Doctor Who First Impressions Review & Spoilers: Season 8 Finale – Episode 12 – “Death in Heaven”

Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 12

Death in Heaven

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay

Cast
Peter Capaldi – The Doctor
Jenna Coleman – Clara Oswald
Samuel Anderson – Danny Pink
Michelle Gomez – Missy
Chris Addison – Seb
Ingrid Oliver – Osgood
Jemma Redgrave – Kate Lethbridge-Stewart
Sanjeev Bhaskar – Colonel Ahmed
James Pearse – Graham
Antonio Bourouphael – Boy
Shane Keogh-Grenade – Teenage boy
Katie Bignell – Teenage girl
Jeremiah Krage – Cyberman
Nicholas Briggs – Voice of the Cybermen


Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!


First Impressions:

  • Just like last week’s “Dark Water,” I thought this episode was damn close to perfect. The words “emotional roller coaster” are overused, but they describe this episode perfectly. I was close to tears a few times in this episode, and when it ended, I really just sat in stunned silence. Which was good, because there was a perfect mid-credits scene that brightened my mood unexpectedly.
  • I did think that they made Missy a little too crazy. What always made The Master such a credible threat to me was that he definitely had an air of pure evil about him. He wasn’t “bananas” as Missy was fond of calling herself, he was much more cold and calculating. They did the same thing with John Simm as the Master too…especially in his return appearances, making him a bit too over the top.   That said, I did think Michelle Gomez did an excellent job making Missy into a pretty scary threat. In her insanity, it was clear that she enjoyed watching people suffer, and that went a long way into making her kind of badass.
  • It wasn’t just Missy that was scary in this one. The entire mood of the episode was set up perfectly. The dark water making it’s way into the cemeteries and funeral homes was done with such deliberate menace. The Cyberman made for one terrific zombie movie. I had said last week that Rachel Talalay does these kinds of scenes perfectly, and it was definitely more of the same here. They really need to have her direct any “scary” episodes of Doctor Who. She did scary better than just about anyone else this season.

  • I do think this episode could have been a little better if the Cybermen actually DID something. For most of the episode, they basically rose from graves and just stood around waiting for orders. It played into the climax perfectly, but it still left some sections of the episode feeling a little weaker than they should. After setting up so much menace and horror, it never quite comes to fruition the way you expect it to.
  • What is it with people wanting to make The Doctor into a president? Gallifrey named him their President back in the day, and now the Earth elected him President to lead the fight against the Cyberman and Missy. Again, this played really well into the finish of this episode, with Missy offering to turn her army over to The Doctor so he could reshape the universe anyway he wanted.
  • Once again, Capaldi proved that hiring an older actor to play the Doctor was not a hindrance. The action scene with him falling from the airplane into the TARDIS was damn cool looking. His scenes in the graveyard where he comes to realize who he is. And in the end, when he starts to smash the TARDIS because of Missy’s final lie to him. Each of these scenes required very different skills as an actor, and Capaldi (as he has all season) proved himself more than up for the challenge.
  • The best part about this episode is that it ensured that all the plot threads and themes of the season were utilized perfectly. The arguement between Danny and The Doctor about soldiers and officers, the Doctor’s constant desire to figure out what kind of man he was, and Clara’s attempts to balance all aspects of her life. All of these elements came together so well. And without any of the usual timey whimey stuff Moffat loves to throw into his finale. There were no tricks to this one…just a straight forward emotional ass kicking….
  • One thing I did think fell real flat was Clara’s attempt to trick the Cyberman by claiming that she was really The Doctor all along. By the way it was placed in the episode (right before the opening credits), it seemed like they were trying to make the viewer at least consider that it was a possibility, but just something about the way she played, it was clearly just a ploy on her part. It actually took me a few minutes to get back on track after that opening, but thankfully the episode recovered very well.
  • For anyone who thinks the Master is dead, I definitely disagree. She vanished in a blue flash, which implied teleportation to me. Also, Moffat ends up confirming that she’s alive in Doctor Who Extras…but I thought that was kind of obvious (about 12 minutes, 15 seconds in)

  • I am used to Doctor Who episodes having a high body count, but I was pretty heartbroken by who they killed this time. I really like Osgood, and it was pretty cold the way Missy took her out. I have to admit, I usually don’t like when you kill a character just to make the bad guy seem more evil, but it worked so well here.
  • I was real glad they didn’t kill Kate Stewart…especially how she survived. It was definitely a worthy tribute to the late Nicholas Courtney. Any old school fan of Doctor Who has great affection for Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and I love the idea that CyberBrig is still out there kicking some serious ass.
  • The toughest death of this episode was definitely Danny Pink. If you have been reading my reviews throughout the season, I have had a bit of an up and down relationship with Clara and Danny’s relationship. But, this episode really did it perfectly. A friend of mine said “Danny is the man. Everything about Danny is awesome” after watching this episode, and I definitely agree with him. It was a terrific, noble end to the character…especially when he gave up his chance at coming back by passing it on to someone he felt was more deserving. That said, I do hope that this year’s Christmas Special does work a little retcon magic and gives him and Clara a happy ending.
  • I thought the end of this episode was brilliant. There was a certain Shakespearean aspect to the whole thing, with the Doctor and Clara both lying to the other thinking they were doing right by the other person. It was just the last in a series of gutpunches Moffat delivers throughout this episode. I really, really hate that guy for the way he toys with my emotions. DAMN YOU STEVEN MOFFAT, YOU BRILLIANT BASTARD!
  • Next time: In a few weeks, Doctor Who will be back for this year’s Christmas special. The trailer is pretty awesome. Some of Aliens meets The Thing meets Miracle on 34th Street. Here’s the trailer:

 


Final Score: 10/10: A lot of times, I feel Doctor Who falls short in the second part of two part episodes, but that definitely wasn’t the case here. A perfect ending to a damn good season. Can’t wait until we get the Christmas special in a few weeks! I need more Peter Capaldi in my life!

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