Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Walking Dead of The Doctor


I like The Pet Shop Boys, and I think it is fitting to quote them in regards to Death in Heaven, the second part of the Series/Season Eight finale.

What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?

From its opening to its teaser scene featuring Santa Claus(!), Death in Heaven is just an absolute disaster, jumbled, chaotic, nonsensical. The praise it has been receiving makes me think that either reviewers have flat-out been bribed by either Steven Moffat/the BBC or genuinely thought it was all brilliant, proving Lenin's idea of 'the useful idiot' extends to television.

Well, let's pick up from Dark Water, where we learn that Missy (Michelle Gomez) is a new (female) version of The Master.  Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) is still in the Nethersphere, being threatened by a newly-created Cyberman.  Other Cybermen from Missy's Army have stormed out of St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) seems powerless to stop the Mistress/Cybermen unholy union.  Clara then gives us a 'shocking' revelation: Clara Oswald NEVER existed!  Who is she?


Well, we already had one transgendered Time Lord, so why not another? 

Of course this is all a rouse, a desperate gamble for Clara to bluff her way out of danger.  Fortunately, one of the Cybermen is able to see past the whole "Doctor Clara" bit.  It just so happens to be the late Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), who has his emotion inhibitor not working.

How convenient.

Catchphrases are stupid, and so are you.
Well, while Clara is dealing with Cyber-Danny, the Doctor is shocked to see that people, rather than be terrified of the Cybermen (because, you know, they've already invaded London in The Invasion, and more recently in Doomsday Parts 1 & 2), are thrilled to see them, going so far as to start taking selfies with them.  Missy herself is about to take a selfie with herself and the Doctor, when someone comes up to offer to take a picture for them.  It's Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), now sporting Converse and a bow tie (since, you know, "Bow ties are cool").  Up springs all of UNIT, and leading the charge is Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave).

You remember Kate Stewart...the woman who dropped the "Lethbridge" from her name so as to remove herself from being connected to her predecessor/father Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart but drops Daddy's name every chance she gets.

Well, UNIT was onto Missy all this time, but no worries...the Cybermen fly away because Cybermen can now fly (after all, why not...they haven't before but why not have them fly now, because, well, Moffat wanted them to fly, and fly they did).  To add a better touch, the dome of St. Paul's opens up to release more Cybermen, where they'll pollinate the Earth by blowing themselves up.  This is for more nefarious bring on the black rain over the cemeteries, graveyards, and the Chaplet Funeral Home, where the corpse of one Danny Pink is there.

What for?  To be turned into that Cyberman who will come into all this, of course.

Well, I hate going on deeper into this dung-pile, but let's keep going.  The Doctor finds himself as President of Earth, having been elected by consensus by all the world leaders (think Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin ran for the post?).  Now, if the President of Earth were in danger from flying Cybermen(!), where would UNIT take the President?  Why, on a plane, of course!  Kate "I'm my own person but I have my father's portrait here to remind people of who I'm related to" Stewart is shocked, SHOCKED to find flying Cybermen can attack the plane. 

Maybe bringing Missy along in the cargo of the President's Flight in retrospect was not the best of ideas.  Missy's plans are going perfectly: the dead are coming back as Cybermen, ready to conquer the Earth.  Of course, back on the Nethersphere, things are a little jumbled...perhaps no surprise given Missy's right-hand man Seb (Chris Addison) is ostensibly in charge.  Seb tells Danny that the Nethersphere is basically a data cloud for the recently deceased (emphasis mine).  However, running around the Nethersphere is the Afghan boy Danny accidentally least well over a year ago.  Also, included in this Cyber-Army of the Dead is someone who died, according to their grave, in 1748.

I digress to say that while I may not measure time the same way Time Lords do, to me, 1748 doth not constitute "recently deceased".  Just a thought.

Well, Danny spirits Clara to a graveyard, where he begs her to end his feelings.  She can't without the Doctor's help, but he's busy at the moment.  He's trying to contain a mad Mistress, who has managed to kill Osgood (which to be fair, was about the only highlight for me in Death in Heaven, having found this character so atrocious I dubbed her "Osbad").  Missy blows the cargo doors open, sending both Kate "I'm Independent But Don't Forget Who My Father Was" Stewart and the Doctor flying out the plain while she slips back into the Nethersphere to see the end to his/her/its hated rival. 


However, in a stunt that made Jaws' leap from the plane in Moonraker (or perhaps Eggraker) look like a Maria Tallchief performance, the Doctor is able to fly into the falling TARDIS and use the key to get in.  Seb is so thrilled at this he asks for permission to squee...and gets promptly vaporized by Missy (which I think counts as another highlight). 

Well, the Doctor at first rejects Clara's plea to get Danny (whom he keeps referring to as "P.E.", because you know, soldiers are basically too stupid to understand math) to be a Cyberman, but now Missy's master (or Mistress) plans are finally exposed: this Cyber-Army isn't for her, but for the Doctor!  At long last, the Doctor realizes who he is.  He isn't a good man.  He isn't a bad man.  "I'm an idiot, with a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out, learning".  The Doctor throws the device that controls all Cybermen to Danny, who leads the Cyber-Army to blow themselves up.

All but one of them, who just happened to save Kate "I'm Not 'The Brigadier's Daughter', But I'm The Brigadier's Daughter" Stewart.  Who was this masked figure?  Why, it's the late Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart!  The Doctor here now gives the Brig what he's always wanted: a salute, and with that the Cyber-Brig is off, flying away to who knows where/why/what.

Two Weeks Later...the Doctor and Clara reunite and both lie to each other.  Missy had told the Doctor she/he/it knew where Gallifrey was, but we see that she lied.  Clara tells the Doctor she and Danny are fine, since Danny's device can allow him to leave the Nethersphere and return to life.  Rather than do that though, he gives that up to allow the Afghan boy to return, and he asks Clara to return the boy to his family, for he has promises to keep.

Oh, and Santa Claus bursts into the closing credits, asking the Doctor what he wants for Christmas.

Let me stop at this juncture to address a few points before I tear this piece of crap apart.  First, the Afghan boy.  Apart from being accidentally killed by Danny years ago he did nothing in this episode to merit feeling anything for him.  What we have is a situation where a foreign child, who may or may not speak English, and who has been declared dead and buried, suddenly pops up very much alive in a new country.  Add to that the fact that Clara now has the unenviable task of trying to get him back to Afghanistan.  Exactly how is she going to do this? 

Is she going to travel to Afghanistan with child in tow?  No need for passports, I figure.  No worries about a single woman travelling through a war-riddled country where in certain parts she would be shot on sight for not wearing a burka.   No worries about having to buy a plane ticket, or go to whatever town said Afghan boy (whom she'd have to communicate somehow) was from, and present a dead child to perhaps one or two parents (assuming they are still alive) who have accepted that their child is dead.

WOW!  And THIS NuWhovians call 'brilliant'.

Of course, Clara could do the sensible thing...and drop the kid off at the Afghan embassy and let THEM sort it all out.  Seriously, what can Clara DO in this situation? 

Let's now move on to another topic: the time frame of the dead.  Seb makes very clear: only the recently deceased, like Danny, are being harvested.  However, true to Moffat ineptitude, he can't keep even something as simple as 'recently' straight.  The Nethersphere has wi-fi, thanks to having Steve Jobs there.  Recently deceased Steve in 2011 dead Steve Jobs, three years ago.  Three years ago we can argue to be 'recent' (though I think that stretches things a bit).  HOWEVER, when we have this perverse resurrection going on, one of the graves notes the date of death as "1748".  That is nowhere near 'recent' no matter how generous the terms.

Delving further, if we accept that those who were cremated can also rise, we get some pretty grotesque ideas.  Will those murdered in Auschwitz whose ashes are there also serve in this Cyber-Army?  What do you think the Ganges would look like, with thousands of years of cremated people floating there? 

Oh, let's not worry about such horrifying images as that of a Cyber Anne Frank or Mahatma Gandhi. Didn't you cry during Death in Heaven?  That is more important than logic.

I digress to say that recently I've been involved in something of a Facebook fight with a Sherlockian who told us that she doesn't care if the resolution to how Sherlock faked his death is ever revealed.  This was a plus, like a magician's trick that need not be explained.   Well, Sherlockians and NuWhovians have that in common: they never care to think about whether any of what they see is 'logical' in the old-school meaning of the term, so long as it made them 'feel' something. 

I simply hated Death in Heaven.  Every soul-sucking, brain-draining, bombastic moment of Death in Heaven.  Well, there was ONE moment that had me cheering...

Say Goodnight, Osgood...
I've always hated Osgood (and by the way, is Osgood her FIRST name or her LAST name?  Riddle me that!).  Two episodes and she's looked on as some sort of Doctor Who ICON.  Screw Osbad and the Zygon she rode in on.   For Death in Heaven's sake, Sara Kingdom was on Doctor Who longer. 

I think KATARINA was on Doctor Who longer, and she was killed off in her second story!

Seriously, why is beloved?  What purpose did she have apart from being a cosplayer?  She didn't do anything either here or in The Day of The Doctor except express glowing admiration toward the Doctor and dress up like him.  Apart from the fact she uses an inhaler and has a prettier sister, can anyone tell me anything about her that makes her interesting? Important? Relevant?  Worth me caring one bit over her death?

Truth be told, I cheered when The Tranny vaporized her.  I delayed meeting a friend for coffee just to see Osbad wiped out.  I even gave Death in Heaven an extra point just for that (and might give it another for wiping out the idiotic Addison too). 

While watching, I wrote "appalling" at least three times in my notes.  The final comment for this episode was "I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M WATCHING THIS!" (and yes, it was all in caps, and note that I am writing on paper while taking notes). 

We still have a lot of the things that Steven Moffat specializes in.  The dead coming back to life (from the Cybermen being the resurrected dead down to the Afghan kid).  Love basically saving the day.  "Love is a promise, not an emotion", the Doctor observes.  It's Danny's love for Clara that stops Missy's idiotic plan (even by the Simm bonkers Master standard).   The boyfriend being a pathetically wimpy figure.

Poor Anderson. I have never felt so badly for an actor as I did for Anderson, who while nowhere the best actor around simply deserved better.  Seeing him in that Cyber-suit, crying, well, you just wonder if either Moffat or NuWhovians are capable of coherent thinking.  As I observed, how convenient that Danny is one of only two Cybermen NOT to lose their human emotion (the other being whatever perversity was alleged to be the Brigadier).

Speaking of the Cyber-Brig, this many NuWhovians insist that this is some sort of loving tribute.  Really?  You think turning one of the best characters Doctor Who ever created into a Cyber-Zombie forever condemned to fly about is a TRIBUTE?  If I were Nicholas Courtney's family, I'd be enraged that his character has been reduced to a Cyberman.  Why not make Sarah Jane Smith into a Dalek?  I'm sure THAT would be an even greater tribute to both Sarah Jane and Elisabeth Sladen. 

GROTESQUE!  Simply GROTESQUE!  Given that most NuWhovians have very little knowledge of the Brigadier they probably do think it's all beautiful, but for those of us who know of the Brigadier's importance in Doctor Who, it's a sad and sorry end to a real Doctor Who icon (as opposed to the pathetic Osgood). 

Anderson at least has an excuse of a lousy script to explain his lousy performance.  Jenna Coleman doesn't.  She is nowhere near a good-enough actress to have convinced me for one second that she was the Doctor.  I knew it was all fake, and if anyone thought for a mini-second that Clara Oswald never really existed and that she was the Doctor, then your lobotomies went much better than expected. 

Death in Heaven was so appalling in terms of Coleman that she managed to go DOWN on my Worst Companions List, moving from Number 10 to Number 6.

"Danny's a Cyberman, and he's crying.  Doctor, he feels it.  He's crying".  That line, spouted badly by the always reliably-bad Coleman, should have sent people into howls of laughter, not tears. 

As if that wasn't bad enough, why is Steven Moffat determined to have us hate Clara?  "Either you help me or you leave me alone," Clara shouts at the Doctor when he refuses to help her fix Danny's emotion inhibitor.  First, YOU called HIM!  Second, that made her look like a be-atch and a self-centered prig. 

Poor Capaldi.  You have a good actor stuck in such a hideous nightmare of a story and struggling to make any of this slightly plausible.  He still has to be stuck doing Matt Smith: calling Danny "P.E." and referring to a general as 'Man Scout' because his uniform made the Doctor think of a scout troop.  However, no actor, no matter how good, could possibly have made the whole "Doctor leaping into the TARDIS as he is falling from the bowels of an exploding plane" work. 

Not since the Eleventh Doctor rode UP the side of a building on a motorbike in The Bells of Saint John have we seen something so patently appalling.   It was Doctor Who meets James Bond (and Murray Gold's Satanic score just makes this particular sequence even worse). 

I cringed seeing the Doctor fall to the TARDIS.  Just bad.

Gomez I figure was asked to be camp-crazy, and as such she was a success.  I'm at a total loss to figure why so many insist she's the best Master since Roger Delgado.  Delgado was never camp.  Delgado was never deliberately silly.  Delgado was never going to describe the Doctor as his 'boyfriend'.  Delgado never looked intentionally ridiculous. 

Flying Cybermen!
The Doctor as President of Earth!
Transgendered Time Lords!
Mistress Poppins!
The Brigadier turned into a Cyberman!

This isn't Doctor Who.  This is shit, plain and simple.  In that regard, it's perfect really for the target audience, and I'll leave it at that. 

Death in Heaven has done something I would have sworn on my life was simply impossible.

It has made Love & Monsters look like The Caves of Androzani by comparison.  I always thought Love & Monsters would or could never be challenged as simply the Worst Doctor Who Story of All Time. 

In that regard, I vastly underestimated the monster known as Emmy-winning writer Steven Moffat.  I have given a 0/10 to two stories (Love & Monsters and the recent In the Forest of the Night).  However, with Death in Heaven Parts 1 & 2 (Dark Water/Death in Heaven), I find myself doing something I have NEVER done or even considered doing.

I found a Doctor Who story that managed to earn a NEGATIVE score. 

It was so low that it scored less than zero.  That's right...LESS THAN ZERO.

It brings to mind what the late great Roger Ebert said about Freddy Got Fingered, which I have seen (against my will) and can vouch for it being perhaps the worst movie I've ever seen.  What he said about the Tom Green masterpiece, I say about Death in Heaven.

"This (episode) doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This (episode) isn't the bottom of the barrel. This (episode) isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This (episode) doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

The best way to describe Death in Heaven Parts 1 & 2 (Dark Water/Death in Heaven) is to quote a review for Two-Faced Woman, coincidentally or not Greta Garbo's final film.

"It was almost as shocking as
seeing your mother drunk".

I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.


Next Episode: Last Christmas

I've put this up already, but it's just so good. I figure why not a repeat...


  1. Just one point about the article: pretty sure it was "Moonraker", not "Spy Who Loved Me". Just sayin'.

  2. Yes, it was "Eggraker". Thanks for pointing that out. Article has been corrected.


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