When Danny Pink is killed in an accident the Doctor takes Clara to try and bring him back from the other side.
Clara’s attempt to coerce the Doctor into saving Danny recalls the scene in Deep Breath when Clara warns the Clockwork Man, “Threats don’t work unless you deliver… Never start with your final sanction; you’ve got nowhere to go but backwards.” She believes this and so has to go through with destroying all the TARDIS keys, just as later she severs the conversation with Danny, having threatened to if he said he loved her again.
Danny is much more of a real-world character than most in Doctor Who, flashbacks to his experience in an actual world-zone reinforce this. The manner of his death is not at the hands of a Skovox Blitzer or Dalek anti-bodies, but being run over (the preferred non-alien death in the series, from Pete in Father’s Day to alternate Donna in Turn Left). His reaction to finding himself in the afterlife is much more powerful because he’s had only limited exposure to otherworldly stuff.
Danny might yet have more secrets to reveal: in Listen the reason his date with Clara was delayed was ‘family stuff'; but we know he was in an orphanage and Seb makes a comment about struggling to contact family members.
This is probably the wittiest episode this year, and it’s a good job. There are some really unsettling, dark ideas in this story and without the humour it would be unrelentingly grim and creepy. The idea that “the dead remain conscious. The dead are fully aware that everything that is happening to them” is a terrifying concept. Series 8 has consistently explored big ideas and concepts. The implication here is even grander. Doctor Who has provided science fiction explanations for myths and legends like Atlantis, the Egyptian pantheon, the Loch Ness Monster, and now God. Missy is only called specifically referred to as God in The Caretaker, when the police officer looks out at what we now know is the inside of a vast sphere of high-rise living. He murmurs, “Oh my God.” Seb looks at Missy and replies, “Sorry, she’s busy a bit, er, busy today.” The size of the Matrix landscape suggests that Missy’s plan has been going on for an extremely long time, and is the basis for the myths of afterlife or heaven/hell.
The delay is between the reveal of Missy as a Time Lord (who the Doctor left to die) gives long-term Doctor Who fans the chance to speculate on whether she might be Susan, Romana or the Rani, all arguably abandoned and having had to ‘find their way back’ from somewhere. The point where I began to think she was the Master was when she ruminates on the “key strategic weakness of the human race”, which seemed to echo the Master’s first appearance in Terror of the Autons. There he said, “The human body has a basic weakness”.
Michelle Gomez makes a great villain. I love it when the Master switches between arch-villainy and humour. Roger Delgado is at his best as the character in scenes like the one where he gets the better of Benton in The Time Monster – “You are wrong, Sergeant Benton… That is the oldest trick in the book!” Or berating a minion in The Mind of Evil “I’ve never seen a more inept performance!” I enjoyed Missy’s fake ‘Welcome Droid’ schtick here, her performance is mad, but rather more controlled than the more broad performance from John Simm’s incarnation.
There are bound to be a lot more twists and turns to come in the hour-long series finale Death in Heaven. Doctor Skarosa is credited as the man behind founding 3W. Who is he? His name’s got Skaro in it! What does the Master want with all the uploaded minds? Are the seven TARDIS keys a nod to The Seven Keys to Doomsday? Probably not.
Originally published on my Doctor Who blog, Trap One.