Death in Heaven

252b "Death in Heaven"
Doctor Who episode

Promotional image for the episode
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Written by Steven Moffat
Script editor David P Davis
Produced by Peter Bennett
Executive producer(s) Steven Moffat
Brian Minchin
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Series Series 8
Length 2nd of 2-part story, 60 minutes
Originally broadcast 8 November 2014
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Dark Water" "Last Christmas"

"Death in Heaven" is the twelfth and final episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. It is the second episode of a two-part story involving the return of the Cybermen and the Master in the form of 'Missy', the first part being "Dark Water", written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay. The episode stars Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Michelle Gomez, Chris Addison, Jemma Redgrave, and Ingrid Oliver.

The episode received mostly positive reviews, with critics praising its writing, direction, and acting. With Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, and Michelle Gomez receiving widespread acclaim for their performances, Gomez was consistently highly praised in reviews, with many calling her a highlight of the eighth series.[1][2][3][4]


Continuing from "Dark Water", Clara Oswald is trapped with a Cyberman in the headquarters of 3W in St Paul's Cathedral and manages to stop it from killing her by stating that she is really the Doctor.[nb 1]

Outside, the Doctor reels from the revelation that Missy, the woman controlling the Cybermen, is a female incarnation of the Master. The public appears unconcerned by the arrival of the Cybermen, but UNIT, led by Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, turn up and surround the Doctor, Missy, and her group of Cybermen. The Cybermen take to the air using built-in leg jets and scatter over the British Isles. Missy reveals that 91 Cybermen  one for every major population area in the United Kingdom  have been released from St Paul's to explode over graveyards in each populated area, releasing 'Cyberpollen' that will resurrect the dead as Cybermen. Similar events occur all over the world. UNIT renders both Missy and the Doctor unconscious and takes them into custody.

In the Nethersphere, the dimension where Missy has trapped the souls of the dead, Danny Pink has chosen not to "delete" his emotions (having been given the choice in the prior episode). He sees the Nethersphere environment going dark and asks the virtual assistant Seb what is happening. Seb reveals that the "cloud" that is the Nethersphere is dispersing, and the souls are being released back to their bodies via rainclouds. Meanwhile, Clara tries to use her knowledge of the Doctor to authenticate her claim, but fails to convince the Cybermen in 3W that she truly is the Doctor. She is saved by Danny, who is now a Cyberman but has retained his personality.

Aboard a protected UNIT aircraft, Kate reveals to the Doctor that, per United Nations emergency protocols, he has been designated "President of Earth" with full control of the planet's armies. Cyberpollen is reconstituting the dead as Cybermen, but the Doctor is unable to get anything further from Missy about her plans for the Cybermen. He tells Kate and other officials on board that there is nothing they can do for Earth now. In the meantime, Clara awakens at a graveyard where Danny reveals himself to her. Danny asks her to activate his cyber-body's emotion inhibitor, as he cannot stand the physical and emotional pain he now suffers.

Missy escapes her captors and kills UNIT scientist Osgood. The Doctor faces her as a horde of flying Cybermen attack the plane. Clara calls the Doctor on the TARDIS's phone. Missy admits she is the one who gave Clara that phone number ("The Bells of Saint John") to bring her and the Doctor together. Clara asks for his help to stop Danny's torment, but the Doctor, fearing that Danny would then kill Clara, refuses. Missy then blasts open one of the plane's cargo doors, sending Kate and the Doctor plummeting towards the ground to their deaths while she teleports to safety. The Doctor narrowly escapes by calling the TARDIS to catch him and break his fall, and he joins Clara at the graveyard. The Doctor still refuses to help Danny for moral reasons. He asks Danny about Missy's plans, but Danny tells him that the Cyberhive cannot be fully accessed without the inhibitor. As the Doctor is hesitant, Clara insists that she be the one to do it. The Doctor reluctantly gives her his sonic screwdriver to turn the inhibitor on. Danny then reveals that a second rainfall is coming, one which will convert living humans into Cybermen.

Missy teleports to join them and gives the Doctor control of the Cyberarmy, as a birthday present. She explains that he can lead his own personal Cyberman army as a conquering force to save the universe from tyranny, such as that of the Daleks, as he has always wanted. The Doctor protests that no one should have such power. Missy taunts that he does not trust himself, and she wants to prove to him that they are fundamentally the same. The Doctor ultimately rejects the gift, accepting that he is not a "good man", and passes the control bracelet to Danny, who is revealed to have kept hold of his personality through his love for Clara. Danny leads the Cyberarmy into the sky, where he and they explode, incinerating all the Cyberpollen clouds across the world, thus stopping the second rainfall and saving humankind.

Although disappointed that her plan has been ruined, Missy suggests that she and the Doctor can still become friends again and return to Gallifrey, which she claims has now returned to its original location. Furious over what has happened, Clara instead prepares to kill Missy with her own weapon. The Doctor, however, insists on committing the deed himself to keep Clara's hands clean. He acknowledges to Missy that she wins. But, before he can fire, a solitary Cyberman vaporises Missy and gestures towards an unconscious, but still living, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. The Doctor realises that this Cyberman is her father, the late Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, also with his humanity intact. The Doctor salutes his old friend (something Kate remarked earlier that her father always wanted from the Doctor), and Lethbridge-Stewart fires his leg jets and flies away.

Two weeks later, Danny contacts Clara from the Nethersphere as it begins to shut down. Explaining that there is only enough power in Missy's control bracelet to bring one person back to life, Danny uses it to resurrect the boy he had accidentally killed while serving in the army. He asks Clara to return the boy to his parents. In the interim, the Doctor travels to the spatial coordinates given by Missy, only to find nothing there; Gallifrey remains lost. Some time later, Clara meets with the Doctor to tell him about Danny's fate. Assuming Danny is alive again, the Doctor interrupts her with the news that he found Gallifrey and plans to return home, wanting to spare Clara's feelings. Clara, in turn, says that she and Danny are going to settle down and resume their relationship. They bid each other goodbye.


As the first full episode since The End of Time to feature the Master with her true identity revealed, "Death in Heaven" features various references to previous episodes featuring the Master. Osgood refers to previous incidents on Earth featuring the Master, including his tenure as Prime Minister in "The Sound of Drums". When boarding the airbase, the Doctor believes that he is going to the Valiant, an airborne aircraft carrier partially designed by the Master in "The Sound of Drums". Missy uses the phrase "Oh, my giddy aunt", an expression associated with the Second Doctor.[5]

The Cyberman head that Kate reveals is from the 1968 episode The Invasion, which also featured Cybermen invading near St. Paul's Cathedral.[5]

The scene in which Missy is tied to a chair on board the plane was written as a parallel to the Master tying the Doctor to a chair in The End of Time.[6]

The location of the planet Gallifrey—"in the constellation of Kasterborous" at galactic coordinates 10-0-11-00:02—was first mentioned in the Fourth Doctor story Pyramids of Mars.[5]

The episode ends with Santa Claus (Nick Frost) entering the TARDIS and asking the Doctor what he would like for Christmas, leading into the Christmas special "Last Christmas".


The read through for "Death in Heaven" took place on 12 June 2014. Production of the episode overlapped with "Dark Water"; the opening scene involving UNIT was filmed prior to the final scene in the previous episode. Principal photography for the episode concluded on 21 July 2014.[5]


Overnight ratings estimate that the episode was watched by 5.45 million viewers. The finale was watched by a total of 7.60 million viewers. The episode received an AI score of 83. This was a lower score than the first part of the story received.[7]

The episode received mostly positive reviews. Dan Martin writing for The Guardian praised Michelle Gomez's performance, noting that she "preens with a perfect combination of madness and malevolence that is just so Master". He also notes that her demise is a nod to the Roger Delgado era of the Master. He summed up the final as "Action-packed, uncompromising, filled with genuine emotion".[1] While writing for The Daily Telegraph, Michael Hogan noted that Danny Pink got a "stupendous send-off" and that it would be a shame if Missy did not reappear in the future. Hogan also loved the two nods to Nicholas Courtney who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. He gave the episode four stars out of five.[8] Dave Golder, writing for SFX, gave the episode four stars out of five. He criticised some parts of the episode, including Danny's final moments in the graveyard, and he felt the episode was "less chilling than Dark Water". Overall, he stated "[it] was an immensely enjoyable series finale".[9]

Writing for IGN, Matt Risley, gave the episode an "Amazing" 9.1, calling it "a powerful and emotional finale to Capaldi's masterful first season." He also praised Michelle Gomez for her performance, but criticised the use of the Cybermen and plot holes.[4] On the AV Club, writer Alasdair Wilkins gave the episode A-, calling it a "bittersweet ending for the season". When commenting on the season as a whole, he said "we are left to ponder one of Doctor Who's most complex, emotionally rich seasons".[10]

Simon Brew of Den of Geek gave a mixed to positive review. He praised Michelle Gomez's, Capaldi's and Coleman's performances, but was critical of the Cybermen, believing them to be the weakest of the three cliffhanger threads from the previous week. He was also critical of the pacing and some plot holes and threads that were slightly unbelievable, citing the falling Doctor homing into the TARDIS as the main culprit. He was disappointed with Bhaskar's limited role in the episode and lack of resolutions to certain plot points. Overall though, he believed it to be one of the better finales since the show returned in 2005.[11]

The Register gave a generally negative review, with writer Brid-Aine Parnell saying "This finale couldn't lift itself up from the messy morass of the rest of the season… it didn't make sense, it was ridiculous and contrived and just not engaging." She was critical of plot holes in the episode and the fact no explanation was given for how the Master returned. She was however pleased with Gomez' performance believing it to be the best part of the episode, calling her "fantastic". Gavin Clarke said of the Doctor's "meltdown" in the Tardis: "This was a unexpected moment, his console trashing made more powerful for its silence over swelling music" and of it overall "Did Death in Heaven succeed? Mostly 'yes', some grumbling 'no's' and a bit of breathing deeply and just letting it go". His colleague, Jennifer Baker, said "The rationale for clouds and rain and pollination was confused, but zombie Cybermen climbing out of graves was worth it!"[2] Dan Wilson of Metro also gave a negative review, citing that it "left far too many threads hanging," but he too was positive about Michelle Gomez as the Master.[3]


  1. In the credits sequence that follows, the credits for Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi are reversed (with Coleman's appearing first), and an image of Coleman's eyes replaces Capaldi's. This gives the appearance that Clara is indeed the Doctor, though this is later shown to be untrue.


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