First Broadcast December 5th, 2015 @ 8.00pm (6.17m viewers)
In ‘Heaven Sent’ the Doctor struggles to deal with the loss of Clara. Angry, alone and afraid. It is a tense episode which explores grief and mourning with Peter Capaldi delivering a simply stellar performance. However, all that good work is immediately undone as the Doctor finds Clara again. In an American diner of all places. The viewer is therefore brought down with a crushing bump. Fans thrilled at the prospect of the Twelfth Doctor on Gallifrey would be largely left disappointed as the story became all about Clara.
The companion is a crucial part of Doctor Who and important for viewer identification and understanding. However, when the show becomes all about the companion it sidelines The Doctor, your leading man. Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of The Doctor gone mad is riveting to watch. His confrontation with Rassilon is electric. As was the trend for the whole of Series 9 there were no big action set pieces just dialogue heavy acting lessons. On many occasions, they were a showcase for stunning acting talent but there were no epic space battles for example.
We did however, get to see Gallifrey and it looked incredible. The last mentions of the planet of the Time Lords placed it in a parallel pocket universe. However, at the end of all things it seems to have reappeared so the Sisterhood of Karn can pop by. Explaining that away is conveniently passed over. There were also nice cameos from a Dalek, Cyberman and a Weeping Angel. There was even a new old TARDIS to gasp about.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
This episode saw a gorgeous TARDIS console room appear that was intended to match that used by the First Doctor William Hartnell. On this occasion, it would seen in colour so the console needed to be white. In the studio, it was actually a mint green to stop flaring on the monochrome cameras. The whole set was stunning and evocative. As TARDIS default settings go it was not a bad one. Sadly, this TARDIS was left in the hands of Clara and her new companion Ashildr. The prospect of a woman who apparently couldn’t work iplayer or get wifi to work now being able to pilot a time and space machine was baffling.
Those who shed a tear for Clara’s demise in ‘Face the Raven’ were made to look rather foolish as she not only came back from the dead but continued to live on. Earlier in the series Jenna Coleman played the role of villain as doppelgänger Bonnie. After ‘Hell Bent’ she has become The Doctor proving that her character somehow is capable of filling all the roles on the show. Many mock how Rory Williams kept defying the laws of death but this takes it to another level. With death now being made redundant consistently by Steven Moffat it is difficult to believe any threat in the future.
Consider if new companion Bill is threatened with extermination by a Dalek, a fate which also befell Clara. The fact that The Doctor has found ways to demonstrate that an onscreen death to a companion is, the majority of the time, not really the end waters down the drama. Predictably Clara also survived an onscreen extermination. Whilst I am not campaigning for ‘Game of Thrones’ style blood baths, death has to mean something for gripping drama. ‘Heaven Sent’ was a fantastic portrayal of grief and loneliness. ‘Hell Bent’ however largely undid all of that good work.
The Doctor – Peter Capaldi
The President – Donald Sumpter
The General – Ken Bones
Female General – T’Nia Miller
Gastron – Malachi Kirby
Ohila – Clare Higgins
The Woman – Linda Broughton
Plump Man – Martin Sherman
Writer – Steven Moffat
Director – Rachel Talalay
Producer – Peter Bennett
Executive – Producer Steven Moffat
Executive – Producer Brian Minchin
Also First Aired On This Day…
- The Dalek Invasion of Earth: Day of Reckoning