"Doctor Who" episode 8.12 - "Death in Heaven." Starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, and Michelle Gomez; Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Rachel Talalay.
I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I cried like eight more times, and I saluted. Season eight was a bit of a slow burn for me but the one-two punch of "Dark Water" and "Death in Heaven" returned me to the traditional "Who" viewing position: Edge of the seat, tissue in one hand, forgotten snack dangling from the other. And just so we're on the same page, I don't think I can do this without some pretty heavy spoilers but I'll at least try to corral them into one paragraph.
In the interest of transparency, I should disclose that I've never wanted to be a full time reviewer of this show. This is the one hour of my week that I get to abandon critical thinking and just have fun and feel. I don't want to think about analyses or criticisms (though I acknowledge that there are plenty of both and that Moffat's style can be problematic). My six day work week ends at 6pm on Saturday, and come 9 o'clock I'm on the couch, phone silenced, squeaky toy hidden from the dog, unwrapping the splurge of fattening take out and soda. This is my hour, and by gummy I'm not going to waste any of that escape on real-life thoughts.
But imagine my confusion this season when my mind frequently wandered. Imagine the perplexity that came with realizing that ALL MY FEELS were, well, they were just fine.
But then along comes "Dark Water" with its death and plot twists and complete upheaval of most religious canon and I am back in hardcore, y'all. It's conclusion, "Death in Heaven," opens with The Doctor and Missy on Earth, surrounded by U.N.I.T. as Missy's diabolical plan to unleash Cybermen comes to fruition. Both are loaded on board a plane, but while our Miss Osgood watches over a captive Missy, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart informs the Doctor of his new job. President. of Everything. And subsequently, Commander in Chief of an Earthly army.
Meanwhile, Clara is attempting an escape by confusing some Cybermen, when a mysterious rogue machine comes to her aid. She wakes up in a graveyard to learn that her true love has been almost-deleted. Danny Pink is now prisoner to the cyber suit, but through some faulty wiring he's not yet part of the hive mind and is still experiencing all his painful human emotions. Clara puts in a distress call to The Doctor, but since Missy's broken free he's dealing with some problems of his own. Missy orders the destruction of Boat One and takes several lives before she leaves.
The Doctor was able to escape via the TARDIS, and arrives at Clara's side in the graveyard. She's trying to turn on Danny's inhibitor so that he may finally have some peace, to which The Doctor vehemently protests and claims the minute Danny is connected, he'll kill them all. Unfortunately, Danny can only share his hive intel and help The Doctor save the day if he's connected. Missy shows up to taunt everyone (which includes telling The Doctor where he can find Galifrey), but in the end it's Danny - even in his hardwired state - who proves himself to be the worthiest of heroes.
The episode did a great job of showing how all the players have the capacity for villainy without giving them red in their ledger. All the emotion that I'd not experienced previously in season eight was heaped on me Saturday night. The relationship between Danny and Clara took place mostly off screen this season, which is completely justifiable, and I thought the writers did an incredible job these past two episodes in showing us the depth of emotion and fervor they had developed for one another. The Doctor's vitriolic hate towards organized militia, though possibly arbitrary in its intensity for many episodes, came to a fine and poignant head and was dealt with in a touching and meaningful way when he relinquished his power to Danny.
OK, here's where it's going to get spoilery.
The episode concluded - kind of - on a down note equal to Luke finding out Vader's his father, to Ben in the farm house, to finding out WHAT'S IN THE BAAAAAAAHAHAHAAAX. The Doctor enters Missy's Galifreyan coordinates and finds empty space. His rage and pain was almost unbearable to watch, and certainly exemplified Capaldi's stamp on his Doctor. Clara wakes one night to a portal from the Nethersphere, but instead of Danny passing through he sends the child he had killed back home and instructs Clara to help the boy get home to his parents. Seeing Clara's pain at losing Danny a third time combined with her pride in having known and loved such a good man was easily the best performance Coleman has given on the show. And, sidebar, it was also the breaking point for my feels.
And in a final chapter comparable to Tom Berenger on his knees in the jungle, to Briony telling her actual story, to John Merrick taking a nap, The Doctor and Clara meet for a lunch of lies. Clara lets The Doctor believe that Danny used his Cyber-Control bracelet to return to her, and The Doctor tells Clara he's found Galifrey and shall return home. They share a thank you and farewell, as well as a rare embrace that hurts so very much more than it soothes(by the way, I think Clara is pregnant). The show has already announced that Jenna Coleman's last episode will be the Christmas special, but this certainly carried an air of finality. And so I cried a little more and got really mad and started counting the days 'til Christmas. The credits rolled.
And then Nick Frost as Santa Claus burst into the TARDIS to jostle a sulking Doctor into reality, and I squeed so loud it made my cat break wind. Fourty four days until Christmas!!