Doctor Who – Series 9, Episode 11: “Heaven Sent”

  • Ah, that sad moment when only Peter Capaldi’s name appears in the opening credits, lingering a little longer than usual.
  • So we have an episode where the Doctor is not just without a companion, but without any other character besides the Veil, and only himself and an imagining of Clara to talk to. Films and TV episodes like this seem to inspire a special effort from the actors involved – but of course, it needs good writing as well to make a worthwhile story. For one thing, Peter Capaldi pulls off the ‘talking to himself’ part without seeming at all awkward; indeed, it’s more tragic considering he’s often imagining himself to be talking to Clara.
  • So we first see the Veil as a far-off figure in a window, an image I found scary by itself – particularly when it walks away and you know it’s coming for the Doctor.
  • The Doctor seems to go back and forth when it comes to being scared of dying. Nine just commented “Hope it’s a good death” but Ten resisted to the very end.
  • We do get a few unexpected transitions from Steven Moffat’s work – not just Doctor Who, but Sherlock as well. I certainly liked the one in this episode, where the Doctor is suddenly back in the TARDIS, only to reveal we’re in his mind and he’s still falling. (Did he go through the same thought process in that encounter with the robots that Missy described in The Witch’s Familiar?) I thought at first he was talking to the TARDIS itself, but no, it’s got to be more heartbreaking than that: a shadow of Clara. The fact that he can perfectly imagine what Clara can say and do shows what a connection there was between them – showing, not telling. I also liked the weariness of the Doctor as he speaks in his mind during unconsciousness – more great acting from Capaldi.
  • There are a few moments of slow pacing, like when the Doctor comes into the outside area and prepares to dig, but the story doesn’t suffer because these moments are genuinely scary. I think we’ve all had a nightmare about something like the Veil: the threatening figure that you may not be able to see, but you know is always coming, never stopping, advancing ever so slowly…like that butler in the Tomb Raider 2 tutorial level.
  • I thought everybody knew that the Doctor ran away from Gallifrey because he was scared? Why else would he run away from the Schism as a child?
  • I like how the Doctor maintains his logic through his predicament, such as asking of the skulls “Wonder where they went wrong?” and measuring the maximum time for which he can avoid the Veil.
  • Once again, the Doctor walks into a trap, and the bait is his own curiosity – just like with Me in the last episode.
  • That scene where the vision of Clara disappears in the Doctor’s head is truly sad, as what happened really hits him – it’s so emotional that when we suddenly hear Jenna Coleman’s voice, it seriously hits hard.
  • The twist is fantastic and truly terrible. I did have a feeling that the burned hand at the beginning was the Doctor, and we were seeing a flash forward – but then the Doctor seemed to actually appear and I forgot about it. And then you realise all those skulls are the many, many Doctors who came before this one…the situation feels truly desperate. How can the Doctor possibly get out of this one?
  • The answer is through a montage covering two billion years! The hope I was feeling as I realised he was gradually wearing down the rock – in case I haven’t made it clear, I really got emotionally invested in this episode.
  • So is the original Doctor just gone now, and we’re living with an artificially made copy?
  • Gallifrey! Hopefully all will be made clear next time.

This episode of Doctor Who can practically be called a work of art. It joins Midnight and Night Terrors as an episode that really did scare me – but unlike those two, I really want to watch it again as everything about it was so brilliant: the acting, the writing, even the cinematography. This, to me, is the best episode of Peter Capaldi’s tenure so far, and definitely in my top ten best episodes ever. Rating: 5/5!


About velociraptor256

Hi, my name's Richard. I created this blog to talk about my interests - and I have quite a few of those. I love zoology in general, herpetology in particular (especially snakes!), writing (have won National Novel Writing Month nine times so far), reading, astronomy, palaeontology, and travel. Thank you for coming to my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you here!
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