Death in Heaven reviewed

So, that’s the end of the first Capaldi season and Steven Moffat gave us the impressive (yet flawed) Death in Heaven to mark the occasion. As I guessed there has been much love and much despair amongst fandom.

I thought it an admirable story with some understandable flaws. While I haven’t adored every episode this has been a series with much to admire. You want more?

The story

As we get over the reveal of Missy we are quickly treated to the arrival of UNIT and a return for Osgood and Kate Stewart. The Cybermen are surrounded, but no worry as these are better than your average Cybermen and they do a great impression of Iron Man in that they can fly. UNIT still capture Missy and the Doctor though.

Clara then pulls the rug under all of us with a suggestion that she doesn’t exist and is really the Doctor. As this ruse is unwound a Cyberman saves her – no fear, it is Danny now resurrected.

The Doctor becomes president of Earth, meets and insults Colonel Ahmed (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and flies around in a UNIT version of Air Force One. This gives Missy the time to kill Osgood, chuck Kate Stewart out, escape and leave the Doctor in an exploding plane surrounded by flying Cybermen. Oh.

The Doctor skydives into the TARDIS, meets Clara in a graveyard, has a great scene with Danny Pink and Danny saves the day, kills Missy, leaves but has time to show us Kate Stewart is alive having been saved by the Cyber Brigadier. Not a dry eye in the house.

The story ends with both Clara and the Doctor pretending they are in a happy ever after ending when in fact they aren’t. Danny turned down resurrection to atone for earlier mistakes and the Doctor is no nearer Gallifrey.

Roll on Christmas Day, and guess what – Santa has arrived!

The storytelling

Given it is Remembrance Sunday weekend it is odd to get a powerful story at the heart of which is a study of death, soldiers, army and the afterlife. Steven Moffat took a difficult subject and wrote a strong, challenging story. Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson were both outstanding and Clara is the most complex companion we have ever had. How will Orson happen? Who knows (apart from Mr Moffat!).

Plenty of RTD in this as well. Missy still channeled John Simm and the all-powerful Cybermen were not unlike the Toclafane. We had the Cloudbase / Captain Scarlet reminder as well.

There was a lot of Third Doctor flavour and even with many quibbles this was a strong, powerful story well told.

If you want to criticise then there were lots of flaws, of which the first is the one that most annoys me:

  1. Why are Danny and the Brig immune to Cyber control when resurrected? Yes a great story line but what about any number of other people? Not convincing. Convenient also that the Brig could find and rescue his daughter. I wonder where he has gone?
  2. What was Missy up to? Mad? Definitely.
  3. All the UNIT characters did little except take up screen time. They had no meaningful impact on the outcome
  4. Osgood’s death – brutal and nasty. Maybe it was needed
  5. Santa? Really? Another example of the rule that anyone can get into the TARDIS as long as its funny and they don’t mean the Doctor harm

For me the strongest part was from when the Doctor and Danny finished arguing. The Doctor knows who he is – an idiot with a box! From that point Capaldi is transformed, smiles, charm and a transformed character.

The other moment of note is when Clara tells a Cyberman of her regard for the Doctor and his being the most important person in her life. Of course it is Danny she is talking to, yet the two characters move past this with deep understanding and regard.

The arc(s)

So Missy did give Clara the TARDIS number, escaped Gallifrey (somehow) and is dead (hands up if anyone really thinks she didn’t transmat). I don’t like the afterlife / all of history is a trick of Missy’s and if such super-Cybermen can be made why only now and on Earth?

I didn’t like the Santa ending, and I know it’s a family / kids programme. Let’s have this discussion at Christmas. Overall a wonderful story with some rough edges for me.


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