November 11, 2014
After last week's cliffhanger, having anything but high expectations for the Doctor Who finale would have been less than adequate. However, Death in Heaven was a very satisfying conclusion thematically...if not always dramatically.
This is the one episode where Moffatt wears his own Who fanboyishness - everything from UNIT (both past and present) to specific episodes (there's a good reason why St. Paul's Cathedral was used for this episode). Even down to the relationship between the Doctor and Missy - this is written by a man who has seen the classic series and has integrated these references (including one long departed character) into a well-crafted whole. (Let's also be honest - Moffatt has also integrated his own episodes, including Day of the Doctor and The Bells of St. John's). It's not obnoxiously self-referential, but also recognizes that many new Who fans are increasingly familar with the new series....and yes, Moffatt does "troll" some hardcore fans within the plot.
And yes, dramatically there are some lapses - making the Doctor the "President of Earth" seems a bit of a contrivance - but they serve a larger dramatic purpose. The first is the continuing theme about soldiers and collateral damage - this episode, we see that the Doctor really doesn't want to be a soldier - or an officer. There's a sneaking suspicion that behind everything else, the Doctor simply wants to arrive, visit, and leave in his travels, and that his adventures are focused more around being an "accidental" hero. We also get the suggestion that the Doctor....can't (or won't) deal with the repercussions of his actions. We see Danny, even in "death", be a better man in dealing with the consequences of his actions; Clara also seems to be gradually becoming aware of the implications of her behavior within and outside of the TARDIS. It's a very interesting focus, and shows much of this Doctor's character....
....and the other major theme of this season has been the Twelfth Doctor's character. Flashing back to various episodes in this season both with clips and situations, Season Eight has asked the question "What kind of man is the Twelfth Doctor?" It's been an exploration of the Doctor's character that we haven't seen since....well, the 2005 Christopher Eccleston season. (Many classic fans have cited that this is an attempt to look at the Doctor's gradual "mellowing", following abortive attempts with Colin Baker in the role in the 1980s). We've seen that this Doctor - perhaps because he is a "reboot" Doctor, coming after a new regeneration cycle - wonders just what his "rules" are, and what kind of person he is....and that's a really good place to be dramatically.
Season Eight has been...well, a mixed bag - it hasn't been spectacular, but after the whiz-bang of the Matt Smith years, it's a pleasant change. There has only been one really all-out "bad" episode (I'm looking at you, In the Forest of the Night), and it's been a nice resettling into a good, twelve-episode season (please, Mr. Moffatt - no more split seasons). It may not be a "return to form"...but it's been a really enjoyable view, and "Death In Heaven" brings it to a very satisfying conclusion.
Oh, and the mid-credits sequence? Brilliant.