Recap: ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘Death In Heaven’ brings series 8 to a heart-wrenching finale

11.08.14 3 years ago


Well folks, this is it. We made it to the series 8 finale for “Doctor Who.” After tonight, we will be bereft of Time Lord shenanigans until the Christmas special. Let”s savor every last gut-wrenching moment of “Death In Heaven.”


Things pick up right where we left off last week in “Dark Water.” The solitary Cyberman in the office with Clara is on the warpath. But it”s the slow, plodding warpath “Who” villains save for main characters. Instead of vaporizing her on the spot, the Cyberman hesitates just long enough for Clara to be very clever.

There is no Clara Oswald. There never was. She was a figment of the Doctor”s imagination. Clara is, in actuality, the Doctor. 

Jenna Coleman sells this monologue so hard that not only is the Cyberman convinced, but I”m half hoping that this is the twist of the season. How amazing would it be if Clara”s been an amnesiac Time Lady version of the Doctor all this time? Dare to dream, y”all.

Meanwhile outside, the Doctor and the Master, who is now going by Missy because ladies can”t be called the “Master” don”t be silly, are having a bit of banter. Twelve is freaking out because there are Cyberman in broad daylight and he”s waiting for the humans to freak out. But he severely overestimated our sense of self-preservation. Instead of fear, everyone just wants a selfie with the weird metal men. I swear to God, humans in the Whovian universe have the collective memory of a goldfish.

Or, they”re all just UNIT employees in disguise. My faith in humanity ticks up a hair. Even Osgood returns in all her nerdy glory, but she”s shed her scarf in favor of a bowtie because “Bowties are cool.” Also on hand is a whole squadron of UNIT in military gear to hold Missy and the Cybermen hostage, which at first seems ridiculous until Kate Stewart shows up. She nonchalantly tosses an old Cyberman head into their midst like “You forgot something last time. We upgraded. Oh, we also have the Doctor on our payroll.” With an airtight argument like that, the Cybermen do the only logical thing. They flee straight into the air on their jetpacks. 


Of course, humanity”s moment of badassery is cut short when the building housing the water tomb opens up and spews out Cybermen. Ninety-one of them to be specific. Kate questions how the hell the self-proclaimed “Queen of Evil” managed to house that many robots with no one noticing. Well, it”s easy when you”ve got Gallifreyan technology. A hiding place can be as small as you need it to be because it”s bigger on the inside.

To add insult to injury, the Cybermen weren”t running away from Kate Stewart”s amazing monologue. They were headed to the atmosphere in order to explode into a dark cloud of Cyber-Spores. Missy explains her plan is for the particles to pollinate the Earth, falling like rain to awaken the dead. And if zombie Cybermen doesn”t ping your animal hindbrain with fear, congratulations! You”re probably gonna die first in the upcoming apocalypse. 

In the Nethersphere, the lights are going off. Seb finally drops the truth bomb on Danny Pink. They aren”t in Heaven…duh…but in a data cloud. The technology has been collecting recently deceased minds and now they”re all being called home. Back to their “upgraded” bodies. Danny takes this about as well as can be expected.

On Earth, the humans are taking no chances. The Time Lord and Lady are tranquilized for someone”s safety. Kate mentions something about the “First protocol is implemented” while the Doctor expends his last moments of consciousness whispering to Osgood to watch the cemeteries.

I assume the Doctor passed out before mentioning “Oh and the morgues.,” which is where we now find ourselves. The Cyber-Pollen is doing its best “Ghostbuster II” impression, oozing out of the drains and into the newly dead. For some reason, the mortician”s reaction to sudden banging noises coming from closed cold storage lockers is to say “Hello?” instead of running away screaming. THAT part doesn”t happen until a Cyberman sits up on the gurney.

Now alone with his thoughts, the Cyberman looks in the mirror. He is obviously upset by what he sees. Oh, it”s Danny. Cyber-Danny crushes his autopsy report in his fist. Things might be about to go very badly for Missy.

I guess now would be a good time to ask, “How is this happening?” How are Cybermen converting organic matter into robots with no processing? I”ll just assume nano-technology. Nanotech is always good for a pseudo-science plot.

The Doctor regains consciousness in a plane hanger. Kate Stewart apologizes, but there are UNIT protocols in place for an alien invasion on this scale. Twelve is notably unpredictable so tranquilizers and control of the TARDIS were the only way to guarantee is his cooperation. 

Well, she”s not wrong.

Kate ushers the Doctor onto a plane where he is instantly declared the President of Earth. The Doctor”s word is literally law. He is now the chief executive officer of the human race. Suddenly, every taunting word Danny Pink said about the Doctor being officer aristocracy is thrown into sharp relief. The parallel of course being that Mr. Pink is now the ultimate solider. An unthinking, unfeeling, killing machine. Well played, Moffat.

Finally, we check back in with Clara. By confusing the Cyberman, she has bought herself some time. But they want more proof she is the Doctor. She starts rattling off facts at a lightning pace, revealing exactly how much Twelve has shared with her over the course of their adventures. She even mentions Jenny, the Doctor”s daughter! But the ever-logical Cybermen aren”t buying it. Including a newcomer, who seems to know an awful lot about Clara Oswald. Obviously it is Cyber-Danny.

Clara tries to stall for time by saying “I”m a good liar,” to which Cyber-Danny replies “Yes, you are,” and my heart breaks just a little bit because ouch. Cyber-Danny then knocks Clara out and quickly dispatches his fellow robots. Well, well, well. I”d wager Missy did not expect human souls to retain emotion and attachment.

In the hold of the plane, Missy is taunting the Doctor and Osgood. Twelve can”t figure out how she”s here and alive because Gallifrey is lost in another dimension. The obvious answer? Gallifrey is in another dimension, but it”s definitely not lost. Missy knows how to get home but she”s not telling because what fun would that be? Are we just gonna ignore the fact they handcuffed the most psychotic being in the universe to a dolly and put her next to the TARDIS? This seems like poor planning. Why did they even let Missy wake up? Keep that lady hopped up on tranquilizers! 

Osgood dispenses with the Doctor”s notions that humans wouldn”t be able to grasp fluid genders among Time Lords/Ladies. She just kind of assumed Missy was the new regeneration of the Master based on her behavior. 

Off to the side and ignored by everyone, including her guards, Missy activates her bracelet. Jewelry can be fashionable AND functional.

Clara wakes up in the graveyard at dusk because Cyber-boyfriends are bad at ambiance. She meanders aimlessly among the tombstones and I keep hoping the Weeping Angels show up and this finale turns into a rumble over who gets to destroy humanity. But no such luck.

Back on Air Force One, the Doctor is finally explaining what the hell is going on. The Cyber-Pollen searches out organic matter and starts a full conversion chain reaction. But up until now, it has need a living creature. Somehow Missy has figured out how to weaponize the dead. “It”s all over,” says the Doctor, dramatic defeatist. “How can you win against the dead?” Oh I don”t know genius, EMPs for starters? Or maybe go find the Lorax-Fairies from two episodes ago. They seemed pretty good at protecting humanity from imminent extinction.

Off-handedly Kate mentions UNIT was tipped off to what was going on by a woman with a Scottish accent. The girl from the shop strikes again!

The Doctor goes on to mention Missy has been traveling up and down Earth”s time stream for who knows how long, collecting the consciousness or souls or whatever of the dead and putting them in the Nethersphere cloud. Every concept of an afterlife can be chalked up to her tampering.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up a minute. There are some heavy implications here. Every human soul on Earth was in that data cloud? If the plan was to eventually put those souls back in their Cyberman bodies, what happens to the souls so old they have no bodies? Were Egyptians mummifying themselves to have a body to return to? Does this mean we truly have no good grasp on life after death since it”s been skewed by Time Lady meddling? 

Speaking of Time Lady meddling, in the hold Missy has a secret she wants to tell Osgood. But she wants to whisper it. Throwing genre savviness to the wind, Osgood falls for this obvious ruse and comes close enough for Missy to tell her the “secret girl plan.” Which is that Osgood is about to die.

Holy hell, does Michelle Gomez ever shine in this role. The tenuous grasp on sanity, the flair for the dramatic (“I”m accelerating the countdown for dramatic effect”), the sleight of hand, the cold indifference to outright murdering Osgood and the nameless Red Shirts™…it”s all deliciously unhinged. More complex unlikeable female characters, please!

Her jailers dealt with, Missy activates her Cyberman controls. It doesn”t take long for them to come running. Turns out jetpacks aren”t just useful for running away. They make it easy to jump-scare the hell out of protagonists in airplanes. The Doctor quickly figures out Missy must be free and hauls ass down to the hold, where he finds the remnants of Osgood”s broken glasses.

Back at the cemetery, Clara is watching as the rain-created baby Cybermen burst through the grave dirt like so many robotic zombies. The newly risen dead stumble about like the disoriented newborns they are. From a distance, Cyber-Danny watches Clara until she catches sight of him. 

In a confrontation that continues to break my heart, Clara rounds on her captor and confirms she”s not the Doctor. Dammit. Oh well. Doctor Clara will live on in my head canon. 

Unaware that she”s finally giving Danny the answer he”s been begging her for, Clara refuses to give up the Doctor”s location. Twelve is her best friend, the one man she would never, ever lie to, the most important person in her life, the man she will always forgive. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the exact moment that whatever Cybermen have for a heart shatters into a million pieces. Cyber-Danny takes off his face mask to reveal the human corpse – because that”s what he is – still inside the metal casing. Full conversion is apparently relative.

Clara freaks out because that is the proper human response. She wants to help Danny but “Danny Pink is dead,” Cyber-Danny unhelpfully states. She is literally talking to Danny”s soul or consciousness or whatever that has been shoved back into his recently dead, decomposing body. Think about that for a second. Think about what horrors must be behind the masks of those who have been gone longer than a few hours.

Cyber-Danny implores Clara to help him. He is still feeling emotions and it is too much to bear. He needs Clara to turn on his emotion inhibitor so he can function. And also so he can kill her, I guess.

Far above England, the Cybermen are tearing Air Force One apart. Missy and Twelve trade barbs when suddenly the TARDIS phone starts to ring. Missy reveals SHE was the girl at the shop who thrust Eleven and Clara together all that time ago. Why? Because it gives Missy pleasure to watch the Doctor be brought to heel by someone bossier than him. Otherwise known as the logic of a bitter crazy person.

So wait, if Missy was the girl at the shop, was she also the Scottish lady that tipped off UNIT?

Clara fills the Doctor in on what”s going on with Danny and, bless him, Twelve is the voice of reason. No he won”t help turn on Danny”s inhibitor because without emotions, there is nothing to stop Cyber-Danny from murdering Clara on the spot. In a fit of rage, Ms. Oswald chucks her cellphone. Personal safety be damned, she”s not letting her dead boyfriend suffer anymore than he has to. She”ll turn off the inhibitor the old-fashioned way: by pressing all the switches one by one until she finds it.

Kate Stewart burst into the hull to let everyone know the plane is going down. Missy uses her device to blow off a side panel and whoosh! The leader of UNIT falls into the misty night. Starting to notice a pattern here. Missy doesn”t seem to like other women competing for the Doctor”s affections in any capacity unless she controls the parameters of the relationship. As Twelve freaks out at his childhood friend”s cavalier attitude towards murder, Missy layers on another layer of sociopathy with a pithy “Don”t be selfish, I”ll miss her too.” Michelle Gomez is chewing the scenery and I love it.

Missy teleports away and the plane explodes. From the Nethersphere, she and Seb – who is revealed to be an A.I. – watch the Doctor plummet to his inevitable demise. The Time Lady is not impressed with such a boring way to die. Almost as if he hears her, the Doctor makes a controlled aerodynamic fall right into the TARDIS. River would be so proud, you guys.

Seb is suitably impressed and vaporized for his opinion. But I”m more interested in the mechanics of Missy even being in the Nethersphere. Is it just her consciousness and, if so, where is her body? Or can she fully convert herself in and out of digitized space at will? 

No time to ruminate on the details of the Gallifreyan data cloud because the Doctor has homed in on Clara”s cell phone signal. Bursting out of the TARDIS, he tries to put the kibosh on this insane notion that Cyber-Danny won”t go all RED RUM, RED RUM as soon as his emotions are switched off. Cyber-Danny swears he would never hurt Clara, emotions or nor emotions.

The Doctor and, if I”m being honest, myself, are dubious. After all, Danny might be in pain but pain is a gift that gives us empathy. It”s a really good speech…which is immediately nullified when Cyber-Danny points out he can”t see Missy”s plan because his inhibitor is switched off. He can”t connect to the hivemind.

Cyber-Danny is almost smug in his confidence that “All the pretty speeches will disappear for the tactical advantage.” To him, this only proves the Doctor is an officer. An opinion cemented by Clara forcing Twelve to give her the sonic screwdriver. “Do as your told,” she echoes from earlier in the season. She”s going to turn off the inhibitor and Cyber-Danny is mad as hell that she has to do it. “Got to keep those hands clean,” he taunts the Doctor, who appears to be reeling under the sheer weight of only having bad choices.

“I wasn”t very good at it, but I did love you,” declares Clara. Cyber-Danny says he loved her, too.  In a moment of gallows humor, they realize that for different reasons, neither of them will ever say that again. Within seconds, it”s over. The sonic is “point and think” technology and the inhibitor is switched on. Emotions have been replaced with 20/20 hive hivemind vision. The rains will fall again, humanity is doomed.

Cue Missy reappearing like a demented Mary Poppins from the sky. I am in love with this character. She”s obviously here to gloat over her imminent victory. Using the remote on her wrist, she has her “boys” go through several ‘Simon Says” protocols to prove she can control every Cyberman in the world. Well, every one except Danny Pink. 

Which, when you think about it, is pretty damn insulting. So, not a single other human on Earth loves someone as much as Danny loves Clara? I”m calling bullshit. 

But then things take a turn for the weird. “Happy birthday!” declares Missy before clamping the Cyberman controls on the Doctor”s wrist. She is giving him the army he always wanted so he can take over the universe and make things right. Win it for the good guys! Missy just needs the Doctor to see how similar they are, because she misses her friend. So, the Time Lady is psychotic but also lonely. And also, calling bullshit again considering she literally just tried to kill Twelve. This has to be a contingency plan. Either that or I”m overthinking the motivations of Chaotic Evil characters again. Probably that second one. 

In a moment of self-reflection, the Doctor is pummeled by memories from this season: asking Clara if he”s a good man, Danny accusing him of being an officer, the Dalek saying he would make a good Dalek. And finally the Doctor has his answer. He is not a good man, or a bad man. He”s just a guy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him…wait. 

He”s just a dude, trying to make the right choices as they come at him. “I am an idiot with a box and screwdriver, passing through. Helping out. Learning. I don”t need an army,” he declares, kissing Missy for helping him have a self-epiphany.

Uh oh, I think as I begin to ship them.

With the question of his “goodness” answered, the Doctor knows what he has to do. He slaps the Cyberman controls onto Danny”s wrist. To me that”s proof this was Missy”s back-up plan. If she”d wanted this from the start, there”s not way she wouldn”t have built in failsafes to the bracelet on Twelve”s wrist.

As a soldier commanding soldiers, Cyber-Danny gives a speech because series finales are all about grand monologues. The clouds will burn. Danny and the other Cybermen will self-destruct to dissipate the clouds. “The army of the dead will save the land of the living,” he declares before the Cyber-Army takes to the skies a final time.

Back on the ground, things are almost comically anti-climatic. The Doctor, Clara, and Missy just stand around in the graveyard looking sheepish. In a moment of apparent humanity, Missy tells the Doctor the coordinates to find Gallifrey. Apparently it”s back where it originally was, did Twelve never think to look? 

For her revelation, Missy is rewarded with Clara trying to murder her. Which seems fair. But Twelve finally puts on his big boy pants and says he will pull the figurative trigger. On the one hand, poetic justice. On the other hand, it”s pretty messed up to make the last member of a species murder their resurrected childhood friend. 

“Say something nice,” Missy asks as a last request. 

“You win,” says the Doctor. Good Lord, this is some dark shit.

Right before the Doctor can vaporize the only other Gallifreyan in the universe, someone else saves Twelve from making that agonizing choice. One of the Cybermen, returned to exact revenge on his maker! At first I think it”s Danny, but no. Even better. It”s Kate”s dad, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, former head of UNIT.

How do we know this? Because he saved Kate. Instead of splattering to the ground after getting sucked out of the plane, Cyber-Brigadier rescued his little girl and brought her to the Doctor. Good. This means all over the world there were other people who fought back against the robotic programming, who had loved ones that short-circuited any emotionless reconditioning. The Doctor even gives the Brigadier the salute he”d always hope to get before Kate”s dad flies off to either self-destruct or live to fight another day.

Two weeks later, Danny is whispering to Clara in her sleep. We get an answer about how Missy was getting to the Nethersphere…full digitized conversion via her bracelet. Danny has enough juice left to send one person back before the data cloud shuts down. And he opts to return the kid he shot in Afghanistan instead of himself because Danny Pink is a better, more selfless person than anyone else who ever existed.

We end with a bittersweet comedy of errors. The Doctor and Clara meet for a final time. Twelve is under the impression Clara and Danny are going to live happily ever after, so he says he found Gallifrey…which he didn”t, because Missy lies. Clara wants the Doctor to be happy with his people, so she let”s him believe Danny is alive…which he isn”t.

Ms. Oswald tells Twelve to go home. “Be a King or something…a Queen, whatever.” Don”t tempt us, Moffat! Before he goes, Clara wants to break the habit for good-bye; she wants a hug. The Doctor obliges but says, “Never trust a hug, it”s just a way to hide your face.” That is the sound of my heart breaking…again.

As the Doctor gets back into the TARDIS, Clara thanks him. He made her feel special. Twelve says she made him feel the same way. After one last look, the TARDIS doors shut and it disappears into the London morning.

So. What did you guys think? Is Missy gone for good? I sure hope not. Is Gallifrey at those coordinates but in another dimension? Will Clara be back next season or just the Christmas special to hand off the companion baton? Should the next regeneration of the Doctor be a lady?

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