And so the latest season of Doctor Who draws to a close.
Compared against any season in the show’s history, this has more than held its own in terms of quality, but especially after how poor Matt Smith’s final season – excluding the late 2013 specials – was, it just seems all the better.
Still, if you’ll recall, the last review I did wasn’t exactly favourable.
Following a run of six quality stories in a row, they hit a brick wall with In the Forest of the Night.
So my hope was that the season would reclaim its consistency in the two-part finale, Dark Water & Death In Heaven.
Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: What’s This One About?
The Master is back…and she’s a woman now!
And the Cybermen are back, and they don’t say much!!
And Danny Pink dies!!!
And Clara Leaves!!!!
Or Does She??????
And The Brigadier makes a comeback from beyond the grave!!!!!
Oh Em Gee!!!!!!!!
Thoughts – Storylines Wrapped Up, Even When They Didn’t Make Sense
It’s always a good thing to wrap up a story-arc, and to Steven Moffat’s credit, he did that on every count with this story.
Whether it was the mystery of Missy, the bits about dead people, the “Who left the ad in the paper/Who gave Clara the number” stuff, the “Am I A Good Man” question, the Danny Pink/Clara story or even giving a fitting send-off to a character whose actor died a few
years ago, this two-parter managed it.
And I liked that.
I especially liked the end to Danny Pink’s story. It was quite a shock at the beginning of Dark Water when he was killed off, but everything that followed it made sense to me, and the way he managed to save the day not only suited the writing of his character, but it also settled his issues with the Doctor and Clara. Powerful stuff.
No, Danny’s character and the romance storyline is not to everyone’s liking, but hey, that’s just tough. It appeals to me as much as the other elements of the show, but it’ll also appeal to people who are less interested in elements like the Cybermen.
Meanwhile, though it may be a bit cheesy, and though it may also not make a huge amount of sense that one Cyberman evaded Danny Pink’s orders, it was still a powerful moment to see the Doctor – and the viewer – get a chance to salute and say goodbye to the Brigadier. That was more emotional than it had every right to be.
But if I was to criticise anything about the wrapping up of story-arcs, it would be the one about how Missy had engineered it so that Clara and the Doctor would come together. Maybe I’m just missing something obvious, but I don’t think it was explained all that well. Yes, she did it, but why? Who knows.
And speaking of Missy…
A Female Master: Does It Set A Precedent?
First off, in spite of her suddenly becoming Scottish in the second episode when she wasn’t in the first, I thought that Michelle Gomez was excellent.
Unlike the terrible John Simms, she managed to combine being amusing with a large dollop of menace, and unlike any actor to play the part since Roger Delgado, she actually made the Master seem multi-layered and likeable.
But should she be a woman?
Well on the one hand, why not? It’s never been explicitly stated on TV that a Time Lord can’t change gender through regeneration. Indeed it’s been quite the reverse.
From an equal opportunities sense, why shouldn’t a woman be able to take on a role and make it her own, if she’s good enough?
But on the other hand, what it does is set a precedent. If the Master can become female then why not the Doctor? That’s what the tabloids have been after since the 1980s.
Well call me sexist if you like – even though I don’t think I am being – but I’d rather the Doctor didn’t become a woman.
I mean, I don’t think he ever will, because ultimately any casting of a female in the title role would be seen as gimmicky hot-shotting, but even beyond that, it just wouldn’t feel right.
It’s not wrong to say that the character of the Doctor is male, and that the dynamic of male Doctor, female companion works. Why change it?
The Cybermen: Best Seen But Not Heard
Meanwhile, the Cybermen are back.
When I heard that the finale would be a two-part story involving them I groaned with anguish. Why?!
But to be fair, they were well handled here.
First of all, despite I think everyone watching knowing fine it was them in the dark water, it was written and handled with the right amount of pacing so that it still had the entertainment factor.
In the second episode, they were used the only way I think they can be these days – as silent back-up to a more charismatic villain.
In the 70s and 80s, the Cybermen only worked when they went against type. You all know I love the Christopher Robbie Cyber Leader, and have a soft spot for David Banks’ efforts too, but with the way the Cybermen are presented these days, that sort of character could never make a comeback.
So instead, Moffat went with Tobias Vaughn/Invasion Cybermen dynamic and presented them as mostly non-speaking background foot soldiers.
That worked better.
And let’s hope that’s an end to them for a long time, with the only exception being if they come back as Tenth Planet ones.
That would be awesome.
The Supposedly Offensive Subject Matter
I couldn’t believe it when I read that people had complained to the BBC about the subject matter of Dark Water.
Apparently, some viewers found the notion of the afterlife being presented as a con, while people from beyond the grave praying that they aren’t going to be cremated was deemed upsetting and offensive.
Give me a break.
The sort of people who do that just make me shake my head.
It’s a TV show. It’s fiction. Please take that piece of information in.
I’ve never understood how people can be so moved by a TV show that they feel they have to complain.
What is it I’m missing? Is it that some people are so entrenched in their beliefs of the uncertain (for that is what an afterlife is) that they can’t accept anyone having a differing opinion, or is it that by questioning it, it makes them question themselves and they don’t like it.
Either way it’s just bloody stupid. It’s like people who get scared by horror movies. The bad man with the knife is not coming out of the TV to get you, you fools.
- Killing off Osgood was a bit of a shocker, but I liked it. What it did was give Missy some level of credibility, and it added some uncertainty as to the outcomes of the other incidental characters.
- And I was more surprised that they killed off Kate, until I realised they hadn’t.
- The Doctor’s freefall into the TARDIS was more than a little bit ridiculous, but it was still also fun.
- And his line on the plane to Missy about how she’s always wanted to rule the world, and he managed it without even trying was fantastic.
- I hope the long running references to the Doctor being the General of his own army now get rested for a few years.
- Not only was it poor form for the Next Time trailer after In the Forest of the Night to include a scene from an episode two weeks later, but the “I’ve never been Clara Oswald” stuff was a total bait and switch.
- Chris Addison is a bit of an over-actor, let’s be honest.
- Clara, meanwhile comes across as a certifiable nutter at the start. I accept she was grief-stricken but what she planned on doing to the Doctor at the volcano was poor form.
- And wouldn’t they be sweating a bit more if they were at a volcano? Ok, I know that they weren’t, but at one point we were supposed to believe they were.
- Danny being a Cyberman was something I didn’t expect to see, but I liked it.
- When Clara told him – without realising who he was – that the Doctor was the one she trusted more than anyone, it was a sad moment.
- And by the way, having the camera zoom in on the name in his hand was unnecessary for anyone with a brain and reasoning skills.
- Probably the funniest moment over the course of both episodes was the bit where you hear the scream of someone who has left their body to science.
- I think we know that this is not the end for Clara, but even so, if it was, that would have been a nice way for her to go. Ultimately, she’s not going to be in the show for too much longer you wouldn’t have thought, so that would have been a nice point for her to bow out.
- Does the Doctor still keep a spare key in David Tennant’s coat?
- I don’t get why Dr Chang said something nice to Missy when she said “I’ll only kill you when you say something nice”. Why not tell her to piss off and then leave? Surely the worst that could happen was already going to happen?
- Why didn’t Clara hear a crash or any sort of noise when Danny got hit by the car?
- The notion that the Cybermen could turn the dead into more Cybermen is hokey, but I can live with it. It certainly made for some good visuals.
- If the Cyberman had said “Nice to see you again” before shooting Missy, I’d have loved it.
- I would have preferred it if Missy had turned out to be either Susan or Romana. They could have made that make sense easily.
- Yay, it’s Santa Claus
- Noooooooo, he’s played by Nick Frost.
Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: Final Thoughts
You could argue that the resolution of this episode is slightly anticlimactic, but when you build up a threat as big as the one in this story, I suppose it was always going to be.
So I don’t consider that a problem.
Indeed, I thought this was a fine story, and one of the best finales to a Doctor Who season in a long time.
The absolute best? No, probably not. Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways and The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End probably pip this, mainly because the emotional impact centred around characters bigger and better than Danny Pink, but it was still very good.
Even the Cybermen were used well, and that’s saying something.
Roll on Christmas, I look forward to seeing what happens next.
Peter Capaldi’s First Season: Final Thoughts
So there you go, a season with 11 stories and only two of them were what I would consider to be poor.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Steven Moffat has turned things around and has done a great job this year.
But what of the star of the show?
I think I speak for almost everyone – because there are bound to be some people out there who disagree – when I say that Peter Capaldi has been nothing short of excellent.
Playing a different kind of Doctor than we’ve ever seen, he’s been a breath of fresh air for the show.
I’ll lay my cards on the table now and say it; based upon these performances, Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor.
And as I write this and prepare to release my second Stuart Reviews Doctor Who book, I think it’s superb that we’re in a situation now where 51 years into the show’s existence, it’s got its best ever leading man in the title role.
Will his stories make him the highest rated in terms of that? You’ll have to read my rankings to find that out. But even if they don’t; even if there are Doctors out there whose stories are more consistently high on my list, that doesn’t change the notion in my eyes that he’s the best one we’ve ever had.
Long may he reign.
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Look Out For the New Book
Finally, with this season coming to an end, I’ll shortly be releasing my second book, which will contain all the reviews from Rose to Death In Heaven. It’ll also include my rankings of every Dr Who story from the start.