Doctor Who, S8 Ep12 — Death in Heaven

If you had told me that the finale of Doctor Who Series 8 would include a big homage to George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (and clearly, the homage was to that iconic film in particular, not the zombie genre in general), and that instead of undead zombies, they’d be Cybermen, I would frankly wonder why it had’t been done before. I mean, there are a lot of logistics to figure out, and I wouldn’t have thought they could have pulled off Cybermen crawling out of their graves, but Cybermen are obviously the most zombie-ish of all of the Doctor Who monsters. They pretty much are zombies — no self awareness, no emotion, attacking humans who in turn become just like them. And, as we’ve seen in earlier episodes, if the Cybermen aren’t stopped, they can take over the world, well outnumbering humans, if not wiping them out together.

When we last saw Danny, in part 1 of this 2-part finale, he was dead, existing in the Nethersphere, and about to press the “delete” button on his Nether-iPad, rendering him emotionless and ready to be turned into a Cyberman (or upgraded, as the Cybermen say). Just before the scene ended in part 1, the young boy Danny had killed during a combat mission seemed to appear behind him. And it seems that the boy stopped him from hitting “delete,” one way or another. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it. What we do see is Danny, seemingly normal (for a dead person) and the boy sort of hanging out on the balcony. Considering how important the boy is to the finale (and to Danny’s entire arc), it felt a bit incomplete.

The Doctor and Missy

The Doctor and Missy

In any event, the Cybermen are hanging around St. Paul’s, and, to The Doctor’s horror, the people around them start taking selfies with them. To be fair, the Cybermen aren’t doing anything scary. And they do look kind of cool. UNIT intervenes, and while I personally would have rather seen a surprise appearance by Martha Jones, it was good to see Osgood, UNIT scientist and Doctor Who fan avatar, now with a bowtie and Chuck Taylors. I can’t say I’m as infatuated with Osgood as some, but I can see why she’s popular. Also making another appearance is Kate Stewart, daughter of the Brigadier from the classic series and Head of Scientific Research for UNIT. This gist of this storyline is that with this attack, the entire Earth now has a single appointed President, and it’s The Doctor. They take The Doctor on a very presidential plane, along with the captive Missy. Although this storyline was definitely vital to the overall plot, it wasn’t nearly as engaging as Danny and Clara’s storyline.

Danny and Clara’s story is where things get intense. Missy’s plan all along was to trap the souls of the dead, delete their emotions, then put them back into their dead corpses, which would be housed inside of the metal Cyberman armor. So why all the fuss over cremation earlier? No, really, I’m wondering why. Were they lying to the recently deceased that cremation was undesirable, so therefore cremations would somehow become less common, leaving them with more Cyber-ready corpses? It wasn’t really explained. But Missy wanted the dead intact, so, clearly the worst possible post-death outcome wasn’t cremation. I’m not sure why it was made into a big deal.

Kate and Osgood return

Kate and Osgood return

But anyway. Missy does explain how both the empty souls and the cyber armor are sent into the graveyards via “rain,” though I couldn’t make sense of it. Still, it was explained. And after the cyber-rain seeped into the graves, the Cybermen began to rise. Clara entered one of the graveyards, curious. This is where the shots are very reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead. The Cybermen aren’t doing anything, just sort of wandering aimlessly, perhaps still processing the upgrade. Danny had gone Cyberman in the Morgue — he’s identified by his death certificate (or some other medical notice), which he carries, crumpled in his hand. When Clara comes face to face with a Cyberman in the graveyard, it is revealed that it’s Danny — who had saved her earlier when she was surrounded by Cybermen in the office (a fairly clever scene that nonetheless I almost forgot about until now). He removes his mask. She agrees to delete his emotion, just as The Doctor and Missy arrive, following the destruction of the plane. The Doctor reluctantly allows Clara to switch him off using his sonic screwdriver. It works, and Clara embraces him, through a bunch of postulating by Missy and an epiphany by The Doctor. When Missy gives The Doctor a bracelet that will allow him control of the Cyberman army, he gives it to Danny, who, despite the tweak, is still himself.

With his new power, Danny leads the Cyberman Army into the clouds (oh yeah, Cybermen fly now), where they explode, destroying the cyber rainclouds. The Doctor, satisfied with the outcome, announces that he’s returning to Gallifrey, the location of which he knows again thanks to Missy, who gives him coordinates before she’s vaporized by a Cyberman.

As it turns out, the bracelet has enough power to send one person across the Nethersphere back to Earth. Clara is thrilled, expecting Danny to come back to her. Instead, the young boy crosses over with a second chance at life. It’s an incredibly noble thing to do. It’s the right thing. But, of course, it breaks Clara’s heart. And now, with The Doctor returning home, she’s pretty much all alone in the world. But The Doctor doesn’t really have the coordinates. He lied about returning to Gallifrey to allow Clara to live on with Danny, because Clara had lied to him about Danny’s return so he wouldn’t feel bad about leaving.

And just as you’re like “wait, that’s the end?” Santa Claus himself (played by Nick Frost) interrupts as another audience avatar, before asking The Doctor what he wants for Christmas. Needless to say, the next time we see The Doctor it will be Christmas Day — and this isn’t just a silly Christmas promo, Santa will really be having an adventure with The Doctor this year.