It's been a few days since Death in Heaven brought an end to this latest series of Doctor Who, and I'm still kinda struggling with it. I can see, on a structural and intellectual level, how things played out the way they did and why that should have worked - and yet it never quite felt like it did.
It's all there, though. Every little setup and repeating motif in this crazy-dense series gets paid off in this one. Some are more successful than others (Courtney Woods and the Gifted and Talented class only seem to exist to set up one line) but they're all there and they all work. It's clever and meticulously constructed, to the point that there are (admittedly unnecessary) flashbacks from basically every single episode tying this one together.
Yet there's just something about the soldier arc that doesn't quite click, even though what happens makes perfect thematic sense. In The Companion Piece below, I had a few thoughts on what the problem might be, but even they don't seem quite right. I feel like I'm missing something fundamental, and it bugged me for days that I couldn't work out what.
But then I took a step back, and looked at the finale as a whole. Dark Water and Death in Heaven are one story, not two, and it's actually a bloody good one. This might be the best use of Cybermen I've ever seen - creepy and chilling and heartfelt and sad - and Missy is a villain for the ages! Taken as a regular Doctor Who story, this is a very strong episode. But, on top of that, it's bookended by two absolutely brilliant sequences with Clara and the Doctor - fulfilling everything their arcs were building to and proving, once again, that Coleman and Capaldi are maybe the strongest actors the show has had. That's the real finale of the series, and it's damn near perfect.
Viewed in that light, how could I possibly be disappointed?