Doctor Who 8×12 Review: “Death In Heaven”
Here’s the deal. Overall this season has been markedly better than last year’s specials and the two seasons that proceeded them. And “Death In Heaven was a pretty great finale (particularly the second half, as the opening dragged a little at times, but two-parters tend to do that). It’s just that I’ve been disconnected from this by years of casual misogyny, overused tropes, and cheap emotional moments that I’m finding it difficult to really engage with was objectively an exceptional episode.
And it was an exceptional episode. It tied together the seasons’ overarching themes about the Doctor’s identity, his aversion to soldiers and his relationship with Clara. And it did it in a reasonably coherent and surprisingly poignant way. After weeks of being wasted, Danny Pink finally became the fascinating character he had the potential to be when he was introduced. Michelle Gomez took what could have been just another incarnation of the classic Moffat femme fatale and gave us one of the best portrayals of The Master ever – Missy was without a doubt the Master. Also with the addition of Kate Stewart and Osgood, this episode passed the Bechdel test with flying colors and if that really was the last we will see of Clara Oswald then it was one of the most beautifully bittersweet moments I have ever seen.
Sounds awesome right? I should be jumping up and down with joy right now, but at best I’m pleasantly surprised because at least I’m seething with anger over the blatant misogyny. Not being offensively sexist shouldn’t be praise, it should be a given. It’s not even that Moffat is a bad writer, because this episode is proof that he’s not. Sure the pacing’s a little off at the start of the ep, but that’s a common problem with two-part episodes that need to fill about 15 minutes between the cliffhanger and the conclusion (to be honest, I spent the first 15 minutes fantasising about what it would be like if Clara was actually the Doctor – it was never going to happen, but it would have been so cool). He even hit the emotional beats so well that my eyes got a little misty, which hasn’t happened very often in Moffat penned eps. But it’s time for him to let go.
Unfortunately Moffat doesn’t seem like the kind to relinquish power once it’s been gifted to him, so we’re probably stuck with him for the the foreseeable future. So instead of marvelling at the understated brilliance of Clara and the Doctor’s heartbreaking farewell, all I can think about is the horribly underdeveloped female character that’s about to be dipped in a vat of sexist cliches so she can imprint on the Doctor at a young age and become a clue in the next mystery he has to solve.
Anyway, “Death in Heaven” was actually kind of awesome. I mean the Master regenerated into an insane Marry Poppins and created an army of zombie Cybermen just to get the Doctor to notice her. It’s like all my dreams came true at once. The muted coloring – with a couple of slightly dodgy special effects proved that Rachel Talahay has got the Doctor Who directing thing down. I was especially impressed with the way that Cyberman!Danny and Clara’s emotional exchange was framed. Of course the actors helped. In fact this episode had some of the best performances in Doctor Who’s history. It’s hard to pick a stand stand out, Samual Anderson, Michelle Gomez and Jemma Redgrave were all fantastic. But Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman definitely stole the show and the season with their portrayal of the Doctor and Clara’s complex relationship. Having them both leave the other with the lie of happily ever after was a fitting way to end their tempestuous friendship.
Like Clara and the Doctor, this finale is a little bittersweet for me. I can recognise its qualities and it hit all the right emotional beats but I’m just not as invested as I should be because I spent most of this season either uninterested or angry. Clara and the Doctor’s relationship was great but Clara still has zero backstory, like she didn’t exist until she met the Doctor. Danny Pink had a strong introduction but he was a dead weight for most of the season. And Michelle Gomez’s performance as Missy aka the Master was inspired but she also kind of feels like a consolation prize for getting another white male Doctor. It’s just a little frustrating really.
Whatever, out with the old and in with the knew because Santa Claus is coming to town. What?
What did you think? Was Missy the best Master? Where you crying like a baby at Danny’s goodbye or did you have your emotional inhibitor turned on? Do you think we’ve seen the last of Clara and are you sorry to see her go? Let us know in the comments.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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