Doctor Who: Death in Heaven review

Review

Death in Heaven

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Missy: Cos she’s perfect, innit?

Doctor Who Season: S34 (Ep12).
Story Number: 252b.

Why Clara?

f-20Clara’s story began with the ringing of The Bells of Saint John, as the Doctor answered the phone. We’d seen Jenna Coleman play two different characters previously, and the “Why?” of that triple-character situation is what propelled the narrative of 2013, which was all resolved with The Name of the Doctor.

Who Clara actually was – this was lightly sketched during 2013, a necessary condition as “Why” was at the forefront. She definitely became a more three-dimensional character during 2014, with an expansive emotional journey the like of which hadn’t been seen since the days of RTD.
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The credits sequence with the Clara Eyes instead of the traditional Twelfth Eyebrows then, while being a fun joke are very much part of this year’s theme of the Doctor pondering his own existence with this time Clara being given a chance to showcase her own emotional life, the question of who Clara is being at the forefront, (instead of the “Why”).

Yet – the “why” of the ringing of The Bells of Saint John remained.

The emotionless Cybermen, as revealed in the previous episode of this two-part story, are back, with an emphasis on body horror and an accompanying grimness.

Whenever there is a Cybermen story, there are complicated villainous plans. Sometimes those complicated plans make no sense at all, like The Wheel in Space. Any masterplan has been taken out of their Cyber-hands though, as it’s the Master’s plan. (Not that the Master is any stranger to villainous plans that make no sense.) This plan does make sense, even though it’s extremely complicated.
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f-20Jonathan Demme’s film The Silence of Lambs continues to be a huge pool of potential imagery for this century’s Doctor Who (think Dalek), and while it’s traditional for actors playing the role of the Master to conjure up Moriarty, a genius that’s an equal of the protagonist, the Missy incarnation of the Master also has deep shades of Hannibal Lecter, and not merely from being wheeled onto the plane, restrained.

The relish with which she taunts Osgood is hugely reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins’s most famous role, and that she’s being so menacing while so resolutely “silly” makes it all the more chilling.

It’s a grim end for fan-favourite Osgood, and we understand from what Missy tells the Doctor about her plan that she killed Danny Pink last episode too.

“Cos she’s perfect, innit? The control freak and the man who should never be controlled. You’d go to hell if she asked. And she would. The phone’s ringing, Doctor. Can you hear that? Now that is the sound of your chain being yanked. Heel, Doctor!”

f-20 f-20 The pace of the episode doesn’t let up, and what could be a very long and exposition-y “this is my plan” speech is condensed into a scene of high drama by Moffat and Michelle Gomez, with minimalism from Moff and maximalism from the newest actor to play the Master as she doesn’t hold back with her voice and movements. She’s explained the “Why Clara”, why she gave Clara the Doctor’s phone-number.

Before the Doctor can join Clara, he must make his impossible escape from the mid-air wreckage of the plane, and Missy joins Seb and the audience (though Missy likely is much less impressed than either) to marvel at this fantastic sequence from director Rachel Talalay.

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f-20 f-20 f-20 f-12 The reveal of Danny Pink underneath the Cyber-suit, to Clara and the audience, is very strong stuff indeed. Any body horror of previous Cybermen stories this century has largely been offscreen, and this is leagues away from Craig’s cosy conversion (temporary) of Closing Time.

It’s grim and it’s heartrending if you’ve at all enjoyed the warmth of the Danny Pink & Clara scenes of the previous ten episodes.

If Clara had thought it thrilling to be one that one that held the Sonic from Flatline, then this new “adventure” must be very different. Think back to The Caretaker with Danny trying to emphasise how extraordinary it was that she didn’t think think twice using the Sonic as the Doctor commanded when they were trying to neutralise that robotic soldier.

Such emotional turbulence for Clara makes the Doctor’s epiphany about his existential crisis seem like daft flannel in comparison (and maybe it is, to keep the Master off-guard), and you’re not entirely dissuaded that Danny Pink’s earlier comparison to the Doctor’s role as an Officer-Class character as the Master’s army is defeated.

Capaldi & Coleman get to stretch their acting skills to portray the anger & misery of their final-scene secrets that the Doctor & Clara withhold from each other. An emotional wringer then, this two-parter, and a spectacular return of the Master.

That this Doctor is less-than-tactile and sparing with hugs, seen throughout this season, has been a build-up to the final heartbreaking scene.

Still, this won’t quite be the end if Santa has anything to say about it…

Rating 5/5

(Whole story 5/5)

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(Death in Heaven on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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