TV Review: Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 11 “Heaven Sent”

Last weeks episode “Face The Raven” saw the departure of long-term companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and the return of the angry and uncompromising Doctor that I’ve missed so much. This weeks episode “Heaven Sent” is set only mere seconds from where we left off last week, the opening sequence detailing that the Doctor has been unwillingly teleported to a mysterious location – and he’s not happy about it.

To have an entire episode without a companion is refreshing to see, and in the case of Peter Capaldi, it allows for some of his strongest pieces of acting as The Doctor. Through the companion, we are sometimes unceremoniously spoon-fed the narrative, resulting in lazy writing that simply explains what is going on, rather than showing it. As The Doctor navigates through a series of puzzles in a mysterious castle, we’re given the same treatment – yet the loss of Clara plays on this dynamic in a fruitful way. The Doctor still doesn’t quite possess an internal monologue, but there are moments of sadness as he talks to Clara, only to remind himself that she is gone forever.

In most circumstances it would be difficult to carry an entire episode by yourself – but not Capaldi. He looks so exceptionally lonely that it made even my heart – the heart that was a wee bit happy to see Clara go – pine for her return to save him from his grief. Capaldi’s command of the emotions of grief and loss are the real winner in this episode, providing an insight into how the Doctor grieves – a sentiment that is too often neglected.

At some points, the story was incredibly lackluster. The pacing seemed inappropriate; important facts were washed over; and there was an in depth focus on the most mundane of tasks, providing no fruitful role.

But although it took a long time to get there, the conclusion of “Heaven Sent” was one of the best I’ve seen in a very long while. The two minute sequence detailing the millions of years that the Doctor spent in this prison was astonishing, revealing that the Doctor was forced to clone himself millions of times in order to get out of incarceration – all whilst still grieving. This twist is a real strength of the Moffat era of Who – converging and intertwining plot lines. The editing in this sequence is particularly mesmerising, providing a cinematic conclusion to the enormity of the storyline.

As the Doctor finally breaks through the seemingly impenetrable wall, I think I heard all classic Who fans rejoice – Gallifrey is back. And the Doctor is not happy.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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