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Hell and Heaven

We come to the end of what I can now confidently say was my favourite series of new Doctor Who so far. No matter how good it was when it all came back with Chris Ecc (as we still like to call him in my family); how much we liked David Tennant; how manically brilliant Matt Smith was from day one: Peter Capaldi was on fire this season, and Stephen Moffat is at the top of his game as showrunner.

Were this last pair as good as “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” or “Blink”? It’s hard to say definitively, because those were so shockingly good when they hit us. But I think in time we’ll say so. I don’t doubt that Capaldi and the production team will win BAFTAs this year, and I’m sure that one of the last two will get the Hugo.

Awards may not mean that much (though let’s face it, they do) but when you see an award-worthy performance, or read something that you know is likely to win, that deserves to win — you know you’ve experienced something special.

And we experienced something very special in this season of Doctor Who And particularly in the last three episodes.

I just read a foolish comment on a Tor.com post about how great Capaldi is. It said, in effect, “That episode was only about the gender & skin-colour switching regeneration.” Yes, that was it: it was about that one thing and nothing else.

Seriously, though, that was a nice touch.

One thing I haven’t seen or heard mentioned is how terrified the Time Lords were of him — well, Rassilon, at least: one guy, and they send a vast floating gun platform to bring him in. Of course, it turns out that Rassilon was right to be afraid.

One thing about this episode and more importantly, the previous, seems to be causing people some confusion. The Doctor didn’t spend two billion years (or whatever) in the clockwork castle. Two billion years worth of copies of him — each with some awareness of its past iterations, triggered by the word “bird” — go through a near-identical experience.

Though Hell Bent proves that even The Doctor — or Stephen Moffat — is confused by this.

Mind you, the planet on which the castle is built does experience all that time, we must assume, as The Doctor observes how the stars have changed.

What the episode does do is address the old philosophical question of whether matter transmitters make copies. In the Whoniverse at least, they do.

Unless the whole thing is a simulation, including the changing stars.

Anyway, masterful, glorious work. I’m looking forward to the Christmas special.

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