Warning: Contains major spoilers.
During last weeks episode of “Dark Water“, I complained that the ending felt abrupt, and it did. The entire episode was spent in building the momentum for an exhilarating action-paced season finale, yet the week gap between “Dark Water“ and the season finale “Death in Heaven” perhaps broke this link, with there being an obvious intention that the two episodes are played back-to-back in the future. For those of us who viewed the final episodes with weekly gaps, the previously trailer efficiently recaps the last storyline whilst also intensifying the situation, which finally leads to the opening of “Death in Heaven”.
“Death in Heaven” was most probably the best Doctor Who I’ve seen yet, it plays upon action, drama, emotion and humour, whilst revealing to the audience why Moffat introduced this major character progression of the Doctor and Clara. Clara continuously adopted the Doctor’s behaviour, ever since the pragmatic turning point in “Kill the Moon”, Clara seemed to disregard her standard human thoughts and became more alike to the Doctor. Once it came to “Flatline”, Clara even began portraying herself in the persona of the Doctor – which she does once again in “Death in Heaven”. Clara makes perhaps one of the most major decisions once more, being able to both escape the Cybermen and also dealing with Danny’s situation. The Doctor on the other hand has also been progressing throughout the season, during “Inside the Dalek” he questions “Am I a good man?”, something which is left unresolved. Eventually during the stages of “Flatline”, the Doctor seems to accept that being himself doesn’t consist of being “good”, acknowledging that there are many regrettable and dark events in his life. But more on that later, firstly let’s discuss the plot.
91 Cybermen (according to the ‘Queen of Evil’) levitated above St Paul’s Cathedral in a very Iron Man fashion, each of them travelling across the globe to explode and pollinate the corpses which “Dark Water” has established will be upgraded into Cybermen. The opening sequence is extraordinary, the fast paced tone leaves us incapable of predicting what could possibly happen next, an aspect which becomes quite regular within the episode. Missy and the Doctor are brought upon a UNIT plane where the Doctor is told that he is considered the president of the Earth. Whilst it is a ridiculous term to use, it’s only understandable that the governments within Earth become reliant on the Doctor when it comes to extraterrestrial invasions. But once on the plane, this is when scenes begin to escalate. Michelle Gomez fantastically evokes a sinister nature, showing both clear signs of her being the Master, but also her being probably one of the darkest incarnations yet. I find these scenes of Missy inside the plane comparable to Loki in the Avengers; Loki manipulatively targeted the weaker characters to help himself to escape and then even “killed” one of the most loved characters in the series too.
Whilst Missy escaped in her own means within the first five seconds, she pretended that UNIT still had control to manipulate her way through the weaker character of Osgood, who also happened to be one of the most loved side characters, despite only starring in one previous episode. “There’s no way Moffat would kill off Osgood” I kept repeating after Missy menacingly whispered to Osgood “I’m going to kill you in a minute”, no matter how much I repulsed the idea that Moffat could kill off Osgood, I was left proven wrong as Missy follows through with her promise. From this moment on, the audience were practically at an established level where they knew that this episode wasn’t messing around. This wasn’t an episode for cop-outs or fake promises, death is inevitable and will strike the characters we’ve grown to love.
Commence the Cybermen attacking the plane, causing it to explode in the air. During these events, Clara is left dealing with a half converted Cyber-Danny. The physicality of the Cybermen seemed to have changed again, this time showing that underneath the Cyber mask, the human which was used to assemble the Cyberman is still intact. Whilst this almost seemed ridiculous and seemed to convey a less convincing chance of the Cybermen existing in reality, I disregarded any criticisms to see where the programme was intending to go with a still existing Danny. Last week I stated it would be a bold move to actually kill-off Danny, however doubted the chance that it would actually happen – well I was wrong again. Doctor Who has continuously helped avoid death in the past few seasons, death itself was uncommon and unlikely, which is perhaps why Moffat uses the element of surprise to actually execute as many characters as he felt was necessary.
So why did Danny die? Well the Doctor needed to know what the next phase of the Cybermen was so that he could rebuke their actions as quickly as he could before the situation becomes more difficult, so he decides to request Danny to look into the hive network and leak their plan (who at this point was demanding Clara to irradiate his still existing emotions so that he doesn’t feel the pain as a Cyberman anymore) . The discovery of who the Doctor is begins at this point; he attempts to convince Danny that “pain is a gift” and not to fully transform to a Cyberman, as doing so would cause the Cyberman’s initial instinct to kill Clara; this would’ve been how the Doctor would’ve successfully handled the situation in the past, by speech. However this time we discover that Danny cannot see into the Cyber network without fully converting, hence the Doctor has to make a decision on whether the answers of the Cybermen’s plans are more important over his teachings of pain being a gift. It isn’t the Doctor who decides in the end though, it’s Clara – the person whose characteristics have been evolving to become more decisive in key situations. By Clara doing so, we discover who the Doctor is, he’s simply just the “idiot” with a box, just as Matt Smith referred to himself as a “mad man in a box”. We aren’t dealing with a darker Doctor, but the same man placed in more treacherous conditions; during season 4, Davros states that the Doctor’s true self is that he converts the innocent to warriors – however even now, nothing has changed. Clara has become this evolved warrior who understands what must be done, and willingly sacrifices the love of her life in order to save the rest of the world, something which the Doctor couldn’t do himself. The Cybermen were allegedly a gift for the Doctor from the Master, as Missy notes that the Doctor requires warriors, providing fully transformed and armed warriors at the Doctor’s will. All this is done in order to construct the Doctor’s identity, he is neither ‘good’ nor evil, but rather an equal with the Master, suggesting he’s an outsider to Earth and the judgement of the Doctor’s morality cannot be equated to human morality of “good” and “evil”. Whilst the entire notion of morality is quite complex, the entire season has been building up those guidelines suggesting Moffat intended this all along.
Then there’s the goodbye. While Jenna Louise Coleman is still expected to return back to Doctor Who for the 2014 Christmas special, Clara and the Doctor depart, Clara being unable to do so and the Doctor so that he could distance himself from Clara (and whom he presumed was with Danny). However Danny remained dead and instead returned the child which he killed for Clara to help seek his parents – yet Clara felt inflicted not to tell the Doctor because she’s an “expert of lying” and doesn’t want to disrupt the Doctor, who she assumed had his own future. Perhaps that may be due to the Doctor telling Clara that he “found Gallifrey”, a lie which he told in order to influence Clara to live her separate life with Danny. The truth of it is that neither of them are living their ideal life, as Clara is stuck with Danny being dead, while the Doctor is stuck alone in his TARDIS as the coordinates which Missy suggested was were Gallifrey was appeared to be a hoax. The double-faced lying nature between the two is truly upsetting and will most likely make a rememberable scene in the future of Doctor Who.
The beauty of “Death in Heaven” is that it managed to link in all the progression and build up to this episode and yet still didn’t end up an anti-climatic disappointment, but rather was one of the most genuinely engaging and fascinating episodes of them all.
+ Chris Addison saying “Squee” in the extraordinary scene of the Doctor falling from the sky and rescuing himself with the TARDIS is my favourite thing ever.
+ So the credits roll and then cut out again to reveal Nick Frost entering the TARDIS? Only Doctor Who could make this work.
+ The enemy/friendship dynamic between Missy and the Doctor was electrifying, I think I might even consider this to be the best Master/Doctor dynamic yet!
– My only problem is that it had to end, or perhaps more so that if Clara does return for the Christmas special, the whole final scene is practically worthless.