Doctor Who: Heaven Sent Series 9 Episode 11 Review
Well, that was intense wasn’t it? Heaven Sent was a remarkably well built up “build up” episode, leading into next week’s series finale Hell Bent. I’m even more excited for the finale than I was for this week’s episode because there are still so many questions left unanswered.
At the end of the last episode (Face the Raven) the Doctor was transported to parts unknown, by party or parties unknown, immediately after witnessing Clara’s death. Alone. Saddened. Angry. Scared. The Doctor is without his best friend and being chased by a monster throughout a mysterious mechanized and moving castle. The monster is known as “The Veil” and the Doctor says he knows what it is, or that he’s seen it before (sorry, I’m very tired tonight and haven’t had a chance to re-watch the episode, so some things may be fuzzy). The Veil shambles very slowly after the Doctor, who has timed it’s pace and knows how far away to draw it so he can rest or eat or plan his next move in relative safety. The mystery deepens as the Doctor discovers the vague clues that will hopefully lead him from this prison that has been designed specifically to frighten him. It seems the only things that will stop the Veil from advancing upon him are truths. On his first face to face meeting with it, the Doctor confesses that he is scared of dying, and that stops the creature. Throughout the episode the Doctor will confess more things to stop the Veil, some personal, some just general secrets; but all the while he’s narrating away to the absent Clara.
I’m not going to go into everything that happened, I’m not going to recap scene by scene how the Doctor solved the mysteries (or even if he did), suffice it to say that through a series of tests the Doctor finds himself at a wall made of Azbantium, a material stronger than diamond and ten feet thick (or something like that) that he punches and punches, breaking his hand, causing him pain until the Veil is finally upon him. Instead of one last confession he tells the Veil a story, one from the Brothers Grimm, about The Shepherd Boy: According to The Brothers Grimm, there was this emperor and he asks the shepherd boy: How many seconds in eternity? And the shepherd boy says there's this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it, and an hour to go around it. Every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed. You must think that's a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that's a hell of a bird.
The Doctor does just that. Each room in his prison (except the final trap room) resets itself each night, so the Doctor realizes that there is a version of himself from when he first arrived stored in the hard drive of the teleport. After punching the wall a few times, the Veil kills him, but Time Lords are notoriously hard to kill. Even when regeneration fails, it still takes them days to die, so the dying Doctor crawls back to the teleport, hooks himself up and triggers the mechanism, bringing a brand new version of himself back to play the game again. A game he plays for a billion years until the wall is finally broken. At that moment a brilliant light shines through the hole in the wall, shattering the Veil and dropping it into a clockwork pile of scrap and the Doctor steps through. The rift he used collapses, and he’s cut off from the teleporter, the castle, and stuck out in a desert it appears. The rift has turned into a small disc — his confession dial, which we see close on the miniature castle. He turns to see a small boy who he tells to run to the city and find somebody important; tell them that he’s back and he knows what they did, and that he’s on his way, and if they ask who he is tell them he’s had to take the long way ’round. The camera pans out and we see the city. The Doctor is on Gallifrey. He gives us one last line before the close though, that the hybrid is not half Dalek, nothing is half Dalek, that the hybrid that is destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in it’s ruins is him.
•As if it needs to be said, Capaldi. His performance was great. Again. It was effectively a one man show tonight, and he shone, showing again why he is such an excellent Doctor.
• A great mix of suspense, fear, and still some heart as he deals with the death of Clara.
•I’m sure there are things to nitpick at, like how come the Azbantium wall room doesn’t reset and rebuild the wall? But overall I couldn’t find much not to like.
• I’ve really enjoyed this season so far, and after seeing the trailer for the finale I certainly hope they don’t screw it up!
• I’m nervous about next week…..if the Doctor is “the Hybrid” will this incorporate line from the Paul McGann/Eighth Doctor movie where he revealed to the Master that he was half human on his mother’s side? It might make some sense as the trailer describes the Hybrid coming from two warrior races, and who could be more war like than we humans? I know Moffat likes to meddle and tamper with the history of the show, but that is one part I chose to forget. I actually remember reading a Doctor Who comic book where they effectively retconned that out, when the Doctor mentioned tricking someone by lying and saying he was half human.
•This episode was written by showrunner Steven Moffat, whose stories I really didn’t enjoy the last several years. This season though, he’s been very good. Maybe back in the form that made him probably my favourite writer of the Russel T. Davies era. Could it be that I wasn’t really a Moffat hater, but a Matt Smith/Eleventh Doctor hater?