Doctor Who 'Death In Heaven' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

The finale has arrived... or rather it arrived last year and I am just reviewing it now. My REVIEW has arrived. A lot of questions are hanging here. Does 'Death In Heaven' live up to the first part of this story? Does 'Death In Heaven' offer a satisfying conclusion to one of the best seasons of the new series? To find out my thoughts on all of this plus quite a lot more, continue reading.

Well, honestly. The answer to both of those questions is not as easy as it sounds. On one hand this is definitely not the weakest season finales we have gotten in the new series - but on the other it is also definitely not one of the strongest - despite the incredible set up we got in 'Dark Water'. 'Death In Heaven' is not a bad episode, in fact it is quite good. It is just not a satisfying conclusion and despite it being 15 minutes longer - it still needed more time. That is really the main problem with this episode. I am not quite sure the aspects the episode focused on was the right way to go and thus a whole chunk of possibilities are left untouched and it feels almost like a wasted opportunity - while also not entirely utilizing the direction it DID go with in the process. It is a weird conundrum but I shall try to not be overly negative because the good stuff here is still really, really good. This is Steven Moffat's weakest script of the season, and this is also sadly one of the weaker episodes. 'Death In Heaven' is a great - but heavily flawed episode and quite of an awkward finale for such a great season.

The ending of 'Dark Water' left me in awe. Not as much because of the cliffhanger - more so due to the fact that it WAS a proper cliffhanger. A kind of cliffhanger you only really get from 2-parters, which means we had not gotten one since 2011 with 'The Rebel Flesh'/'The Almost People'. It felt really refreshing and it felt really exciting so naturally the anticipation for what the hell 'Death In Heaven' was going to do to live up to it was off the charts. Especially considering Steven Moffat had yet to write a 2-parter that I did not love (shut up, 'The Time of Angels'/'Flesh & Stone' are excellent). In fact my favorite story of the new series WAS a 2-parter written by Steven Moffat AND was a finale (there is only one other Moffat 2-parter finale so guess which one it is). I had never really experienced a 2-parter take such a dip in quality like this one in 'Doctor Who' as I always feel like so many of them are quite consistent - or just improve upon the first part. With 'Death In Heaven' however this was not the case.

Now, some good stuff (believe me, most of it is still really good - it is just that the negativity takes up more space). As I said in my review of 'Dark Water', this idea is borderline genius. Awakening all the dead people of earth and turning them into Cybermen is quite a chilling thought and despite one very contrived line from an extra about how it was only raining inside a graveyard and not anywhere else - the scene is masterfully executed and you feel the tension rising as you realize what is about to happen. I also really like the interaction between Missy and the Doctor, you really do feel like they have a history together and of course that even though the Master has turned into a woman - this is still the Master and Michelle Gomez just shines in the role. It is not often that Peter Capaldi does not completely own the scene but their scene in the airplane around the halfway point is one of the few moments were Gomez was just owning it.

Emotionally, this episode works magnificently well. It utilizes the cybermen's way of converting humans so good that it is hard not to get emotional when Danny is almost literally asking Clara to "kill" him when he is a Cyberman - with emotions. It is a really well executed scene and it again shows the change that has happened between the Doctor and Clara because even though the Doctor has clearly not shown a lot of care for Danny (or P.E.), here when he is being asked by Clara to hand over his screwdriver so she can delete Danny's emotions - the Doctor does not even hesitate and just flat out says, no. In the earlier half of the season, clearly the Doctor would agree to doing this and Clara would have been completely against it. Just like in 'Flatline' though, the Doctor is feeling more uneasy about this and Clara is becoming more and more like the Doctor. I do have to say though, Clara telling those Cybermen at the start that she is the Doctor and then having the opening credits show her eyes and Jenna Coleman's name appearing first just came across like a gimmick while an episode like 'Flatline' truly delved into how it actually is to be the Doctor. However if it was a way for the show to point fingers at everyone complaining about Clara and how she is apparently starting to steal the spotlight from the Doctor - then I approve of that because that complaint is utter bullshit.

The problems really start to occur in the graveyard scene once the Doctor arrives. While Missy's plan is excellent as I have already said - her motivation and her ultimate goal for it all... is really quite weak. It also starts to feel like she is getting horribly sloppy by the end. She has a magic a device that can control all the cybermen around the world that agreed to delete their emotions - which she then hands over to the Doctor and practically force him to use it as an army to conquer the universe... little did she now that she just gave him a device to save the day as the Doctor can literally make the Cybermen do whatever he wants - so naturally they fly up to the sky and blows up the sky that is about to kill all the humans. It feels like such a forced solution to what was initially a masterful set up. The whole idea about the nethersphere and Missy using the device to travelling in between that world and the real one really starts to fall apart at the very end. Basically, Danny sacrificed himself by blowing him and all the other Cybermen up and saving the world - then one night Clara wakes up to his voice calling her name. Suddenly some kind of void opens up in her apartment and she expects him to walk out (seeing as he would have appeared in the nethersphere after blowing himself up) but then the little child that Danny accidentally killed in the war walks out of it. While it works emotionally - it literally makes no sense. That kid must have died several years ago and he probably got cremated (well really it should not matter), so his actual body in the real world does not exist anymore... so how is that body walking out from the nethersphere? Does the nethersphere somehow duplicate your body to? - even though we are told in 'Dark Water' that it is only your mind that exist in the nethersphere. When Danny wakes up in the morgue it makes perfect sense - because that is where his body is. The little child walking out of there should not work because his body does not exist anymore.

So after all that negativity you might think I will go into complaining about how we did not get an explanation for how the Master returned from his last appearance. Well... no, the thing with the Master in the show is that he has been put in so many situations by the end of the story with no way to make it out alive - and still come back later on with no explanation. This is part of the show and it should not be any different now. In fact I thought it was quite unnecessary to make up this insane plot device with literal magic in order to explain his return in 'The End of Time Part 1'. And no I am not expecting to get an explanation how she survived the end of this episode in 'The Magician's Apprentice' - nor do I want one.

What also annoyed me is just how wasted the Cybermen were. The set up in 'Dark Water' was so masterfully handled that the way they were just tossed aside her just irritated me. We needed scenes of them walking around in the world and just start killing people to really up the tension (seeing as our major disadvantage is that the dead outnumber the living, like Missy said). What ultimately happens though is that the just start walking around like they just learnt how to walk. If you were just an average Joe in like Paris or something; this whole thing would just feel like a minor inconvenience. If you were living on the other side of the world... you may not even notice it because it is already night time when the clouds cover the sky. We needed scenes of them doing something to really make it feel like this truly is a worldwide "invasion" that is happening. Then of course Missy's grand plan - and I mean GRAND. A plan she has been working on for AT LEAST 300-400 years as she picks up every single person that dies - that whole plan just fell apart in one single day and in such a shockingly simple way that it feels like none of this was planned well enough from a writing standpoint.

Do not think I hated this episode though, in fact I still really, really liked it because if there is something that this episode does well - it is the emotional core of it all. Moffat has shown exceptional skills at taking a very grand and epic scale event - but still managing to turn into something very deep and personal (something that 'The Big Bang' did masterfully well). There still are a lot of really good moments in here that raises it above the weaker stories of this season. The Doctor and Clara's supposed final goodbye in the café is very well done and I love the way they both try to make it seem like everything is okay in order for them both to feel better. The Doctor tells Clara that he found Gallifrey thanks to the coordinates he got from Missy and Clara tells the Doctor that Danny DID come back from the nethersphere. Obviously though we as an audience knows that they are both lying just to make the other person feel better so when they hug - you feel very uneasy about it and may even burst out crying. Of course this was not the actual goodbye for Clara as he returns in the very next episode but if this had been the end for her character - it would have been very satisfying.

Overall, a very flawed finale but there is enough things that work to make it rise above being just average. I am more annoyed than happy about it but really that is just because 'Dark Water' was SO good. 'Death In Heaven' has a lot to offer despite the problems. The Doctor's James Bond moment as he dives towards the TARDIS in the air was a fantastic moment, Murray Gold has several standouts with the music (especially a track called "Need To Know" that plays when Clara is about to delete Danny's emotions), Michelle Gomez is awesome as Missy, Rachel Talalay's direction is great and for once - a modern 'Doctor Who' episode actually killed a recurring character (no I am not talking about Osgood) and it does not seem like he (Danny) is coming back from that. So while this rating may feel a bit unearned due to the amount of negativity in this review - just know that the good things outweigh the bad in this scenario.


- Lucas


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