November 11, 2014
This contains major spoilers for the series finale of Doctor Who, Death in Heaven. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading here.
I really enjoyed Death in Heaven. The highlight was Michelle Gomez as the Mistress. I’d love for her to somehow come back. I also think Peter Capaldi is a fantastic Doctor. In fact, though I mostly enjoyed this season, I think Capaldi has been better than the scripts he’s had to work with. I’m looking forward to next year. He should really come into his own, with a companion that will be written just for him. I liked his relationship with Clara, but it was clear she wasn’t the right companion for him.
But I had some major problems with the finale, and judging from the online reviews I’ve seen, I may be in the minority. Let’s start off with what stood out to me the most, then take the rest in no particular order.
The Bad Guys Won
Mistress and the Cybermen may not be around to savor their victory, but they achieved it nonetheless. Think about what they did: they successfully robbed every known grave on Earth. Every tomb in every cemetery is now empty. Think about the seismic shift in how people grieve/mourn/worship that must create. How will people react to their beloved ancestors not only being taken from their resting places, but then blown to atoms? There would have to be a seismic shift in most people’s world- or religion- view. What would the world’s religious leaders say? How would society react? And what becomes of all the now vacant cemeteries? Yes, everyone who dies post-invasion will continue to be buried, but in some respects, a huge chunk of the past is now moot.
The Cybermen Are No Longer Interesting
Honestly, the new series Doctor Who has never been able to make the Cybermen interesting. Even when they were introduced, they weren’t the real thing; they were parallel-universe versions. By the time Neil Gaiman got to them, all he did was manage to make them faster and sleeker. Their motivations? Backstory? Unexplored. And that’s a shame since they have such a rich backstory. Want Cybermen done right? Big Finish did it with Spare Parts. All this series finale did was finish them off. There was no indication that the Cybermen were working with Mistress, no indication that they had any motivation or agenda of their own. By all appearances, Missy was using them as she would any other weapon. The Cybermen were merely tools, same as a gun or a tank. And they are so far from their Mondas/Telos origins that they might as well have a new name. These are Cybermen in name only.
Most reviews are calling this episode a touching goodbye to the Brig.
Nonsense. Seeing the Brigadier as a Cyberman was just painful. I’ve been watching Doctor Who since I was a child in the 70’s and I have seen every existing episode. To see a man who fought the Cybermen in his second appearance turned into one was just sad. Yes, it was great that he overcame his programming and saved his daughter, but when was the Brigaider ever a murderer? That laser bolt truly did come from out of the blue. You can argue that he saved the Doctor from becoming a murderer, you can debate that he was a soldier doing what soldiers do in war, you can argue that he was just doing what had to be done. But again, when did the Brigadier ever kill someone in cold blood? And you can’t blame it on his cyber-conversion. If he overcame his programming to save his daughter and not fly off into the sky with the others, then you can’t use it as an excuse here. This scene just sullied the Brigadier’s memory.
And then he became one.
Seriously? On the show, it has been established that the Doctor is too well known. He wiped his memory from people’s minds and erased himself from the entire Dalek network. Behind the scenes, the producers said that the Doctor was too big and had to go back to being more mysterious . So what do they do? They make him President of Earth. Yes, on the show the Doctor protested, but the bottom line is when they wrote this episode, they wrote him into being President of Earth.
So much for mystery.