Doctor Who series finales have had a certain grandeur to them since the show returned in 2005, emphasising the arcs that have run through the year, and bringing most – if not all – of them to a conclusion. There’s always been a feeling that things have been ramped up to 11, and that anything pretty much can happen.
Series 8 felt slightly different, with much continuing to be set up for the Christmas episode which in that sense served as the series finale. That’s not the case this time round: this really is it!
If you enjoyed the way in which The Big Bang played with the concepts of Doctor Who in ways that nobody would previously have dared, then you’re going to love Hell Bent. We get confirmation of certain fan theories that have been going the rounds in recent years, there are debates between the Doctor and other Time Lords that give just a hint of what the War Doctor’s time on Gallifrey must have been like. We get meta moments, with the Doctor’s guitar playing reaching the obvious conclusion, and him strumming music composed by Murray Gold for the show…
In many ways, it reminded me both of Journey’s End and The Time of the Doctor, with their end of an era, throw in everything including the kitchen sink, feel – and it’s no surprise to learn that Steven Moffat believed when he was writing the Christmas special it was the last time he was writing for Who: what would have been his final regular episode has the hallmarks of someone having one last triumphant go with the train set. Elements do feel a little familiar and I’m quite sure there are going to be as many arguments on social media between fans about this episode as they were over Heaven Sent but there are some wonderful kisses to the past – stretching right back to 1963 – as well as some potential avenues for the future for the show to explore.
It’s an episode of glorious moments and Rachel Talalay brings a real visual flair to it, capturing sometimes familiar visuals in an unusual way. Capaldi and the guest stars throw everything into their performances and I suspect there will be more than a few cheers at the final TARDIS scene. Does it reach the heights of The Zygon Inversion (or Heaven Sent if you’re of the school that thinks that was the best episode of Doctor Who ever)? Not quite – but as a rousing send-off for overall one of the best series of the show we’ve had in the 21st century, it works very well.
Verdict: Insane genius fun. 9/10