormously different lives in each situation, despite dying twice, she remains exactly the same person each time: sharp as broken glass, warm as bedtime milk. But modern Clara appears not to be aware of her alter-egos, as if she is further back in her own timeline (assuming there is only one timeline) than the other two.
But even then, she can’t go on to die twice.
So, let’s just say, for now, that Clara is many things to the Doctor. She’s a puzzle, a distraction from his grief, a lost soul he hopes to save and a good mate to bicker with. But despite needing his assistance to escape her domestic self, she’s not family, not yet. For all that these two enjoy the reflection of themselves they get in each other’s eyes, this relationship is still too raw and fiddly to be able to fully assess.
Now go back and read our library of companions from the beginning, with Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic