Doctor Who (8.12): Heaven knows, I’m miserable now…

dw death in heaven

Here be spoilers…

If this were Tumblr, there would be a very high probability that my submission for this evening would be the picture above with overlaid text indicating the fandom on the right and Steven Moffat on the left and something shouty in speechmarks. “Damn you Moffat!”, “This is why we can’t have nice things!” or “You had ONE job!”. You get the idea.

To be fair, Russell T Davies managed only two really good two-parter series finales (Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways and Army of Ghosts/Doomsday) – the rest suffered from the same puffiness that Death in Heaven was afflicted with.

The last few minutes were excellent, but (for me) couldn’t redeem the mawkish Clara and Danny scenes, the death of one of the best minor characters of the Moffat era and plot holes so big you could drop a full-grown Racnoss through them (the Cybermen not spotting Clara has only one heart, the fact that many of the dead would be beyond converting – though after last week’s horrors, I should probably be glad they stayed away from decomposition, UNIT getting the Tardis out of St Paul’s, but not Clara). Not to mention making Osgood credit OCD with an ability to rapidly count 87 moving Cybermen (she would know better, even if Steven Moffat doesn’t).

I’m holding out the slimmest hope that Missy killed Osgood’s alien doppelganger (I can see UNIT hanging on to her as a useful resource), because otherwise Steven Moffat has shot himself in the foot by writing out one of the best characters he’s created.

That said, there were moments to enjoy along the way – Osgood and Colonel Ahmed (always a pleasure to see Sanjeev Bhaskar) geeking about Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, with a bonus Doctor’s anecdote about foxtrotting with Sylvia Anderson, for example. I have to confess I missed the Jungle Book joke on my first pass too (at least, I assume “Man Scout” is a play on “man cub”…).

I’m also hoping we haven’t seen the last of Michelle Gomez – though I suspect she was destroyed by the CyberBrigadier rather than beamed away. But excellent as she was, I still wish it could have been John Simm flirting with Peter Capaldi – those two would have excellent UST, I know it.

Before we get to the best bits, we have to suffer the worst: the Doctor/Danny/Clara conversation in the graveyard. It’s painful to see how little Danny understands the Doctor (though as Clara has mostly kept them apart, that’s understandable), because although he understands that the Doctor will regretfully sacrifice one already-dead man to save billions of living ones, it’s not because he’s ‘officer class’ or unfeeling. You don’t live for 2,000 years without learning that almost every victory has a price; collateral damage, as Missy would have it.

I suspect I was supposed to cry at Clara saying farewell, or turning on the inhibitor or Danny’s love for her saving the day – but as you’ll know by now, I haven’t been able to buy into this relationship from the beginning and I’m as sick of love saving the day as I am of bleedin’ paradoxes doing it.

But the moment the Doctor works through the implications of Missy’s ‘gift’ and the lessons he’s learned this series and snaps back into his cheery, save-the-world persona, we can finally feel on safe ground.

I liked that the Doctor was willing to kill Missy to save Clara’s soul and that, in turn, the Brigadier was able to save the Doctor’s soul. Yes, Death in Heaven did eventually make me cry – by resurrecting Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, encasing him in a cybersuit and letting him save his daughter’s life. That he finally got the salute he had wished to earn from the Doctor throughout his life, made me weep. Twice.

I’m going to skip over the Doomsday rip-off almost-ending because Doomsday’s “burning up a sun just to say goodbye” scene was a hundred times more powerful than this and only the incredibly naive expected Danny to walk back through the portal.

Instead let’s jump ahead to our two liars lying to each other – though for the best of reasons at last – and the heartbreaking reason this Doctor doesn’t like hugs (they’re “just a way to hide your face”). I preferred my explanation (because the Doctor’s on the autistic spectrum and some people with autism don’t like hugging), but I guess that doesn’t have the same emotional resonance as a neat line of dialogue.

All in all, it’s been a spotty old series, with more misses than hits, but I have come away liking the Twelfth Doctor and hoping to see Jamie Mathieson’s name on the writing credits for at least two of next year’s episodes. And if that really was Simon Pegg lurking as a grumpy-looking elf behind Nick Frost’s Santa, I’m betting the Christmas review is going to be a lot more cheerful than this one.

See you again on December 25th…


Filed under Dr Who

4 responses to “Doctor Who (8.12): Heaven knows, I’m miserable now…

  1. Tim

    For me, this has been one of the better seasons for some time and I really enjoyed this finale. I wasn’t mortally offended by the appearance of Cyber-Brigadier because it finally gave us a chance to say goodbye to a character universally loved by classic series fans. A salute was all it took, although it would have been nice if someone could have obliged with five rounds rapid too.

    And a bonus point for making the denouement all about Remembrance too.

    I decided long ago not to worry about finales in particular being perfect. I think the weight of fan expectation is just too much. But despite the flaws and the massive under-development in Danny;s character all season, I thought his exit really did work. And Clara’s goodbye was heartnreaking. (She’ll be back at Xmas though, right. at least for one last adventure?)

    • Thank you for all your comments Tim – I finally have time to reply to one, hurrah! I’m not sure the weight of expectation comes entirely from the fans – I suspect some of it is generated internally. “How can we top last year?” I don’t need them to “top” anything! I’d settle for a good story, well-told. Perhaps if I had been able to care about Clara or Danny, my experience of this would have been better.
      For me, the Brigadier was a high point – I like it when Doctor Who makes me cry (I shed buckets at the end of Doomsday!), and I’m sure you’re right that we haven’t seen the last of Clara. Unfortunately, only one of us is likely to be pleased about that 😉

      • Tim

        Oh, for sure, Moffat and the writers will want each season to be better than the last. I do like the way they have started small with Capaldi and gradually built up. Let’s see what happens at Xmas. It’s definitely time for her Clara to move on.

  2. “(at least, I assume “Man Scout” is a play on “man cub”…)”
    While a lot of things about the Scout movement are based upon characters in the Jungle Book, I think ‘man cub’ was a Disney invention (but I could be wrong).
    I took the comment at face-value. The Doctor knows about Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs – the lovely Sanjeev is not a boy.
    It doesn’t really work, of course. Grown men have always been involved in the Scout movement and their uniforms differed little from those of the boys (and were nothing like the Colonel’s).
    Disappointing really, surely the Doctor has met Baden Powell?