Doctor Who season finale recap: 'Death in Heaven'
The Doctor goes head-to-head with Missy and her army of the Cyberdead.
Well, it’s time. The end is upon us in more ways than one. The end of Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor, the end of the Missy story arc over it, and the end of the world. Standard fare for any Doctor Who season finale, but it’s always exciting. This one is no exception. In fact, this may just be the best season finale in a long time thanks to it shying away from the perpetually escalating Dragonball Z-like END OF THE WORLD! situations that plagued the Davies era of season finales and also keeping from Moffat’s tendency for deus ex machina through confusing means in his season finales. That’s not to say this is a particularly clean finale (Doctor Who has always had some pretty big issues with their finales) but it’s sure to satisfy more than any other in recent memory.
The episode jumps right into the action where we last left off, with Clara stuck in the office with a Cyberman. The infamous “Clara Oswald has never existed” line that many have been excitedly rumoring over is used here as Clara attempts to convince the Cyberman that she is the Doctor in an effort to save herself.
Outside the mausoleum, which just so happens to be St. Paul’s Cathedral, citizens everywhere gather around the army of Cybermen standing at attention as if they’re tourist attractions. Posing with them, taking pictures, yammering excitedly. Missy, enjoying it, even offers to take a selfie with the Doctor using her smartphone/murder device thing. A young woman with a bow tie (“Nice bow tie,” says the Doctor) offers to take the picture for Missy since selfies are never as good, snatching the deadly device out of Missy’s hands. But, as we all know, this Doctor is not very good with faces otherwise he would have recognized the woman—it’s Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), UNIT’s brilliant young scientist.
Osgood gives the signal and every civilian around pulls out a gun and readies their weapons on the Cybermen as Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), UNIT commander and the Brigadier’s daughter, appears on the scene. It turns out everyone there was a member of UNIT and are equipped with weapons capable of taking out the Cybermen. But, uh, they fly away. Nobody was expecting that, least of all UNIT who don’t even try to shoot the Cybermen down. Not a single shot.
St. Paul’s roof opens and more Cybermen fly out. One flies straight up and explodes into a large black cloud. Missy reveals that there were 91 Cybermen in all—enough for every major town and city in the United Kingdom. And there are more emerging from every corner of the Earth so that they can create these clouds all over the world.
Back in the Nethersphere, Danny has been delayed in deleting his self by the presence of the young boy he had killed in his soldiering days. They watch with Seb as the Nethersphere shuts down, sending all the minds stored back into the Cybermen bodies because, as it turns out, this wasn’t really the afterlife. It was more of a net that caught the dearly departing. Meanwhile, outside the cathedral, Missy is curiously unrestrained before both she and the Doctor are tranquilized. UNIT really needs to get their head in the game, letting a prisoner wander free like that. Before the Doctor passes out, he tells Osgood to guard the graveyards.
We see why quickly: The clouds start raining exclusively in the graveyards. We see some of the water bubble up and enter a morgue where a Cyberman wakes up on a table. It sees itself in a mirror and reaches up to touch its faceplate. It grabs the autopsy sheet on the table revealing its identity: Danny Pink.
NEXT: Air Force Twelve
The Doctor wakes up in a hangar, quite angry, saying that the Brigadier would have never done that. Kate counters saying that given the Doctor’s necessity and unreliability, that’s exactly what he would have done. On board the plane, the Doctor finds himself in an elaborate operation room overlooked by a portrait of the Brigadier. Oh, and he’s told he’s now the President of Earth with complete authority over every nation, the main authority of every military force on earth, and “the Chief Executive Officer of the human race.” Between that and the setting, it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect Gary Oldman to pop up in the episode with a Russian accent.
Back in St. Paul’s, Clara is still trying to convince a group of Cybermen that she is the Doctor until one of the Cybermen knocks out Clara and then destroys the others. Missy, meanwhile, wakes up in the plane’s cargo hold facing the Doctor. She reveals that she knows where Gallifrey is and that she will not tell the Doctor because it’s fun for her to watch him squirm. As the Doctor turns to leave, he stops to talk to Osgood, who, for some reason, is stationed to take apart the iMurder right next to Missy. UNIT really is not very good at this whole taking prisoners thing.
Osgood is the only one to figure out that Missy is the Master, so, before the Doctor leaves the cargo hold, he drops a heavy hint that he’d like Osgood to be his companion. The scene ends with a shot of Missy starting to undo her handcuffs. Apparently the two guards standing behind her, with the sole task of making sure she doesn’t do that, don’t notice. These are easily the two most useless guards ever.
Clara wakes up in a graveyard where Cybermen are climbing out of graves like it’s Dawn of the Metallic Dead. Why Danny chose that place is anyone’s guess. Maybe his sense of good and bad ideas are reversed in that Cyberman body. The Doctor only realizes then what 3W was for: creating the concept of the afterlife in order to effectively steal the dead and turn them into Cybermen. Why he didn’t realize that immediately at the end of “Dark Water” is a bit odd.
Even stranger is that one of the UNIT heads mentions that they were only at St. Paul’s Cathedral that day because they were tipped off by a woman with a Scottish accent. Considering that there’s only one woman around with a Scottish accent and she just so happens to be the person they arrested as the cause for this world-ending situation, one would expect this fact to ring the biggest freakin’ alarm bells in the world. Nobody makes the connection. Seriously, what is wrong with UNIT?
Back in the hold, Missy seems to be fondly remembering The Dark Knight as she goes into full Joker mode. She playfully lures Osgood over with the promise of impressing the Doctor (Osgood, it should be said, verbally notes that Missy has two armed guards standing behind her ready to put her down if she acts out). When Osgood gets close, Missy tells Osgood that she will be killed in a minute. For the fun of it, of course.
As Osgood goes back to her table a few feet away, Missy tells Osgood to look in her pockets where she pulls out Missy’s handcuffs. Missy stops to reapply her lipstick… while those two useless guards do nothing but stare off in the distance. And then, somehow, she instantly teleports behind Osgood and takes the poor woman hostage. She disposes of the guards with her deadly smartphone thing before disintegrating poor Osgood with it as well. Moffat has been watching Joss Whedon’s stuff, clearly. It’s hard not to be angry with how inept UNIT has been this episode. But, as a small comfort, it does seem that Missy is quite jealous of how Osgood won the Doctor’s approval.
NEXT: An army for the ages
Cybermen come to attack the plane, causing the Doctor to notice that Missy has gotten loose. He confronts her in the cargo hold. Clara finally finds the Cyberman Danny, to whom she unwittingly gives a rather supportive speech about the Doctor. When Danny reveals himself to Clara he begs her to turn on his emotional inhibitors because he does not want to live with the pain anymore. Missy reveals to the Doctor that she set up Clara with the Doctor in the first place—that she was “the woman in the shop” and the one who put the ad in the newspaper back in “Deep Breath.”
Clara calls the TARDIS phone and tells the Doctor what’s going on with Danny. As the Cybermen rip apart the plane, Kate runs back to the cargo hold where Missy decides to blow open a gigantic part of the wall. Kate gets sucked out into the sky, upsetting the Doctor greatly. Missy teleports away and leaves the Doctor to fend for himself.
Missy and Seb watch from the Nethersphere as the Doctor falls through the sky. Seb goes absolutely fangirlish as the Doctor goes back to the James Bond mode we saw in the first episode, skydiving with skill toward the TARDIS. Missy offhandedly disintegrates Seb for his annoying excitement (but don’t worry much, he was actually an AI anyway). The Doctor travels to the graveyard to stop Clara from turning Danny into a full Cyberman, where he tries to convince Danny not to let go of his emotions and turn into a Cyberman. But Danny tells the Doctor that, in order to get the information necessary to save the world, Danny has to turn into a full Cyberman to access the hivemind.
The Doctor is, of course, upset about having to turn someone into a Cyberman in order to save everyone and has something of a breakdown about it. Danny, for some reason, turns into a bit of a jackass as he goads the Doctor for leaving Clara to deactivate his emotions instead of realizing that the Doctor is simply incapable of it and Clara has always been more of an officer than the Doctor. In fact, she just told the Doctor to “do as you’re told.” Regardless, Danny and Clara say their tearful goodbyes as Danny loses his emotions. Cyberman Danny tells the Doctor and Clara that the rain will fall and there is no way to stop it.
Missy appears and begins to try to remove Clara as she has every other woman in the Doctor’s life so far. She really is a jealous one. The Doctor grabs the deadly device and throws it away. Clara, unnoticed, picks it up and embraces Cyberman Danny closely. Missy starts giving commands into a bracelet and the Cyberman all follow her instructions to… dance about and give flight directions. Missy reveals what she has created: an invincible army that thrives off the dead that it creates, endlessly growing more and more powerful. It is an army capable of ruling the entire universe and wholly subservient to the one with that bracelet.
Then she wishes the Doctor a happy birthday and gives him the bracelet, granting him full control of this army. “Armies are for people who think they’re right,” she says, “Nobody thinks they’re righter than you.” She reveals her plan all along was to give the Doctor an army to do anything he wishes, to give him almost unlimited power, so that he can go about imposing his “right” will across all of time and space. And she’s doing it all so that the Doctor will realize that he’s not much different than the Master/Missy at all. She’s destroying the human race and giving the Doctor unlimited amounts of power all because she wants her friend back.
NEXT: An idiot’s journey
The Doctor flashes back to all the moments throughout the season where he struggles with the question about what kind of person he is, what kind of person other people saw him as. Is he a good man? A monster? A liar? A warmonger? A hero? A Dalek? Epiphany strikes him, and he kisses Missy in thanks, almost literally jumping for joy as he realizes what he really is: “I am an idiot! With a box! And a screwdriver!”
He tosses Cyberman Danny the bracelet, telling Missy that she overlooked the one Cyberman who didn’t listen: the soldier who wouldn’t follow orders. Danny has retained his self all along and he takes control of the Cybermen. He sends himself and all the others into the sky where they self-destruct and take out the black clouds over the Earth with their flames.
Missy, defeated, gives the coordinates of Gallifrey to the Doctor. She asks the Doctor to go there with her, excitedly, just wishing to be with him even if she has to be handcuffed. Clara has other ideas and postures to kill Missy with her deadly smartphone. The Doctor realizes that he will have to kill Missy so that Clara will not do it, so he promises it to Clara, and she hands the device over to him. But before he can fire upon a willing Missy, she is blasted by the blue laser of a lone Cyberman that remained in the graveyard.
The Cyberman points them elsewhere and they run over to find Kate, still alive. The Doctor surmises that the lone Cyberman saved Kate. Since the Cybermen are made from the dead on Earth, the Doctor realizes who that Cyberman is: the Brigadier. The Doctor finally salutes the Brigadier in a moment that is sure to bring a tear to any classic Doctor Who fan’s eye and the Brigadier Cyberman flies off.
Later, Clara wakes up in her apartment in the middle of the night to see a white light in her hallway where Danny speaks to her. The bracelet apparently had enough energy to send one person back into the world of the living and Danny uses it on the young boy he killed those years ago, asking Clara to help him find his parents. Seems like Orson Pink has been written out of history, huh?
Some more time later, Clara meets up with the Doctor in a coffee shop where the Doctor tells her that he found Gallifrey exactly where Missy said it was. But he’s lying. At the coordinates was nothing but the emptiness of space. For the first time in this incarnation, we see the Doctor break his calm demeanor and start smashing in the TARDIS’ console.
Back in the present the Doctor assumes that Danny has come back and, as a result, Clara has no time for traveling with him anymore. Clara realizes that it’s better to let him think that and explore his home planet than keep him tied to more troubles. The two seal their goodbyes with a hug and Clara finally asks the Doctor why he doesn’t like them. “Never trust a hug. It’s just a way to hide your face.” Appropriate, as both the Clara and Doctor are hiding devastating secrets from each other and it shows on their faces. Before they part ways, Clara thanks the Doctor for making her feel special. He thanks her for the same.
But wait, what’s that? Someone’s knocking outside the TARDIS door. “You know it can’t end like that,” the voice says. “She’s not alright, you know. And neither are you.” The mysterious figure enters and it’s… Santa Claus. Played by Nick Frost. Yeah, boy!