Are you ready for Christmas? The credits barely begin to roll on the Saturday, Nov. 8 season 8 finale of “Doctor Who,” “Death In Heaven,” when Santa Claus shows up in the TARDIS doorway to ask what the Doctor wants for Christmas – and to let him know that neither he nor Clara is alright. That’s an understatement.
The “Doctor Who” season 8 finale sees Missy/the Mistress/the Master and her reign of terror and Cybermen unleashed on the world, with a cyber pollen cloud raining down on the world to cause the dead all to rise as Cybermen – and that includes one Danny Pink, who saves Clara from Cybermen after she fails to convince them that Clara Oswald is a lie made up by the Doctor and she is the Doctor. He takes her to a cemetery, where she gets to witness all the Cybermen rising from the graves, all while the Doctor is on a plane with Kate, Osgood and various UNIT people and finds out he is the President of Earth.
That’s all well and good since he worried about Americans getting involved when he first heard the word “President” on the plane, but there’s a bigger problem: Missy and her Cybermen. The Cybermen tear apart the plan, Missy makes her exit and the Doctor goes flying towards the ground, saved from a “boring” death of being squashed by the TARDIS, and making it possible for the cemetery where Clara and Danny and all the Cybermen are to be the site of the final showdown.
Clara tells the Doctor to “do as he’s told” and help her help Danny delete his emotions and stop the pain (and access the hive mind to find out Missy’s plan), and he leaves her with his screwdriver to do just that. Clara and Danny say “I love you,” something they’ll never say again, and their goodbyes, and after she flips the switch, she hugs him. The Doctor gets what he wants – the clouds will rain again and all of humanity will die and rise again as Cybermen – and Missy makes her Mary Poppins entrance after taking care of the annoying Seb in the Nethersphere. However, that’s when she reveals that this is all a gift for the Doctor.
“Happy birthday, Mr. President,” she tells him and gives him her bracelet, the bracelet that gives him command over the cyber army. The thing is, he doesn’t want an army, but after some helpful flashbacks to earlier this season, he realizes that what he is isn’t a good man, a bad man, a hero, an officer or a president. He is, once again, an idiot with a box and a screwdriver, and he has all he needs in Clara and Danny because love isn’t an emotion. It’s a promise. What Missy failed to notice when she was showing off her Cybermen army under her control was that Danny never followed her orders. The Doctor gives Danny Missy’s bracelet, and Danny commands the army to fly into the cloud and blow it up. With that, “the army of the dead will save the land of the living,” and that’s “the promise of a soldier.”
Two weeks later, and Clara wakes up to Danny calling her name in the middle of the night. That bracelet also let Missy travel between worlds, but instead of coming back himself, he sends the boy through and tells Clara to find his parents. There’s only enough power for one trip and one person, but is Danny lost for good? There is, of course, the loose end of Orson Pink, and whether or not he’ll ever exist now.
When the Doctor and Clara meet up again – he’s two weeks late, so getting better – they each lie in their goodbyes. He assumes that Danny used the bracelet to return to Clara, and so he tells her that he found Gallifrey and is going to help make it a good place. She lets him think that Danny has returned and they’ll be fine, but their hug just proves why the Doctor doesn’t like hugging: it’s a way to hide your face, and both are left to suffer their losses alone, believing it’s what’s best to let the other be happy. With that, she sees him off in his TARDIS and thanks him for making her feel special. He thanks her for the same thing.
However, before it’s really over, the Doctor gets a visitor on the TARDIS: Santa. It can’t end like that, he explains. She’s not alright, he’s not alright, and this needs to be sorted ASAP. So what does he want for Christmas? Well, clearly the Doctor and Clara’s adventures together aren’t over yet, but we don’t need Santa showing up to tell the Doctor all that to know it. That feels out of place with the rest of the episode, and maybe it should have been released as an extra scene online or a clip between the finale and the Christmas episode at a later date instead of as an interruption in the credits.
Overall, the finale is pretty fitting for the rest of the season. It’s nothing spectacular, and like the season has its highlights among its disappointments, so does the finale. Nothing feels quite finished yet, and not just because of the visit from Santa at the end. The Doctor still hasn’t found Gallifrey. Is Clara just going to live a normal life now? Clara and Danny never have that talk she had all those post-its for, and it looks like they never will. (Or maybe they will. Who knows with “Doctor Who”?) The finale is quite somber, overall, and yes, it’s nothing spectacular, but it is much better than most of the season.
That said, the Doctor and Clara’s goodbye works for the characters, as does what we see of their relationship, even when apart – he calls her his “friend,” not assistant, she calls him her best friend – in the finale. Because of that, their parting is sad and bittersweet, and like these last few episodes of the season, it makes the Doctor and Clara’s relationship something you want more of in the future. Hasn’t their relationship become more interesting since their “last” adventure on the train? Like Santa says, “it can’t end like that.”
“Doctor Who” season 8 airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America. What did you think of the finale “Death in Heaven”?