Death in Heaven
SPOILERS SWEETIE … don’t read until you’ve watched…
The Phoenix must rise from the ashes.
The finale was bittersweet, reaching a little too far over into bitter. Yes, it was beautifully done… there were powerful moments, whizz-bangs, bananas in airplanes, amazing speeches, rushed revelations, and deluxe action bombardments. Yes! Flying Cybermen are like bow-ties – cool! Okay maybe not as cool as Osgood’s actual bow-tie… Cyberman arms coming out of graves – Thriller! But much of the motivation was lost in exposition overshadowed by events.
As far as finales go, it had thrills, and needed another viewing just to get my head around it… but the problem is I found watching it a second time more depressing than the first. I’ve felt flat for days. We have answers, unmet expectations, barely satisfactory endings, and friendships destroyed by lies.
What I loved about it was, it started on a high note and it was compelling all the way through… Jenna Coleman billed first in the credits, with her eyes in the name… there’s the eye symbolism again! Clara as the Doctor – wouldn’t that have been an excellent plot twist? Yes, I can understand why they didn’t – the fans would have hated it – but for a moment it was fun. For a moment it was plausible… and come to think of it, it wasn’t disproven – unless you consider Clara doesn’t recognise Missy – but then neither did the Doctor until Missy told him… for all Danny knew, Clara could very well have been a Time Lord under a spell of a technology induced amnesia from Missy, and not known it. But somehow I doubt it.
The eyes were symbolic of Missy watching them, and the theme repeated in the eyes of the Cybermen. Mirrors could represent the invisible portal between the real world and Missy’s virtual reality data cloud – which is still an interesting amazing concept. Reflection was wrapped up by the Doctor’s epiphany about being an idiot in a blue box when reflected against Missy’s madness. Lovely idea!
From a tarot point of view, the idiot is synonymous with the Fool – and when the Fool comes up in readings, the person (I’m reading for) is usually about to embark on a life journey, heading toward a new circumstance… It is the zero card in the deck and it’s fitting that this is the mantle of the current Doctor, considering he’s come full circle in his life cycle and like the aged phoenix, must succumb to its fate.
Clara is an uncomfortably convincing
Doctor Liar, loyal to the Doctor, champion of Cyber-Danny, and uses the sonic screw-driver (as the Doctor would have instead, if he’d agreed with what she was doing anyway…) to switch Danny’s inhibitor off.
What I found odd was she showed not an iota of recognition of Missy. There were no scenes of Clara and Missy interacting to give any sense of the back story. At the end Clara seems none the wiser that Missy was the one that brought and kept her and the Doctor together.
“Old friend is she? if you have ever let this creature live, everything that ever happened today is on you. All of it, on YOU.”
Some of the best parts were in the overarching messages like the conclusion drawn about soldiers, and their service and sacrifice, plus the power of love. There was poignancy that the finale occurred the day before Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day – and with all the lives lost in (just) WW1 represented at Tower Hill in the form of ceramic poppies – this is a particularly significant year of remembrance – 100 years since then (and we still haven’t stopped, which makes the message so current). The Brigadier saving Kate was a nice touch, a way to say goodbye to a key character throughout the classics.
Danny’s point about the General (Doctor, President of the World) not getting his hands dirty, was also on point as Clara pointed the sonic screwdriver at him, and he excellently tied up that repeating theme – casting more shade on the Doctor. Danny’s scene was easily the best part of this episode – his speech about the dead watching over the living is really heartfelt, and I was sad he didn’t make it.
Yes, I’m a firm believer in love making world go around, and it being the secret ingredient differentiating between madness and purpose – and loved the Doctor’s “I’m an idiot” speech.
The cinematography was spot-on – how gloomy was that high contrast, de-saturated light darkening the graveyard? The music worked well, the story had parallels with the first, and the hour passed quickly.
Missy secretly operating behind the scenes like Mistress Mephistopheles is a lot more terrifying than anything her global Cyberman Army plan actually delivers. I didn’t find the Cybermen particularly threatening despite their new abilities. It all seemed to wrap up too easily – without any fuss at all. There was no indication about any deal Missy might have struck with the Cybermen and I still think Borg are infinitely more terrifying than these metal men.
I am a little disappointed in the Doctor – for all his epiphanies I don’t really think he’s grown that much. He had no excuse to be ill-prepared. He’s been talking about the woman in the shop all season, he’s seen the hints and the signs for ages – I’d expected more readiness… Instead of doing maths on the blackboard all the time, why didn’t he ever go and investigate what was going on? It’s not as if he doesn’t have a bloody time machine and all the time in the world on his hands!
There is something just mentally unhinged about Missy’s mind as it plots a ridiculous, nonsensical plan over centuries – selecting his ideal companion for him (how, when, where?) enacting the end game at the point of Danny’s death. Toying with the new arrivals, raising the dead, weaponising them… but giving them to the one person in the universe that hates armies the most… as a birthday present? Really? I think a madman is more likely to want to play live chess with two armies – one army consisting of all the fallen that died around the Doctor, and the rest for Missy – that would have given the emotional inhibitor a better function. (On for Missy’s soldiers, Off for the Doctors) … anyway bygones.
And as for the boy… it’s a logistical nightmare… What’s Clara supposed to do with him now – call Afghanistan? Send some Tweets? Put his picture on Facebook? Get herself on every watch-list for showing an unusual interest in the place? It would probably have been better for Danny to send a transmission, and for them to have one last meaningful conversation… make up something like he’s going to stay with the boy as the last of the consciousnesses dwindle in the afterlife.
It’s amazing how much a television show with fictional characters can garner so much emotional investment, and when it falls short (which up until now, it hasn’t) the disappointment is almost crushing. Perhaps it’s just that I just hate it when “friendships” turn out to be “endships” .. And, in that case, this was realistically done — until Christmas. Maybe.
They’re both dicks.
Unfortunately some of these opportunities can not easily come again, but perhaps in the fullness of time, we’ll be able to watch it with the added light of future episodes, and it might not be as anticlimactic as it was at first showing. My biggest issue with “Death in Heaven” is ALL that beautiful build-up, was the best part of the season, wasn’t revealed as effectively as it could have been. It needed small touches of other details to remove some of the shade from the ending, which has left a depressing abyss between now and Christmas.