Doctor Who: “Death in Heaven” and the Death of Series 8


S08xE12 “Death in Heaven”

If you have been reading my reviews of Doctor Who this series, you know that my outlook shifted as the season moved forward. I started out all sunshine and roses, excited for the possibilities a new Doctor and Moffat’s writing could bring. It has been a rocky journey, with moments in each episode that I appreciated and many that fell flat. As the series comes to a close, with only the Christmas special left in Capaldi’s first year as the Doctor, I find myself disillusioned with the franchise and hoping for drastic change in the next few months. I like Capaldi as Twelve, I really do. Unfortunately, the combination of a new Doctor, lack of chemistry with his companion and the horrible writing of series 8 has me in dire need to understand what it is that went wrong. Let’s start with what worked and what didn’t in “Death in Heaven”, and go from there.

Spoilers ahead, Sweetie!

What Worked and What Didn’t

Missy. The Master. Whatever. I love her. Even though some fans were disappointed that the mysterious character teased throughout the series turned out the be the regenerated arch nemesis of the Doctor, I love the idea of a female timelord giving the series some well-needed tension. The umbrella bit in the cemetary and the Mary Poppins reference? A+! Murdering Osgood for no damn reason except to show how crazy and heartless the Mistress is? I’m gonna go with NOPE. If Moffat had given Missy more of the much needed screen time during the series, instead of delegating her to only the last episode, the story of series 8 would have been much richer and more exciting. The conflict between the Doctor and the Master has been told so many times in Doctor Who and it seemed as if the only NEW thing about the Master/Missy was the fact that she regenerated into a woman.


Danny Pink and the soldier storyline. For me, Danny is the unsung hero of series 8. I extolled the idea of the soldier storyline a few weeks ago, because I enjoyed the dynamic between the Doctor and a smart, kind, faithful soldier that Danny Pink turned out to be. Danny made the Doctor rethink his own value system, and not many people have the ability to do that. While this could have been played up a bit more, I appreciated that the writers came back to the juxtaposition between the Doctor–a general who doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, and Danny–the soldier who is down in the trenches, getting shit done. It was also very interesting to turn Clara into a version of a soldier, doing the Doctor’s dirty work so that he can sleep better at night. This is often the role the Doctor’s companions are placed in and something Danny spent much of series 8 trying to convince Clara of. But Danny as a dead Cyberman? To quote Captain America:


The Cybermen. Ugh. No. This villain reached the pinnacle in Neil Gaiman’s “Nightmare in Silver”. There was no need to go back to these robotic, boring, “Delete! Delete!” variation of the alien race. Gaiman did something never before done with the Cybermen, and it felt as if the version in this story erased all the terrifying complexity that was built up around them in the previous episodes featuring the creatures. It felt like a step backwards, regardless of their newfound ability to inhabit the dead. Or whatever that was. The taking of Danny Pink’s dead body, soul, essence, whatever–there wasn’t enough set up nor did it bring much to the story. I would have much rather had a live Danny fighting alongside the Doctor and Clara than a Cyber-Danny fighting from inside the hive mind. I cannot reiterate how much I disliked this storyline.

Clara as the Doctor. I’m sorry. Not even the Cybermen would take that long to delete someone, even if they thought she was the Doctor. Unrealistic and clearly a play for viewers to watch and for commercial value. This series, it seemed Clara was more of a prop in the story than an actual character. Same with Danny, if I’m being honest. She grew a bit more interesting, but not as an individual, only as a background to what her character has the ability to do for the Doctor. YAWN. I thought we might get some actual backstory on the girl. It’s hard to top the chemistry between previous Doctors and their companions, but I feel like the writers didn’t even try to make Clara interesting and unique. I did appreciate that, in the end, she lies to the Doctor about Danny and decides to stop traveling with him. Much like Martha in series 3, Clara decides to take her life back and it felt like the first genuine thing she’d done all series.


The Nethersphere. This plot point lacked so much of the luster the story was built up to be throughout series 8. A waiting room for dead souls so that their bodies could be reanimated as Cybermen? Wait. What? So complicated and yet totally unexplained. How did Missy even hook up with the Cybermen? How long has she been harvesting human minds? Why had we never heard of the 3W corporation until now? What the FUCK happened to the Great Intelligence????? There could have been so much more foreshadowing and hints to this storyline through the series, but instead we get a dinosaur in the Thames, and clockwork robot body snatchers. What the actual fuck?

In terms of Doctor Who as a whole, the show is a brilliant piece of science fiction that brings countless hours of joy to children and adults all over the world. The fact that the Doctor regenerates and a new actor is able to play him at any given moment, ingenious. The cheesy, villains and social commentary, spot on. The legacy of Doctor Who is lasting, but that doesn’t mean there is no possibility of failure. I’d hate to see such a wonderful franchise end because of the lofty (or is it lazy?) writing style of an overworked showrunner.


Your Friendly Neighborhood Wholigan

The Collectiva Diva

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