Tom Pheby completes his Doctor Who series 8 scoreboard.
With only the last two episodes of series 8 to add to my scoreboard this is what it was looking like...
Could either Dark Water or Death In Heaven topple Kill The Moon? Would either of the final two episodes fair worse than Robot of Sherwood? Let's find out.
If anything series 8 of Doctor Who will be remembered as one that continuously used moral dilemmas to full effect. The penultimate episode continued this theme, but upping the ante considerably and asking the question - what would you do to save someone you loved?
It's a situation that is all to real for the Doctors companion Clara Oswald, and one that adds another dimension of interest to their complex relationship. Testing loyalty and friendship like never before.
I tried not to get excited when Danny Pink unexpectedly died within minutes of the episode starting. I should've realised that were talking Steven Moffat here, and he revived P.E. almost as quickly as he dispatched him. It was starting to feel all too reminiscent of Rory Williams, who seemed to die every other week, yet annoyingly found a way back.
Anyway after Mr Pink dies, Clara, in her desperation and grief decides that the Time Lord is the only one who can return him to the land of the living by changing events and creating a paradox.In a gritty exchange Ms Oswald challenges the Doctor by threatening to dispose of the TARDIS keys unless he agrees to bend time. He refuses. He'd cannily anticipated the series of events and placed Clara in dream state to flush out her intensions and emotional treachery.
We learn that the dead are in storage in the Nethersphere, which is all a bit Matrix. Their bodies remain in tanks and some can engage in conversation by appointment (how frightfully British). In the middle of this galactic mausoleum is the curious space age Mary Poppins known as Missy (Michelle Gomez). She has managed to pop up regularly as a standard Moffat tease throughout the whole series.
Missy gives the Doctor his welcome pack, one he won't forget in a hurry as it's in the form of a full on kiss. This leaves the prickly Scot speechless for a spell, and quite possibly minus a filling. It was like watching your least favourite Aunt approaching with an ominous pout, and it felt genuinely uncomfortable to see these elderly figures in a forceful life threatening snog.
Dark Water made it quite clear to any hardcore Doctor Who fans that the Cybermen would appear at some point. There were clues a plenty in the set design to signal their imminent arrival. Firstly the windows to all the doors in Nethersphere were in the shape of the eyes of the Doctors silver foes. The picture on the wall (big circle, small circle) in Seb's (Chris Addison) office kept the theme going. All the while the Doctor was traipsing about 3W complaining about "missing something". And yes he was, big time.
The best part of the whole show was the interaction between Gomez and Capaldi. Especially when She announced "Try to keep up. I'm Missy. Short for Mistress. Well, couldn't very well keep calling myself the Master, could I?"
Da Da dah! Brilliant.
Steven Moffat reserves the best for last, and those closing moments left me thinking that the final installment of series 8 might just surpasses even this. And also hoping that Danny Pink stays put.
Expectation can at times be a burden that delivers mixed results (bare with me and I'll explain).
Death in Heaven for three quarters of it's length was brilliant entertainment and allowed Michelle Gomez to plunder almost every scene and claim the spoils. She was an absolute revelation as Missy/The Master and delivered such a measured, effortless performance. Packed with sharp comical touches and beautifully controlled evil embellishments, it was a triumph on the strength of her inclusion alone.
Less Nanny McPhee, more Nanny McPhear, with an expressionless ventriloquist dummy face that added a chilling dimension to the role. Gomez seemed to be enjoying every diabolical deed, minute by minute. Such was her cleverly crafted performance that John Simm's maniacal cartoon portrayal was blown away last Saturday. Any debate on a Time Lord's change of gender must now be redundant. Moffat's casting was a masterstroke.
She even made me laugh out loud with her rendition of the Toni Basil chuck away pop tripe "Hey Mickey", replacing the words with "Oh Missy you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind Hey Missy" - brilliant.
As for the story: The souls of the dead stored in the Nethersphere are waiting to be pollinated by an explosive Cyber cloud. They will return to the real World as an unbeatable army, all engineered by the fabulously wicked Master/Mistress. When this happens Danny Pink is amongst them, now upgraded to CyberDan he sets out promptly to rescue Clara. She was still at 3W where she had almost managed to persuade a trigger happy Cyber gang that she was in fact the Doctor. Clara Oswald never existed. It was all a ruse she'd made up. She even teased us about the Doctor's real name, but alas we never got the low down on that one.
In the meantime the Doctor is subjected to Earth's emergency protocols, dished out by an extremely haughty Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave). She has the ability to explain the decision to add tomato sauce to a bacon sandwich seem like a national crisis. Laughably Capaldi's Doctor was promoted to Earth's President, and set about trying to unravel the Masters hideous plan.
Clara comes face to face with The Pink Cyber in a cemetery. He begs her to turn off his emotions, and she in turn calls the Doctor. For a brief moment the Doctor abandons all responsibility (not for the first time this year) and hands his sonic screwdriver to Clara. In drifts Missy through the clouds like 'Scary Poppin's' to watch the final act unravel. She reveals that the Doctor is now the leader of the morose metal army, and could take the universe by force or decide the fate of any species.
Let me now return to my earlier comment, because it is at this point where Death In Heaven fell short for me. It began with Missy's end. A grating moment that saw her particles blown into the far reaches
of the galaxy. One firmly hopes she
was merely transported elsewhere to re-emerge at a later date, for
when you get something this good you are reluctant to accept that it's
Then there was Clara's exit. So often she has been the lead this series, playing a pivotal role and adding so very much as the Doctor's supposed assistant. But here she quietly and timidly melted into the background, accepting that the Doctor was returning home to Gallifrey, whilst he accepted she would be happier in the arms of Danny Pink than in a Blue Box with a bombastic Time Lord. If this was Coleman's swan song (which I doubt) it did her character no justice. She was worthy of a much bigger exit than this.
Death in Heaven became a sentimental affair towards the end, with the message that love is capable of transcending evil, love never dies and good eventually always gets the better of evil. It was like the Doctor was almost giving a sermon.
However, it was also a timely poetic ending with this weekends celebration of our fallen war hero's. A wonderful nod to the Brigadier, and a surprising act of valor from another soldier. I haven't been a fan of Danny Pink for the most part (as you have likely gathered), but this was, to part use a famous quote, his finest hour.
Was Death In Heaven as good as the Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor? No, but it was a griping and enthralling piece of television. One that capped Capaldi's first season in style. He's been a refreshing Doctor and the series as a whole is richer for his inclusion. Even taking the final section into account, Capaldi, Coleman and Gomez elevated Death In Heaven to spectacular heights. It has to be the clear leader on my series 8 scoreboard...
So, do you agree with my scoreboard? If not how would you rate series 8? Let us know in the comments below.
Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half
English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting
on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film
abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town
of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter