Doctor Who character spotlight: Conspiracy theorist Clive Finch (Rose)

We look back at the character Clive Finch from Doctor Who story Rose – a conspiracy theorist that assisted Rose Tyler and longed to find the Doctor.

The unassuming Clive Finch from New Who’s debut episode Rose wouldn’t be a lot of people’s first choice in discussing overlooked elements. But, I’m here to give the man his much-needed time in the limelight, as he’s easily one of my favourite characters from Series 1. Mark Benton’s brief stint in the role was impactful and a sorely underrated performance in Doctor Who.

Clive Finch is a very special part of New Who’s DNA for me – being the first character outside of the Tylers’ and Mickey to have any knowledge of the Doctor. The juxtaposition of Rose’s search for answers and his lengthy – almost obsessive – knowledge created a superb entry point to understand the elusive Time Lord further.

Mark Benton’s performance here needs to be highlighted and given praise. With such limited screen time, he manages to imbue his character with emotional depth and also develop our idea of the Doctor’s character. Benton manages to encompass the various emotions a man like Clive would realistically have. He’s fun and excitable, uneasy and paranoid, knowledgeable, but haunted.

A conspiracy theorist charting the appearances of the Doctor was a stroke of brilliant realism by Russell T Davies. His creative choices and character work seamlessly ground the world of Doctor Who to our world. I would be hard pressed to find a better example of this than the character of Clive.

All the details in his frenzied detective-like room further enhance Clive’s intense thirst for the Doctor, and I love how he ran a website called whoisdoctorwho.co.uk. (Which can still be accessed in the real world!)

Clive’s death at the hands of the Autons is one of the sadder and overlooked darker moments of the series.
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: official Doctor Who website.)

A shocking end

Seeing the various images of the Doctor throughout time? Of course it’s fascinating. Especially for a young first-time viewer like I was in March 2005. But, it’s not just a fun game of spot the Doctor. Clive also came with a stark warning for Rose and, in turn, the viewers:

The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history. When disaster comes, he’s there. He brings a storm in his wake and he was one constant companion… Death.

A snappy, but well handled piece of dialogue from RTD and Mark Benton as it still gives me shivers to this day. It’s effective as it makes you think. Perhaps there’s a darker streak behind the clownish smile. Likening the Doctor to some sort of God/Death figure is very fitting given the fate that befalls Clive during the Auton Invasion…

His death was handled well; the melancholic acceptance that Benton lends to Clive here has always hit me rather hard. It’s also one of the most overlooked dark moments in Doctor Who’s entire history.  Getting shot point-blank in the chest after going shopping is sad enough, but to witness this with his wife and children watching, screaming with fear and anguish? Heart breaking.

The demise of Clive is almost poetic. After warning that the Doctor is a harbinger of death, how tragic that his life must end when the Doctor is in town. But, perhaps it’s fitting that someone who had constantly searched for something beyond the mundane came face to face with the extraordinary in his final moments.

Even though his role was a small one, the character became an integral thread for the story of Rose. It’s about time we all acknowledged Clive Finch as an important character in the early days of New Who. I raise my glass to Russell T Davies and Mark Benton for bringing him to life.

Did the character of Clive stand out to you? What did you think of Mark Benton’s performance? Are you excited about the character’s appearance in the upcoming series Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon? Let us know in the comments below.