If there is just one thing you can say about Doctor Who it is its undeniable ability to create a stunning conclusion. Like most finales it wasn’t perfect – but nothing is. ‘Death in Heaven’ was an exceptional piece of storytelling which nicely tied everything up (well, almost everything), teased the future a lot, and produced stellar performances all round. This was the best finale Doctor Who has produced – bar ‘The Pandorica Opens’ and ‘The Big Bang’, of course.
We’ll get the negatives out of the way first though.
Once Missy was revealed as the Master you just knew that the Cybermen were going to get overshadowed. ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Death in Heaven’ generated their best material since their 2006 reintroduction but something was still lacking. They weren’t the primary focus – Missy, understandably, was. But what annoyed me more than this? That love defeated the Cybermen once again. This wasn’t well received in 2011’s ‘Closing Time’ so I have no idea why Steven Moffat thought it would work here. I could accept this conclusion (just) had we seen other cases of love conquering the Cybermen. But we didn’t. Amongst the millions of resurrected humans, it is only Danny who is able to overcome his basic urges. Well, Danny and the Brigadier. Unfortunately this didn’t sit well for me. Perhaps a better explanation would have sufficed. If we’d have seen only a few random cases of people overcoming their Cyber-conversion, this would have made everything else easier to accept. But I digress.
‘Death in Heaven’ excelled in its performances. All four central stars – Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson and Michelle Gomez – are sensational, and each are given their time to shine. The Doctor’s final speech about how he isn’t a good man or a bad man is amongst his best speeches of the run, and Capaldi delivers it with gleeful aplomb. He has entirely nailed this role now. Meanwhile Coleman delivers a harrowing decision to kill Danny with spine tingling believability – the chemistry which has expanded throughout the eighth series between Clara and Danny is palpable here, and both Coleman and Anderson are exceptional. Their goodbye was perfect for me. Doctor Who finally did what it has failed to to for a LONG time – it killed people off, and made those deaths stick.
Yes, both Danny and Osgood met their deaths. Ingrid Oliver’s return was a bit of a letdown, admittedly, but it helped to cement how deliciously evil the Mistress is. It helped to affirm that this very much is the same character as John Simm’s Master. The Mistress kills Osgood with ease and renders her ashes. Such an exit was befitting a character – she only appeared in two episodes but she was much loved. Likewise, whilst Jemma Redgrave was given more material her return too was a bit of a letdown. I’m glad she didn’t die though.
‘Death in Heaven’ belonged to the Mistress. Michelle’s chemistry with Capaldi sizzled throughout – like Simm belonged to Tennant, Gomez belongs to Capaldi. I can’t quite envisage another Doctor sparring off against her. It was clear that Gomez had fun with this role – the delicious madness of the Master prevailed and yet simultaneously Gomez made the character entirely her own. Distinguishable from her predecessors (aside from her gender, the Mistress is markedly different in temperament. Here she enjoys inflicting torment, and seems to have a penchant for human flesh) the Mistress is still very much the same character.
In a behind the scenes interview, the Moff has stated that archenemies always prevail, so the Mistress will be back. Of that I am confident. There is just no way the Master/Mistress will ultimately be offed. Maybe give series 9 a miss, but I sincerely hope series 10 welcomes Gomez back to the fold, with Capaldi still as the Doctor.
As I’ve said, the Mistress shone in this episode, so much that the Cybermen once more become secondary. That’s not to say that they weren’t effective, because several of their shots were eerily creepy. A metal hand raising from a grave sent shivers down my spine. The fact that the Cybermen have assimilated (they can fly! Copying of the Daleks, I suspect, with just a hint of Iron Man) and can now convert full human bodies, leaving the flesh intact beneath their armour. That is chilling. So yes, whilst this may not be the story everyone wants for them, it damn near came close. I think they need a rest now too. The Daleks, Cybermen and Mistress need not appear in series nine.
So love prevailed, Danny defeated the Cybermen and… the Brigadier defeated the Mistress. I’m going to brush this one under the carpet. Not happy they converted the Brig – it was unnecessary, and diminished his character. Kate could have survived some other way.
And finally Clara left the Doctor once more. After twelve episodes they still aren’t able to be entirely clean with one another. The Doctor lies, saying he has found Gallifrey, when really he hasn’t – the Mistress lied! Only the Mistress knows where Gallifrey is, so you just know she’ll pop up somewhere along the line again. And Clara lies and says she and Danny are reunited, though they’re not – rather than save himself Danny saves the boy he killed in battle. Whilst the part needed developing more, it still packed a punch, and I’m glad we saw how truly selfless Danny was. With them parting ways, only Santa can heal them.
Yes, you read that right.
The trailer teased an opening jaw which looked uncannily like an Ice Warrior to me – are we going to see the Ice Warriors in the snow? I hope so.
Join me next week as I count down the top 10 moments from Doctor Who’s eighth series, and then against Christmas as the Doctor meets Santa. I’m prepared to bet already that that combination isn’t going to work AT ALL.