Doctor Who “Heaven Sent” Review (Season 9 Episode 11)

Doctor Who S9 Ep11 Heaven Sent

“Heaven Sent” is not only the best episode of Doctor Who this season, it’s easily one of the best hours of television produced in the now decade-long revival era. If that seems like hyperbole, then I would assume you just haven’t seen the episode yet. Seriously, this was an amazing episode of science fiction storytelling, and I don’t know that I’ve been this excited for the next episode of the show since the Tenth Doctor’s final adventure.

While I don’t know that I would suggest this episode as a viewer’s first episode of the series – Clara’s death in the previous episode is a major spoiler, and the reveal of Gallifrey at the end would mean nothing to a new viewer – this episode captures the character and personality of the Doctor perfectly. It’s a tour de force performance from Peter Capaldi, who manages to command the hour in what is more or less a one-man show. It’s an evolution from his stellar speech at the end of “The Zygon Inversion,” proof that Capaldi truly is worthy of the role.

There’s just so much to the performance, with Capaldi capturing the Doctor’s despair, curiosity, and righteous fury in equal measure. Capaldi keeps us enthralled for the entire hour as he works his way through the puzzle box of castle that he finds himself trapped in, stalked by a specter obsessed with his secrets. It doesn’t hurt that the mystery itself is a stellar one, with each new discovery slowly building up to the ultimate reveal of the grim time loop the Doctor is trapped in.

The cinematography was also stellar this week, with the camerawork keeping us firmly seeing the world through the Doctor’s eyes. Plus, there are great shots and images that feed into the foreshadowing of what’s really going on; in particular, the transition from the mysterious skull on the roof to the Doctor was a strong one. Really, everything about this episode – the performance, the writing, the score – came together to make an absolutely magical hour of TV.

Over the past few years my enthusiasm for Doctor Who has waned. It’s never been to the point that I’ve wanted to stop watching, but it’s the sort of diminishing returns that come with any show you’ve consistently watched for a decade. But then, along comes this episode, showing the full potential of the show in a breathtaking, amazing display, and I’m left a bigger Whovian than I’ve maybe ever been.

And we’ve still got a finale to look forward to.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!