The Skaro Review
Death In Heaven
Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan
BEWARE: SLIGHT SPOILERS
In part one of the finale, the theme was death and the afterlife, and this is taken to the nth degree here with the Master’s evil machinations in full flight… although her actual motives are not what you think. A CyberArmy is released on the world… and the world takes selfies. “We have to warn everyone!” UNIT cries “The world just went weee…,” the Doctor informs it.
So with the dead rising in newly upgraded bodies, much to Seb’s glee, and the Master’s plan unfolding, we find out more about the afterlife in general and the beliefs in it through out Man’s history. “She’s a Time Lord. She must have a TARDIS somewhere… so a LONG time…” the Doctor tells Kate.
Dark Water came under some criticism for examining death and the afterlife, but for me it was not something to particularly criticise. It’s a realm rife for exploitation, and, whilst I understand that people who have sadly recently lost loved ones might not see the sci fi concept behind the idea, I could separate it from real life and the Whoniverse. Unfortunately, Moff blurs these lines in this episode and perhaps takes things a step to far with a heart wrenching cameo. Verging on crass, it’s something done with dignity and huge affection but something some will find a step too far.
Death, of course, in the Whoniverse, is not the end, and here that is the case too, with the Master, the Doctor and, as seen last week, Danny Pink. His fate is beautifully dealt with and very much in fitting with what has gone before in the season, much of which is referenced in flashback, deed or comment. Indeed, things stretching back almost the whole of Clara’s timeline are referenced and much of it tied up in a nice big loose end tidying bow. This episode definitely feels like the end of a chapter for some.
So what of the main plot, the Master and the Cybermen? We’re lucky to get Michelle Gomez in full Master mode here, and she’s fab. I’m a bit concerned we’re renaming as well as transgenerating a beloved character here, so, no, I won’t call her Missy, she’s the Master, pure and simple, and, actually, her whole raison d’être is because she’s the Master, and the relations she has with the Doctor. She’s not suave or cool she’s plain, straight forward, bananas. And admits it.
The Doctor is on the look out for a new companion, it seems, or at least an addition to the crew, and he seems perhaps he has found one. If only.
This story is epic in scale. Movie epic. It has jet packed Cybermen and jumbo jets being attacked in midflight. It has deaths. It deals with the recently dead. It has a storyline which wraps up what we’ve been watching and wondering for the last couple of years and it opens up a whole new box of “what the heys!!!???” for us to mull over. It’s jam packed with incident, continuity and wow factors. A character even uses the word “squee”.
All the questions you’ve been asking are answered here. Every itch scratched. We find out where the Master has been. We find out what happens to Danny and Clara. We see why this was so important. You won’t be disappointed. The only problem is Steven Moffat actually throws a whole lot of new stuff at us to devour and debate. Oh, and the redesigned opening credits will have some people going pop.
I’ve waxed lyrical about the players this season all series long, and nothing changes here. Everyone is great. Jemma Redgrave fits right back in to things as though she’s never been away, and her opening lines to the Doctor are great. Ingrid Oliver too shows great promise as Osgood, swapping her scarf for a bow tie and impressing the Doctor no end.
For once, too, we don’t have a temporal anomaly to fall back on when it comes to dénouements so we get a straight forward action adventure, albeit one with a bit of brains behind it. The actual concept of the afterlife however may offend religious types, and the treatment of the recently dead may offend some Who fans, but as a concept it was bold and clever.
One last thing. Death In Heaven doesn’t shy away from the horror of the Cybermen. Of how they become what they are. Of the consciousness that makes them. The idea – and the execution – is terrifying. Horrifying. Repulsive. But, in reality, we don’t really get a CyberInvasion here, or real, bonafide, actual Cybermen. We get an army for the Master. And whatever does she want with an army?
This finale is in keeping with the season that it ends. It follows those themes of love and death and friendship and loyalty and it neatly puts a line under the first year of the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure whilst opening tantalising doors to the future. After he’s fixed the console that is…
Until Christmas! Adieu!