Doctor Who Re-Watch: Death in Heaven Review

This finale was reminiscent of RTD era Who finales in many ways: great set-up with a not so great kitchen sink final follow up. Having said that, there was still enough Moffat touch in this finale to prop the episode up and catapult it into one of Moffat era Who’s best finales. Besides, Missy doesn’t add a lick of fun to an episode… SAID NO ONE ABOUT MICHELLE GOMEZ EVER. Ahem. As you were.

Clara Who?

Clara Who returns with a vengeance this episode with Clara pretending to be The Doctor, having gained enough knowledge and having the fast talking skill to almost get away with it.

Clara: Clara Oswald is a cover story – a disguise. There is no Clara Oswald.
Cyberman: Identify.
Clara: Oh, don’t be so slow, it’s embarrassing. Who could fool you like this? Who could hide right under your nose? Who could change their face any time they want? Hmm … You see, I’m not Clara Oswald. Clara Oswald has never existed.

Jenna Coleman also made Whovian history with her name appearing before Capaldi’s in the opening credits. Regardless of how one feels about Clara (and she certainly isn’t one of my favourites), it is undeniable that her character has left an enormous impact on the way we understand the role of companions and has changed the face of canon forever.

An RTD Feel?

Let’s get this out of the way. The big, bad cybermen plot felt more than just a bit silly, in the same way Daleks have felt since Series 2. There was something about pollen and rain birthing more cybermen to cover and conquer all of earth. Or something. There’s silliness with UNIT in an airplane with one UNIT employee who exists to say 2-3 lines before a quick dispatch (pointless, no?) and the irritating return of Doctor worship which I thought we’d left behind with Ten (The Doctor as President of Earth). Clara and Danny do have some touching moments but cyber-Brigadier was a bit weird and ‘this is the promise of a soldier’ stuff more than un-necessarily dramatic. I can’t get past it. Clara and Danny were never as operatic a couple as Amy and Rory. Having said that, the series 8 dedication to a continuing theme and characterization proved beautiful and effective.

“Am I a good man?”

The thread that began in Deep Breath and Into the Dalek is finally faced head-on in this finale. Missy’s plan is proven to have nothing to do with world domination for power’s sake at all, but is rather a birthday gift for someone whom she wants to reclaim as friend. It is a chilling moment, the completion of Kate’s claim that The Doctor is the chosen President of Earth in danger. The Doctor could take Missy’s cyber-human hybrid gift and become like her. He could go forth with his army and in the name of universal and intergalactic justice, force peace and understanding via bloodshed and fear. He could do it all claiming he was a good man, a hero, a President. The Doctor doesn’t.

Missy: Armies are for people who thing they’re right. And nobody thinks they’re righter than you! Give a good man firepower and he’ll never run out of people to kill… Every battle, every war, every invasion. From now on, you decide the outcome. What’s the matter Mr. President? Don’t you trust yourself?

The Doctor: Thank you! Thank you so much! I really didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. Did I say sometimes, thank you! I am not a good man. And I’m not a bad man. I am not a hero. I’m definitely not a president and no, I’m not an officer. You know what I am? I am an idiot! With a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out, learning.

It was a very classic Who moment and it catapulted an otherwise average episode into brilliance.

Missy as dark mirror

We get to see more of Gomez’s Missy here and she is shown to be more chilling and violent than even her appearance in Dark Water. Though it is left to our imaginations as to how Missy escapes her bonds without security reacting, her capture of Osgood is horrible. A part of me kept insisting the show wasn’t going to go there with such a cruel death, but they did. Missy played with her food like a spider and then pounces as Osgood starts to plead pathetically for her life.

Missy: I’m going to kill you in a minute. I’m not even kidding. You’re going to be as dead as a fish on a slab any second now all floppy and making smells. But don’t tell the boys! This is our secret girl plan.

I was grinning at her psychopathic propensity for humour even as I felt sick at the cruelty she displayed and maybe this is why Missy felt so scary. Even as the audience is entertained by her actions, we become complicit in her villainy. When she dispatched Kate from the plane I was shouting furiously at the TV, but a part of me still wanted Missy to get away with it. Missy’s reveal that she’d pushed Clara to be with The Doctor was intriguing and sick:

Missy: ‘Cause she’s perfect, i’n’t she!’ The control freak and the man who can never be controlled. You’d go to hell if she asked, and she would. The phones ringing Doctor, don’t you hear that? Now that’s the sound of your chain being yanked. Heel Doctor! Help me Doctor, help me. Help me, Doctor!

Not since the Delgado incarnation has there been such an effective Master. Missy mirrors The Doctor back on himself and reminds him of all the things he has been and can be and most of all is afraid to ever be again. It is perhaps the reason why he is so hesitant to shoot her and why a part of him wants to find her again. It is also why there is such pathos and sadness in the below lines delivered so beautifully by Capaldi.

The Doctor: I had a friend once. We ran together, when I was little. And I thought we were the same, but when we grew up, we weren’t. Now, she’s trying to tear the world apart and I can’t run fast enough to hold it together. The difference … (puts his hand on Danny’s heart) is this. Pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain, we can’t feel the hurt we inflict.

The one difference between Missy and The Doctor then is one’s capacity to feel pain, and the others persistent suppression of that pain.

The Clara/Doctor relationship

The last twenty minutes of this episode were really strong. There was again beauty in The Doctor parting with Clara to find Gallifrey even as Clara stayed home to be with a returned Danny. Only both friends lied to the other because they believed it was the only way to give the other what they supposedly wanted. Danny gives up his own chance of renewed life for the Afghani boy meaning Clara is all alone and in a very sad sequence, The Doctor travels to Missy’s Gallifrey co-ordinates to find empty space. We feel his agony as he smashes in rage at his TARDIS console. Not for a long time have we seen a Doctor display such raw emotion.

But at least he and Clara leave each other on a heartfelt moment of shared friendship:

Clara: Thank you for making me feel special.
Doctor: Thank you for exactly the same.

With the best villain New Who has seen in years, some beautiful character and thematic development and beautiful lines of dialogue which remind us why we watch a show about a mad man with a box, Death in Heaven transcends its silly villain of the week storyline to become a more operatic look at the nature of The Doctor and why it is we care about him.

Death in Heaven: 8/10 inky stars

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About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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