Season 8 of Doctor Who comes to a close with "Death in Heaven."
As discuss last week, Doctor Who finales are often hit and miss, so does season eight deliver a satisfying conclusion to Peter Capaldi's first season?
"Death in Heaven" picks up where we left off at the end of the last episode with Missy and her Cybermen army invading the world. Being quickly sedated by UNIT, the Doctor and Missy end up on a plane, where UNIT informs the Doctor that the leaders of the world have chosen him to be the President of Earth, in a very humorous scene. Making the Doctor the President of Earth sounds positively ridiculous at first, but Steven Moffat managed to pull off the idea rather well, even if it ultimately had little to do with the plot's conclusion in the end.
Missy's escape from UNIT seemed rather contrived and far too easy since the two soldiers "guarding" her just stood there like statues while she escaped and vaporized them. Also, holding her in the cargo hold was not a good idea either. They even left her with all of her gadgets! UNIT really sucks at their job, but nonetheless, the plot calls for Missy to escape, so she does rather effortlessly while she murders Osgood. Earlier in the episode Osgood wearing a bowtie and saying "Bowties are cool" to the Doctor was a fun a little nod to Smith considering that Osgood wore a scarf in the 50th Anniversary special.
As Missy continues to escape, the plane is attacked by flying Cybermen, Even though flying in a plane is the preferred method of protection for the President of the United States, when Iron Man like Cybermen are flying around across the world, is the sky really the best place to protect the President of Earth? Haven’t they seen Iron Man 3!? Haha... Again, it had to happen for the plot to progress, and while a bit annoying, neither Missy’s escape nor the Cybermen plane attack affected my overall opinion of the episode that much. However, the Doctor and Missy's dialogue was quite fun, especially the quip about ruling the world is a piece of cake.
Moving on to Clara's part of the episode, she escapes the Cybermen by telling them that she is the Doctor! A Cyber-Danny confronts Clara and calls her a liar, and then takes her to a graveyard. One minor problem about her deception is that Time Lords have two hearts, so can't the Cybermen scan her to discover that fact? Other than that, her escape as "The Doctor" is rather brilliant. Throughout the season Clara has gone from detesting the Doctor's methods of lying and deception to embracing them, which makes the episode "Flatline" even more relevant to her character arc, and this finale brought her character arc full circle in brilliant fashion. Hearing Clara tell the Cybermen all of the Doctor's history, including a reference to Jenny from "The Doctor's Daughter" was great.
What made her change even more effective is her speech to Cyber-Danny about how the Doctor is the man that she trusts the most. It provided an effectively emotional scene for Clara and Danny. Since Danny cannot endure the pain, Clara begs the Doctor to tell her how to turn on the emotion-inhibitor per Danny's request. When the Doctor refuses to help since turning it on would effectively kill Danny, Clara hangs up on him in anger.
To conclude the finale, the Doctor, Missy, Clara, and Cyber-Danny end up in the graveyard together. Before Missy arrives, Danny challenging the Doctor in turn on the chip because he will do whatever he needs for the "greater good" so that he can discover Missy’s plan turned out to be an effect scene for the most part as well.
In the graveyard, the Master reveals her final plan, which is to give command of the Cybermen army to the Doctor. Throughout the season two main themes have been explored, the Doctor's dislike of soldiers and whether he is a "good man." For the most part, the climax with Missy proved to be an excellent resolution. My only problem is that with all that build up, Missy handing over the army to the Doctor just to prove a point seemed a bit anticlimactic. It was good, but maybe it could have been handled a little better. However, the Doctor realizing that he not a good man, just an idiot with a blue box was great. Handing over control of the army to Danny also worked well in the story to show that the Doctor finally respects Danny in the end. In regards to Danny being able to not have the emotion-inhibitor affect him and Stewart saving his daughter did seem a bit odd. Essentially, the world was saved by "The Power of Love" (song below), and while slightly contrived, but it has happened in the past, and the Doctor saluting Stewart was a great scene.
When the Doctor "killed" the Master, you can clearly notice that the light around her when she is vaporized is blue, whereas her previous victims died in a flash of red. Obviously, the Master is not dead, which is not surprising, but rather teleported somewhere else.
As great as "Death in Heaven" was for the most part, it did make me realize that I did not care all that much for Danny in the end. I liked him, but his death did not hit nearly as hard as it did with other characters in Doctor Who, although may be because he basically had three deaths in the last two episodes. However, he served his purpose in the end, and having him send the kid that he killed instead of himself proved to be a fittingly poignant ending for his character.
In terms of production value and performances, everything is as great as ever. Capaldi continues to be exceptional, and Coleman is arguably better than Capaldi. Michelle Gomez managed to tone down her portrayal of the Master with a mostly solid performance, although not all of her scenes were the best. Samuel Anderson as Danny continued to give a strong performance until his final scene, and the supporting cast all gave top notch performances.
With Danny's Cybermen makeup aside, the special effects are better than ever, with the Cybermen having a truly menacing, almost Iron Man like, appearance, and the flying effects were excellent for television.
At the end with the Cybermen attack resolved, Clara and the Doctor meet up a few weeks later. First the Doctor tells Clara that the Master did not lie about Gallifrey, which made Clara make the Doctor think that Danny made it back alive. Another theme in the season has been lying, and this final scene with the two proved to be the most effectively emotional scene of the episode with both lying to each other to, what they believe, would make each other happy. To top that off, the Doctor explains why he is against hugging, which became one of the highlights of the episode for me.
The ending with Nick Frost as Santa Claus was a bit odd, but considering how great he is in the Cornetto Trilogy, I am sure he will be a hilarious Santa Claus in the Christmas special.
Overall: 9.3/10- All in all, "Death in Heaven" proved to be a very solid finale for season eight of Doctor Who. It is not without its faults with a few contrivances along the way, but it resolved all of the previously set up themes and character arcs with skill.
In the near future, I plan to rank my favorite episodes of the season and review the season as a whole.
"It's Just a Way to Hide Your Face."
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