There was one such moment for me in Cold War I’ve not seen any reviewers mention, so I’ll share it with you. It was a subtle moment that provided great insight into the character of The Doctor and connected back to an older adventure with the Ponds – Vampires of Venice.
Now Vampires of Venice is probably one of my least favorite Series 5 serials but it contained one of the greatest character insight scenes in the series.
Remember this quote from Rory?:
“You know what's dangerous about you? It's not that you make people take risks. It's that you make them want to impress you. You make it so that they don't want to let you down. You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you're around.”
This revelation about The Doctor made sense in the context of The Doctor’s entire history, both Classic and Modern series. Especially in Classic Who (where companions weren’t always extraordinary folks who slept next to cracks in universe or lived multiple lives in different time periods) companions were ordinary everyday people who took incredible risks to travel with The Doctor.
So how does this all connect with Cold War?
Watch Cold War again and think about Clara in the context of Rory’s quote. She volunteers to single handedly confront a Martian Warrior (a monster in her eyes).
The Doctor protests: “You?! No. No, no way! You’re not going in there alone, Clara. Absolutely not. No, no, never.”. (Clara goes in alone). It’s clear he doesn’t mean it. He wants her to go.
After it’s over Clara asks The Doctor, “How did I do?”, Clara is looking for The Doctor’s approval.
Uncharacteristically, The Doctor responds, “It’s not a test , Clara.”.
Is The Doctor thinking back to Rory’s comment at that moment? Does he realize he manipulated her into putting herself in incredible danger?
Clara persist and asks again, “How’d I do?” and The Doctor responds with an approving touch and “You did fine.”.
It seems to me this was an intentional call back to Vampires of Venice. Is The Doctor trying to have a different relationship with Clara based on his experiences with the Ponds but falling inevitably back on old habits?
It’s an intriguing thought and one that makes you reexamine The Doctor and Clara’s relationship. Remember that The Doctor has already met two different versions of Clara and has been the catalyst for her death both times.
Then there is a second character insight scene for Clara in Cold War. For 50 years The Doctor has been telling companions to stay put:
The Doctor: Stay here.
The Doctor: Stay here, don’t argue.
Clara: I’m not.
Clara stays put. Something 50 years of companions have rarely done. What does this say about Clara-Prime?
She’s not reckless or fearless, in the way Amy was. She wanted to travel and see the universe (who wouldn’t) but she may not have signed up for the carnage and constant fear of death. It ceased to be a game for Clara when she saw the Russians torn to shreds by the Ice Warrior.
She’s not an adrenaline junkie the way Amy was … but she wants to please The Doctor.
So when you read other reviews that tell you nothing really happened in Cold War to advance the story of The Doctor and Clara, remember they’re wrong.