The internet is a dangerous place. I’ve been spoiled for each of the last two episodes, in spite of careful avoidance of Tumblr and Twitter. An ordinary news page was the first culprit, and BBC America’s Facebook page the second. BBC America has done it before: they announced the anniversary special’s secret guest the day after the special aired, in spite of the time lag many of its own fans experience. You’d think they’d know better.
On that note:
This is the first episode in a long time that had me wondering whether it was too scary to finish. If I’d been on my own, I might have been tempted to wait at least for daylight. As it was, with my husband by my side, I was able to power through. I’m very glad I did.
I really enjoy the experimental direction the show has taken this season. The series of two-parters; the documentary format of ‘Sleep No More;’ and now this: a single character in a single location, talking to the audience and the ghosts that inhabit his dreams. Capaldi is a master class, both as an actor and as the Doctor. I’ve heard him described as “definitive,” and I really can’t argue.
I like Clara as a memory ghost. Of course the Doctor would continue to talk to her as if she were there. He’s known her a good chunk of his life, even if they did spend a lot of that time apart. Her voice in his mind is by now almost second nature. I’ve been getting tired of her, but she was well used in this episode.
The ending on Gallifrey was spoiled on Facebook, but it wasn’t a surprise – we’d guessed the Time Lords were involved as soon as Lady Me referred to a mysterious “they,” and the Time Ring lookalike cemented them in our minds. The rotating gears and the Doctor’s repeated use of the word “confess” gave away the location miles in advance. The ending was a surprise, though it shouldn’t have been; he did say he would never, ever stop. I love when the show is smart, and clever, and buries relevant clues right where the audience can see. It feels like we’re adventuring WITH the Doctor, instead of being told the story later.
The series finale promises resolution of the hybrid arc – weak, I suppose, but an improvement on the impossible girl. My husband points out that Lady Me – whose appearance is teased in the promo – is a warrior hybrid: part Viking and part Mire, thanks to the chip that provides her immortality. The prophecy – one who will break a world of hearts to heal its own – sounds very like her. The Doctor even says her name: “The hybrid is Me.” We’re almost certain he isn’t talking about himself.
Of course Lady Me is a little bit obvious. Maybe we’ll be surprised after all.
On the titles: The phrase “heaven sent” usually refers to a pleasant surprise, a timely intervention of fate, a gift from the gods. Nothing in the episode seems particularly fortuitous. “Hell bent” refers to an unstoppable determination. The Doctor is most certainly hell bent in this episode, sufficiently to repeat himself for millions of years in order to reach his goal. That’s practically the definition. There have been a lot of Christian afterlife references from Moffat lately, counting last year’s Promised Land; I guess he can’t fully let go his obsession with the Doctor’s death. But this season he can do what he likes: with a result this good, I’m not going to complain.