Before I say anything, have a look at the score I give this episode right at the end of the piece. Then, read the rest of it, knowing what you know, okay? Because you are probably going to think I hate it. Especially after this next bit . .
There were a couple of things that really wound me up about “Heaven Sent”. Niggly things.
For example, I couldn’t work out why Clara’s portrait was described as being very old and showed signs of age when each of the rooms regenerated to a state of newness a the end of each cycle. . . . and for that matter, that diamond wall? Why didn’t that regenerate, too? That should have been a Sisyphean task, not a Grimm one.
The location wasn’t a surprise, either. All that ‘a prison made especially for me stuff’? What’s more of a prison that your past? And with all the twisting cogs, and dials in the castle, it was obviously the confession dial. It was an obvious clue
“Home” . . . what kind of anticlimax would that have been if it was the Tardis? Obviously Gallifrey. And then to the burnt orange skies….
Here was a moment there, just before the great reveal, where I was getting a bit bored. They may have been the point, the endless stretching out of an idea . . . but does point to a well known Moffattism. You’ve got a great forty fives minute episode, so why not give it ten extra minutes of filler? He seems to make a habit of running out of steam on extended episodes.
And… that was kind of it for negativity, really.
Capaldi was stunning and director Rachel Talalay managed to wring a staggering performance from him. Talalay was last seen directing Dark Water/Death in Heaven in season eight. Despite being excellent for 5/6 of the episode, directing Death in Heaven must have been a thankless task, what with that horrendous elongated static end scene. But here, with a far, far better script, she excels.
The conceit was excellent and it’s good to see the format of the show being stretched. We’ve seen Doctor-lite and companion-lite episodes before, but never one where the Doctor is, barring fleeting glimpses, alone. That’s quite an innovation for Doctor Who. Innovation and change is pretty much the hallmark of Doctor Who. I mean, sometimes it simply doesn’t work, as in ‘Sleep No More’, but kudos for trying.
The villain, if it was a villain, was suitably creepy. For some reason it made me think of The Valeyard (a dark incarnation of The Doctor from the lamentable “Trial of a Timelord”). Was The Veil just a manifestation and anthropomorphisation of his hubris?
The realisation that the story was one giant ellipse, surprisingly, didn’t feel cheesy in the slightest. Perhaps this is because I was never quite sure as to whether it was actually happening. With the narrative stopping at crucial moments to allow the Doctor take stock, assess the situation and come up with a game plan, it seemed to increase the dream state/unreality of the situation. I also got this uneasy feeling that the ‘dream state’ and ‘unconventional camera angles’ might be related to ‘Sleep No More’ in some way . . . is it really all a dream? Is Clara really dead? Did they ever really escape from the Dream Spiders and was ‘Old Lady Clara’ really her ending? Probably not, but speculation is fun!
And then there is the Hybrid. Signalled quite loudly throughout the series. The Doctor Says “I am the Hybrid”. Two great warrior races combined and bigger than both? But the Doctor is a Timelord; a Gallifreyan. Not a hybrid. That makes no sense at all! Well, not unless you take notice of McGann’s Doctor, who claims to be half human on his Mother’s side. Could be nonsense of course, and probably is, but you never know. Moffatt has embraced McGann’s Doctor before. He may do so again. This Human/Timelord thing makes me wonder it we will see The Woman in White again, too.
More of this quality, please.