Series 8, Episode 12
Death in Heaven
Posted by Sage
Pain is a gift. Fear is a superpower. And the only man you’d possibly want in charge of all the world’s armies is an idiot.
I watched “Death in Heaven” on a bed full of friends in my hotel room at L.I. Who, with a sippy cup full of wine in my hand and Paul McGann, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and other Doctor Who royalty just a few doors down the hall. And no matter their content, I almost always enjoy the episodes I watch in company more than those I watch alone. This is a series that’s meant to be shared. So, kindly indulge my rosy take on things and blame it on the 3-day Whovian love-in.
I’m not alone in my feelings. After the episode, we booked it downstairs to an instant reaction panel moderated by our girl Deb Stanish (and almost got kicked out, but that’s a story for another post) and the response from our fellow fans was pretty positive, across the board. Maybe it’s because Moffat was working with an established villain, but the series 8 finale buttoned up story in a way his past season-enders have not. There are ends that remain untied, but time will tell which are continuing mysteries and which are plot holes, cheerfully skipped right over. Obviously, we’re all hoping for more of the former.
After the show totally went there with Danny Pink and revealed Missy as the Master, the time came to reveal her
devious bat-ass-shit-crazy-as-frick plan. And in the TARDIS team (and friends) response to that threat, all the questions swirling around this series joined hands and formed a giant chain of THEME. Is this regeneration a good man? What does being a soldier tell you about a person? What doesn’t it tell you? Why are we so obsessed with the concept of an after-life? Why do people without a clue continue to call this a kids’ show?
We’ve been teased with visions of the Nethersphere all season. (And wondered right here on this blog why only people who gave their lives for the Doctor or to ensure his eventual victory seemed to end up there.) Now we know that this place is actually a data cloud of consciousness – “hell” to some, “the promised land” to others. Missy has been traveling (presumably since John Simm’s Master dusted himself off after “The End of TIme”) back and forth along the Doctor’s timeline, “saving” unwitting accomplices to her Cyberarmy. (“Bit of an upgrade.”) She preys on vanity, on fear of death, and on sacrifice. While the Doctor is constantly chasing opportunities for humans to surprise him, the Master uses what she knows of humanity against us. She’s good.
But why, the Doctor keeps asking. Why, why, why? He needs motive. Motive is usually his way in. Most of the villainous species he runs up against are trying to survive, to protect, to grow. But The Master? The Master only ever thinks of the Doctor. (“I need you to know we’re not so different. I need my friend back.”) She has no other motive. Not money, not power. Her plans are always designed to draw the Doctor in, which makes them difficult to avoid and impossible to predict. I wrote in my “Into the Dalek” recap that if anything, the Doctor defines himself by what he is not. And every one of his personal codes is tested when he runs into his childhood friend. Because, on the other hand, the Master is the only creature in this dimension who also knows what it’s like to feel the turn of the Earth.
Osgood’s death hurt like hell. I’d never pretend otherwise. She represented the fan girl in all of us and we could have used her clear-headed assistance a few dozen more times. Some audience response has decried her death as pointless and cruel. Well…yeah. Isn’t that just the Master’s way? I do believe that’s the point – that she didn’t go out in a blaze of glory, and that Missy didn’t need to kill her to advance her scheme. “Why does one pop a balloon?” Missy asks her. “Because you’re pretty.” One might also pop a balloon to ruin a child’s day. The Master sees the Doctor’s companions as his distractions – his playthings. And she’s forever jealous of them. Osgood died because the Doctor admired her, and we have yet another TARDIS pair that could have been but never was.
“I would never ever give up the Doctor, because he is my best friend too. He is the closest person to me in this whole world. He is the man I will always forgive, always trust. The one man I would never, ever lie to.”
She’s working the Cybermen when she says this, sure. And we know that Clara Oswald can talk herself out of a situation. We also know she very much does lie to the Doctor – we’ve watched her do it more than once. (“Danny’s fine with it.”) But her statement is more true than Clara even realizes. Though it’s occasionally had me pulling my hair out in feminist frustration (“The Caretaker”), the Clara-Danny-Doctor triangle has this nobody-wins quality that feels very grown up for this show. The Doctor was never a real rival for Rory, or vice versa. They were a family, quite literally. But the audience never feels like Clara will ever throw some ponchos on her boys and saucily suggest dying “like a Peruvian folk band.” Coexistence among these three would be nothing but awkwardness and hurt feelings. And it’s nobody’s fault entirely. Danny doesn’t trust Clara, but Clara has been lying to him. Clara wants to live the life she wants without feeling like she’s abandoning something. The Doctor and Danny don’t mesh, because they see something in each other that scares them. I think it’s something that reminds them of the worst part of themselves. And Danny’s greatest fear is that Clara will always regret it if she “gives up” the Doctor to stay at home with him. That’s the fear she was trying to allay when she called, whether she truly believed it herself or not.
“I’m also proud of a line – I’m very rarely proud of anything I write – but I’m proud of the line ‘Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?’ because I got obsessed when I started to write this that Cybermen have no emotion, so it starts with Clara unable to find a way to say I love you and ends with Danny unable to find a way to say I love you, there are two phone calls that book-end it, and in the middle, the cracked old Caledonian gets it exactly right, he says I love you perfectly.
He’s surprised he has to say it. That’s the truth about him, he says lots of horrible things all the time, that’s because he assumes all the other stuff is taken for granted and it’s only in that moment Clara realizes just how much he’s assuming is taken for granted, absolute monomaniacal devotion to her. He absolutely loves her.” – Den of Geek Interview
“I am not a good man. And I’m not a bad man. I’m not a hero and I’m definitely not a president. And no, I’m not an officer. Do you know what I am? I am…an idiot. With a box. And a screwdriver. Passing through. Helping out. Learning. I don’t need an army, I never have. I’ve got them. Always them. Because love is not an emotion. Love is a promise. And he will never hurt her.”
The do-over button surfaces and then gives the finger to the Doctor and Clara. Missy was lying about the coordinates of Gallifrey, and the Doctor gets into a fight with his console because he should have known. Danny sends the child he killed back with the bracelet instead of himself and Clara has to deal with losing him all over again. (One wonders what Clara did with the Afghani kid in her flat.) But they lie to each other about their happiness, because it’s time to just pretend that everything is okay and move on. They’re not even particularly good lies! Danny and Clara had some deep, deep issues to work on repairing. And no one believes that the Doctor would easily settle in to a happy home life on Gallifrey. They’re both lying and they’re both fine being lied to. The Doctor doesn’t want Clara to feel like she needs to come with him for his own sake – she’s in mourning and should have her privacy. And Clara doesn’t want the Doctor to put his focus on her instead of finally finding his home planet. They don’t need to hide their faces from each other – they are willful participants But in other cases, the truth is easily offered and exactly what the other needs to hear.
“Doctor. Traveling with you made me feel really special. Thank you for that. Thank you for making me feel special.”
“Thank you for exactly the same.”
FOOF. 39 shopping days until Christmas.
Timey Wimey Observations:
- OMG SANTA, I KNOW HIM!
- I kept writing “3W” in my notes as “3LW”, but no more. (Baby, Imma do right…)
- I love that Missy “oh, honey’ed” the Doctor.
- “89, OCD. “91 Queen of Evil.”
- RIP, Man Scout.
- “We don’t want Americans bobbing around the place. They’ll only start praying.”
- The Doctor was SO PISSED when he found out Osgood was dead, it was almost worth it.
- “Kindly delete your opinions, thank you.”
- Clara claims she’ll never say “I love you” again, so it’s a good thing she already said it to the Doctor. Oop.
- “Then shame on you, Doctor.” “Yes. Oh, yes.”
- Clara Oswald is mourning the love of her life and is still cool-headed enough to pick up Missy’s remote without her noticing.
- CyberBrig, though.
- “Don’t you worry….go home. Go be a king or something.” “Yeah, might do that.” “Or a queen.” “Yeah, queen would be good too.” QUEEN WOULD BE GOOD TOO.
What did you think of “Death in Heaven” and of the season over all? Did Danny’s arc work for you? Sticky representation politics aside, how amazing is Michelle Gomez? Thoughts in the comments, if you please.