Doctor Who – Heaven Sent Review (or ‘Three Cheers For The Slow Build’)

After last week’s rant about spoilers, I’m pleased to report that I managed to sit down to watch this latest episode – Heaven Sent – without key plot points being ruined in advance.

Yay.

Of course, I had to be vigilant. Apart from the BBC’s own press releases, there are also these terrible attention seekers – and there are a good few of them – who have (or at least say they have) access to the BBC’s preview website and love to ‘drop hints’, like retweeting people who ask them questions like “Will this happen?” and answering “I couldn’t possibly comment”. And then on top of that there are the people who look to retweet those retweets as well.

They can do it if they want of course do that if they want, and I don’t have to follow them. So let’s just say that there were a few people muted on Twitter this week…

On that note, I was asked recently – as a Doctor Who blogger with a reasonable following – if I’d be interested in getting access to the BBC’s preview hub, but I wouldn’t. I like to watch the shows when they are broadcast, and I like to be able to review the episodes freely. Let’s be honest; the BBC won’t want someone to do a preview or review of an episode that says ‘That was shite’, will they?

But anyway, let’s move on from that and get on with the review.

Doctor Who – Heaven Sent Review: What’s This One About?

The Doctor wanders around his own personal hell for a while.

Thoughts – The Slow Build

Ok, back to spoilers for a moment…

My brother – who can’t seem to help himself when it comes to accidentally spoiling TV stuff for me before getting all defensive and saying “That’s not really a spoiler” – did say to me a few weeks ago that one

The Doctor realises "Where did I get the soup?"

The Doctor realises “Where did I get the soup?”

episode of this season would be a single-hander, where Peter Capaldi would be the only one in it for the duration.

So after a few minutes watching Heaven Sent, I remembered that.

And I was concerned.

It would take some pretty impressive writing and acting to be able to pull something like that off successfully and though it’s been done before – most famously in a superlative episode of One Foot in the Grave – there was no guarantee it would work.

Furthermore, considering the time slot and the level of expectation that always seems to surround the show, it seemed like a big risk to take.

And for the first ten of fifteen minutes I wasn’t too impressed. The pace was slow and the scenes with the Doctor talking to himself in the TARDIS in his own mind seemed expository.

Slowly but surely though, it built up, with little hints being dropped early on leading to the fantastic reveal that the skulls were his own and he’d been dying and repeating the cycle over and over again for 7,000 years.

That’s a great twist. I mean…really great. The sort of twist that makes you think back to everything that’s happened so far that you didn’t register fully and think “Oh so that’s what that meant!”.

Had that been spoiled for me in advance I’d have been raging.

From there, the way it showed that he kept repeating the process over and over again over the course of a couple of billion years to break down that wall of Azbantium was full of drama and emotion and until eventually…eventually…he broke through.

And what was on the other side of the wall labelled ‘Home’? The TARDIS? No, it’s Gallifrey.

Superb.

I saw it coming, but unlike last week’s spoilers, I didn’t know it was coming (even though I heard afterwards that the BBC revealed it in a trailer, the daft bastards) and therefore it was far more rewarding for me as

Watching the opening scene again knowing what this red hand means is allows for a different viewing experience.

Watching the opening scene again knowing what this red hand means is allows for a different viewing experience.

a viewer.

So yes, there’s no doubt that this episode was pulled off spectacularly. It was a masterpiece of writing from the inconsistent Steven Moffat and indeed of performance from Peter Capaldi, who was able to carry 55 minutes of TV almost entirely on his own.

Random Observations

  • The only other Doctor I could imagine starring in this would be Sylvester McCoy. Couldn’t you? Certainly I don’t think it would suit the likes of David Tennant, although that’s not a criticism of him.
  • And speaking of Tennant – and indeed going off on a tangent – if you haven’t seen Marvel’s Jessica Jones then you should rectify that immediately. He’s exceptional in it.
  • The incidental music was a change from the norm; something different from the usual Murray Gold output, and I’m happy with that. It did sound like an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe though.
  • I knew we hadn’t seen the last of Clara, and I imagine there will inevitably be a scene with her next week too.
  • You could argue that by appearing, she takes away from the notion that this is a single hander. But at the same time, it advanced the plot. As far as I know this wasn’t an episode built around the gimmick that it only involved Peter Capaldi, so there was no reason for her not to be there.
  • While there’s a chance this episode might have less appeal on second or third viewing, I think it’ll just have a different style of viewing experience. For example, you’ll watch the first scene again and realise exactly what’s going on. I like that.
  • One question though; where did he get the food?

Doctor Who – Heaven Sent Review: Final Thoughts

 

Heaven Sent was a change from the norm; a brave idea that could so easily have gone wrong.

But it didn’t.

It was – as I’ve already said, but I’m happy to repeat again – superb.

More of the same quality next week please.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 

 

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One Response to Doctor Who – Heaven Sent Review (or ‘Three Cheers For The Slow Build’)

  1. Slavin says:

    Oh, yes! Absolutely brilliant! Most important was that the Doctor’s death wasn’t a cheat IMO.
    Can’t wait for next week!
    🙂

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