Monday, November 10, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 12: Death In Heaven

Now that's how you close out a season! 

After a very, very uneven batch of episodes, showrunner Steven Moffat pulled out all the stops and managed to prevent Season 8 from being a total wash with this reasonably decent wrap up.

I have to admit it's taken me longer to warm up to this Doctor than the previous ones. I liked Christopher Eccleston's portrayal and was sorry to see him go after just one season. David Tennant was amazing from the moment he started, and he quickly became my all time favorite Doctor. When he announced he was leaving, I was sure no one would ever be able to replace him, but Matt Smith won me over by the end of his first episode.

Peter Capaldi though... his Doctor is colder, more distant and more alien than previous incarnations. He's a fine actor, but his portrayal is making it harder for me to actually like this version of the Doctor. It's also probably not helping that he's taken a back seat to Clara all season. Definitely a bold move, but not necessarily a good one.

Speaking of Clara, Jenna Coleman really hit it out of the park this season, as the writers, freed from all the Impossible Girl bushwah, finally figured out what to do with the character. Too bad it took them so long, and even too badder that she's probably going to be leaving the show soon, if the rumors are true.

Samuel Anderson also turned in a fine performance as Danny Pink throughout the season. It's just too bad the character was so criminally underused. Even when he did appear, he was abused by the characters as well as the writers. He was definitely much too good for Clara, who was always too busy jetting off with the Doctor to spend any time with him.

This season gave us some standout episodes, such as Mummy On The Orient Express and Flatline. But it also gave us what may go down in history as the show's worst– Kill The Moon. That episode featured a plot straight out of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, featuring jaw dropping "science" that would make Ed Wood cringe. The idea that Earth's moon is an enormous egg that hatches a giant space dragon is beyond preposterous and a definite low point for the series.

There are currently around 97 missing episodes of Doctor Who. Pity Kill The Moon isn't one of them. Unfortunately every preposterous second of it will be with us forever in glorious 1080p high definition.

I'm hopeful Capaldi will grow on me, and I'm really pulling for Clara to stay on another season or two. We'll find out at Christmas, I suppose.


The Plot:
Picking up right where last week's episode left off, Clara is threatened inside the 3W corp by a Cyberman, while the Mistress (sorry, I'm having trouble calling her the Master) reveals her plan to the Doctor. She releases 91 Cybermen from St. Paul's Cathedral, who fly– yep, the Cybermen can now fly– to strategic points around the globe and detonate into clouds of "cyber spores." These spores infiltrate cemeteries and morgues and transform the dead into new Cybermen.

Meanwhile, the Nethersphere begins shutting down, and Danny's soul is transferred into his now Cyberman body. He saves Clara from a group of other Cybermen, then takes her to a nearby cemetery. Danny removes his face plate and reveals his identity to Clara, begging her to activate his emotional inhibitor chip, which will remove all his human feelings and end his pain.

Kate Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the head of UNIT, captures the Mistress as well as the Doctor (and his TARDIS) and takes them aboard a UNIT aircraft. Once there, she informs the Doctor that due to the current crisis, he's been made President Of Earth (!). The Mistress escapes as a horde of Cybermen attack. Kate is sucked out of the plane seconds before it's destroyed. The Doctor plummets to Earth but manages to catch up with the falling TARDIS. 

He materializes in the same cemetery where Clara and Cyber Danny just happen to be (thanks to the TARDIS' plot relevancy circuit). The Mistress joins them and reveals her incredibly convoluted plan to the Doctor, and gives him full control of the entire Cyber Army. Clara activates Danny's emotional inhibitor, but his love for her is so strong it overrides his programming and he refuses to harm her. The Doctor tosses Danny the control bracelet, which gives him command of the Cyber Army. Danny and the Army fly into the sky and detonate themselves, which destroys the clouds that would have transformed the entire world into Cybermen.

The Doctor is then about to destroy the Mistress. Before he can, she's vaporized by a lone Cyberman, who turns out to be the Doctor's old friend the Brigadier. He also saved his daughter Kate as she fell from the UNIT plane. The Cyber Brigadier then flies off into the sky, his fate unknown.

A few days later, the Doctor and Clara meet in a cafe and lie to one another before going their separate ways.

• In the pre-credits scene, Clara orders an advancing Cyberman to stand down by telling it that she's the Doctor.

For a minute I actually half believed her. I wouldn't put it past Moffat to pull something like that out of his ass. It's got that "insane idea that can't possibly work but sounds really cool and shocking" aura about it that's endemic of most of his concepts. Remember, this is the man who turned Amy and Rory's daughter into River Song, so the idea of Clara somehow being a future version of the Doctor wouldn't be all that farfetched. And it would have neatly explained the whole "Doctor Clara" motif that's been going on all season.

In fact, right after her outlandish statement, they even listed Jenna Coleman's name before Peter Capaldi's in the opening credits, just to mess with us! They also flashed a brief image of her eyes instead of Capaldi's in the credits as well!

• When Clara's trying to convince the Cybermen that she's really the Doctor, she gives them a pretty impressive and detailed rundown of his history. They're still not quite convinced, so she says, "How about my name?"

I get that she was bluffing here, but what if they'd said, "OK, fine. What's yer name then?" What would she have told them? She doesn't know his real name. Or does she? I'm really foggy as to whether Clara's "Impossible Girl" history and all the stuff from The Name Of The Doctor really happened or not.

And if she somehow did know the Doctor's name, isn't the universe supposed to explode or something if anyone ever says it aloud? Or was that retconned out of existence last season as well?

• When UNIT first shows up, the Cybermen scoff, saying they're invulnerable to Earthly weapons. Kate Stewart says don't be too sure, because UNIT's upgraded their weaponry. As proof, she throws down an old school Cyberman head and says, "You left this behind on one of your previous attempts." 

The head is the same model and design of the Cybermen who invaded Earth way back in the 1969 episode The Invasion. That was also the first time we saw Kate's father in the rank of Brigadier.

• Kate Stewart tells the Doctor that he's now the President Of Earth. Apparently in the event of an alien incursion an Earth president is inducted with complete authority over every nation state, an idea that was we're supposed to believe was agreed upon unanimously by the leader of every country. 

Yeah, that's never gonna happen. Can you imagine North Korea or Iran agreeing to something like that? Or the U.S. for that matter? No leader would ever agree to such a thing.

• The last time we saw UNIT scientist Osgood, she was sporting a long, striped scarf. She continues the Doctor groupie thing in this episode, as she's now wearing shoes similar to the Tenth Doctor's, and a bow tie, because "bow ties are cool."

Pity the Mistress killed her off. She'd have made a good companion for the Doctor. I was looking forward to the next time we saw her, when she'd no doubt have been wearing a red-lined Crombie coat.

On the other hand, she pretty much asked for her death. You can't blame a shark for eating you when you stick your head in its mouth.

• So the Cybermen can fly now. That's new, and pretty darned cool. I can't believe no one ever thought of before.

• Inside the Nethersphere, Danny watches from a balcony as it slowly shuts down. He's standing next to the Afghan kid that he accidentally killed when he was a soldier.

So I guess kid must have finally warmed up to him. In the previous episode he was terrified of Danny and ran from him (and rightly so).

By the way, what happened to Danny potentially "deleting" himself from the Nethersphere? Last episode ended on a cliffhanger with him about to push the delete button on his iPad, and this episode the entire thing appears to have been completely forgotten.

• Danny's soul find its way back to his body, which has now been transformed into a Cyberman. His body was being housed in the Chaplet Funeral Home. I'm assuming that's a reference to Dodo Chaplet, one of the First Doctor's companions?

• So let me see if I understand the Mistress' plan. She's been manipulating events for quite some time now to guarantee that the Doctor and Clara end up together. She was the "shop girl" who gave Clara the Doctor's number last season in The Bells Of Saint John, and she also put the advert in the newspaper a few weeks ago in Deep Breath

So why's the Mistress so hot for Clara and not Rose, Martha, Donna or Amy? Good question. 

Anyway, once the Doctor and Clara are together and have become good friends, the Mistress orchestrates this whole incredibly complicated Nethersphere plan to trap the souls of the dead so she can download them into Cyberman bodies. She does this in order to rule the world, right? Wrong. 

No, the sole point of this entire exercise was to make Clara so angry that she'd be willing to commit murder and kill her. And for the Doctor to then "save" Clara by killing the Mistress himself. Which will prove that the Doctor's no better than she is, and that they're both cut from the same cloth.

That's one hell of a long way to go for such a small reward. Couldn't she just short-sheet his bed, or ring his doorbell and run instead?

I would also not be surprised to find out that Missy was the driver of the truck that killed Danny, as she knew his death would cause the Doctor and Clara to come a'running to 3W.

• The mechanics of the Cybermen part of the plot are still a bit vague. The Mistress has been collecting souls inside the Nethersphere for years, and possibly decades (because time travel, I guess?), so they can be downloaded into Cybermen bodies. 

The 91 Cybermen housed inside St. Paul's Cathedral fly into the sky and explode, releasing clouds of "spores," which I assume must have been some kind of nanotechnology. These spores then fall to the ground in the rain and soak into the Earth, where they somehow contact dead human tissue (through airtight coffins, yet) and transform the corpses into fresh Cybermen. That part I understand. Sort of.

What I don't get is how are all the souls ending up in the proper bodies? Danny Pink's soul correctly finds and inhabits his. Same with the Brigadier. So does every soul go to the right body? Are the souls naturally drawn to their old shells?

What about the souls of people whose bodies were cremated, which was a big deal last week? 
Do they not get a new body? Do they have to stay in the Nethersphere or do they just dissipate and are lost forever? 

Or better yet, what about the bodies we see rising from the cemetery? Some of them have got to be little more than dust by now. What exactly are the Cyber spores reacting with there?

Oh, and once that's all done, there's also a second cloud that'll rain down and turn the living into Cybermen as well. 

I think that's what all's happening here, but I'm not a hundred percent sure. Such are Steven Moffat's plots.

• I have mixed feelings about Michelle Gomez as the Mistress. She's a fine actress and she dives right into the part, but I thought she was a bit too over the top here. She didn't just chew the scenery, she devoured it. The director really needed to tell her to dial it down a notch or twelve.

I still feel like she's the Master in name only. But then I felt the same way about John Simm's potrayal a few seasons back as well. I'm not a fan of the modern "insane" Master. It's like they're trying to make this new psychotic, cackling version of the character the Joker to the Doctor's Batman.

I much prefer the old school "Bond villain" Master, who was cold and calculating but mannered and polite. A Master who's simply the moral opposite of the Doctor. A Master who sits quietly scheming while incarcerated seems much more dangerous and chilling than one who sticks her tongue out at a security camera. 

Roger Delgado set the bar for the character and in my opinion, no one else has ever come close. Anyone playing the Master should really be looking to him for inspiration.

• The scenes with the Cybermen attacking and destroying the UNIT plane were very well done. Same with the scenes of the Doctor falling to Earth and desperately trying to catch up to the plummeting TARDIS. 

The Doctor really needs to come up with some kind of remote control for the TARDIS, so he can call it to him or have it materialize around him or something. Of course if he did so, most episodes would last about ten minutes.

• Clara was born November 24, 1986. November 23rd is of course the day Doctor Who premiered back in 1963. There's a crap ton of shout outs and homages to this date peppered throughout the series.

• At one point the Mistress exclaims, "Oh my giddy aunt." That was a favorite saying of the Second Doctor. The Mistress must have studied the Doctor's timeline, because as far as I know she/he never met Doctor #2.

• Ever since Missy first appeared she reminded me of someone, but I couldn't quite put my finger on who. It all clicked when I saw this scene. The Mistress is Mary Poppins! 

So I guess we're supposed to believe that she gently floated down from 35,000 feet, with nothing but a small umbrella to slow her descent? Oy.

Was this an homage to the fan theory that Mary Poppins was secretly a Time Lord?

• The Doctor really needs to add a space between P and E when he dogs Danny. Every time he'd call him "P.E." it sounded more like he was saying "Pee."

• Danny, now a Cyberman, begs Clara to activate his emotion inhibitor, which will render him an unfeeling machine and end his pain. Clara agrees and takes the sonic from the Doctor, aiming it at Danny's chest. She asks the Doctor, "Just think and point, yeah?"

This actually makes sense. The sonic has so many functions (the Doctor once even used it to tint his glasses!) that a thought interface would be much more logical than having to fiddle with hundreds of settings.

Of course this contradicts numerous earlier episodes, in which the sonic is shown to have specific settings. Just a few episodes ago in The Caretaker, the Doctor tossed the sonic to Clara and told her to use setting 41 to send out random bursts of helicon energy to distract the Skovox Blitzer.

• I was really pissed when the Mistress seemingly killed Kate Stewart, so I was happy to see her alive at the end of the episode– saved by a Cyberman who turns out to be her late father, the Brigadier.

I'm not sure whether I should be touched or appalled by the idea of the Brig becoming a Cyberman.

• Before the season began, wasn't Moffat squawking about showing us why the Doctor has the same face as Caecilius,  the guy from Fires Of PompeiiIt's a question that didn't need to be asked, much less answered. The series has used actors in more than one role many, many times in the past. All shows do it. It's just a fact of television production. 

So despite the fact that I don't care and don't need to know why the Doctor has the face of a man from ancient Rome, what happened to the explanation? Did Moffat forget about this? Was it filmed and then ended up on the cutting room floor? Or was this explanation simply another of his numerous lies?

• Before she's killed (don't worry, I'm sure she'll get better), the Mistress tells the Doctor that she knows where to find their lost planet Gallifrey. She says it's right back where it used to be, at coordinates 10-0-11-00. 

These coordinates have been mentioned before, way back in 1975's Pyramids Of Mars.

The scene in which the Doctor, hoping against hope, flies the TARDIS to those coordinates, only to find nothing, were very well filmed and acted.

• For some reason, the bracelet that controlled the Cyber Army could also bring one, and only one person back to life. Danny uses it to restore the young boy he accidentally killed when he was a solider.

How the hell did that work? That kid's probably been dead for a couple of years. So the bracelet was able to completely rejuvenate and restore his body to factory settings?

• At the end of the episode, the Doctor and Clara meet in a cafe. Clara lies and tells him that she and Danny are together and she'll no longer be able travel with him. The Doctor lies back, saying he's found Gallifrey and he'll most likely be chilling there for a while.

So do you suppose the Doctor and Clara both knew the other was lying?

• Nick Frost appears in the rather jarring mid-credits scene as Santa. Frost is at least the fourth actor from Shaun Of The Dead to appear on the series, which confirms my belief that there are only about thirty actors in all of Great Britain.

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