I found this to be one of those storylines that started out with a lot of promise, and then kind of died in the end.
“Heaven Sent” was one of the more interesting episodes this season, and I really enjoyed the experimental aspects of it. I also found it intriguing that the Doctor is forced to escape a trap through brute force rather than just being more clever than the other guy. Granted, there was some cleverness involved in his escape, but the actual action that he had to take was very physical and brutal. Not the usual actions of the Doctor.
I believe this also set up well what we have known about the Timelords for some time, and that is that they will do most anything to the get the information that they need. Even force the Doctor to live 4.5 billion years in his own confession dial. How insane is that! You come out of the episode hating whoever was responsible, and I think this mainly comes down to the acting prowess of Peter Capaldi. It takes a lot of talent and skill to act an entire episode by yourself and still carry it like a champ. Well done, sir.
However, while “Heaven Sent” was great “Hell Bent” is a whole other story. This particular episode was full of some shining moments, but then almost ruins them with some really dull and anti-climatic ones.
My favorite scene was actually the one when the Doctor and Clara are looking for the secret door in the Cloister. Once again, this is mostly due to Peter Capaldi’s amazing acting. We can tell that the Doctor has gone slightly insane after spending billions of years in the confession dial. We can see it in his mannerisms that are slightly off and his rapid but confused way of talking to Clara as he desperately tries to save her and open the secret the door.
I also liked Clara in this scene. Once she realizes, along with the audience, what the Timelords have done to him, she says the words that we have been thinking. She tells them that they are hated. And this is true for us in this instance as we watch the Doctor slowly deteriorate into slight insanity. I also love that she uses it has to way to cover his escape so that he can get away from these toxic people.
Other than that, I was really underwhelmed by the episode. His return to Gallifrey seemed a little anti-climatic to me. I’m not totally sure what I was expecting, but I found myself disappointed. This might come from a lack of extensive knowledge of the Time War. I was confused as to who that village of people were and why the council treated them horribly other than the council is full of terrible people. I was also confused about how many people there are. Is there just that one village and higher ups or are there various villages? I know that the Timelords were almost decimated in the war, but I figured there would be more of them, or at least mention of there being more of them.
The most exciting thing that happens with his return is him exiling a bunch of people, but even that was lacking for me. It’s possible this would have been different with, again, more knowledge of the Time War and the party’s responsible.
The ending was sub-par. I would have been a little sad about the Doctor forgetting Clara had I cared more about Clara. As it was, I didn’t find Clara’s sadness real since once she goes back into her TARDIS she’s all smiles and “Let’s go on an adventure.” (I did appreciate the subtle reference to Donna when this while “wiping the memory” thing was going on. DONNA!!!!! *wails inconsolably*)
Also, I’m not sure if this is what it was supposed to be, but it felt like this was supposed to be the explanation of The Impossible Girl. If so, it was rather lazy and filled with holes. Mainly because Clara dies in all of the instances I can remember popping up in at the top of my head. So how can this be the explanation if she supposedly died at all these different points.
Also, this would create yet another freaking time loop! I can’t even express how annoyed I am with how many times Moffat has used the time loop. It has become predictable, and frankly, lazy. Stop with the loops! It’s gotten to the point where I was even slightly annoyed that “Heaven Scent” was a time loop, and I liked that episode. However, this didn’t stop from thinking, “Oh, great. Another loop.” When the Doctor first finds the skull and puts two-and-two together. And that was a cool use of the loop!
Personally, I found this final installment of the Season 9 rather disappointing. Honestly, I found a lot of the season disappointing with some gems thrown in. On the bright side, the sonic screwdriver is back! I’ve missed it so much, and I’m glad that Capaldi is going to have his own. Here’s to hoping that the Christmas special isn’t a massive let down.