The eighth season finale of “Doctor Who” is here, continued from last week. The Master is back, and the dead outnumber the living – which is really bad, because the dead are being turned into Cybermen. Did Danny delete himself? Will Clara ever forgive herself if he did? And how will The Doctor ever stop this evil new regeneration of The Master? Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “Death in Heaven.”
Forget the Daleks, the Cybermen, or even the Weeping Angels – The Master is The Doctor’s most persistent and dangerous foe, his ultimate archenemy, if you will. He was designed to be a Moriarty to The Doctor’s Holmes, an equal in every way, but willing to kill for what he wants. Much like The Doctor with whom he was friends as a child (also like Superman and Lex Luthor), The Master is a renegade Time Lord from Gallifrey. Unlike The Doctor, he is evil and wants only to destroy and to rule. Because of The Doctor’s love of the Earth and the human race, much of The Master’s wrath has been aimed in that direction.
In the past he has been played by Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainsley, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi, and most recently in the new series by John Simm of “Life on Mars.” And now he, ahem, she is being played by Michelle Gomez, who has given the character an intriguing turn while keeping his personality intact. Whereas The Doctor has had to regenerate normally and attain additional lives from the Time Lords, The Master has simply taken them. When we first meet him, he is in his twelfth incarnation – most later bodies have been stolen. As theorized however, since The Doctor himself hit his regeneration limit, the rules may have been fudged.
Now, by whatever means, The Master is back, and female, and calling himself The Mistress, or Missy. She has found a way, through Gallifreyan technology (and through wonderfully and horrifically nostalgic visuals, a la the old school Who episodes “The Invasion” and “Tomb of the Cybermen”) to download Cybermen onto the dead bodies of human beings, effectively harvesting them quicker than the Cybermen themselves have ever done.
Gomez plays The Master to the hilt, taking cues from all her predecessors, and taunting and teasing The Doctor as her plan becomes apparent. On Earth, the dead outnumber the living. That’s quite an army that will eliminate the human race. However will The Doctor stop her, stop them? And the bigger question is – how is it The Doctor missed the machinations of both The Master, sorry, The Mistress, and the Cybermen at work around him? Surely the Peter Capaldi version of The Doctor isn’t that dumb, is he? Unless of course… he’s not The Doctor??
In the opening sequence, Clara is confronted by several Cybermen, and she claims something very special. She has never existed, and that she is, in fact, The Doctor. She can change her form, and has taken on the Clara identity to hide. Sure, it’s a bluff (and an easy bluff, she does know all the pertinent information) to make time for the real Doctor to come and save her (we’re talking about the Peter Capaldi version, so don’t hold your breath, Impossible Girl), but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities, is it?
Showrunner Steven Moffat has played with the idea of a female Doctor before, has he not? There were female actors in the running for Capaldi’s part when he was named. It’s canon that Time Lords can become Time Ladies when they regenerate, hell, the idea is even right here this season with The Mistress. There were wild rumors rampant at one time earlier this year that Peter Capaldi was not actually The Doctor. There could be some trickery with the pocket watch at work. And let’s face it, it would not be the first time Clara has played Doctor.
UNIT to the Rescue
While The Doctor and The Mistress hang out in the street with the invading Cybermen, the human race are starting to make the Christopher Eccleston Doctor proud, talking selfies with the metallic monsters. Surprise, surprise though, it’s not as bad (and we’re not as dumb) as we thought. It’s all a trap by UNIT, led by Kate Stewart, who on arrival mentions that The Doctor is on their payroll. Capaldi wonderfully inquires for how much. By the way, a great drinking game for Who would be, taking a shot at every Scottish joke.
UNIT has been around seemingly forever in the Who-niverse, but rarely used in the new series, at first standing for United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, and now just the Unified Intelligence Taskforce. For decades they were run by The Doctor’s friend through many regenerations, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and now by his daughter, the aforementioned Kate Stewart. One of my favorite characters, Osgood, is a UNIT scientist, who in her previous appearance wore a long multi-colored scarf in homage to The Fourth Doctor, but now wears a bow tie, because, well, “Bow ties are cool.” She needs to be a companion, now. Well, one can hope. Read on.
The Walking Dead
UNIT manages to chase off the Cybermen with seemingly just words, they fly off into the sky and explode. An OCD count numbers a Cyberman for every town and city on Earth, and then as it begins to rain, the plan becomes clear. They are only raining on graveyards, activating their new army, an army of the walking dead, an army of human harvested conquering Cybermen. Cybermen rising from graves. The graveyard visuals homage Night of the Living Dead chillingly. A monster that I never was all that scared of, now is truly worthy of hiding behind the sofa.
And those aren’t the only dead heads walking around. UNIT drugs and takes The Doctor and The Mistress prisoner, the former only to secure his cooperation, and he’s been put in charge. Long story and long line of idiocy there, but apparently he’s now President of Earth. He makes his first mistake in not telling them who Missy is. UNIT knows enough about The Doctor to know, just on a simple name drop, how truly dangerous this woman is. But as is usual, The Capaldi Doctor is sloppy, and it slips his mind.
I loved James Robinson’s brilliant comic book series Starman. It ran for almost a decade and was one of the best comics ever done. I loved it even through a half dozen or so continuity errors that I, king of the fanboys, even overlooked, but there was one thing Robinson did that I hated. In an effort to make one of his villains look badass, he made the character of Nash slaughter the then-membership of the Justice League Europe. It was the murder of good characters, characters who had untapped potential, wiped out simply to make the villain look more dangerous. It was the act of sloppy writing. There are no bad characters, only bad writers.
Speaking of fanboys, Ingrid Oliver’s Osgood is us. She is the ultimate “Doctor Who” fangirl. And that’s why so many of us love her after only one appearance. And then Steven Moffat pulls a James Robinson. Not only does Missy escape her shackles in the airborne UNIT headquarters, but she also kills our girl. Mr. Moffat, yeah, I’m talking directly to you, Osgood was a reason to watch this show, and you killed her, much like the Justice League Europe to prove a point – that The Mistress is badass – something we already knew. Hell, it was something we knew back when John Simm played the character, it was something we all knew when Roger Delgado played him. Shame on you, Moffat.
Clara is saved, not by her bluff (even as she was about to reveal The Doctor’s name, you tease, Moffat, you), but by a renegade Cyberman. As she wanders a graveyard with him, watching new Cybermen rise out of their graves, he reveals himself to her – yeah, it’s Danny, or at least his body. My guess is that his mind is still in the ‘cloud’ over in The Promised Land,’ but we’ll see. He wants Clara to turn him on (get your mind out of the gutter), and make him full Cyberman, so the pain will stop, the pain she caused him.
So Clara does what else when she needs help, she calls The Doctor. He’s got his own problems. Cybermen are attacking the plane, tearing it apart, pulling people out of it. Oh, there goes Kate Stewart. So does Moffat hate UNIT, the fans, or just everything? It’s then, while the TARDIS phone is ringing, with Clara asking for his help that The Mistress makes her big reveal. She gave Clara his phone number, she put them together, she made sure they stayed together. Yes, all along, Clara was a trap.
A Good Soldier
Danny has to die again. Because Clara hurt him so bad. Because The Doctor needs to know the Cybermen’s plan. And because, well, because Clara can obviously only deal with one boyfriend at a time. What gets me angry is that once he’s turned, he doesn’t tell The Doctor anything he didn’t already know. Good thing The Mistress flies down Mary Poppins style to clear things up, in her own demented way.
It’s The Doctor’s birthday, and The Master/Mistress wants her friend back, and to make them better friends, she will prove they’re not all that much different. She gives him a gift, the army of Cybermen. Now he can do all the things he’s wanted to do – save the earth, protect the human race, defeat his enemies, all that stuff. It’s epiphany time. All this time, now an answer, no, The Doctor is not a good man… but Danny Pink is a good soldier, and he saves the human race.
A Good Man
I wasn’t too broken up over that, over Danny’s sacrifice for us all, or that The Mistress is seemingly destroyed after revealing the location of Gallifrey. It still being around kinda implies The Master might yet regenerate again. What got me, what almost put me in tears was that Kate Stewart was found alive, rescued by a Cyberman. Yeah, another Cyberman brought to life from the grave – Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, returning to save the day in its darkest hour. If only someone could have similarly saved Osgood.
There is someone who does get saved however, two people to be precise. Danny finds a way to come back from the other side, one person, one trip. He sends back the boy he accidentally killed in combat. And now we know who the real good man is. Just curious though, if he’s dead, where does time traveler Orson Pink come from… is Clara pregnant?
The Liars Club
The Doctor and Clara get together at the coffee shop for one more break-up, both of them lying their asses off. She leads him to believe Danny is back, and of course he’s none too bright enough to know she’s fibbing. And he tells her that he’s found Gallifrey, right where The Mistress said it would be. It’s not. They are so much alike. The Doctor lies, The Master lies, Clara lies.
When Nick Frost as Santa shows up in the end, the Christmas Special teaser that breaks the lonely Doctor out of his melancholy, I for one think he doesn’t deserve a present. Can’t wait to see more of Nick though.