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DOCTOR WHO Review: ‘Death in Heaven’ and Lots of Other Places

DOCTOR WHO Review: ‘Death in Heaven’ and Lots of Other Places


Jeepers, folks. I guess if you’re going to end an already dark series of television, then why not go whole-hog with the finale, and that’s upping the ante from last week’s first part, “Dark Water.” Doctor Who‘s eighth series has been controversial if anything, and I’m actually quite pleased that they steered into it rather than try to make it wholly palatable. Good television should be challenging as well as comforting and “Death in Heaven” had a good deal of both, though there was definitely a lot more death than there was heaven. Characters met their end, people said goodbye, and others we never thought we’d see again in any fashion made a bit of a return. Writer Steven Moffat and director Rachel Talalay did not hold anything back here and I am quite pleased by that. Certainly a crazy hour of television.

I love that we began with a misdirect. Clara, having just realized a Cyberman was behind her, begins to tell a whopper of a lie. She begins to tell the confused tin can that she isn’t Clara Oswald, that Clara Oswald is a fictional construct to disguise her actual identity… THE DOCTOR. She’s the Doctor. Making me even more delighted is that Jenna Coleman’s name came before Peter Capaldi’s in the opening credits and it was her eyes we see in the graphic. I knew it was all a lie, but what a fun way to put your audience off-balance right at the beginning of a cliffhanger resolution.


We then need to resolve the second part of the cliffhanger, which was the bombshell that Missy is the Master and she’s controlling an army of Cybermen. The Doctor attempts to get people to run away but they don’t; they all just take selfies with the Cybermen. Missy even attempts a selfie with the Doctor (to go viral) but someone comes up to offer to take it for her. It’s Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) sporting a bow tie which, as expected, she proclaims is cool when the Doctor questions her about it. She’s also wearing Converse. I imagine her meeting of the three Doctors shaped her sense of style yet again. But she isn’t alone; UNIT is there as well, led by the always amazing Kate Stewart (Gemma Redgrave) who talks the Cybermen out of attacking and they take off instead. 91 of them, the apprehended Missy says, apparently to go to 91 cities around the world, each of them exploding and causing a huge seed cloud to appear. This is allll part of the Mistress’ plan.

UNIT has massive protocols in place now, meaning not only do they have to drug Missy, they have to drug the Doctor who, just as he’s passing out, whispers to Osgood to guard the graveyard. Uhh gulp? It begins to rain over graveyards and the dead begin to rise. At the Chaplet Funeral Home (surely begun by former First Doctor companion Dodo Chaplet, no doubt), water from the rain gets in and a certain former soldier gets turned into a Cyberman. Oh noes. He finds his way to St. Paul’s where Clara is STILL confusing the Cybermen and zaps her and blows up the three other Cybermen.

At UNIT, they’re beginning to mobilize a command base on board a big ol’ airplane. The Doctor, Kate says, has supreme executive power when he’s aboard the plane and during times of crises such as this, with aliens and whatnot. He’s the acting President of Earth, like Cincinnatus, the great Greek emperor who only ruled during times of strife, then relinquished power once the threat subsided. Yeah, I made a historical reference, get off me. The Doctor, naturally, does not want this and gives Colonel Ahmed (Sanjeev Bhaskar) a lot of guff about being a Man Scout. It’s funny.

The scariest part of the episode is that the rain can raise all the dead bodies in the world. All the ones not cremated, of course (remember last week, when the 3W thing was a scandal? It was all a lie to get people not to burn up their dead bodies). They all begin getting up and meandering around in graveyards as their minds start to reassemble. It’s really creepy looking. But, just because somebody’s dead doesn’t mean their feelings go away, and Cyber-Danny reveals himself to Clara after she tells who she thinks is just a Cyberman that the Doctor is the only man she’ll never lie to and who will always be there for her, etc. Danny can’t handle the sadness and wants Clara to turn on his emotions inhibitor, which is what makes him not follow Cyber instruction.


Meanwhile, Osgood is a genius. She figures out that Missy is the Master and the Doctor is very impressed. He tells her to keep thinking about all of space and time, which is a good way to know she’s not going to stick around for very long. In what is possibly even sadder than Danny’s death, Missy gets free after promising to kill Osgood in a minute. She’s a woman of her banana-brained word, though and Osgood gets vaporized. Then Cybermen fly up and begin attacking the plane, even pulling poor Colonel Ahmed out the window. Things are not going well.

When the Doctor goes to see what became of Missy, he sees Osgood’s broken glasses and knows the worst has happened. Missy then spills that Clara is important to her plan because she’s a control freak and the Doctor hates being controlled. He’d go to the ends of the Earth for her, which makes him predictable and weak. She also reveals that it was she who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in “The Bells of Saint John,” presumably in a disguise of some sort. The TARDIS phone begins to ring and the Doctor, of course, answers with Clara telling him she needs help turning Danny’s emotion inhibitor on. He doesn’t want that, but she’ll do it with or without him. Missy also tells the Doctor she knows where Gallifrey is. It’s in another dimension but not lost.

Kate Stewart enters just in time to be sucked out of the airplane by Missy blowing open the side hatch. The Doctor also gets sucked out but Missy dematerializes to the Nethersphere. She and Seb watch as the Doctor, with kind of silly spy movie music behind him, zooms down to the TARDIS which is falling much faster than he. Seb is very impressed, which gets the AI interface deleted by Missy. He makes it to the ground just as Clara is about to switch on Danny’s thing. He begs them to stop, telling Danny that pain is a gift, it lets you know you’re alive and things matter and stuff. BUT, Danny is spiteful, he doesn’t like the Doctor, and says the only way he can tell the Doctor the next part of the plan is if he’s fully connected to the Cyber mainframe, meaning inhibited. The Doctor is faced with yet another predicament… he needs to know. He gives Clara the sonic screwdriver so that she can switch it on, remaining far away from actually making a decision himself.


Just then, Missy appears and shows that, with her handy controlly bracelet, she can make the Cybermen do whatever she wants… but it was all a gift for the Doctor. He’s understandably taken aback, and she explains that she wants her friend back, she wants him to be able to do what he wants to do – save everybody, make everything good, a Cyber army what only grows with more death would give him supreme power throughout the universe. She wants him to see that he isn’t so different from her. He then has a flashback of all the times he asked in “Into the Dalek” if he was a good man, and the Dalek telling him he’s a good Dalek and things of that nature. The Doctor suddenly realizes who he is! He’s not a good man, or a bad man, or a President, or an officer…he’s an idiot with a box and a screwdriver, going around doing what he can because he loves it.

The Doctor gives the bracelet to Danny, who despite having his emotions turned off is still clutching Clara and not doing what Missy instructed. Danny then tells all the Cybermen to fly up and explode, burning all the clouds and ending the Rain of Terror (yeah, I went there). But now Clara, who has picked up Missy’s device, wants to kill her, but the Doctor won’t let her. HE will be the one to kill her if that’s what Clara wants, just as long as Clara doesn’t do it. Missy pleads with the Doctor that they should go back to Gallifrey together, even if she has to be in chains. As the Doctor is about to shoot, a blue bolt comes out of nowhere, seemingly vaporizing Missy. They turn to see a lone Cyberman who points. The Doctor and Clara walk over to see an unconscious Kate Stewart on the ground. Something must have grabbed her out of the sky. She begins muttering something about her father, and the Doctor realizes what has happened: the Cyberman is Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who, like Danny, had more compassion than the Cyber controls could overcome. The Doctor salutes, granting the Brig a wish he’d always wanted, and the Brig flies off to parts unknown.

Two weeks late, Clara is visited by Danny in the form of a portal. He says he figured out how to use the bracelet and go to the Nethersphere rather than get destroyed. It only has enough juice for one more trip for one person, but rather than coming back himself, he sends the young Afghan boy who he killed. He asks that Clara find the boy’s parents, and apologizes again for not coming through, but he had promises to keep.


Yet another two weeks pass and the Doctor comes into a cafe where Clara is waiting. She’s going to tell him some bad news, but the Doctor thinks he knows: Danny found a way back and they’re together and that means she can’t go off with the Doctor anymore. She decides not to correct him because he says that he found Gallifrey. In the flashback, we see that there’s nothing there, and that the Master lied to him again, but to Clara he says he’s going back there to be a king, or queen, or whatever. She asks for a hug, which the Doctor doesn’t like because it makes people hide their face, but he ultimately does do. He heads off but before he does, Clara says thank you because when she traveled with him she felt special. The Doctor says the same thing of her. It’s a very sweet moment. The Doctor flies off and Clara walks home.

And then friggin Nick Frost is Santa Claus, but more about that in a moment.

I know a lot of people will have some issues with this episode, but I largely found “Death in Heaven” to be incredibly compelling. There was a lot of sadness, with Osgood and Danny and when I thought maybe they’d killed off Kate Stewart also. I also hope this isn’t the last we see of Missy as played by Michelle Gomez. She might have teleported away or something, we don’t know. I thought she was AMAZING in this episode, being actually bananagrams and being the best Master since Roger Delgado. There, I said it. Hands frigging down. She killed it.

If this is the end of Clara’s journey, I think she had one of the best arcs in all of the series. So much going on, and her basically becoming the Doctor toward the end of her tenure and coming to terms in this episode with her maybe not needing to be off with the Doctor anymore. It doesn’t do her any favors, and it’s better for the Doctor to believe she’s with Danny and happy. I think Jenna Coleman is going to appear in the Christmas special, but that might be her last if the rumors prove true. I’m actually just fine with this since she had a fabulous run of it.

As for Capaldi, his first series, as I said, was a controversial one, but I don’t think anyone can argue about the quality of his performance. He brought some very different reactions and emotions to his portrayal which we hadn’t seen in the new series, and I think that’s wonderful. He’s blazing his own trail, and I’m especially excited if he does indeed find Gallifrey in the next series, because WOW! The Twelfth Doctor is magnificent.

We did get a trailer, of teeny tiny size, for the Christmas special in which Santa Claus needs the Doctor’s help to save the North Pole. So weird.

But, that’s for next month. For now, thank you all for reading all of these recap/review things. I know there’s a lot to cover, so I’ll probably come back with a postmortem of sorts in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

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  1. Izzy says:

    What was the bad news that she was going to tell the Doctor?

  2. Gift of the Magi says:

    About as much as I expect from the Nerdist, seeing as the majority of their Doctor Who content is approved by Gatiss these days. Unfortunately, the new ‘Master’ was the biggest letdown of an episode loaded with letdowns. It is a sad thing that we finally get a Doctor that can treat a bad situation as a bad situation and get to work, Moffet and Co. writing actually gets worse. Too much focus on Clara and Pink, no canon or internal structure, flying Cybermen, Cyber-Brig and the Not-Rani.

    This was the season that finally got me to quit the show. After being a fan since 1985, I just can’t support this anymore. And no, I am not the only one. Polls are showing that the Not-Rani is NOT popular, and the BBC’s own number prove the show has been failing for about 3 years.

  3. JP says:

    Kanderson, I just want you to know that, while I fell off the Nerdist wagon a while ago, I still come back for your reviews.

  4. JUS7IAN says:

    What I love about the new Doctor Who is that all the whiners/fans that have all their little opinions on how things should or shouldn’t be are just going to get a big FUCK-OFF from Steven Moffat and his bitch the BBC.  It seems that the new who has artistic intent and isn’t going to cater to anybody.  So grab your pitchforks and shit but don’t be surprised that the BBC has built a moat and lives in its own beautiful impenetrable bubble with King Moffat calling the shots.  Fucking love the new Doctor Who and hope it gets even more real/intense.  It’s been fun Clara/Jenna not calling herself “Louis” anymore, Coleman.  I hope you have better luck outside of who then Matt.  David Tennant hasn’t missed a beat.  Intact he’s made much better content and played much broader roles since, but who are we kidding, he can act. #NoMoreTimeyWimey

  5. boykitsch says:

    This episode was interesting in the juxtaposition of character roles, the least sensical in plot, compelling in motive, and if anything else was the perfect surmise of a season that didn’t need a season finale. Clara’s role to fill in this season was a wall for the Doctor to hear the sound of his own voice. However, I applaud the acting as I have been rooting for Jenna since the first time she died as a Dalek. The writing since then is just asking me to recognize tears instead of an emotional plot. Oswold went from being a nanny to teaching at school to being a girlfriend in a matter of episodes. There was no overlying arch for her desires as a companion and thus little tension for her lying to both the Doctor and Pink. I was ready to say goodbye to her relationship as easy as early as “Dark Water” aired. In retaliation to mt future rambling I’ll end here. 

  6. D says:

    With Danny dead, how do they explain Colonel Pink the descendant of him and Clara.  Is she already pregnant? 

  7. Michelle says:

    Danny sent the kid back to ease his own guilty conscience. What about the kid? Is his family still alive? Will there be therapy for him? Seems selfish to me on Danny’s part. As though kids are stupid pawns. That whole scene felt contrived to yank at our heart-strings.

  8. Michelle says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Clara is expecting. We don’t know that Clara AND Danny raised a family together. Think about “Titanic” …

    I agree about Amelia Pond; she’s gone as are all of the Doctor’s other companions who passed.

  9. Michelle says:

    The woman with a Scottish accent was mentioned, and then Missy “slipped” into one. I assumed it was Missy, but then why didn’t Osgood figure it out if she’d concluded that Missy was the Master? And why did Osgood fall for the ol’ “come closer so I can whisper in your ear” trick? (Gomez was delightfully creepy with her “it’s our girl secret” though!)

    The Impossible Girl was interwoven with the Doctor’s timeline (or is that all gone since she jumped into his time stream? it’s very wibbly wobbly for me). Clara also sneaked a peak in the TARDIS library, so is that how she knew the facts?

  10. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the clarification, as I didn’t remember if he’d indicated that both his great-grandparents were together.

  11. the brickyard says:

    “Time can be rewritten”? Also, it’s past the regeneration were that is supposed to happen, and so many other reasons.

  12. Mon says:

    When does this happen? I can’t remember