Sci-Fi · TV & Movies

Doctor Who Review: Face the Raven, Heaven Sent, and Hell Bent

doctor_who_face_the_raven

First, “Face the Raven.” It was a bit rushed, but they pulled off the death scene, which seems to have been the only real significance of this episode. (“Lady Me is selling you to some aliens” would’ve fit in an opening scene.) The death scene, though. I’m not gonna lie, I cried, and I resent it because I’ve been so looking forward to Clara leaving. But still — the Doctor’s face. The fact that for once, she really does know him and what he’s feeling, and the fact that this whole season has been showing her as a risk-seeking person. I appreciate the fact that she brought the death on herself, accident though it was, and that she chose to meet it herself. She didn’t deserve to die — but one of the hundreds of scrapes they got into finally got one over on her. It was an appropriate, fitting, and dignified death.

Doctor Who Heaven Sent

Then, oh gods, “Heaven Sent.” This one will stand as my favorite episode of the season — maybe of New Who altogether. I’ve said before I could watch Peter Capaldi’s face for hours, and here’s the proof. That, and the pacing. I could cry the pacing is so good. It’s like the perfect short story — obviously it’s crucial to the rest of the arc, but it could be watched alone, and you’d get all the information you need. The Doctor’s best friend is dead, and he’s come home an avenging angel. Just gah, so good. The mystery, the reveals, Capaldi’s face…

Doctor Who Hell Bent

And finally, “Hell Bent.” Wow. If “Heaven Sent” is my favorite episode, and it is, “Hell Bent” may be my favorite season finale. I mean, I hate to jump the gun on that, because frequently I love the season finales in the moment but later realize they were terrible and full of holes. I don’t know. Right now I love it. This was a better sendoff for Clara than I ever expected. I didn’t want to see the Doctor spiral again, have the same reaction to a death he always has… This was such a heartbreaking way to finally make an end and a new beginning all at the same time. To tease a “timestream falls apart” finale, but actually give us something very different and new. The reveals peeked out in all the right places, and for once we were shown the meaningful moments instead of told. Mesmerizing.

This wasn’t a perfect season by any means, but it was a very good one. The experiment with two-part episodes worked magnificently. While there were a few episodes that fell down, the writing was overall much stronger and more coherent than it has been in years. Capaldi and Coleman, both splendid actors, were given good material and made it great, delivering the kind of intensity and commitment we were always told the Doctor and Clara had but never had a chance to see. I look forward to the Christmas special, and what I hope will be another excellent run next season.

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11 thoughts on “Doctor Who Review: Face the Raven, Heaven Sent, and Hell Bent

  1. I mostly agree. I had zero interest in Clara’s story arc this season (“Clara gets reckless” is hardly riveting drama, at least the way they structured it) and was infuriated with what I thought was the sloppy manner of her death scene… but, of course, with Moffat, it’s not the death that matters, but what they do with the person after the resurrection, and I *loved* how they sent Clara out into the Universe (in a rackety old TARDIS) in “Hell Bent”. And the season finale was indeed full of holes (the first half hour was full of bizarre misdirections and loose threads) but the final 25 minutes was probably as good as Moffat has written in a season finale. And, yeah, “Heaven Sent”… perfect. Moffat finally writes his own “Turn Left”.

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    1. Yep — as I feared, I’m slowly noticing more and more holes, and Hell Bent was certainly a bit of a jumble. I’ll still take it over most of the previous season finales, though! And as much I disliked Clara, it was finally an appropriate end for her.

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  2. I feel like this has been one of the strongest seasons for a while, and I wonder whether that’s because of the two-parter format. It gave them the room to tell more complex, coherent stories and let Capaldi and Coleman go to town on the material they had. Hopefully this will carry through to the Christmas special and the next season.

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    1. Agreed! They’ve been experimenting for several years, and I think they actually managed to learn something about what types of episodes work, and that the fans really want some coherent writing as well as the funsies zany stuff.

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