‘Heaven Sent’ is an experimental episode, with much it featuring just The Doctor. With no companion and only fleeting appearances from a villain, the adventure succeeds or fails based on how well Peter Capaldi can carry it.
The Doctor spends a lot of the runtime pondering to the dead Clara, both out loud and within his mind as represented by his TARDIS. The TARDIS scenes start off feeling fresh but drag a bit throughout the segment. Particularly overdrawn is the sequence explaining how The Doctor survived jumping out a window. It’s a two minute sequence devoted to the fact that The Doctor knew he was jumping into water.Peter Capaldi is at last truly feeling like The Doctor, thinking his way out of any problem that he faces. His sadness at Clara’s passing feels more palpable this week than it did straight after the fact. With no one to direct his anger at we actually get to see him mourn the loss of his friend in a way that actually feels convincing. The final time The Doctor enters his mind TARDIS, the sequence is revitalised due to the appearance of Clara, convincing him not to give up during his bleakest time. It is one of the most impactful scenes of the entire episode and is a great way to remind viewers that The Doctor needs a companion, even if right now he’s left with an imaginary one.
The monster of the week is quite a scary creature, a decaying corpse literally straight out of The Doctor’s nightmares. Its arrival is signalled by the flies that swarm around it and The Doctor’s genuine fear is enough to make it terrifying on its first few appearances. However, when it is revealed it’s stopped simply by The Doctor revealing secrets and the fear factor drastically decreases. The final reveal of the episode takes away all fear of the monster entirely.‘Heaven Sent’ pulls a variation on one of the oldest and lamest twists in the book, essentially stating that the entire episode was inside The Doctor’s mind – as created by the Confession Dial from earlier this season no less. It’s a twist that should be obvious for anyone paying close attention, though the execution of The Doctor dying over and over is still quite a shocking image.
The Doctor has been trapped in a loop, being forced to reveal his deepest secret. The biggest shock of the episode is the identity of the hybrid, The Doctor himself. It will be interesting to discover next week just what The Doctor is a hybrid of and whether he truly intends to rule Gallifrey.