VOD TV review: Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 12 (Death in Heaven)
It was supposed to be so easy8
Blinded by the lights6
Simon Kinnear | On 09, Nov 2014Reading time: 3 mins
All week, it’s been hard to ignore a particular strain of Doctor Who fans, running about with their hands in the ears, shouting “la la la” at everybody mentioning that The Master is now a woman. Whether down to deep-rooted geek wisdom or knee-jerk misogyny, some folk just can’t believe Dark Water’s big twist to be true, and have been holding out hope that it’s all one big double-bluff from Steven Moffat, a cosmic joke to which Death in Heaven would provide the punchline.
Within minutes, we got the punchline, with the brilliant gag that Clara is actually The Doctor – a joke so thorough that the entire dynamic of the title sequence was changed to accommodate it. But if the joke involves Clara, then that means… yep, Missy really is The Master. And, as The Master has been wont to do since the series’ return to TV, Missy has warped the show to his/her own ends. Just like The Last Of The Time Lords trilogy and The End Of Time, this was a completely deranged, scorchingly ambitious but criminally uneven affair. Definitely The Master, then.
For a writer like Steven Moffat, usually so meticulous and methodical, this felt like he’d knocked back a few too many daiquiris to showcase how bananas Missy was. Doctor Who, drunk-dancing on a Saturday night – a daredevil who’ll sky-dive into his TARDIS one minute but then get tearful and huggy when the high wears off. Death in Heaven was so like the last two Master stories, in fact, that you might almost think of this as Moffat’s tribute to his predecessor, Russell T. Davies. Sadly, the heart-on-sleeve stuff doesn’t come naturally to Moffat. Hence all the Dutch courage.
So all that masterplan-building in Dark Water simply… evaporated, in favour of mad, over-the-top flourishes: Flying Cybermen! UNIT! Meanwhile, Clara spends an eternity in a graveyard, waiting for the comedown. When it finally lands, Moffat remembers to fulfil all of the thematic promises laid out during the season (soldiers, generals, is the Doctor a good man?) but it’s impossible to weave subtle insights when you’re blind drunk. You know a writer is getting lazy when the villain’s main goal is, literally, to reveal the show’s subtext.
Like all Saturday night benders, this came with its share of brilliant moments. Michelle Gomez’s sadistic dispatch of Osgood was thrillingly dark and Master-like. The surprise cameo by one of Doctor Who’s best-loved characters was, against the odds, genuinely touching. And the final scene was ample reward for all the superb work done this year by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.
Yet, overall, this was messy stuff, undone by its hangover pacing (frantic then sluggish), staggering-all-over-the-place narrative and lachrymose early-morning emotions. Doctor Who has been mostly wonderful this year, so it’s hardly a surprise that the series decided to hold an end-of-season piss-up. Even so, you have to wonder when everyone will sober up, given that the Christmas episode already looks like it’s been at the mulled wine. Go home, Doctor Who, you’re drunk.
Doctor Who Season 8 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. Want to keep Capaldi’s Doctor for longer? You can download Doctor Who on blinkbox and Amazon Instant Video, or on iTunes – where buying a season pass will also give you all of Doctor Who Extra.
Where can I buy or rent Doctor Who: Season 8 online in the UK?
Photo: BBC/Adrian Rogers