Heaven Sent


The Doctor finds himself teleported into a castle where he is stalked by a relentless creature based on his own childhood fears.

The loss of Clara at the end of the previous episode, Face the Raven, is accentuated by the lack of any other characters in this ‘single-hander’ episode. In the absence of a companion to converse with, the Doctor automatically still talks to his fallen friend, while his subconscious fills in the other side of the conversation.

We get another insight into the Doctor’s survival tactics. Missy tells us at the beginning of The Witch’s Familiar that the Doctor survives is because he assumes he’s going to. We get to see this from his point of view in Heaven Sent, as he assumes he already has survived and retreats his consciousness into his ‘storm room’, a twist on Sherlock‘s ‘mind palace’. The slowing of time as he does this brings to mind the scene from The End of the World where he is able to step through the huge spinning fans.


The Doctor describes the castle as a puzzle box, which is also an apt description of the episode itself. The reveal of the true situation the Doctor finds himself in is incredibly satisfying. Every clue, every piece of the mystery clicks into place in a way that makes sense while being virtually unguessable as the tale unfolds. It loses nothing on repeat viewings, and lines like the Doctor saying, “It’s all the days after they stay dead” take on new resonance.


Rachel Talalay has constructed a beautifully atmospheric story, lavish to look at, and  with a relentless sense of foreboding throughout. Doctor Who has always had a good line in slow-moving, shuffling monsters. The Veil, like the Cybermen, or It Follows, are slow but relentless and unstoppable. The ‘game’ aspect of his predicament is brought put in the similarity to computer game rules. The monitors that show the Veil’s point of view are like a first-person multiplayer where you can see what your opponent sees; and you can tell their position if you know the terrain well enough. Rooms reseting after leaving them is also familiar video game logic.

Peter Capaldi proves once again how lucky we are to have him playing the Doctor. The screen presence, charisma and gravitas he brings to the role have never been more evident. I really hope the Doctor keeps this outfit, or close variation to it, as it gives him a Doctorly silhouette that I now realise has been lacking a bit in this series.


The final scene of the previous episode the Doctor revealed that he didn’t know what the confession dial exactly was, and in a classic piece of Steven Moffat misdirection, we learn that it was to elicit a confession, rather than reveal one. The true meaning of his final words in the episode (me? or Me?) and why he confesses seconds after leaving the castle, along with the location, must surely make the next episode one of the most anticipated finales ever.


Order series 9, part 2 on DVD:

Doctor Who: Series 9 – Part 2 [DVD]

2 thoughts on “Heaven Sent

  1. Yeah, I think it’s deliberately ambiguous. “The Hybrid is me,” is an odd way of saying it instead of, “I am the Hybrid.” He always says, “I am the Doctor” for example.

  2. Oh yeah, the “me” vs. “Me” thing is gonna cause endless debates… at least until Saturday. Based on Capaldi’s heroically donning the sunglasses as he was delivering that line, I believe the production team’s intent was with “me” rather than “Me”. Of course, knowing Moff, the answer is probably something entirely different to what everyone else was expecting ….

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