Monday, November 10, 2014

Not Really Off-Topic: *Spolier Alert* A Review of The Doctor Who Episode "Death In Heaven" And All of Season 8

So, I have been really enjoying the most recent incarnation of DOCTOR WHO, played brilliantly by Peter Capaldi. Capaldi, perhaps more than any other modern Doctor Incarnation (Eccleson, Tenant, Smith), captures the spirit of the Doctor as he was portrayed before the modern era. He is a throwback to Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee, and Colin Baker. As a lifelong Who fan, I am loving it.

The season finale ended up being brilliant, but it was not primarily because of the storytelling. After a great wind-up with part one of the finale last week, the pitch left something to be desired. The entire story was muddled, and it simply didn't go anywhere. The whole episode felt somehow suspended in air and the final direction of the episode eluded me. It was like a badly paced comic book.

But despite the poor storyline, the episode worked. Why? Great acting. Everybody brought their A game. There was some great development of the various characters. Without giving too much away, I want to touch on some powerful moments and thematic elements that deserve mention. The Master-Incarnation known as Missy or The Mistress was played brilliantly. Existing as a kind of satanic figure, she puts all the pieces into place to try to push the Doctor over an edge he's not crossed in a long time. In the end, the Doctor is willing to violate his own moral code to preserve the moral center of Clara. But the Doctor himself is saved by an old friend.

Clara has become one of the most flawed companions in recent Doctor Who memory. She's in many ways the most human human being the Doctor has chosen to travel with. Oh, she's exceptional, but not on a moral level. She was willing to do anything, sacrifice anything, to save her boyfriend Danny, and she gives in quite casually to the need for revenge. She lies, she cheats and she steals, and in many ways she's learned how to do this better under the Doctor. It is a powerful, powerful commentary on the way in which utilitarian ethical calculations can lead one down a dark road if one is not careful. The ends can justify the means until the ends themselves are the most basic of evils.

Yet one cannot underplay the scope of the difficulties Clara and the Doctor face time and again. And you have to have sympathy for how both found themselves where they are. It is interesting that the 12th Doctor began by trying to correct his past mistakes. He's wound up in a worse place than where he started.

But truth to be told, if all we had of this episode was the first 41 minutes, it would be a so-so episode at best. The acting would not be enough to save the episode, except for the last 4 minutes. There is this scene where both the Doctor and Clara lie to each other, and they hug and can't see each others' faces. But those faces that they hide from each other say so much to us. Wow, you could give these two Emmys just for that last scene. These are now two very broken people, who need each other perhaps now more than ever, that don't realize how broken the other person is and how much the other person needs them. They feel alone in their brokenness, even when they are not.

If there isn't something cosmic in that scene, that embrace, and those faces, I don't know what it means for there to be a cosmic dimension behind any human experience.

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