Sunday, 29 November 2015

Review: Doctor Who 9.11: Heaven Sent

The Doctor loses himself in the Time Lord castle.
Back in 1977, upon the departure of Sarah Jane Smith, Tom Baker asked the writers of Doctor Who to allow him to do an entire story without a companion. That story was The Deadly Assassin, and if we're including the various temporary companions popular here and there, that was the last time The Doctor went without a companion. I was a little concerned that 55 minutes of Capaldi wandering around by himself might be a little trying, but I needn't have worried - the man is an acting giant, and he single-handedly carries this bizarre thought experiment through to its glorious, glorious end. Spoilers follow, as usual.
      Teleported to a mysterious castle by Mayor Me in the previous episode, The Doctor is stalked by The Veil, a creature ripped from his childhood nightmares. As he runs through the castle's changing rooms, he discovers that the only way to stop the creature is to tell the truth - specifically, to confess the secret behind the Hybrid, the legendary breeding of two warrior races that caused The Doctor to leave Gallifrey. He eventually comes across the TARDIS encased in diamond, and realises what he must do - the rooms of the castle reset themselves, and so upon The Doctor's death he can bring another version of himself in from the past to chip away at the diamond, a little bit at a time. Over a period of two billion years this continues, until The Doctor finally escapes and finds himself on Gallifrey, angry, and a stone's throw away from the Great Citadel.    
     You know how I go off on one about Moffat and his use of time loops, but for once this felt like a working part of the story which developed Twelve's character and continued a theme of anger and persistence, held together by a repeated line stated by Twelve every single time he "appears" once more - I'm going to find you, and I'm never going to stop. Instead of being corny or trite, there was some actual consistency to the rules of the episode's temporal skulduggery, soaked in tragedy and loss and creating a delightfully dark tone which the series has been striving for for a long, long time under Moffat's reign. It's also been pointed out online that this episode works as something as an extended metaphor for Moffat's episode-writing process - we get to see The Doctor's thoughts as he works out how to survive each deadly encounter, and as he works out that the creature is trying to scare him. Obviously I would have asked to look into the mind of a better writer, but it really is quite interestingly (and for once competently) done.
500 billion iterations of The Doctor chip away at this diamond.
That's committment for you.
      The time loop does mean that we can only really look at what this episode brought going forward, and hoo boy, that's some fun stuff. Clara's sparse appearances of a figment of The Doctor's imagination were expected but not too distracting, and I'm glad that the show is pressing through the fact that yes, Moffat actually let a character die, even if it's unfortunate that the only reason she's dead is to give Twelve character development. The end of the episode, with The Doctor looking out towards Gallifrey's Great Citadel and declaring that "The Hybrid is Me" left open some interesting possibilities - seeing new Time Lords again, the fact that Mayor Me is working with them, and the ambiguous capitalisation on that last word which will hopefully tie together this season into a fairly satisfying conclusion.


NEXT WEEK: Time Lords! TARDISES! Gallifrey! Wouldn't be surprised if The Master turned up either. But Mayor Me definitely is. The Doctor is Hell Bent.

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