Doctor Who Review by John Keegan

Doctor Who 9.11: Heaven Sent

Doctor Who 9.11: Heaven Sent

Written By:
Steven Moffat
Directed By:
Rachel Talalay

After the reveal in “The Day of the Doctor” that Gallifrey was saved and waiting to be found, fans have been waiting (more or less) patiently for that plot point to be resolved.  And now that time has come, and it comes as the payoff for one of the more memorable episodes of the Modern Era.  It’s difficult, it’s confusing, and it apparently ages The Doctor to a degree that is ridiculous even by Moffatt standards.  But it’s also brilliant. 

Linking the return to Gallifrey to the confession dial was an interesting concept, as was the confession dial’s nature itself.  Some will balk at the notion that this is the connective thread of the ninth series, and I would agree; that honor goes instead to Clara’s self-destructive choices and this is the complementary aspect for The Doctor.  His confession regarding his true reason for leaving Gallifrey, regarding his supposed identity as “the hybrid”, and so forth is really just tripling down on the fact that loneliness is eating him alive.

I almost wanted Ashildr to end up being “the hybrid”, because in retrospect, her creation and opposition to The Doctor delivers him to this situation.  It would have also tied “the hybrid” story arc a little more completely to Clara’s swan song, because saving Ashildr was thematically tied to The Doctor’s fears about being alone and losing people.  Whatever the case, there may be other ties to Classic Era continuity that were seen to take precedence.    

I’m speaking of course of “The Veil”, the creature that haunts him throughout his imprisonment and forces him to confess his deepest, darkest secrets.  It’s a name that is curiously similar to a certain incarnation of The Doctor’s dark side, namely The Valeyard, introduced during the “Trial of a Time Lord” saga in the Sixth Doctor era.  The Valeyard was also referenced during “The Name of the Doctor”, when the Great Intelligence said that it was a name by which The Doctor would go by at some point.  Is this all coming together, as “the hybrid” arrives to bring Gallifrey to ruin?

That may all be fan-wank speculation, but even if it doesn’t pan out, this was a veritable tour-de-force for Capaldi.  His incarnation and portrayal of The Doctor is not for everyone, but for his fans, this was amazing.  The entire episode was hinged on the consistency and passion of his performance, and if there was any doubt that he is putting all of himself into the role, this episode should lay that to rest.  

This is The Doctor’s meditation on death and mortality, which as mentioned, is the perfect counterpoint to Clara’s growing sense of recklessness.  The Doctor may not do well on his own, but he’s not the first (and won’t be the last) to experience loss and struggle to find meaning and purpose beyond it.  As with everything, it’s about the choices made in the days after.  And right now, things are not looking good for Gallifrey.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Capaldi delivers in a solo episode that pushed his talents to the limit
  • A masterful meditation on grief, loss, and mortality
The Bad:
  • A little confusing at times

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Doctor Who by - 11/30/2015 10:28 AM173 views

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