Well, Missy is The Master and that’s exploded a lot of tiny little minds. Meanwhile for the rest of us, what’s she got to do with the Cybermen and how is the Doctor going to fight his greatest nemesis and the Cybermen? Sadly, the biggest problem the Doctor seems to have is fans moaning about how the Master now being female is ‘revisionism’, or not ‘canon’, or anything that avoids the fact they probably have invested far too much in a programme, or are extraordinarily prejudiced against people with different genders to the majority of us. It’s not just male and female which makes Moffat’s decision to make Missy The Master braver than it first seemed, and I can only applaud him for that as it doesn’t seem to be kids who have the problem but adults. If you really look at the scenes of the Doctor and Missy/Master/Mistress and feel queasy then the programme isn’t the one with the problem.
So, the finale. How does it end up for the Doctor and his friends? Well the first thing anyone should notice is that Jenna Coleman gets top billing over Peter Capaldi which I found a tad jarring but seeing as the Doctor spends this episode either running around being useless, or moping, or talking and Clara spends the episode being more like the Doctor (which is paid off in her opening scenes where she tries to convince the Cybermen that she’s the regenerated Doctor) is probably right. If anyone remembers the Colin Baker era, his Doctor would often be entirely useless and would sail through a story having no effect on anyone. Now that was mainly bad writing but I understand what they were trying to do and they’re trying the same sort of thing here to more success but it’s resulted in an episode which could either be one of the best finale’s ever, or a steaming pile of shite. In fact it’s a bit of both.
It turns out that UNIT have been following the 3W corporation for a while and in a line of dialogue we get what should have been a series worth of build up and exposition, but the whole reasoning for 3W (The Master set the company up to prey upon the rich who he promised eternal life) is done and dusted in less than a second so we can get to the plot. It turns out the Cybermen have been watching Iron Man as they now have the ability to fly. 91 Cybermen fly from St. Paul’s Cathedral (which has somehow been converted secretly into a base where the roof can open up) across the UK. UNIT (well, Kate Stewart and Osgood who we met in the 50th anniversary special and has become a fan favourite since) and the Doctor work out that each Cyberman has been sent to seed Cyber technology over the graveyards of the country which would convert the dead into Cybermen.
So far this is all a great concept and it makes the Cybermen unstoppable as all they need to do is convert the dead when they fight humans. From here on in the episode does go to pieces a bit but it’s held together mainly by Capaldi and especially Michelle Gomez who is lapping up being completely mad and totally evil. The minute that we find out that UNIT have kidnapped the Doctor because in the event of a global emergency he would be made President of Earth (though there is a funny dig at the American president ‘going round bombing everything’ which should upset all the right people) is the point where you either switch off the brain or just shout at your telly telling it where to go.
Assuming you’re fine with the Doctor being in a UNIT 747 being Earth President which a massive picture of the Brigadier being made so obvious that it’s clearly foreshadowing something then you should be fine for the rest of the episode. On the plane Missy is kept locked up like Hannibal Lector which means we get probably the best scene in the entire episode. Here she’s telling Osgood that she’s going to kill her, but as the viewer we know she’s not going to kill her because the one thing Doctor Who doesn’t do now is kill off fan favourite characters which means we’ve got some mild threat and a chance to see Gomez be fantastic as a evil Master trying to scare Osgood. When Osgood finds out she’s free of her shackles and that she’s killed the two guards in front of her, we still don’t expect her to die. Then the Master/Missy kills Osgood. It’s a shocking moment ripped right out of classic Who where killing off sympathetic characters in callous ways was the norm. I can imagine a lot of kids taking this badly while the fan community is in mourning it seems. Osgood’s death ramps things up because it makes clear that the Gomez version of the Master isn’t playing around. I only hope Moffat keeps Osgood dead to make sure that the audience realises that the goodies sometimes die as opposed to being shunted to parallel worlds or have their mind wiped.
Meanwhile the 747 is surrounded by Iron Man drones, sorry, Cybermen, who tear the plane apart killing it seems Kate Stewart, and forcing the Doctor to do a freefall dive into a plummeting Tardis in a very Bondian scene.
At the same time, Clara has been saved from the Cybermen by Danny Pink who is now also a Cyberman but one still in control of his mind and emotions. This allows his to ask Clara to switch off his humanity so he can essentially die but this would mean he would become a full Cyberman, and that would mean he would kill Clara. This is pointed out by the Doctor who has arrived just before Missy who comes in in full Mary Poppins mode.
It turns out that Missy has thrown Clara and the Doctor together as Clara is a massive control freak which has seen her over the last series question the Doctor and his motives causing the Doctor to question himself with questions like ‘am I a good man?’. Missy them gives the Doctor the army of Cybermen as his own personal army because her idea is that she and the Doctor are the same really and all she wants really is her childhood friend back. After Danny’s emotion inhibitor is turned on he saves the world with the power of love overriding it (yes, really, this is used again) by commanding all other Cybermen to take to the skies to explode and therefore cancel out the threat to the world, we’ve got a stand off with Clara, Missy and the Doctor. Clara wants to kill Missy which is by now, the only sensible option left but the Doctor doesn’t want to turn Clara into a weapon which is a thread that’s been running through the programme since it returned in 2005. There’s been an idea that the Doctor weaponises companions which we’ve seen over and over again and now seems to have paid off a bit as the Doctor takes the responsibility for killing the Master upon himself.
Before the Doctor kills Missy, she’s destroyed by a lone Cyberman who is actually Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart. Yes really. I’m not sure whether this is a nice moment, or really, really bad fan-fiction made real but it happened, and also Cyber-Brig saved Kate from the 747. Sadly, we don’t get the Cyber-Brig as a new companion as he flies up and blows himself up as he’s obviously seen Iron Man 3 in the afterlife.
Clara and the Doctor split up after the Doctor goes to find Gallifrey after Missy told him where it is, except she lied and it’s not where she said it’d be, and now The Master is dead, he can’t exactly ask her again. Clara on the other had is visited by the voice of Danny Pink who is speaking to her from the afterlife (yes, really) telling her that he can send one person back to our world, however he chooses to send the boy he killed in Iraq/Afghanistan back so he can be with his parents, who we have to assume by now have been slaughtered by an American president bombing things.
Clara and the Doctor meet up for what is one last time to lie to each other. Clara tells the Doctor that Danny has come back from the afterlife, while the Doctor tells Clara he’s found Gallifrey. They lie, they hug and they leave each other in the middle of the one bit of Cardiff city centre (there’s a very nice bar not far from where that scene was filmed) that looks nothing like London and the episode ends.
Except it doesn’t. We cut after the credits start back to the Doctor sitting around moping in the Tardis and he’s startled to hear knocking at the door of his Tardis and a voice asking to be let in. The Doctor doesn’t let them in so they do it themselves and it’s Nick Frost playing Father Christmas. Bang! End Credits. I assume the final separation or reunion of the Doctor and Clara will be the Christmas episode but it’s a nice change in tone from moping grimness to light hearted nonsense which sets up the six week wait for the Christmas Day episode.
Back though to Death in Heaven, it’s an odd episode.I think it’s one of the best endings to a series so far, but then again it’s not got the punch of a Doomsday but coming on Remembrance Day weekend it discusses big themes of soliders, wars and loss. It’s also making it quite clear that the Doctor is no different from those sending men and women into battle even though he takes a moral high ground over the soldiers he meets. It questions the Doctor’s morality and in that respect all of this series has been doing that through the character of Clara. We’ve been asked if the Doctor is a good man and in many respects he is, but he’s also someone who gladly uses others to defeat evil if if it means they end up dead like Osgood and Danny. In this respect it’s been an ambitious series which has been thought out and planned well, but the problem in the entire series is the relationship of Danny and Clara, or to be more precise, the dreadful dialogue given to Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson. Even in this episode we’ve got to wade through dreadful, cliches dialogue while taking a leap of faith that these are two people who genuinely love each other as opposed to people who quite like each other. Anderson and Coleman have done wonders with that dialogue they’ve been given, but there’s been a lack of emotional depth in their relationship which hurt the payoff in Death in Heaven.
There’s also a problem using the Cybermen, in that it’s still not really a Cyberman story. It’s a story about the Master, Doctor, Clara and Danny. Moffat could have created a threat the Master had created, but using the Cybermen mean more fan recognition which isn’t always a good thing. In this case it flicks between a good idea and pandering to fanboys which is part of a problem with how the programme has developed under Moffat. Yes, it’s fine to drop a reference to the Chaplet Funeral Home as that’s not going to be jarring, but constantly reusing ideas & monsters from the old series while not developing it’s own mythology. Since the programme’s return in 2005 they’ve slowly introduced all the old concepts to the point now where the only one left is the return of the Time Lords and the Doctor being on the run from them, rather than trying to find them. That I expect will change in the next few years probably before Moffat leaves.
This isn’t to say it’s not fun, but it’s overegging things to a degree where an episode like Death in Heaven felt bursting when it really needed to be smaller, which to be fair this is the smallest scale finale of any of Moffat’s series as it doesn’t involve the end of the universe.
All in all though, Peter Capaldi’s first series has been excellent, with one genuinely brilliant episode (Flatline) which is a classic and a story arc which made sense, more or less. Now the programme has to kick on after the Christmas episode which is really designed for a bit of fun while we’re all stuffed and pissed. Next series has to develop Capaldi’s Doctor because we’ve got someone who clearly loves the role and is doing some amazing work. give him even better scripts while developing a new mythology for the programme which looks forward, not backwards all the time.
Now we need to wait six weeks to see what on earth Father Christmas is doing on the Tardis….