This season of Doctor Who is definitely one that grew stronger the longer it went on. Much of that was in allowing Peter Capaldi to grow more comfortable in his role as the Twelfth Doctor, and for him and Jenna Coleman to find their rhythm as Doctor and companion. But there were also the slowly developing threads linking The Doctor, Clara, Danny (Samuel Anderson), and eventually, Missy (Michelle Gomez) that once fully exposed made series 8’s finale so powerful.
This finale also saw the return of the Cyberman – having emerged from their watery tombs last week – and they were used to great effect here. Watching them shamble through the graveyard while Clara wove in between tombstones was very Night of the Living Dead. And what longtime fan didn’t love that rather unceremonious tossing of an old Cyberman head?
Admittedly, the whole premise of Cyberman being able to reclaim the dead is a tad preposterous. They also never really managed to come across as a real overwhelming threat, even though I assume that with the number of dead buried across the globe they would be. Still, the Cybermen we saw up close – notsomuch the far away, overly CGI’d ones – were menacing, with great voices and movement.
The return of U.N.I.T. felt wholly appropriate with this being a big ‘ole finale, but the conceit that there’s an emergency protocol which names The Doctor basically Commander-in-Chief of the whole planet is a bit ridiculous, even for Doctor Who. Though, it did give us the opportunity for some amusing interactions between The Doctor and U.N.I.T. officers. It also gave us more instances of The Doctor playing the role of an officer, something he’s declined to admit even as he’s barking orders.
Getting to see Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Ingrid Oliver as Osgood was a treat, but then having to say goodbye to one of them in such a brutal manner stung like a bitch. I mean, come on! Especially after that great moment where The Doctor stares at her in awe, then gives her an open invitation to travel all of time and space with him! Just… gah! You’ll be missed, Osgood.
Having just seen poor Osgood get disintegrated, it seemed unbelievable that Doctor Who would continue to ratchet up the death toll by killing off Kate, too. Then again, it was hard to imagine how she’d survive being flung from an airplane. And there’ll be many who will consider the Brigadier coming back as a reanimated Cyberman super dumb, but I felt the moment worked. It wouldn’t be like Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart to succumb to any kind of cyber-programming, and allowing him to save his daughter – and The Doctor’s soul – was a wonderful final mission for one of The Doctor’s most steadfast companions.
By now, you may have noticed I’ve been skirting around something pretty major: Missy a.k.a. The Master. This was a spectacular twist that I don’t believe anyone saw coming. The idea of Time Lords switching sex upon regeneration has been tossed around before, but we haven’t seen it happen- let alone with a character presumed dead! How exactly The Master returned is unclear, perhaps the moment that Gallifrey was resurrected happened to be a moment he was there, I don’t know. And I also don’t really care.
John Simms was a fantastic Master who played bat-shit crazy like no one else, but Michelle Gomez is brilliant. She’s mesmerizing and terrifying and sinister, and may very well be the best incarnation of The Master yet! Her rapport with Capaldi was excellent. The two of them give the history between their characters real weight, and when Missy is pleading with The Doctor, asking him to admit he’s just as lonely as she, it almost breaks you’re heart. Then you remember how merciless and truly evil she is.
Is Missy actually gone? I doubt it. Whether it’ll be the Gomez incarnation we see return, I also doubt, and that’s a shame. It’s also very old school Who to kill off The Master is such an obvious manner, especially since it’s outrageous to think it’s the last we’ve seen of him… her… uh, them. I mean, she seemed a little too accepting of her fate, didn’t she?
If we look back on series 8, there’s a repeating theme of Clara becoming The Doctor. Through her time with him – and we’re talking combined time spent with both 11 and 12 – Clara has learned to talk like The Doctor, act like The Doctor, even think like The Doctor. I was all for believing Clara could actually convince those Cybermen she was The Doctor, and there’s a part of me that’s a little miffed it wasn’t an idea explored for longer in the episode.
“Clara, be my pal and tell me – am I a good man?“
Mimicking The Doctor is something Coleman has managed with aplomb all season, but not until “Death in Heaven” did we understand that through Clara learning to be like him, The Doctor was also learning what kind of man he is from her. In Clara, The Doctor sees a reflection of himself: the one who saves the day by trusting in love. Sure, as I type that out it reads real cheesy, but the fact remains that love is a promise, and a very powerful one. Trusting in that promise makes you unbeatable.
He doesn’t realize this, however, until he’s confronted by CyberDanny – a walking nightmare if I ever saw one, that makeup was unnerving! Samuel Anderson has done a marvelous job this season leaving a lasting impression with Danny considering the little material he’s actually had to work with. For a moment there it almost looked as if he was following a similar path to Rory, but in fact Danny gets one of the best Doctor Who send offs in years.
“Death in Heaven” was a terribly somber ending for this season, and it all began with CyberDanny choosing to sacrifice himself – and not once, but twice. Both scenes were fantastic, and in them Danny showed a good soldier’s more admirable qualities, but it’s still so very sad that he’s gone. And it sure raises some questions about his and Clara’s offspring. Is she pregnant? Is Danny not really dead? Does he have a brother?
Keeping the feels coming was The Doctor’s dashed hopes of possibly looking upon his home planet again. Capaldi was absolutely brilliant at conveying The Doctor’s fragile hope and eventual despair. Poor TARDIS console, though, ouch. But surely, the search for Gallifrey will continue next season. Don’t lose hope yet, Doctor!
Lastly, the goodbye scene. There was much deliberation over whether or not Clara would leave at the end of this season, but without a doubt the moment feels right for her to move on. Though again, it’s a finale that’s about as heartbreaking as any before, but for different reasons.
Clara’s departure isn’t as overly depressing as The Pond’s or as devastating as Donna’s, but it was still sad. Though, it only further affirms just how damn similar she and The Doctor really are. Both would rather lie to the other, seeing them off with a smile rather than open up about the real pain their feeling. It’s an exit that does leave the door open for her to return, possibly even as soon as the Christmas special, but I’d still argue for this being the better goodbye.
Speaking of the Christmas special – Santa Claus!? Played by Nick Frost!? That sure sounds like a real win and I can’t wait to see what it’s all about.
What did you think of the series 8 Doctor Who finale? Did everything shake out how you expected? Or was Moffat still able to surprise you? What did you think of Peter Capaldi’s first series as a whole? Let us hear from you in the comments below!
Doctor Who returns with the Christmas special this December, check out the teaser below!