Recap: 'Doctor Who' - 'Death In Heaven' brings series 8 to a heart-wrenching finale
Well folks, this is it. We made it to the series 8 finale for “Doctor Who.” After tonight, we will be bereft of Time Lord shenanigans until the Christmas special. Let’s savor every last gut-wrenching moment of “Death In Heaven.”
Things pick up right where we left off last week in “Dark Water.” The solitary Cyberman in the office with Clara is on the warpath. But it’s the slow, plodding warpath “Who” villains save for main characters. Instead of vaporizing her on the spot, the Cyberman hesitates just long enough for Clara to be very clever.
There is no Clara Oswald. There never was. She was a figment of the Doctor’s imagination. Clara is, in actuality, the Doctor.
Jenna Coleman sells this monologue so hard that not only is the Cyberman convinced, but I’m half hoping that this is the twist of the season. How amazing would it be if Clara’s been an amnesiac Time Lady version of the Doctor all this time? Dare to dream, y’all.
Meanwhile outside, the Doctor and the Master, who is now going by Missy because ladies can’t be called the “Master” don’t be silly, are having a bit of banter. Twelve is freaking out because there are Cyberman in broad daylight and he’s waiting for the humans to freak out. But he severely overestimated our sense of self-preservation. Instead of fear, everyone just wants a selfie with the weird metal men. I swear to God, humans in the Whovian universe have the collective memory of a goldfish.
Or, they’re all just UNIT employees in disguise. My faith in humanity ticks up a hair. Even Osgood returns in all her nerdy glory, but she’s shed her scarf in favor of a bowtie because “Bowties are cool.” Also on hand is a whole squadron of UNIT in military gear to hold Missy and the Cybermen hostage, which at first seems ridiculous until Kate Stewart shows up. She nonchalantly tosses an old Cyberman head into their midst like “You forgot something last time. We upgraded. Oh, we also have the Doctor on our payroll.” With an airtight argument like that, the Cybermen do the only logical thing. They flee straight into the air on their jetpacks.
Of course, humanity’s moment of badassery is cut short when the building housing the water tomb opens up and spews out Cybermen. Ninety-one of them to be specific. Kate questions how the hell the self-proclaimed “Queen of Evil” managed to house that many robots with no one noticing. Well, it’s easy when you’ve got Gallifreyan technology. A hiding place can be as small as you need it to be because it’s bigger on the inside.
To add insult to injury, the Cybermen weren’t running away from Kate Stewart’s amazing monologue. They were headed to the atmosphere in order to explode into a dark cloud of Cyber-Spores. Missy explains her plan is for the particles to pollinate the Earth, falling like rain to awaken the dead. And if zombie Cybermen doesn’t ping your animal hindbrain with fear, congratulations! You’re probably gonna die first in the upcoming apocalypse.
In the Nethersphere, the lights are going off. Seb finally drops the truth bomb on Danny Pink. They aren’t in Heaven…duh…but in a data cloud. The technology has been collecting recently deceased minds and now they’re all being called home. Back to their “upgraded” bodies. Danny takes this about as well as can be expected.
On Earth, the humans are taking no chances. The Time Lord and Lady are tranquilized for someone’s safety. Kate mentions something about the “First protocol is implemented” while the Doctor expends his last moments of consciousness whispering to Osgood to watch the cemeteries.
I assume the Doctor passed out before mentioning “Oh and the morgues.,” which is where we now find ourselves. The Cyber-Pollen is doing its best “Ghostbuster II” impression, oozing out of the drains and into the newly dead. For some reason, the mortician’s reaction to sudden banging noises coming from closed cold storage lockers is to say “Hello?” instead of running away screaming. THAT part doesn’t happen until a Cyberman sits up on the gurney.
Now alone with his thoughts, the Cyberman looks in the mirror. He is obviously upset by what he sees. Oh, it’s Danny. Cyber-Danny crushes his autopsy report in his fist. Things might be about to go very badly for Missy.
I guess now would be a good time to ask, “How is this happening?” How are Cybermen converting organic matter into robots with no processing? I’ll just assume nano-technology. Nanotech is always good for a pseudo-science plot.
The Doctor regains consciousness in a plane hanger. Kate Stewart apologizes, but there are UNIT protocols in place for an alien invasion on this scale. Twelve is notably unpredictable so tranquilizers and control of the TARDIS were the only way to guarantee is his cooperation.
Well, she’s not wrong.
Kate ushers the Doctor onto a plane where he is instantly declared the President of Earth. The Doctor’s word is literally law. He is now the chief executive officer of the human race. Suddenly, every taunting word Danny Pink said about the Doctor being officer aristocracy is thrown into sharp relief. The parallel of course being that Mr. Pink is now the ultimate solider. An unthinking, unfeeling, killing machine. Well played, Moffat.
Finally, we check back in with Clara. By confusing the Cyberman, she has bought herself some time. But they want more proof she is the Doctor. She starts rattling off facts at a lightning pace, revealing exactly how much Twelve has shared with her over the course of their adventures. She even mentions Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter! But the ever-logical Cybermen aren’t buying it. Including a newcomer, who seems to know an awful lot about Clara Oswald. Obviously it is Cyber-Danny.
Clara tries to stall for time by saying “I’m a good liar,” to which Cyber-Danny replies “Yes, you are,” and my heart breaks just a little bit because ouch. Cyber-Danny then knocks Clara out and quickly dispatches his fellow robots. Well, well, well. I’d wager Missy did not expect human souls to retain emotion and attachment.
In the hold of the plane, Missy is taunting the Doctor and Osgood. Twelve can’t figure out how she’s here and alive because Gallifrey is lost in another dimension. The obvious answer? Gallifrey is in another dimension, but it’s definitely not lost. Missy knows how to get home but she’s not telling because what fun would that be? Are we just gonna ignore the fact they handcuffed the most psychotic being in the universe to a dolly and put her next to the TARDIS? This seems like poor planning. Why did they even let Missy wake up? Keep that lady hopped up on tranquilizers!
Osgood dispenses with the Doctor’s notions that humans wouldn’t be able to grasp fluid genders among Time Lords/Ladies. She just kind of assumed Missy was the new regeneration of the Master based on her behavior.
Off to the side and ignored by everyone, including her guards, Missy activates her bracelet. Jewelry can be fashionable AND functional.
Clara wakes up in the graveyard at dusk because Cyber-boyfriends are bad at ambiance. She meanders aimlessly among the tombstones and I keep hoping the Weeping Angels show up and this finale turns into a rumble over who gets to destroy humanity. But no such luck.
Back on Air Force One, the Doctor is finally explaining what the hell is going on. The Cyber-Pollen searches out organic matter and starts a full conversion chain reaction. But up until now, it has need a living creature. Somehow Missy has figured out how to weaponize the dead. “It’s all over,” says the Doctor, dramatic defeatist. “How can you win against the dead?” Oh I don’t know genius, EMPs for starters? Or maybe go find the Lorax-Fairies from two episodes ago. They seemed pretty good at protecting humanity from imminent extinction.
Off-handedly Kate mentions UNIT was tipped off to what was going on by a woman with a Scottish accent. The girl from the shop strikes again!
The Doctor goes on to mention Missy has been traveling up and down Earth’s time stream for who knows how long, collecting the consciousness or souls or whatever of the dead and putting them in the Nethersphere cloud. Every concept of an afterlife can be chalked up to her tampering.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up a minute. There are some heavy implications here. Every human soul on Earth was in that data cloud? If the plan was to eventually put those souls back in their Cyberman bodies, what happens to the souls so old they have no bodies? Were Egyptians mummifying themselves to have a body to return to? Does this mean we truly have no good grasp on life after death since it’s been skewed by Time Lady meddling?
Speaking of Time Lady meddling, in the hold Missy has a secret she wants to tell Osgood. But she wants to whisper it. Throwing genre savviness to the wind, Osgood falls for this obvious ruse and comes close enough for Missy to tell her the “secret girl plan.” Which is that Osgood is about to die.
Holy hell, does Michelle Gomez ever shine in this role. The tenuous grasp on sanity, the flair for the dramatic (“I’m accelerating the countdown for dramatic effect”), the sleight of hand, the cold indifference to outright murdering Osgood and the nameless Red Shirts™…it’s all deliciously unhinged. More complex unlikeable female characters, please!