The Doctor is all alone in "Heaven Sent" (Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 11)

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of or its management.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. (This is a legal requirement, as apparently some sites advertise for Amazon for free. Yes, that's sarcasm.)

Doctor Who Heaven Sent Peter Capaldi

Doctor Who Series 9 - Episode 11 – Heaven Sent

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Rachel Talalay






  • The Doctor - Peter Capaldi
  • Clara Oswald - Jenna Coleman
  • Jami Reid-Quarrell – Veil

Quick Synopsis:  The Doctor has been teleported to a mysterious castle in an unknown location.  The castle seems to be constantly changing layouts, and he is being stalked by a silent cloaked creature who can only be stopped when the Doctor reveals a deeply held secret.  The Doctor believes that this is all an attempt to get him to reveal the identity of the Hybrid. 

After the Doctor manages to escape the castle, he realizes that he’s been held in his own confession dial this whole time, and he emerges on Gallifrey.  He sees a child and tells the child to let the Time Lords know that he has arrived, having "taken the long way around." The Doctor, assuming that whoever placed him into the trap can still hear him, then proclaims "The Hybrid, destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins, is me."

Commentary:  - This is a very unique episode of Doctor Who for a lot of reasons.   The Doctor is alone through the entire episode.  He does talk to Clara is his “mind palace” a few times, but she’s just a figment of his imagination.  And the Veil just silently stalks him the entire time.  Peter Capaldi has to carry this entire episode, and he does it brilliantly.  The Doctor goes through every possible emotion as he explores this terrible trap, and the viewer can’t help but feel every moment of it.  It is an incredible performance, definitely worthy of several awards!



- Another thing that made this episode so unique was how the Doctor ended up escaping the castle.  He found a wall made of a material harder than diamond.  And began to pound away at it.  He only managed to get a few blows in before The Veil left him in a near death state.  At that point, he crawls back to the teleporter and sacrifices his life to have the teleporter release another version of the Doctor from the buffer.  This new Doctor has no memories of anything that happened and has to puzzle it all out himself.  In the end, the new Doctor does the same thing: pounds away at the wall a few times, is killed, and resets himself.  This happens billions and billions of times over 2 billion years until the diamond wall finally breaks, allowing the Doctor to escape.  The sequences showing the Doctor doing this over and over again are genuinely chilling.  I was speechless watching this scene as you realized the Doctor understood he had already died literally billions of times in the service of his plan.

- After watching this, I expected the reaction for this episode to be very mixed, and I was right.  BBC has something called Audience Appreciation” which is a score out of 100 which is compiled by a specially selected panel of around 5,000 people.  Heaven Sent got an AI score of 80, which was one of the lowest scores I have ever seen for a Doctor Who episode.   In a lot of ways, I think Moffat, Capaldi, and director Rachel Talalay should wear that score as a badge of honor.  They set out to do something really unique here, and I think they achieved it brilliantly.  Not everyone understood or appreciated what they built it, but it was amazing. Besides, critics ate this episode up.    Here are some great quotes from reviews compiled by Doctor Who News:

Radio Times "This is Peter Capaldi’s hour and he has earned it. OK, the running time is five minutes shy of one hour, but this brilliant, bold, extended episode is a one-man show – a tour de force from the magnificent Capaldi."

Metro -  "Capaldi delivers 100%, carrying every scene and showing every facet of his Doctor: anger, terror, playfulness, intensity, resignation and, finally, a fierce refusal to do anything other than do what he has always done: find a way to win."

Den of Geek :  "This is Steven Moffat on very good form. He's being confident and clever with time, without zipping backwards and forwards and asking us to hold on. There’s an inherent trust that the audience is on board with what he’s doing, and – in a recurring theme this series – there's a genuine gamble with format and story."

- This episode actually reminded me of the video game Myst.  You have a character in a weird situation without a lot of instruction that has to come up with some unconventional ways to solve the mysteries.  I was wondering if I was the only one who made that connection, but my friend Logan had the same comment. 

- I really liked how they showed how the Doctor’s mind works.  I have seen a few people comment that these scenes seemed “stolen” from Sherlock, but since Steven Moffat is the showrunner on both, this is a real silly complaint.  When the Doctor has a problem he can’t solve, he basically goes into a version of the TARDIS in his own mind to puzzle out a way to solve it.  This worked really well, especially since the Doctor didn’t have a companion to bounce his ideas off of.  He created a Clara in his mind to talk to.  This was also a great way to show how he was mourning the loss of Clara at the end of the last episode.

- I actually thought this episode was close to perfect, though it did feel a little padded at times.  Some of the “rooms” served no real purpose other than to help increase the run time of the episode.  I also can’t figure out exactly what the plan was for whoever put him in this trap. Did they really think this would convince the Doctor to give up the secret of the Hybrid?  They had to know that the Doctor would either die first or figure out a way to escape.  This is the Doctor we’re talking about. 

- Speaking of the Hybrid, I wonder if the Doctor’s line at the end of this episode was at straightforward as it seemed.  “The Hybrid, destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins, is me."  Now, is he referring to himself or Ashildr, who has been calling herself Me for a while now.  She was a Hybrid of sorts too.   I have said throughout the season that I really hoped that they had gotten away from the “season long arc” but I guess that’s become am unescapable tradition for Doctor Who.

- I liked this episode a lot better than “Sleep No More” which was another very experimental episode this season.  I am glad that even after 52 years, there are still new ways to explore The Doctor and his reality.  Moffat, Capaldi, and Talalay have created an incredible episode that will definitely go down as one of the best in Doctor Who’s long history.

Next Episode:  Hell Bent – The Doctor has made it back to Gallifrey….but who put him here and why?  This has been a great season of Doctor Who and I am very excited to see how it all wraps up.

5.0 / 5.0