TV Review: “Doctor Who” – “Death in Heaven”

Written by Caitlin Cooper November 11, 2014

doctor who

“Doctor Who” season finales tend to be some of the most dark and sad episodes of the season. The previous episode of “Doctor Who”, which was unofficially called the first part of the season 8 finale, saw the beginning of this dark ending to the latest season of this British sci-fi show. Life-changing events are a common occurrence in season finales, and I was left feeling sad for the majourity of the episode since two of my favourite characters were in danger and grieving in one way or another. But a surprise scene just seconds after the end credits begin left me feeling hopeful for these two time travelers. “Doctor Who” season 8 has been interesting and entertaining despite it not being my favourite season of the show.


“Death in Heaven” is one of the darkest episodes of “Doctor Who” season 8. It picks up where “Dark Water” leaves off: with the world under threat from the Master, who has turned deceased people into cyber-men. Danny (Samuel Anderson) is dead, and Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) still try to bring him back to life. But the Doctor is facing off with the Master and Clara is left alone with one cyber-man…possibly more. And things are much worse than the Doctor anticipates the Master is capable of. “Death in Heaven” is an episode which changes the lives of the Doctor and Clara as they fight one of the most dangerous villains on “Doctor Who”.

“Love is a promise.”

As I said of “Dark Water”, things looked pretty bleak for Danny. He was hit by a car and instead of going to the real afterlife, he was uploaded onto a computer. If you think that’s as bad as it can get, you’re about to be surprised. Again. Danny’s body was used, like essentially every other deceased person in London, to create a cyber-man as part of the Master’s army of cyber-men. But his love for Clara is stronger than the Master so he remains himself, though he’s in unimaginable pain. Even when Clara turns off his emotions, he somehow retains them. It was nice to see the depth of their relationship since it seems like something that’s grown more off-screen than on. There’s a pretty cheesy scene near the end of the episode which has Danny visiting Clara as a ghost – though he only appears as a white light – and rights one of his past wrongs. While the scene was a little too cheesy for my taste, it did allow Danny some form of redemption. Again, it would be nice to know why he needed the redemption in the first place.

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Clara has been a key character this season, perhaps more so than when she was introduced in “The Snowmen” and starred in the second half of “Doctor Who” season 7. She’s had to take the reins a lot this season, and due to this she’s grown as a character. She’s certainly changed in some ways. She knows everything about the Doctor and he’s her best friend. The fact that she plays at being him in “Flatline” and then actually tries to pretend she’s him in “Death in Heaven” in order to trick the cyber-men and save herself is actually really intriguing. She has, in many ways, assumed some motivations and traits of the Doctor thanks to her time spent with him. Her strength in this episode in particular makes for some moving scenes. It was nice to see a companion want to choose her real life over her travels because often the show almost forgets about the lives the companions lead when they aren’t with the Doctor.

“Bow-ties are cool.”

The Doctor has a nice character arc in this episode of “Doctor Who”. Since his regeneration he’s questioned himself and whether he is a good person. He’s even outright asked Clara her opinion on this dilemma. The character has been dark, sarcastic, witty, smart, and sometimes a touch cruel. He isn’t my favourite incarnation of the Doctor because he sometimes seems rather distanced from his companion and the audience more so than previously. But “Death in Heaven” sees him finally come to accept who he is now, and that’s a wonderful thing. He’s not exactly a 100% good person, but he tries to help people and he cares for people. That’s always been what his vocation is since he stole the Tardis many years ago from Gallifray. Helping people is mostly what has motivated him; he can’t help but get involved when people are in danger.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fantastic “Doctor Who” cast. Capaldi does pretty well with the fast-talking witty one-liners and also with the more vulnerable scenes. Coleman, too, is adept at being both funny and strong and vulnerable. There have been a lot of emotional scenes this season, particularly in the last few episodes of “Doctor Who” season 8. Clara’s every scene in “Death in Heaven” has been moving thanks to Coleman’s acting. The scene in which the Doctor and Clara lie to each other about moving on and being happy without one another is one of the hardest and sweetest moments to watch.

“Traveling with you made me feel really special.”

Overall, “Death in Heaven” is one of the darkest episodes of “Doctor Who” season 8, but it’s also one of the most moving. Clara finally gets to see Danny again and get some form of closure. The Doctor finally defeats the Master (again). While the ending isn’t exactly ideal, the end credits scene is funny and gives a good dose of hope for the future of these two characters.

My Rating: 9/10

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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