Warning: contains spoilers for Asylum Of The Daleks and The Snowmen.
The soufflé, a delicately baked concoction of egg yolks and whites, is so named for the French verb souffler, meaning to blow or breathe out, is usually made in a ramekin, and was popularised by nineteenth century chef Marie Antonin Carême.
While it’s extremely unlikely that any of the above information will provide a clue to the mystery of the Doctor’s new companion, when it comes to what Jenna-Louise Coleman terms the “mad genius” of Steven Moffat, it’s best to cast your net wide. Ramekins then, blowing things up, and French Revolution-era chefs are all being added to our CSI-style evidence wall of Things We Actually Know about soufflé girl aka Clara Oswald Oswin aka Oswin.
Here’s what we need answering: what is the connection between Oswin the Dalek and Clara the governess? How is the same woman reappearing at different points in time, memory-less of her past selves? Where and who is her family? What is her link to the Doctor? Was she born behind the clock face of Big Ben? And most importantly, did she invent fish?
9. She’s not the girl who waited
Instead, she’s the girl who pursued – or as the Eleventh Doctor might have it, the “bird who smiled” (we’ll put the Gene Hunt lingo down to his post-Pond humbuggery). No sitting in her red wellies by the garden swing waiting for the Raggedy Doctor for this companion, once she claps eyes on her quarry, it’s a running pursuit, a clamber onto the roof of his carriage, and an upside-down “Doctor Who?”, before the credits have even rolled. A woman of action and hand-grabbing, hang about Clara does not.
8. She lives a double/triple/n-ple life
Before we even wade into the multiple era versions, the Clara we meet in The Snowmen already leads a double life. Initially, we meet her as Clara the barmaid from The Rose & Crown, before she dons a higher neckline, clips her vowels, and becomes Miss Montague, the governess of Darkover House (which, incidentally, seem to have about as much luck with governesses as Hogwarts does with Defence Against The Dark Arts teachers).
Asylum of the Daleks saw Coleman’s character similarly split, though this time as a psychological coping mechanism rather than an act of spirited social climbing. First presented as a shipwrecked Junior Entertainments Officer with a taste for Bizet and baking, it was revealed by the end of the episode that Oswin not only hadn’t evaded capture by the Daleks, but had in fact been transformed into one of them. So that’s at least four identities for the new companion – soufflé girl, Dalek, Barmaid, and Governess, to which we can add the modern day ‘Clara’ glimpsed next to her former self’s headstone in the teaser trailer for coming episodes.
7. She’s curious
In The Snowmen, Clara’s first remark to the Doctor is a question, and the inquisitiveness continues from then on in. The one-word reason she gives Vastra for seeking out the Doctor? Curiosity, the prerequisite of any Who companion worth their salt.
Like Astrid Peth before her, Oswin joined the crew of a starship to see the universe only to fall at her first voyage, but unlike Astrid, Oswin – or at least a version of her – is about to get a second (or third, or fourth?) chance.
6. She’s quick on the uptake
Add the ability to psychically melt a horde of snowmen (collective noun for a group of snowmen? A herd? A gaggle? A Frosty?) to the “total screaming genius” who erased the Doctor from the pathweb in Asylum of the Daleks, and we’re left with the distinct impression that Clara/Oswin is one smart cookie.
Of late, the Doctor’s companions have come to knowledge and understanding during their time in the TARDIS, – Donna’s transformation from vapid Chat Magazine-reader to the Doctor Donna was an accelerated example – but Clara/Oswin seems to have hit the ground running, if you’ll excuse the er, unfortunate turn of phrase.
5. She’s brave
In terms of unflappability, compare Alice the housemaid’s reaction to meeting Vastra, Jenny, Strax, and the – I’m going for herd – herd of snowmen to Clara’s excited, wide-eyed absorption of the alien world in which she finds herself. This Victorian heroine is no hysterical fainting lady. “What’s wrong with dangerous?”. Indeed.
The character’s bravery is accompanied by a streak of independence so wide it could be seen from space (should come in handy, that), which means that Clara isn’t much one for following orders. “The governess should enter by the back door unless accompanied by the children”, “Don’t follow me”, “Stay in there” and “Don’t come looking for me, forget about me” are just some of the instructions Clara neglects to heed in The Snowmen.
4. She’s a terrible flirt
By which I mean that she’s extremely good at it. In Asylum of the Daleks, Oswin’s dialogue is peppered with flirtation, from teasing the Doctor and Rory about their respective chin and nose, to telling Rory he shared a name with the first boy she ever fancied (a self-confessed lie, it was Nina – she was going through a phase).
Clara’s saucy looks to both Alice and Vastra in The Snowmen indicate that it might be more than just a Sapphic ‘phase’ her iteration of the character is going through, though that full-on Doctor snog and cheeky moment on the ladder could suggest otherwise… Either way, both Clara and Oswin are weapons-grade flirts.
3. The Doctor doesn’t save her. Twice.
The series new episode teaser trailer said it: she’s “the woman twice-dead”. That’s one death on an exploded asylum planet post Dalek-transformation, and one gravity based demise, both of which the Doctor fails to save her from.
2. Clara was born on the 23rd of November
Which, as eagle-eyed viewers have pointed out, is the date that Doctor Who first premiered on the BBC 49-and-a-bit years ago, back in 1963. What was it that the Doctor tells Amy in The Pandorica Opens? Never ignore a coincidence, unless Steven Moffat put it in, in which case he’s probably just messing with us (not the Doctor’s exact words, but you get the gist).
We’re privy to the date of Clara Oswin Oswald’s birth thanks to her headstone which also bears the inscription “Remember me, for we shall meet again”. This pithy little motto recalls the many appearances of the ‘remember’ motif in this and recent episodes. We saw snow and ice that remembers, and the memory worm in the Christmas Special. The Doctor instructed Amy and Rory in Asylum of the Daleks to “make them remember you”, and Oswin instructed the Doctor (twice) to “run, run you clever boy, and remember”. So here’s another question to add to our growing list: who chipped that cunning, theme-tying-in message on Clara’s headstone?
1. She’s not possible
But then again, neither was that astronaut.
To quote another character Steven Moffat has taken onto his roster in recent years, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth”. That might work for flappy-coated rationalists, but it certainly doesn’t apply to the world of Doctor Who, a universe where we’re asked to believe at least six impossible things before breakfast.
That’s roughly the extent of what we know about Clara/Oswin the impossible then, now to start building the theories…
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