Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 850: Death in Heaven
Ooft. As finales go, this one really does try to shoot for the stars, doesn’t it? It’s been a while since I’ve said just how much the scale of this programme has developed in the decade since it returned to screens in Rose, and that’s especially noticeable in this story. Visually, the series looks a million miles away, but also… can you imagine the kind of UNIT set up we’ve got here when you look at them in Aliens of London? Heck, even compared to Series Four and the first big return of the Taskforce en masse, this is a whole extra leap forwards. Put simply, all the UNIT scenes of this episode are shot like a proper movie, and they’re all the better for it.
It’s also rather lovely to finally have our own little 21st century version of the UNIT ‘family’ back in action! The first time I discovered that Kate and Osgood would be making a return to the programme for Series Eight was on a trip in to town to do a bit of shopping, when I found the street blocked off because UNIT were confronting an invasion of Cybermen. It really is a hazard of living in Cardiff. Oh, but it’s so brilliant to have this little team that can make return appearances (and it’s even greater that we’re getting a Kate-led UNIT spin off on audio later this year). All of this makes it all the more poignant when they go and kill Osgood! Of all the people! Steven Moffat is right when he says that if you want to show just how evil Missy can be then you have to kill Osgood, because she’s the only target that will wrench at your heart that much. I watched this episode for the first time at the premiere in Cardiff, and the whole room at that moment erupted in a mixture of gasps and cries of ‘no!’. In the question and answer session afterwards, someone asked if Osgood was really dead and it was revealed that yes, she is. But then, there’s still a Zygon version running around possibly, so I live in hope! When only moments later Kate gets whipped out of the aeroplane in mid-flight, it really does do the trick of keeping you glued to the screen - it’s Doctor Who at its most exciting (though I can’t tell you how relieved I am that she’s alive).
Those UNIT parts of the episode are the ones that really work the most for me, though, because I’m simply not as invested in everything else. The emotion is all there, and I can certainly connect to the scenes in the graveyard between Clara and Danny (and they are good), but they simply don’t appeal to me in the same way that the rest of the story does. I might be but a simple mind, but I’d have been keen for some more all-out Cyberman battles. There’s my Camfield-esque attack force on the streets of London?! As the cap to Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor, though? I like it. We started the season with old friends learning to accept who this new Doctor is, and we end the run with old friends who don’t even bat an eyelid at it. This man is the Doctor now, and long may he continue to be so.