Doctor Who - "Death In Heaven" (Season 8, Episode 12) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Doctor Who - “Death In Heaven” (Season 8, Episode 12) Recap/Analysis

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Nov 10, 2014 Web Exclusive
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, then read no further.]

Here we are at the end of another season of Doctor Who, and all things considered the series has moved pretty far in the last 12 weeks. We're quite comfortable with Peter Capaldi in the TARDIS at this point, and showrunner Steven Moffat has made good on his promise to take the show to darker places. This season, as a whole, deserves a high place among the relaunched series. There were some real classic episodes ("Listen" being a prime example) and only one true clunker ("Forest In The Night").

That being said, "Death In Heaven," the second part of the season finale, was just a mess. I had such high hopes after part one, "Dark Water," but where that episode excelled by showing some restraint and building a struggle for our characters, "Death In Heaven" went too far out of its way to spend precious screen time on unnecessary or ridiculous plot points, showcasing twist after twist, with only a few of them actually making a difference in the big picture.

"Dark Water" ended with Missy's revelation that she was indeed The Doctor's old nemesis The Master, and she now had an army of Cybermen at her disposal who had just invaded London. Within minutes of "Death In Heaven," UNIT shows up and apprehends Missy and the Cybermen take off into the sky. UNIT drags The Doctor and Missy onto an airplane, where they declare The Doctor "President of the World." Fast forward, and The Doctor figures out that the Cybermen are in the clouds and the rain will turn dead bodies all over the world into Cybermen. Missy kills likeable UNIT agent Osgood, blows open the plane, disappears, and The Doctor does a James Bond stunt jump into the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Clara is saved by a Cyberman who turns out to be Danny Pink, and he begs her to shut off his emotions to avoid the pain of their relationship.

When The Doctor and Missy catch up with Clara and Danny, Missy reveals that she built the Cybermen army as a birthday gift to The Doctor. The Doctor turns it down, because he doesn't need one, and Danny retains enough autonomy to destroy the Cybermen himself (in the process sacrificing himself). And then it turned out that one of the Cybermen was also Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, which was a nice nod to the classic series (he fought alongside the Third and Fourth Doctors), but perhaps another twist too far.

Okay, so the character stuff really works, and is wrapped up neatly with a couple of lies. The Doctor lies about finding Gallifrey, and Clara lies about living a life with Danny. They both do so to make the other feel better about their parting of the ways. If it was indeed the end of Clara's time with The Doctor then it would certainly be a sad sendoff for the character, but I don't think we've quite seen the last of her yet. As it is, Clara has done more than prove herself as a worthy companion, if fact she's proved herself as a worthy Doctor. Which is why their final goodbye (for now) so perfectly reflects their relationship's current status. Thankfully, and I've said over and over, the dynamics between Clara and The Doctor have always been the crux of this season, the finale feels both natural and necessary. Too bad I can't say the same for the rest of the episode.

The finale had some major plot problems. Firstly, Missy's plan ended in a bizarre and lazy twist. Maybe the army gift would have worked on its own, but there were so many plot points revealed with no resolution or payoff. We find out that Missy gave Clara The Doctor's phone number, because she wanted them togetherbut her reasoning is flat, at best. Its representative of the whole storyline up to this point; all the components are cool, but when examined under the tiniest bit of scrutiny, the causal events that led us to the endpoint are weak and unimaginative. Like The Doctor's new position as "President of the World"a completely laughable idea even superficiallyMissy's role in Clara and The Doctor's relationship is introduced without much explanation for why it's even worth mentioning.

What's worse is Danny's final act in the afterlife. He sends the child he accidently killed in Afghanistan back to the world of the living, leaving Clara with the responsibility to return him to his family.

Hold on. Presumably, this child died years ago. How is Clara supposed to return him to his family who must have long moved on from his death? Not only would she be bringing back the dead, he would be the same age as the day he died. She could pull this off if she had a time machine, but then we cut to her severing ties with The Doctor without mentioning the child. I get the sentiment behind the act, and there is a bit of nobility to it, but it is mostly irresponsible and again, doesn't hold up under much examination. Worse, it turns what is supposed to be a moving scene into one riddled with questions and frustrating gaps in logic. It felt very similar to the equally appalling closing scene of "Forest In The Night." It tried to pull at some sort of emotional strings that were never properly set up, and it is so poorly executed that it's distracting.

But how good was Michelle Gomez as Missy/The Master/The Mistress? She was incredibly dark and manic (and Scottish) and a perfect foil for Capaldi. Let's hope she wasn't actually killed at the end of the episode and can return at some point.

The other good news is Christmas is only weeks away, and Nick Frost is playing Santa Claus in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special. There's no way I'd miss that.

Here's the teaser for the Christmas Special:

Author rating: 6.5/10

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