The two-part season finale of Doctor Who brings excitement, but also sadness that we won’t be seeing any new episodes until Christmas. The reveal from the first half of the season finale that Missy is the Master was shocking, and we wanted to tell everyone we know, whether they watch Doctor Who or not. As Death in Heaven begins, our excitement is mixed with sadness as we are reminded about Danny’s death. Somehow it feels like we may not get the happy ending that we normally crave. We are focusing our idealistic hope on the Ninth Doctor’s exclamation, “Just this once, everybody lives!” (S01E10).
Clara Oswald, the Doctor
Clara is about to be executed by the Cyberman formerly known as Dr. Skarosa. She acts all clever and brave—some would even say sassy. Clara tells the Cyberman he can’t kill her because he doesn’t know who she is and that she is a target of strategic value. The Cyberman tells her that she is Clara Oswald, human, and unimportant.
Clara: “Clara Oswald is a cover story, a disguise. There is no Clara Oswald.
Clara: “Oh don’t be so slow. It’s embarrassing. Who could fool you like this? Who could hide right under your nose? Who could change their face anytime they want? You see I’m not Clara Oswald. Clara Oswald has never existed.”
Clara: “I’m the Doctor.”
This cold open has us on the edge of our seat. Could it be true? Hopefully this is more than just a trick on Clara’s part, or a way to create an interesting clip for the previews, and has more meaning in the story.
The Doctor, Employee
As the Cybermen march into the streets, the Doctor challenges Missy’s plan: “Won’t people notice?” The answer is yes – out in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral people are standing around taking pictures of the Cybermen. Missy, formerly known as The Master, shows the Doctor that people are taking selfies with Cybermen all over the world. Then Osgood, whom we first met in The Day of the Doctor, walks up to the Doctor and Missy and offers to take their picture. She is no longer wearing the scarf reminiscent of the Fourth Doctor, but instead is wearing a bowtie. When the Doctor compliments her on it, she responds, “Bowties are cool.” Then a UNIT team rushes in and takes over the square. Whaaat??? Nobody expects the UNIT expedition. Kate Stewart, UNIT Chief Scientific Officer and daughter of the departed Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, arrives on the scene. Kate says, “Welcome to the only planet in the universe where we get to say this: ‘He’s on the payroll,’” referring to the Doctor’s long involvement with UNIT.
Just when you’re thinking, “They certainly resolved that crisis quickly,” the Cybermen fly up in the air, disperse throughout Britain, and blow themselves up. The blowing themselves up wasn’t as shocking as learning that the Cybermen can fly! Missy tells them that the Cybermen will pollenate the earth from the air above all the towns and cities around the world.
Danny, Nethersphere Resident
In the Nethersphere, Seb, Danny, and the mysterious boy from Danny’s past notice that something is starting to happen. Seb tells them that they may be going “home.” When Danny asks how you can go home from the afterlife, Seb explains that the Nethersphere is actually a cloud-based repository for recently deceased minds. When Danny questions if they will be returning to their bodies, Seb responds, “And the extra good news is… there’s been a bit of an upgrade.” For a Nethersphere bureaucrat, Seb brings a certain amount of enthusiasm in what would otherwise be a fairly depressing place.
Fighting the Cybermen
Back by St. Paul’s Cathedral, a UNIT member tranquilizes Missy and then does the same with the Doctor. Kate comments, “The first protocol is implemented.”
Seems like a badly planned protocol to put the Doctor into sedation in the midst of a crisis. Just before he passes out, the Doctor tells Osgood that they should guard the graveyards.
A large black cloud created by the Cybermen, starts to rain over a cemetery. The water is drawn to locations where there are dead bodies, including a funeral home.
Inside the funeral home corpses begin to pound on the morgue drawers. A body on a table rises up and we see it has become a Cyberman. This is a long way from the Cybermen assembly line we saw in The Age of Steel (S02E06). This Cyberman touches his face in seeming confusion. When the Cyberman crumbles a piece of paper with his name on it, we realize it is Danny Pink.
Fighting the UNIT Protocols
The Doctor is handcuffed and the TARDIS has been confiscated. Kate says it all part of the protocols for a full-scale alien incursion. She tells the Doctor that because he is known to be unreliable, they have these measures in place to ensure his co-operation. As his handcuffs are removed, the Doctor asks, “Do you think your father would have done this?” Kate replies, “We both know absolutely he would.” Can’t say we agree with that. The Doctor was clearly always in charge when working with the Brigadier. Despite his seeming mistreatment, the Doctor follows Kate into the plane.
Inside the plane, the Doctor comments on a prominent picture of the Brigadier hanging in the plane. “Ah I see you’re bringing Daddy along, too. That’s very sweet.” Strange. Is this the show’s attempt to honor Nicholas Courtney, who played the Brigadier and passed away in 2011, or does it have something to do with the plot? The Doctor then insults an officer who saluted him: “Love your outfit, Colonel Ahmed. Are you in the Scouts? Are you a Man Scout? I didn’t know they had those.” Twelve is certainly a grouchy old bastard. Kate informs the Doctor that based on the incursion protocols (if we hear the word protocol one more time…) there is now a president of Earth, an idea the Doctor scoffs at, and then she tells him that it is him. She describes him as “Chief Executive Officer of the human race”—sounds like a terrible job.
Fighting for her Life
Back inside 3W, Clara is continuing to do her best to talk her way out of death-by-Cyberman:
“Well gentlemen, where to start? I was born on the plant Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m a Time Lord, but my Prydonian privileges were revoked when I stole a time capsule and ran away. Currently piloting a type 40 TARDIS. Married four times, all deceased. My children and grandchildren are missing, and I assume, dead. I have a non-Gallifreyan daughter created via genetic transfer. How much more information do you need? I’m the Doctor.”
When they demand more information, she offers to say the Doctor’s name as proof. Is this a bluff, or something she learned as the Impossible Girl traversing all of his lives in The Name of the Doctor (S07E13)? Another Cyberman walks up and says that Clara is only trying to prolong her life. The Cybermen continue to ask for proof. When they ask her about her birthdate and her parents, she claims those are stories she made up, saying, “Ask anybody who knows me, I am an incredible liar.” The recently arrived Cyberman puts his head down slightly and responds, “Correct.” He then uses an electric pulse to knock Clara out. He shoots the other Cybermen, affirming he is not under cybercontrol. He is holding the crumpled paper—it must be Danny, or at least what is left of Danny now that he has been transformed into a Cyberman.
The Doctor talks to Missy. We love the scenes with the Doctor and Missy. They have a very intense chemistry. Actress Michelle Gomez plays the Master perfectly—playful, clever, spiteful, and self-important.
When the Doctor tells her that Gallifrey is lost in another dimension, Missy says it is not lost and that she knows where it is, adding, “You know the best part about knowing? Not telling you.” In return, the Doctor rubs it in her face that he is now president of the world: “Remember all those years when all you wanted to do was rule the world? … Piece of cake.”
Despite being in a gigantic plane, Osgood is stuck working in what we can only assume is the cargo hold, alongside prisoner Missy. Osgood is examining the phone-sized device that Missy carries with her. As the Doctor goes to leave, Osgood asks him is he knows who the prisoner is, to which he responds evasively. Osgood replies:
“Because I thought she might be Master, regenerated into female form. Your childhood friend responsible for a number of previous incursions.”
Osgood tells the Doctor that the clouds from the exploded Cybermen have spread to cover all the earth’s landmasses. She suggests that rather than watching the graveyards, perhaps they should be watching the skies.
Beware the Lands of the Dead
We see a news clip that reveals that Cybermen have emerged from cemeteries, funeral homes, and mortuaries. Like Cybermen aren’t creepy enough, but to have them emerge from graves in a cemetery plays up both how terrifying and unnatural they are.
The news anchor says, “The public is being advised to stay away from all cemeteries.” At the same time, Clara wakes up in a large cemetery where Cybermen seem to be starting to rise up out of the graves.
UNIT has determined that so far only a few Cybermen have emerged from each cemetery, but all burial sites are active. The Doctor explains that each particle of a Cyberman contains the plans to make another Cyberman, if it has contact with compatible, living organic matter. The Doctor realizes that Missy created 3W in order to use mortal remains to generate a new race of Cybermen that can recruit the dead. To be honest, we are still a bit confused by some of the details of this aspect of the plot. Math is hard. So is Cybermen genetics.
Missy is still locked up in the cargo hold with two guards behind her. Osgood continues to be forced to work right in Missy’s vicinity.
Missy calls her over, telling her that she has something important to tell her. When Osgood asks why she would tell her, Missy responds, “Well look at me. I’m bananas.” She tempts Osgood by saying that the Doctor will be impressed if she is able to learn her secrets. We just feel like Osgood should know better and the guards should act more concerned and less statuesque. Osgood comes over to see what Missy wants to say. Missy gets Osgood close and tells her she is going to kill her soon. The whole exchange shows the Master at her disturbing best.
Missy: “I’m going to kill you in a minute. I’m not even kidding. You’re going to be as dead as a fish on a slab any second now. But don’t tell the boys. This is our secret girl plan.”
Osgood: “Why would you bother killing me? I’m not even important.”
Missy: “Oh, silly! Why does one pop a balloon? Because you’re pretty. You should have a bit more confidence in yourself.”
Missy starts to count down, with a lot of chatter in between: “Human beings are born dying. Your lifespans are hilarious.” We actually start to feel panicked and frightened during the countdown, yet the guards remain standing as though made of stone.
Missy asks Osgood what’s in her pocket, and Osgood finds handcuffs in her pocket, which turn out to be Missy’s. Missy grabs Osgood and kills the two useless guards. Missy tells her to say something nice, to which Osgood responds that she is more use to her alive than dead. Missy responds:
“Oh, yeah, that’s true. That’s definitely true. That is a good point, well made. I’m proud of you, sister. But did I mention … bananas?”
Then Missy zaps Osgood with the device that Osgood has been examining and she disintegrates in a red light. We are very sad to lose Osgood. She represented the fangirl in all of us and was one of the few self-referential devices we have seen on this sometimes overly serious show. Missy presses a button on her newly recovered device, and the plane starts to shake. In the main cabin of the plane the Doctor realizes that Missy is no longer confined, and a Cyberman is out on the fuselage. We wonder what the UNIT protocols is for this situation.
Beware Making an Ass of Yourself, Clara
Back at the cemetery, we see confused Cybermen arising from their graves. Clara walks over to the Cyberman who brought her there, seemingly just to taunt him, as it’s not clear what she hoped to get out the exchange. When the Cyberman ask where the Doctor is, she responds:
“I would never ever give up the Doctor, because he is my best friend too. He is the closest person to me in the whole world. He is the man I will always forgive, always trust, the one man I would never, ever lie to.”
The Cyberman takes off his faceplate and Clara sees it is Danny. We bet she feels like a real jerk. Though the whole scene is just so sad, it’s hard for us to stay annoyed at Clara. He asks for her help. He wants her to turn on his emotion inhibitor: “Please. I don’t want to feel like this.” It’s all we can do to resist putting a sad emoticon face after the previous sentence. Emoticons express our inner thoughts and emotions so succinctly.
Seriously, Beware Missy (we just can’t provide enough warning about Missy)
Cybermen surround the plane, tearing it apart. Missy tries to get the Doctor to ask her about her plan. She tells him that she has been up and down his timeline, meeting people who died to keep him alive. Missy tells him that she’s realized that the Doctor is just like her.
The TARDIS phone rings, and Missy tells the Doctor it’s Clara. She also tells him she was the one who originally connected Clara and him by giving Clara the TARDIS phone number as a computer helpline. The Doctor finally answers the ringing phone (luckily the TARDIS doesn’t have an answering machine). Clara tells him that Danny is a Cyberman and she needs the Doctor’s help to turn on Danny’s emotion inhibitor. The Doctor says that Danny will kill her as soon as she turns the emotion inhibitor on.
Clara finally tells the Doctor either he can help her or leave her alone, throwing her phone to the ground, and focuses on helping Danny. During this exchange, the plane is getting increasingly out of control. Kate enters the room to tell the Doctor that the plane is going down. Missy says, “Oh, great. It’s the daughter one. Do you like her? I like her.” Missy quickly opens a hatch in the plane and Kate gets sucked into the atmosphere. Whoa! It reminds us, again, that the Master is a super-scary psychopath. Missy uses her device to teleport away in a blue light. The plane explodes and the Doctor falls through the sky.
Missy is standing with Seb as they watch the Doctor fall through the sky. Missy comments how boring his death will be. Seb thinks it quite dramatic, to which Missy responds, “You’re an AI interface, kindly delete your opinions, thank you.” As they watch, the Doctor manages to dive into the TARDIS mid-air. Seb is impressed, which results in Missy zapping him with the red light. Awww, Seb! Well since he is AI, let’s hope he can be easily reprogrammed for some future episode, because he was becoming increasingly awesome with each appearance. At least he ended on a high note.
The Doctor arrives at the cemetery where Clara is trying to help Danny. Danny really does look like death. The Doctor tries to dissuade Clara from turning on Danny’s emotion inhibitor. The Doctor tells Danny that the difference between the Master and himself is the ability to feel emotions.
Doctor: “Pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain, we can’t feel the hurt we inflict.”
Danny asks the Doctor if he feels the pain he inflicts on others, and he acknowledges that he does, to which Danny responds, “Then shame on you, Doctor.”
The Doctor asks Danny what the Cybermen are planning. He says that he can’t hear them. The Doctor tells him to listen harder. Danny responds:
“Clara, watch this. This is who the Doctor is. Watch the blood-soaked old general in action. I can’t see properly, sir, because this needs activating. If you want to know what’s coming, you have to switch … it … on. And didn’t all of those beautiful speeches just disappear in the face of a tactical advantage? Sir?”
The Doctor says that he needs to know what they are planning. He gives Clara the sonic screwdriver in order to turn on Danny’s emotion inhibitor. Danny and Clara have a very sad goodbye.
Clara: “I wasn’t very good at it … but I did love you.”
Danny: “I loved you, too.”
Clara: “I’m never going to say that again.”
Danny: “Me neither.”
After his emotion inhibitor is turned on, Danny’s face becomes impassive. Clara runs over to hold Danny. The Doctor tries to stop her, saying he will kill her, but Danny does not move. The Doctor asks Danny what the clouds are going to do and he says the rain will fall, humanity will die, and the Cybermen will rise. Danny tells the Doctor it cannot be stopped. So, no new information from Cyberman Danny, then. Seems like that whole thing was a depressing waste of time, but at least Danny is no longer feeling pain.
Just then Missy floats down from the sky, in a blue flash, holding an umbrella, Mary Poppins-style. She certainly has flair. Missy takes out her device and offers to pop away Clara’s pain, but the Doctor knocks it out of her hands. Missy says, “Oh sorry, hon, I’m just getting a bit carried away. It’s your friends. They’re so moreish.” Missy does seem to enjoy killing. Clara picks up Missy’s device and puts it in her pocket and goes back to hugging the motionless Danny. Missy tells the Doctor she has a gift for the Doctor and it turn out to be, surprise, a Cyberman army. She gives the Doctor a bracelet that controls the Cybermen telling him:
“Armies are for people who think they’re right. And nobody thinks they’re righter than you! Give a good man firepower, and he’ll never run out of people to kill.”
The Doctor tells Missy he doesn’t want her army. She explains that he has no choice but to take the army, because it is the only way he will be able prevent the clouds from opening and all the people on Earth being killed. When he asks Missy why she is doing all this, she says:
“I need to know we’re not so different. I need my friend back.”
It’s not entirely clear to us how Missy thinks this will work, but perhaps it’s a good sign that we can’t completely understand the motivation of a megalomaniacal killer. She is, after all, bananas.
The Doctor thinks back to his past experiences during which he has wondered if he was a good man or not, which has been the theme of this season. The reintegration of the War Doctor into his persona seems to have left him in a moral quandary. The forced choice by Missy causes the Doctor to have an epiphany, resulting in a version of his “I’m the Doctor” speech that he often gives at the end of an episode:
“I am not a good man! And I’m not a bad man. I am not a hero. And I’m definitely not a president. And, no, I’m not an officer. Do you know what I am? I am … an idiot, with a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out, learning. I don’t need an army. I never have, because I’ve got them [indicating Clara and perhaps Danny]. Always them. Because love, it’s not an emotion … love is a promise.”
This is not a very satisfying answer to a very complex question about morality, but it provides some sense of closure to the season’s premise.
The Doctor points out that Danny is still not under cybercontrol, and throws the bracelet that controls the cyberarmy to him, thus abdicating power and giving it to a soldier. The officers are no longer in charge. Danny commands the Cybermen army to fly into the sky and burn the clouds, preventing the rain that will destroy humanity. Though we would prefer that everybody lives, at least Danny’s death has some meaning.
After the sun comes out, Missy shares the coordinates of Gallifrey with the Doctor, though her motives are unclear. She suggests to the Doctor they go together to go look for it. Clara takes Missy’s device out of her pocket, with the intent of killing Missy for all she has done. The Doctor intervenes, saying he will do it. Missy seems surprised by his willingness to kill her, and wonders: if the Doctor is doing this to save Clara’s soul, who will save his? She dramatically moves to stand between two cemetery stones. The Doctor points the device at Missy, but a blue flash comes from the other side of the cemetery and Missy disappears in a blue light. She was presumably disintegrated, but let’s hope she actually found a way to transport herself away because we love Michelle Gomez as the Master/Missy. We noticed that during this entire episode no one specifically referred to her as the Master or as Missy, except when Osgood referred to her as “Missy, the Master, whatever you call yourself.” It seems we weren’t the only confused ones.
The Doctor and Clara turn and see a lone Cyberman standing in the graveyard with his wrist blaster pointing towards the space Missy had been standing in. The Cyberman points to another part of the cemetery. They find Kate Stewart there, still alive. It becomes clear that the Cyberman must have caught her when she fell out of the plane, and that the Cyberman is her father, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
That helps to explain all the Brigadier references. It’s not clear if Steven Moffat’s motivation was mainly to honor actor Nicholas Courtney for his contribution to the series, though they had made the point to pay tribute to the Brigadier shortly after Courtney’s death, in The Wedding of River Song (S06E13). Perhaps it was simply fitting to include the Brigadier in a battle that involved enemies whom he and the Doctor frequently fought together against, the Cybermen and the Master. Their interaction is brought to a close when the Doctor finally salutes him, something that the Brigadier had wanted but never received the entire time they worked together. His salute seems to reflect the Doctor’s reluctant acknowledgement of the important role soldiers play.
Too Many Goodbyes
At this point, we think the episode is over, but in fact there is quite a bit of the show left. We will get more false endings, both intentional and unintentional, before the actual end of the show. Perhaps ending it here would have been better.
In the next scene, Clara is sleeping in her apartment when she is awoken by a voice calling her name. It is Danny, whose voice emerges from a ghostly white light that is filling the corridor. The Doctor had told Clara that apparently the bracelet Danny wore to control the Cybermen army would allow him to travel from one world to another. That is quite a bracelet and quite a stretch, with really no explanation at all as to why that would be. We are generally pretty willing to suspend belief for Doctor Who, but a bracelet that allows the dead to return might be a little much.
Danny says he must keep his promises, and instead of returning himself, the boy from Afghanistan whom he was reunited with in the Nethersphere comes through. Danny asks Clara to find the boy’s family. It’s like we, and Clara, keep losing Danny again and again.
Two weeks later, the Doctor and Clara meet in a restaurant. That’s right, there’s still more. We suppose we could think of it in a glass half-full kind of way since this is the last new Doctor Who we will get until Christmas, but honestly it drags out the story. This might a good time for a mini-episode.
Clara begins to tell the Doctor about Danny still being dead, but the Doctor interrupts, assuming that she and Danny are happy and that she will want to stay on Earth with Danny. The Doctor tells Clara that he found Gallifrey. Yet when we flashback to his attempt to go to the coordinates given by Missy, he opens the TARDIS doors and sees nothing but empty space. His disappointment is obvious when he starts pounding heavily on the TARDIS’s controls. It seems like they made this scene a flashback so they could squeeze it into an existing scene and not make the ending appear even more disjointed. When the Doctor tells Clara he is going home to Gallifrey, Clara plays along with the idea that Danny is alive.
They are lying to each other in order to do what they think will make the other happier. Clara asks to break tradition and hug. As they awkwardly hug goodbye, Clara asks the Doctor why he doesn’t like to hug. He responds, “Never trust a hug … it’s just a way to hide your face,” as we see both of their sad and miserable faces.
The next scene is outside the TARDIS. The Doctor is about to leave and Clara appears to thank him for making her feel special while they traveled together, and he says the same. Okay, you said goodbye, already. In fact, the extended endings take away from the true drama of the story, which is the death of Danny. That was the part of the story that really moved us. If anything, it makes this goodbye between Clara and the Doctor seem somewhat superficial. Yes, we get that they are acting a bit superficial because they are lying to each other, but we would still expect to be moved by a companion ending her traveling days with the Doctor. The Doctor leaves and the credits begin to roll.
But that’s not all.
After a minute of credits, they are interrupted by the image of the Doctor sitting alone, and looking dejected, in the TARDIS. Someone starts pounding on the TARDIS door and we hear a voice say:
“Doctor, you know it can’t end like that. We need to get this sorted, and quickly. She’s not all right, you know. And neither are you. I’m coming in. Ah, there you are. I knew I’d get ’round to you eventually. Now, stop gawping, and tell me … what do you want for Christmas?”
Santa steps aboard the TARDIS. Having Santa in your Christmas special can never be a bad thing. Now, this device of having a hook to the Christmas special at the end of the season finale, like when the Titanic crashed into the TARDIS in Last of the Time Lords (S03E13), is something we can get on board with.
Though we feel like there was a bit of Steven Moffat-style mislead with the whole “I am the Doctor” thing by Clara, we loved her recitation of facts about his life and the confidence with which she did it. Lying is something that both she and the Doctor do very well. We learned he has had four wives, which was news to us! One of the things that really made this two-part finale work was its grounding in the relationship between Clara and Danny, something we can connect to and really care about. Samuel Anderson and Jenna Coleman moved us to tears several times during these final episodes. The other piece that made this finale work so well was Michelle Gomez’s outstanding performance as the Master/Missy. She was frightening and funny, and we couldn’t take our eyes off her. Peter Capaldi is ever an impressive actor, and his scenes with Missy were particularly engaging. Peter Capaldi’s version of the Doctor brings the series to a more interesting and somewhat darker place, while also lightening the episodes with his dry wit and his comical shows of irritation.
We look forward to seeing if Jenna Coleman continues on as the Doctor’s companion after the Christmas special, as there are rumors that she is leaving the show. It feels good have a season close without too many mysteries left unresolved, though there are certainly a few. We like a little mystery in our lives. And bananas….
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I like the theme of selfies in the face of the frightening and inexplicable in this season.
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I was not happy about them killing off Danny…. and then he is a cyber man… too horrifying!
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That was incredibly sad. It was heartbreaking the way Clara was talking to him and then he was just gone.
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Yes I really did not care for that type of ending at all.
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