Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 12, “Death in Heaven” Review

by William Hohmeister

I think sometimes I’m too hard on Doctor Who. Series 8, for all its flaws, is so much better than series 6 and 7 that there’s really no comparison. And while the finale did not meet my expectations, I think it was good. I had a few problems, which I’ll deal with right now, in several open letters to people both fictional and real.

Guards. If the woman currently locked in the cargo hold of the plane talks about killing people soon, openly displays that she is no longer restrained, and then saunters over to take a hostage, at some point you need to shoot her. Maybe even just look surprised as you’re murdered.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi). You saw the Mistress (Michelle Gomez) melt Dr. Chang only a short time ago. Take the weapon she used far away from her. Do not leave it within easy reach. This is what gets great supporting characters like Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) incinerated.

Steven Moffat (writer/showrunner). Maybe I’m wrong for wanting the Doctor to grow and change. I think the Companion is supposed to experience a character arc. But Clara doesn’t change until the end of the episode. I think you’re trying, but we need reasons to care about these people. Even Danny Pink.

Dan the Cyberman (Samuel Anderson). Let go of your death certificate. We only need one shot to establish that it’s you (and really, not even that). You’re also unreasonably angry at the Doctor, but I think you’re just adjusting to life as a soulless automaton. What an Afterlife, right?

Clara (Jenna Coleman). You did really well this episode. You learned and changed more this episode, as a minor character with nothing to do, than you have during all of series 8. I’m incredibly glad you’re gone.

The first twenty minutes are all set up. The Mistress uses “cyber-clouds” to infect all of earth. UNIT takes the Mistress and the Doctor prisoner, then swears the Doctor in as President of Earth. Danny rescues Clara and takes her to a graveyard. The Mistress wrecks the plane, the Doctor starts to plummet to his doom, and Seb (Chris Addison) geeks out when the Doctor escapes.

The Mistress’ casual violence is spooky throughout the episode, as she kills Osgood and Seb on a whim. Despite the utter failure of the guards, and the Doctor’s brain fart (mentioned above), the Mistress seems capable and forceful. I expected her to kill Clara after the reveal that she kept Clara and the Doctor together, but… huh.

Okay, new letter. The Mistress. Why did you bother to get Clara and the Doctor together? Because she’s a control freak? Why go to the trouble?

Dan the Cyberman and Clara argue about their relationship until the Doctor lands. They all argue, Dan the Cyberman reveals the Mistress’ plan, and she appears like a psychotic Mary Poppins.

I said in my review of “Dark Water” that the personal in the middle of the grand makes Doctor Who appealing to me. Dan the Cyberman gives a big speech, there are a lot of explosions, but the short conversations between the Doctor and the Mistress make the episode work. On the plane, she tries to gain control over the Doctor by teasing him with Gallifrey’s location. He responds by telling her how easy ruling the world is.

I know only a little about the past relationship between the Doctor and the Master. I know they’ve always been antagonists, except for a hinted-at past as children on Gallifrey. I know the Master wants to conquer everything, but the Doctor most of all. The Mistress demonstrates her complete control of the Cybermen (except Dan), wishes the Doctor a happy birthday…

And the Mistress gives control of the Cybermen to the Doctor. She has two explanations, one cliché (“We’re not so different, you and I”) and one true, when she says:doctor_missy

I need my friend back.

The Mistress can’t change. Even if she no longer hears the drums, she’s still crazy and deadly and effective. It’s possible she arranged for the Doctor to be elected President of Earth as well, to give him all the power he wants. He can, as she says, save everyone. He can make the universe exactly as he wants it to be. She’s saying: Be the Master. You don’t know if you’re the Doctor anymore, so be the Master.

I guess that the Doctor’s response, that he is not a general, a hero, or anything but an idiot in a big blue box, is Steven Moffat speaking through him. I wrote about Nine and Ten’s transformation into a Satan-like character, and I think Eleven was meant to be a mix of gallant fairy-tale hero and old monster under the bridge. Twelve lets all of that go, and reestablishes his identity as the Doctor.

After Danny destroys the clouds, the Mistress gives the Doctor the coordinates for Gallifrey, and offers to go with him. Clara is about to kill her, but the Doctor offers to do it. The Mistress seems surprised, but delighted. She poses. Before the Doctor can pull the trigger, The Brigadier, Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (originally played by Nicholas Courtney) resurrected as a Cyberman, disintegrates the Mistress and flies off.

Danny has a chance to return to life, but sends the kid he shot instead. The Doctor checks out the coordinates the Mistress gave him for Gallifrey. I’m not certain that the Mistress lied, but we see the Doctor destroy part of the Tardis console in rage, so it’s likely. At the end, Clara and the Doctor meet up in a café and lie to each other.

clara_12It sounds simple, but it’s tricky with their relationship. The Doctor thinks Dan the Cyberman returned from the dead and Clara lets him. Clara thinks the Doctor found Gallifrey restored, and he lets her. They both lie to give the other a chance to move on, which finishes the characters’ history together. If they got back together they’d have to admit the truth, and neither is capable of that.

The Doctor leaves, but the final shot is of Clara. She was special and now she merges back into the crowd, part of the mundane again. It’s a quiet, strong end to a “meh” relationship that needed to end. I wish the Mistress had lived, but I doubt it’s the last we’ve seen of her. And I’m interested now in series 9.

Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 10, “In the Forest of the Night:” ARGH!

by William Hohmeister

This episode… “In the Forest of the Night” is bad. So bad. It’s dull, the bad kind of ridiculous, and full of people who ought to know better. So, like the Doctor Who writer’s room, I guess?

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), and Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) explore London after trees grow across the entire city overnight. As they try to figure out what happened we find out the forest is not limited to London, or even England: it’s global. Cool mystery, right?

Forest_of_the_Night CoverThe Doctor finds a little girl early on named Maeve, because Doctor Who is still sometimes about fairy tales you guys, and the writers really want us to know that. In this episode alone we get: a little girl in a red hood running through the magic forest, “breadcrumbs” for clues, Little Red Riding Ciché confronted by SEVERAL big bad wolves, and the Doctor and Clara pointing out over and over that “this is like a fairy tale” or “this is not a fairy tale.” There are probably more, but my head hurts now.

Doctor Who is a science-fiction show, but it’s always played fast and loose with the science. Sometimes this means it gets burned. Every scientific oddity, from the trees growing overnight, to an unexplained solar flare that’s about to kill humanity, is mentioned but never explained. Each is so half-hearted that the episode feels like 45 minutes of pure filler.

The half-hearted story isn’t limited to bad science, either. Everyone gets a taste of the awful. Clara and Danny are back. Clara lies to Danny so much I honestly think she has an actual problem. And she’s not the only one! Danny is apparently willing to put up with it, so screw him too. And the kids, dear god the kids. Every child is so painfully terrible that I think they came from George Lucas’ Home for Wayward Waifs. The only upside is we get a few flashbacks that show how awful Danny and Clara are as teachers.

Maeve is by far the worst, but it’s not her fault. Her sister died, I think? I don’t know, the show never says, and anyone who has to deal with actual problems probably feels pretty insulted. Don’t take your meds, kids! The forest will grant you magic visions! Maeve sought out the Doctor to tell him about the flare, but runs away and leaves pieces of her school stuff as clues because… because. After the Doctor and Clara (and then Danny and the class) find her and chase off the wolves (and subsequent tiger), Maeve lays some heavy exposition on us.

I couldn’t understand a word she said, and I refuse to look it up. Suffice to say, by this point it’s incredibly obvious that the trees are there to stop the solar flare from destroying earth. The only people who don’t know are in the show because, again, you have to fill the time somehow. Seriously: the Doctor could literally not have shown up, and the episode would have ended exactly the same.

To top off this hate sundae, the story nearly made me like it toward the end. It missyappears as though the solar flare really will destroy the earth, and Clara convinces the Doctor to escape with the kids and their teachers. It’s a bluff! She really just wants him to leave so the humans can all burn together.  I . . .

. . . I am not the best person. I love the Doctor, but I also think he has a lot in common with Satan. So: as the Doctor prepared to leave the earth to die, I started cackling. Full-on witch cackle, too. I was so glad everyone was going to die. I mean, sure, they’d come back – that’s what the finale would be about, and maybe that would be Missy’s role! To preserve everyone until the Doctor saves the day!

I was so excited.

It doesn’t happen. The Doctor returns to reassure everyone that there was never, ever any reason to worry, or even watch this show, and then the end happens. Trees absorb sun-fire. Yay. The ending is so sparkling clean and happy that Maeve – whose only character traits are being weird, magic, and having a dead sister – somehow resurrects her freaking sister via a fern. I don’t know.


Shot of Missy saying something ominous, cut to Danny being entirely too tolerant of Clara’s crap, roll credits. Then some stuff about the finale (presumably a two-parter) that . . .  does anyone care about it?

Can you tell me why? I need a reason!


Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

by William Hohmeister

Mummy on the Orient Express” replaces “Listen” as my favorite episode of series 8 Doctor Who. It does almost everything right, including a cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Foxes. It lasts only a few seconds in the episode, but thankfully BBC uploaded the full song to YouTube:

The song sums up the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his relationships with Companions over the years, including the problem with Clara (Jenna Coleman). He’s on a rocketship to Mars, and he’ll make a supersonic coolclaraman/woman outta you.Comparitive Geeks has a great article on Clara’s character, and the best I can do is repeat one of their points: Clara falls flat because she’s only traveling with the Doctor as a hobby. Someone – I suspect the new writer, Jaime Mathieson – realized Clara slows the story and does not connect with the audience. So as soon as possible, Clara accidentally locks herself in a train car far away from the Doctor and lets him get on with the episode, on board the Space Orient Express.

The lack of a real Companion has made the 12th Doctor one of the most human. Despite his brusque manner, Capaldi softens the Doctor just enough to be likeable, and since he can’t connect with Clara he has great moments with other characters on the train. The banter between the Doctor and Chief Engineer Perkins (Frank Skinner) is great. The stories told by Professor Moorhouse (Christopher Villiers) and Captain Quell (David Bambers) frame the overall story of the group trying to understand and stop the Mummy. Moorhouse travels to see amazing things, much like the Doctor. Quell is a soldier, recovering from PTSD on an easy assignment. The Mummy kills both.

Doctor_OrientI think the Doctor is forced to learn and change his attitude toward soldiers, as the two most sympathetic victims – Quell and the Mummy itself – are both soldiers. Though the Doctor liked Moorhouse, the professor tries to bargain with the Mummy and dies uselessly. Quell acts like the Doctor and tries to solve the problem even as the Mummy kills him. His last words indicate that he feels an obligation to try every solution he can think of, though he’s not as smart as the Doctor: “I wouldn’t be much of a soldier if I died with bullets in my gun.”
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Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 7, “Kill the Moon” Review

by William Hohmeister

Doctor Who series 8, episode 7, “Kill the Moon,” by Peter Harness, is tough to review. I’m convinced by now that I don’t like Clara (Jenna Coleman), and probably never will. The last two episodes are good, but focused on Clara especially. She can’t withstand such scrutiny.

Throughout this review I have included my interpretation of how Clara must have explained her adventure to Danny (Samuel Anderson). I hope this helps my thoughts about the end of the episode and her decision to leave the Doctor (Peter Capaldi).

The Doctor is great in this episode. I’ve said before that Capaldi’s Doctor is a jerk and at least a bit cowardly. I still think this, and it has made the character much more interesting.killthemoonclara

Clara: I cannot stand him! The Doctor has gone…just…too far!

Danny: What did he do? Tell me what happened, I can help.

Clara: He insulted Courtney, and when I tried to make him apologize and tell her she’s special, he took her to the moon instead.

Danny: I guess she feels special now.

Clara: And we get there, in 2049, and land with astronauts who are hauling nuclear bombs to blow it up. And there are giant spiders, and dead Mexicans-

Danny: That’s racist.

Clara: How is that racist?

Danny: It feels racist. What were there names?

Clara: Who remembers? And the astronauts died so fast I barely had time to shame them for the bombs!

This has been an issue throughout Doctor Who’s entire run: extras do not matter. All but one of the astronauts die early, and there is a team of pre-dead folks waiting on the moon. They don’t matter. The astronauts aren’t on the moon because of them. They’re just on the moon. Dead.

Danny: Sorry, there were spiders with human teeth, but they weren’t really spiders they were bacteria? And people wanted to blow it all up, because gravity?

Clara: Turns out the moon is an egg.

Danny: What.

Clara: And everyone wanted to blow it up. The Doctor said he didn’t know what happened next, and we had to decide without him. I didn’t know what to do, so I told the earth to vote. I could only see, like, Australia, but close enough. And they all voted to kill the creature hatching out of the moon.

Danny: This has some pretty heavy moral implications.

killthemoon_lundvikClara: Eh, I stopped Captain Lundvik (Hermione Norris) at the last moment. The Doctor reappeared and patronized me-

Courtney Woods (Ellis George): At least he had something to say.

Clara: Get out of here!

Courtney: Seriously, the last ten minutes was just this one, crying her eyes out like a little kid who got lost in a shop.

Clara: So help me, I will take you on another “class trip” if you don’t shut it. You got lucky. The last kids I took didn’t get to hang out safely in the TARDIS. They almost got murdered by robots.nightmare_in_silver

Is there any lesson that endangers enough people that Clara might actually learn something from it? I’m referring to “Nightmare in Silver,” of series 7.

The Doctor refuses when Clara asks to leave. We know about fixed points in time as the limit of what the Doctor can achieve. However many lives he saves, he can’t save everyone. And we see that despite his knowledge of most of time and space, the Doctor often gets into trouble. The series’ tension is introduced when the Companion asks how they can die in the past or future. The Doctor says that time is in flux. He usually doesn’t say more, but in this episode he elaborated.

Danny: This immortal, time-traveling space alien can see all of reality. But he travels to times and places he’s actually vulnerable, seemingly at random. And he’s just arrogant enough to believe he can solve whatever problem he finds.

Clara: Yes.

Danny: Why did he leave you to make the call? Maybe what happened was important in a way we haven’t considered yet?

Clara: Of course! I fell out with the Doctor, and I don’t trust him now, even though he trusts me more than ever. Or did. I guess our argument probably changed his mind.

Danny: I meant something of actual emotional weight, that wasn’t forced in because of “The Caretaker.” Any resolution about Moon Child? Humanity deciding on some weird version of abortion/infanticide? The Doctor’s decision to leave our fate to ourselves and maybe force us to grow up a bit and acknowledge our wider universe? The bizarre reality of his life as a near-omniscient god who is, just sometimes, nearsighted?

Clara: He tried to make a point, but I was crying.

It doesn’t take a supervillain or an apocalypse to threaten people; the universe is dangerous. Sometimes the Doctor does not know the answer. Clara’s reaction shows a lot about the character, but it doesn’t feel Clara-specific. Courtney has almost the same reaction. It seems like anyone could have stood in Clara’s place and said her lines and the episode would have been the same. Clara may grow up, or learn, or become interesting. But with no plot device to tie her to after the end of series 7, and no real personality except her relationship to Danny and the Doctor, Clara’s just… there.


The rest of the episode is great, go watch it. If you ignore the personal drama, and pay close attention to the Moon Child, you’ll find a hell of a story.

Original Images © BBC Wordwide. Poster by Radio Times. Courtney meme via ComicMix.

– ed: Hannah Givens, I think you will appreciate Will’s take on this. Do give it a read when you have a sec. 🙂