Doctor Who Season 35 – 12 (Season Finale)

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“Death in Heaven”

You may remember that I closed last week’s post by saying that “Moffat is sometimes guilty of trying to have his cake and it eat too, and a fear he may do that here”.  This is one of those cases where I hate being right, but I’m sure as hell not surprised to be.  The non-committal ending was a classic Moffat cop-out, but then “Death in Heaven” was pretty much a survey course in what makes Steven Moffat both a brilliant writer of Doctor Who and an incredibly irritating one.

On the whole, I thought this episode was kind of a mess.  Well – a huge mess.  But there were definitely moments, a lot of them provided by Michelle Gomez’ balls-out hyper-performance as Missy (I refuse to believe she’s dead – the Master/Mistress always has an escape plan).  The Mary Poppins bit was a hilarious touch (apparently there’s an entire mythology built around the idea that the original was actually a Time Lord), but Gomez was generally pretty on-point here – over-the-top in a good way.  You can add Missy to the long list of people I’d rather see traveling the Universe with the Doctor than Clara.

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I’m not going to talk much about the whole Cyberman plot, because all of it – the uploading dead brains, the clouds, the rain – was frankly pretty dumb.  The best elements of this scenario were all in Part I of the finale last week – the creepy notion of 3W and all it implied – and the invasion stuff this week was ludicrous and silly.  I do rather like the notion that the Mistress would go to all that trouble just to give the Doctor an army to force him to admit what a hypocrite he is – and because she’s lonely of course – and that she hand-picked Clara to be with him because she’s a control freak who could P-whip him and make him miserable.

Speaking of Clara, it’s impossible not to wonder if the first part of her storyline this week – where she pretended to be the Doctor – was a swipe by Moffat at the legions of fans who decry the fact (quite rightly in my view) that she’s taken over the series way too much.  No doubt many “Clara Who” viewers believed Moffat might just go there, but it was just a red herring.  In point of fact Clara (for a change) was a minor factor for much of the episode, which was mostly spent with the Doctor (6 sugars in his coffee!) on-board a UNIT plane with Sarah Lethbridge-Stewart and her gang, acting as President of Earth while Cyber-clouds gathered over cemeteries and Missy did her best Hannibal Lector impersonation.  This went on way too long, though again Missy was the saving grace – even if I was a bit bummed she killed Osgood (now a Smith/Tennant otaku – poor Tom Baker).  The body count was definitely high this time around, thanks to the Mistress.

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The rest of the episode is pretty much Danny Pink’s story, though there are highlights – Missy’s declaration that UNIT One should be crashed into Belgium because “they’re not even French!”  Missy’s Marilyn Monroe impression (are you seeing a trend here?).  As for the Brigadier cameo, I appreciate the thought but it was a classic Moffat overreach.  Danny gets a good sendoff – saving the world, and then saving the boy he’d killed in Afghanistan (add another one to the list of those I’d rather see traveling with the Doctor than Clara) rather than going home himself.  Was he in the “real” Afterlife this time, or just the sputtering remnants of the Nethersphere?  Does it matter?

In any event, it appears Danny really is dead – though with Moffat at the helm, Doctor Who has become the Aldnoah.Zero of TV sci-fi.  I thought the way he chose to end the Doctor and Clara’s relationship was very elegant and bittersweet, a sort of “Gift of the Magi” (appropriately seasonal that, actually) ending with each of them telling a lie to protect the other’s feelings.   But to thine own Moff be true – as ever he can’t leave well enough alone, and as much as I appreciate the cleverness of casting Nick Frost as Santa Claus (I mean come on, give it up – that’s delicious) it still pisses me off to see that beautiful ending wasted and the tedious Doctor-Clara melodrama dragged on.  Hopefully the Christmas special really is it, and even Moffat can see that it’s time to move on – poetically and prosaically, this relationship has run its course.

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Just  couple more thoughts – it is, of course, only my assumption that the Doctor was lying to Clara about having found Gallifrey.  But given his reaction when he arrived at the coordinates Missy had told him (any fan of long-enough standing to remember the classic “Pyramids of Mars” will have recognized them) and the nature of his parting with Clara, it makes sense that he certainly didn’t find what he told her he found, if he found anything at all.  And I loved what the Doctor told Clara as they hugged (not that he hugged her exactly like Cyber-Danny did) – “Never trust a hug – just a way to hide your face.”  It says so much about not just the Doctor, but this Doctor – the one who’s captured the endless pathos of the character perhaps better than any, as Peter Capaldi’s sheer brilliance has shone through despite his being marginalized by the scripts.  Here’s hoping he sticks around for a long time.

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  1. K

    I watched this at a convention with a room filled with Doctor Who fans so I enjoyed myself. I also enjoyed the episode itself, except Osgood's death (she was a great character I would have loved to see much more of)

    I also thought the Master's assistant (sorry I am blanking on the name) was a great character and Im sorry to see him go. I won't mention Missy because she has to be back.

    But while I felt the episode was fun and loved the scene with the Brig, it was also a bit silly. All the dead or even most are now cybermen. Just thinking of the implications of that is ridiculous. But then I also thought writing an episode focused on what happens after you die is a bit much.

    Mind you I don't mind as a one off story, I love Koreeda's movie on the after life but that had rich themes that this episode couldn't dream of reaching.

    An even when we are just talking about the Doctor Who world I still feel telling us what happens to the dead is not something I feel a story should do because it puts you in a box.

    As for Danny he had a good ending but it all came a little too late for me to call him a successful character.

    If that was Clara's ending it also would have been very good but yes sadly it Is almost definitely not (and I've seen people predict she's pregnant which makes sense). I also hope she will finally leave at Christmas but I fear there would be more of an announcement by now. Unless they are really trying to keep it hush hush including the casting of a new companion.

    I almost feel Moffat wants to make his Rose. I think he failed with Amy (mind you I liked Amy much more than Rose but the general public didn't) and I see the same thing with Clara, maybe even more so. From Moffat's own admission He really liked Rose and I think he wants to create a companion that the public loves as much as her. I hope he doesn't fall into the same pitfalls of not knowing where to end Clara. I feel the 12th Doctor needs a new companion for a real fresh start.

  2. M


    I loved his character too (partly due to Missy's calling out to him). He felt… fully-formed. Unlike many characters in the show that now feel tacky and purely existing for the sake of atmosphere, he felt like he had his own life and personality.

  3. N

    I can't understand all the hate this episode get. Sure, it's a bit silly, but Doctor Who is always like that. The Doctor is great, Missy is great, and Danny is fine too.

  4. M

    Gomez' Missy was probably the best part of the show. The Mary Poppins moment was brilliant as one could argue that it means she inspired the mythology, but it's equally likely that Missy was just doing what deranged lunatics do and acting out on a whim.

    I also choose not to believe she's dead, but in the case that she is, Moffat is full-on guilty of cop-out. Going through all that to bring back the Master, only to have 'her' vaporized… Such disrespect is grossly repulsive.

    The Master was one of very few people who could stand toe-to-toe with the Doctor and it is depressing to see such characters taken as the show has become dominated by phenomenon revolving around the Doctor. There needs to be more strong individuals in the universe who can put the Doctor's capacity back into perspective…

    Overall, I think my feelings on this episode can be summed up without delving into the details:

    The entire story could have been expanded into several episodes. That would have allowed for more foreshadow and development that made Danny Pink's story less raw, the Brigadier cameo less tacky, and more of Missy.

    Can't wait to see how Clara exits on the Christmas special…

  5. To be fair to Grand Moff, he would hardly be the first show-runner to cop out on the death of the Master.

  6. M

    I haven't watched the classic series (and do not plan to, partly out of aversion for dated special effects), could you elaborate?

    While I'd be impressed if it did, I frankly can't imagine any of the older deaths being more of a contrived than a consensual vaporization…

    "Yeah, I'm the MC's arch-nemesis, childhood friend, and one of the show's most engaging characters because I actually put the MC into perspective, but by all means, burn me into a trillion pieces and scatter me to the wind!"

  7. It's subjective what's more or less contrived. My point is that the Master has been fake-killed at least 4 times over the course of the series, just off the top of my head.

  8. I wasn’t sure where else to put this, but as I’m finally catching up on the Capaldi era I wanted to ask was there a doctor who related reason you didn’t cover the next series or just simply too busy with real life and anime?

  9. Honestly, it was that but also I just burned out on the whole Clara thing. I’ve come to really dislike the impact her character has had on the dynamic and I just wasn’t enjoying the series anymore. Now that she’s finally gone I’ll give it another look, but I can’t commit to blogging anything.

  10. Agreed she’s the reason I’ve put off watching this for so long. I’ve never much liked her as a companion. I suppose you’ll have some time to distance yourself since the next season doesn’t truly kick off until next year.

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