Doctor Who Review: ‘Heaven Sent’

“Heaven Sent” is an example of Doctor Who at its best. A dark, compelling and character driven episode and working as an introspective about The Doctor. It is one of the best episodes of the Nu-Doctor Who series and easily Peter Capaldi’s best episode.

After the events of “Face the Raven”, The Doctor is teleported to a mysterious castle in the middle of a sea that is one light-year away from Earth. All around him are clues on what he needs to do and is surrounded by memories of his past. Even worse, The Doctor is being chased by a creature in a white cloak, having to avoid it while he figures out who put him in the castle and why.
doctor who - heaven sent, thinking
“Heaven Sent” is a truly bold episode, working as an intense mystery and psychological drama with Capaldi excelling in the role, having to work alone for most of the episode. This episode shows The Doctor suffering from grief and is in pain and despair. We get to see more insight into the The Doctor’s mind, particularly his fears and doubts – linking back to the Season 9 openers. The script is based on The Doctor being forced to reveal a dark secret so he can move onto the next part of the puzzle or to save his life. This is The Doctor at his lowest ebb and it is an emotional moment, relying on a pep talk from a character from his past to get him out of this point. The phrase “get off your arse and win” needs to become a meme.

The mystery in “Heaven Sent” was well crafted, with the information given to us in small doses. There are little clues littered throughout regarding the endgame of the episode but it only really comes together at the end when everything is revealed. It will not be spoiled here, but it was a cracker as it shows how all these little clues were signalling the ending without being too obvious. It is beautifully tied together and “Heaven Sent” has a fantastic montage at the end, having plenty of gravity to it. This episode show’s Steven Moffatt’s writing at its best, being tight and concise as it ties everything together and works on an emotional level.
doctor who - heaven sent the veil
Rachel Talalay returns to direct the final two episodes of Doctor Who. Her direction is exemplary, capturing the somber tone of Moffat’s writing and The Doctor’s despair and isolation. There are dark moments, whether it is The Doctor reflecting to himself, falling into a sea of skulls and constantly being chased by The Veil – forcing The Doctor to make personal revelations. Like Moffat’s writing, Talalay’s direction ties the twist to the preceding events together perfectly. If “Sleep No More” is an example of Doctor Who trying to be inventive and failing, “Heaven Sent” is a Doctor Who episode being different and succeeding.

Murray Gold also supplies some of the best music ever for the show, which is a massive achievement considering his work for Doctor Who. It is the best music from this season, sharing some similar beats to Mozart’s “Requiem”. It gives “Heaven Sent” an operatic feel which best describes the episode as a whole, having grand moments – when all the floors of the castle movie like sliding puzzle and showcasing The Doctor’s personal turmoil. The music was a perfect reflection to the episode as a whole.

“Heaven Sent” is deserving of all the praise it has been receiving and it will go down as a classic Doctor Who episode. “Heaven Sent” stands alongside “Blink” for quality and invention.

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.