“Heaven Sent” Review

I have no idea what to write about Heaven Sent. I was looking forward to it – not least because, with just one actor for the whole episode, it would be different. It delivered. It was different. Very different. I don’t know what I expected – but I had my expectations blown away.

I have not idea what to write except “wow, wow, wow, wow, wow”. The more I think about it, the more I wow.

Not that you couldn’t detect influences. The building as a trap – automated, intelligent, self-rearranging – was The House That Jack Built (the episode of the Avengers that for the most part features Diana Rigg alone). And I know that Moffat know House (a writing note last season was “grumpy Doctor House in a TARDIS”) so I think the parallels with No Reason are interesting (figuring out reality hidden from consciousness with the clues in plain sight). And, it has been noted, there was a little bit of Moffat’s own Sherlock in the Doctor’s own Mind Palace – although suited perfectly to the Doctor and his oratorical accounts of his unthinkable escapades. Slightly meta, perhaps (the idea of the Doctor explaining cleverly how he escaped being all he needs to actually escape sounds remarkably like an explanation of how to plot a Doctor Who story…)

But the resolution – so dark, so clever, with Moffat’s trademark clues hidden in plain sight – took my breath away. It’s horrible, terrible, gory, frightening and yet genuinely impressive. The Doctor’s strength in his intelligence and his resolve has never been more magnificent.

And Capaldi – truly. truly majestic. I have this thought of Tom Baker, sitting at home, watching the episode and cursing the fact he never persuaded the producers to give him a completely solo story… But Capaldi not only carried the episode – and it’s a full 10 minutes longer than a standard episode – but made it look effortless into the bargain.

Murray Gold’s score is a mini-masterpiece in itself, a Heaven Sent symphony. I forgot to mention how beautiful and subtle the music was for Face the Raven – here, it’s far more prominent but no less impressive. And I suppose I can’t finish without a bit of speculation about the hybrid. Which me?

What kind of hybrid? A Mire/human? Or a Gallifreyan “half human on [his] mother’s side”? Has this magnificent season been constructed by Moffat purely to address a niggle irritating fans since 1996?

Next episode has big boots to fill.

I have no idea what to write about Heaven Sent, but it is an episode of Doctor Who which will certainly still be being discussed and dissected in 50 years time. There’ll be rewatch after rewatch.

Personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

3 thoughts on ““Heaven Sent” Review

    1. You should. You’ll find there’s a spoiler in it for Face the Raven if you don’t watch that first, but you may not want to watch that anyway. It’s nothing you can’t pick up in the first minute of this one, so it won’t spoil your enjoyment of this.

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