|Doctor Who character|
|First appearance||"Asylum of the Daleks"|
|Portrayed by||Jenna Coleman|
|Other portrayals||Sophie Downham|
Clara Oswald is a fictional character created by Steven Moffat and portrayed by Jenna Coleman in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. First appearing in the show's seventh series, Clara serves as a companion of the eleventh and twelfth incarnations of the alien time traveller known as the Doctor (portrayed by Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi).
Clara is initially presented to the audience during the first half of the seventh series as three distinct, though similarly named, people living in different eras of time. The first two incarnations, Oswin Oswald and Clara Oswin Oswald, die during the episode in which they appear. The third incarnation becomes the Doctor's companion, travelling with him for the remainder of the series as he tries to uncover the mystery of her multiple lives. The mystery is later resolved in "The Name of the Doctor".
Oswin Oswald is introduced in the series 7 premiere, "Asylum of the Daleks". She is the sole survivor of the starship Alaska, which crashed on the Asylum, a prison planet for insane Daleks. Oswin then learns from the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) that she has been converted from human into a Dalek and has coped by retreating into a fantasy of her own survival. She assists the Doctor and his travelling companions to escape the planet unharmed, but at the cost of her own life. Later, in the 2012 Christmas special "The Snowmen", the Doctor meets a woman named Clara Oswin Oswald. She is a Victorian barmaid and governess whom the Doctor invites to be his newest companion, but who dies from an attack by a minion of the Great Intelligence. Seeing her full name on her tombstone, the Doctor realises she is the same woman as Oswin from the Dalek Asylum. Intrigued by the mystery of the woman who has lived and died twice in different eras, he begins searching across time for another Clara.
In "The Bells of Saint John", the Doctor finds Clara in contemporary London after she receives a phone number to the TARDIS from a mysterious woman and takes her on as a companion with a view to solving the mystery of the "impossible girl". The Doctor's repeated attempts at investigating Clara's origins over the course of "The Rings of Akhaten", "Hide", and "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" consistently turn up compelling evidence that she is just a normal young human woman. In the latter episode, in an averted timeline, the Doctor confronts Clara about the two previous versions of her he had met, but she does not know what he is talking about. The mystery surrounding Clara is finally resolved in "The Name of the Doctor" when she sacrifices her existence by entering the Doctor's timestream to undo the harm caused by the Great Intelligence. This results in the creation of numerous incarnations of Clara throughout the Doctor's history who appear to every known face of the Doctor and saving his life in numerous ways with only a few noticed like the two Claras the current Doctor encountered and a Clara incarnation that has the First Doctor (William Hartnell) pick the "right" TARDIS on his home planet, prior to the events of the show's first episode. Lost in the Doctor's timestream, she is eventually rescued and brought back into existence by the Eleventh Doctor. In the show's 50th anniversary special, Clara is shown to have become a teacher at Coal Hill School. While on an adventure with the Doctor, she meets the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and the War Doctor (John Hurt) in person, and manages to convince the Doctor to change his history and save his home planet from destruction in the Time War of his past, instead sealing it in a pocket universe, where it remains lost.
In "The Time of the Doctor", the Time Lords try to return to the universe through a crack in time, but if they do so, the Time War will begin anew. He sends Clara home to her family at Christmas twice, but she returns in the TARDIS, after a three-hundred-year interval. With the Doctor facing certain death at the end of his regeneration cycle, she pleads with the Time Lords through the crack to save the Doctor; they grant him a new regeneration cycle and the crack closes. She then witnesses the Doctor regenerate into the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi. Clara spends some time grappling with losing the Doctor she knew and loved throughout the events of "Deep Breath", until a call from the Eleventh Doctor prior to his regeneration convinces her to stay by his side and help him adjust to his new persona. Over the course of the series, she enters into a romantic relationship with fellow teacher Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). For a while, she keeps secrets between the Doctor and Danny due to their misgivings about each other, and experiences turbulence in her friendship with the Doctor, particularly in "Kill the Moon" when he abandons her to face a traumatic decision on her own. In "Flatline", she is forced to take the Doctor's role in averting an alien invasion, and realises she is capable of making the same ruthless and pragmatic decisions he often has to make. In the series finale "Dark Water"/"Death in Heaven", Danny dies while crossing the road before Clara can announce her intent to commit to him fully. After attempting to blackmail the Doctor into changing history to avert his death, which is impossible, Clara and the Doctor decide to pursue contacting him from beyond the grave, and end up at a facility where the Master (Michelle Gomez) has stored the consciousnesses of Earth's dead as part of a plot to convert all of the deceased into an army of Cybermen. Separated from the Doctor, Clara briefly impersonates the Doctor (displayed a detailed knowledge of his personal history) as part of a bluff to prevent being killed by a Cyberman (the opening credits of Death in Heaven are altered to show Clara in the Doctor's role to reference the bluff). Danny is brought back as a Cyberman, and asks Clara to disable the device that allows him to remember his feelings for her, but he nonetheless resists his programming and is instrumental in destroying the Master's Cyberman army. Two weeks after these events, Clara and the Doctor meet to say goodbye to one another. He pretends he has found Gallifrey, and a home to go back to, while she pretends Danny returned from the dead through the Master's device, when in fact he gave up his chance to do so to save the life of an Afghan child he killed in the Afghanistan war.
The two later reunite in the 2014 Christmas special "Last Christmas", when alien creatures induce a dream state in both the Doctor and Clara. Clara confesses that Danny is still dead, and the Doctor admits he did not find Gallifrey. Their shared dream experience ends with them regretting their parting. The Doctor asks Clara to resume travelling with him, and she happily agrees.
Clara (Sophie Downham) appears in a short prequel to "The Bells of Saint John" as a child who talks to the Doctor at a playground. The Doctor does not realise her identity, which is revealed to the viewer. Coleman later played Clara in "He Said, She Said", the online prequel to "The Name of the Doctor". Clara also features alongside the Eleventh Doctor in the New Series Adventures novel Shroud of Sorrow, published April 2013. She appeared in IDW Publishing's comic story Deadwood. Clara appeared briefly in issues 11 & 12 of IDW 50th anniversary Doctor Who mini-series "Prisoners of Time". Beginning with Issue 462 (June 2013), Clara appears regularly in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips.
Casting and development
On 21 March 2012, it was announced that Jenna-Louise Coleman would replace Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as the next companion. She auditioned for the role in secrecy, pretending it was for something called Men on Waves, an anagram for "Woman Seven". Executive producer and lead writer Steven Moffat chose her for the role because she worked the best alongside Smith and could talk faster than he did. Coleman had never seen Doctor Who before her audition, and watched "The Eleventh Hour" and "completely fell in love with the show". However, she only watched the first five episodes of the seventh series – the final five featuring Gillan and Darvill – because she did not want to learn more about their relationship to the Doctor, as she wanted her acting alongside Smith to be "spontaneous". Moffat stated that her character is different from previous companions, though he attempted to keep the details of her character a secret until she debuted in the Christmas special. In "Asylum of the Daleks", Coleman appears as the character Oswin Oswald, a secret which was kept from the public before transmission. Coleman was originally given the role of a Victorian governess named Jasmine, and then for the second audition she was given both the characters of Oswin and Clara. She originally thought that the producers were looking for the right character, but later realised it was part of Moffat's "soft mystery" plan. Neil Gaiman (writer of "Nightmare in Silver") revealed that the character was originally intended to stay as a Victorian governess. Coleman stated that Moffat came up with the mystery during the audition process. Coleman played each version of the character as individuals with "trust that there would be a payoff" to her mystery. Moffat told Neil Cross, who wrote "Hide", the first episode Coleman filmed, that Clara was "a normal girl".
Moffat felt that the introduction of a new companion made "the show feel different" and brought the story to "a new beginning" with a different person meeting the Doctor. Executive producer Caroline Skinner remarked that her introduction allowed the series return to a more "classic Doctor Who format". Smith said that Clara was different from her predecessor Amy Pond (Gillan), which allowed the audience to see a different side of the Doctor. Moffat said that Coleman brings "a speed and wit and an unimpressed quality that makes the Doctor dance a bit harder" Coleman stated that her character "holds her own" and was competitive with the Doctor, providing "a nice double act". With her place in the series' narrative, Clara was intended to reawaken the Doctor's "curiosity in the universe and gives him his mojo back". Concerning Clara's relationship to the Doctor, Coleman said, "It's been interesting how it's changed Matt's Doctor. There is a natural bounce between them, and a flirtation, and attraction. But, again, they've always got this friction because they're a bit magnetic and drawn to each other, but she can't quite figure him out. He's got loads of secrets and he's always looking at her, trying to figure her out." The dynamic between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy was an influence on Coleman and Smith. In addition, Coleman revealed that Clara and the TARDIS have a "relationship", as there is a running joke about the TARDIS (previously established in the series as being sentient) not liking Clara or making fun of her.
Many fans and critics noticed similarities between Clara and her predecessor Billie Piper's Rose Tyler, whom she appeared alongside with in "The Day of the Doctor". For example she helped the Doctor out of a dark place in his life, albeit Rose helping with a much darker time, both companions losing a parent and having a more close relationship with the Doctor and seeing part of their childhood.  The Doctor does the same thing to Clara in "The Time of the Doctor" as he does to Rose in "The Parting of the Ways" by sending her back home to keep her safe.
Nick Setchfield of SFX praised the effective surprise debut of Coleman as Oswin in "Asylum of the Daleks". He wrote, "Coleman brings sauce and sparkiness, and while she initially seems a familiar Moffat archetype, all snarky cracks about the Doctor's chin and throwaway lines about sexual experimentation... there's a deeper vulnerability there too, which makes her eventual fate in this episode genuinely heart-skewering." Michael Hogan, writing for The Daily Telegraph, also found her debut promising and described her as "enchanting in an elfin way – rather like a brunette, curvier, less annoying Fearne Cotton".
The character's reintroduction as Clara in "The Snowmen" received generally positive reviews from critics. The Guardian's Dan Martin wrote, "The masterstroke behind Jenna-Louise Coleman's surprise introduction is that it made us want to see more of her before Karen Gillan had even gone. The cheeky, self-assured Clara won a place in our hearts from the off." Setchfield called her "less of a motormouthed quip-merchant than [Oswin], but Coleman makes her equally winning – plucky, smart and riffing on a very promising chemistry with Matt Smith". IGN's Matt Risley felt that the Clara "trumped her already-bombastic debut with a character both fully formed and utterly unpredictable". He praised the mystery surrounding her and her independence, commenting that she seemed to be the "antithesis" of Amy Pond as she was "a girl who will wait for no-one". Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern admitted that he had "found Oswin's perkiness a tad wearing", but he was "completely won over" by Coleman's Clara in "The Snowmen". Neela Debanth of The Independent felt that Clara's demise in "The Snowmen" made the episode "a bit of a tease" and set up the question of what the travelling Clara would be like. Unlike Mulkern, she favoured the Oswin version, describing her as "much more fun and flirtatious".
Following "The Bells of Saint John", Digital Spy's Morgan Jeffery said that the new Clara was "more grounded and so far easier for the viewer to latch on to" than her two predecessors, both of which could have been harder to sustain as companions. Mulkern said that he did not bother with the character's mystery and found it pleasing that Coleman played her as "a straightforward modern companion with no baggage". Setchfield described Clara as "equally sparky and winning but altogether younger and possibly just a tad more vulnerable than her previous incarnations" with a "helplessly watchable chemistry" with Smith. Debnath described her as a "softer version" of Oswin, still hoping that "the character will be taken up a notch, challenging the Doctor more and bouncing off him like Oswin did. However, the Daily Mirror's Jon Cooper expressed concern that Clara, despite Coleman's success, was too similar to Amy. Mike Higgins of The Independent felt that Coleman was "an improvement" upon Gillan, but wrote that "the pairing of an intellectually bright but emotionally dim male with a techno-illiterate but wised up female is a tired old trope of much drama and comedy".
The character's development has also been met with positive reviews. Martin praised how her backstory was fleshed out in "The Rings of Akhaten", as otherwise the character "was danger of becoming simply a story arc in the shape of a girl". SFX's Richard Edwards wrote that she had the potential to be "a truly great companion", and that it was "refreshing to see a companion who isn't in total awe of the Doctor... and she's not afraid to take the lead when she needs to". Debnath praised her "caring nature" and "lovely maternal side", but felt that she could be "annoyingly naïve". Dave Golder of SFX stated that Clara was "to an extent, a bit of a cartoon character" and that Moffat was better at writing her in "The Name of the Doctor" than some of the preceding writers. He also commented that she "still feels too new a companion (and an underdeveloped one) to really care about her sacrifice".
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Clara Oswald|
- Clara Oswald at the BBC One Doctor Who website
- Clara at BBC America's Doctor Who website
- Clara Oswald on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki