Published on November 10th, 2014 | by Brad


Doctor Who – Death in Heaven review

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Wouldn’t “Rain of the Cybermen” have been a better title? No? Just me? Anyway. Doctor Who’s eighth series closes with Death in Heaven. After the reveal of the Master and her army of Cybermen last week, this episode dives into the thick of it (arf!), as UNIT arrive on the scene and the Cybermen take to the skies. They begin seeding the clouds, and the rain falls into the Earth’s cemeteries, reanimating every corpse on planet Earth as a Cyberman.

In years gone by, particularly in the Russell T Davies era, the Doctor Who finale tended to be action-driven, on an epic scale; Daleks and Cybermen at war on the streets of London, Davros stealing planets to drive a machine which would unmake reality, that sort of thing. The Steven Moffat era has tended to be a little more intimate in its scope, whilst no less epic in its stakes; the last four people in the universe sat in a museum trying to figure out how to reboot the Big Bang whilst a Dalek is waking up, for example. Death in Heaven is a little bit of both; an army of Cybermen swarming across the Earth preparing to convert the entire human race, and it’s settled by an act of love from a dead soldier.

I’ve been praising Samuel Anderson all series, and he absolutely crushes again here. Helped by the very simple, utterly horrifying make-up work, Danny shows the real horror of the Cybermen. Collectively, they’re an army of killer robots, and NuWho has rarely done more than that with them. Looking at just Danny, though, you see the true terror that the Cybermen can be. Stripped of his humanity, Danny is a ghost in a metal shell, a perversion of humanity which seems to have been the Master’s MO since the character returned in 2007.


Taking on the role of the Master, Michelle Gomez is a sensation. Her personality and demeanour suit the loopier personality the Master has had in NuWho better than John Simm, and her comfort and ease with the wackier stuff make the quieter moments that much more chilling. Her toying with Osgood before killing her is particularly brutal. The effect in her final moment looked more like a teleportation than destruction, and I rather hope that Gomez, like Anthony Ainley before her, is a long-term recurring villain for many Doctors to come.

Where Moffat’s previous series have been puzzle-boxes, and their finales a showcase for how the narrative elements all weave together, this series has been something different. Beyond the occasional glimpse of the Master weaving elements together, this season has had little concern for an over-arching plot. It’s been more concerned with the relationships between its characters, and in Death in Heaven we see those emotional character-arcs come to an end in very satisfying ways. The Doctor and Clara’s final scene together is exactly how these two would leave each other; each lying to protect the other from the pain they’re feeling. It’s a bittersweet conclusion to a wonderful series of television.


Stray Observations:

  • I would totally watch a spin-off in which Cyber-Brigadier travels the universe, righting wrongs.
  • Anyone else noticed the ever-changing style of Peter Capaldi’s hair this series? In some scenes it’s big and up, in some it’s flat and Malcolm Tucker-y. Maybe it’s just me.
  • Chris Addison squeeing at the Doctor in his big action moment was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while.
  • Nick Frost as Santa Claus!


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