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In the beginning of Doctor Who S9E12, Hell Bent, we see the Doctor driving through Nevada and stopping off at a roadside diner, which later turned out to be the same diner he once visited with Amy and Rory (and River, who he forgot to mention).
And we are led to believe that he did this to

check up on Clara, whose memory he erased and who now works at said diner.

However, as it turns out, it wasn't

Clara who lost her memory, it was he himself. He didn't even recognise her at all.

So, if that wasn't the reason for going there, what was?
In universe, I mean.

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    Even the Doctor has to eat! – Athena Widget Dec 15 '15 at 16:55
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    @AthenaWidget As established in Heaven Sent. – Paul D. Waite Dec 15 '15 at 17:51
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The Doctor visited the diner because it was there, and he had nowhere else to go. The Doctor got there in some some unidentified vehicle, with nothing but his guitar. He doesn't know where his TARDIS is (which he admits to Clara) and has been looking for it.

We see at the end of the episode that he's dropped off by

Clara and Ashildr

in somewhere that looks very much like Nevada, with no memory of how he got there, and picked up by a unknown passer-by. It's very likely that he's come back to that same spot to try to figure out why he was there in the first place.

One he got back there, the only thing in sight was a diner. Note that, from his perspective, there are some things odd about this diner (assuming he's in the exact same place):

  • It wasn't there before. He may believe he just didn't notice it, or that he's a bit lost, but seeing a diner that shouldn't be there would be odd.
  • It's a bit of an anomaly, sitting in the middle of the Nevada desert. There's nothing else nearby, so how can it afford to stay open?
  • It likely looked familiar, since it looks exactly like the diner from "The Impossible Astronaut" (though that one's in New Mexico).

Even beyond the oddities of the diner, it's the only place nearby he was likely to find anyone to give him a hand in locating his TARDIS. It's only reasonable that he would go inside and try to figure out what's going on around him.

We know the diner wasn't there by accident, since it's really

Clara's stolen TARDIS, made up to look exactly like the diner, probably there to return The Doctor's missing TARDIS to him.

But, from The Doctor's perspective, it was just a weird diner and he decided to go in.

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    But that's not entirely true. When in the diner, he tells the barmaid that his TARDIS "was moved from London" and he hasn't found it still. So he has been to London in the meantime to check. Or if he hasn't actually visited London, he's certainly visited somewhere. Where else would have picked up the guitar? And the car? (Unless the car was the same as the unnamed person's car we see later, but then the question becomes, where did he drop off the unnamed person? – Mr Lister Dec 15 '15 at 16:26
  • Could be. That it was there waiting for him. Hm. – Mr Lister Dec 15 '15 at 16:35
  • I've update my answer to account for the points you mentioned; I think the basic idea is the same, though: it was there so he went in. You are likely right about why it was there, but he wouldn't have known that. – KutuluMike Dec 15 '15 at 16:40
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    @Chahk: “He's got his sonic glasses that could've told him the TARDIS isn't where he last parked it.” — if they could tell him that, couldn’t they tell him where it is? – Paul D. Waite Dec 15 '15 at 17:53
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    @PaulD.Waite Not if another TARDIS is blocking the scans ;) – Chahk Dec 15 '15 at 19:02
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He was drawn there because of his inexplicable connection to Clara, they always seem to find each other no matter what happens. I mean she died in front of him 3 times and he still got her back, plus he had been there before — if you notice, it’s the same diner he, Amy, Rory, and River visit in Utah before they go to witness his "death", and that was before his regeneration which as we all know could mean some memory distortion.

Now with the memory wipe and how old he is, he saw the diner and recognized it but couldn't remember who was with him when he went there, and later he says that he thought he had been there with Clara before realizing his mistake near the end of the episode which means he he was there looking for her. The reason he could still remember her name was that hers was the first face his face saw.

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  • No, he knew her name was Clara because the unnamed man told him. Otherwise he wouldn't even have known that titbit. – Mr Lister Dec 15 '15 at 19:22
  • "Clara? Clara who?" Man, the Clara haters must have cringed on that one. – tilley31 Dec 15 '15 at 23:12

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