As far as this series of Doctor Who is concerned, although it has not been without it's flaws, we have seen a dramatic switch in the writing, Peter Capaldi's performance and the overall format of the show compared to series 8. The 2 part stories have given room for clarity in the narrative, as well as room for character development and more of an episodic style of story telling, that doesn't all revolve around one arc. It seems that Capaldi has discovered a more grounded way of playing the doctor compared to the very up and down style he portrayed in the previous series, where he played an almost 'anti-doctor' at times, discarding the moral values that we have always seen in the Doctor.
Last nights episode Heaven Sent was the much anticipated solo performance with just Capaldi at the helm trapped in his own personal hell after the events of episode 10 - Face The Raven. Stalked by a mysterious veiled figure, and lured by mysterious clues, he must find a way to escape what he can only assume is a torturous prison designed to make him confess his darkest secrets.
We have seen instances of The Doctor voicing an inner monologue and breaking the fourth wall in this series and last, we knew that Capaldi had the acting ability to create a tone and emotion without an antagonist present, but this episode was going to well and truly test the acting chops of this carnation of The Doctor. And without a shadow of a doubt, he prevailed more so than we could have ever of expected!
With Steven Moffat at the writing helm, the dialogue was written in a way that despite Clara's absence, The Doctor used his memories of her as a moral compass and way of guidance. This was highlighted in the scenes where we saw the Doctor imagining he was back in the TARDIS when in actual fact he was moments from death and slowed his thought process down to weigh up the situation and work out a way of escaping. This was a very typically eccentric attribute for the Doctor, but as well, these solitary moments of near desperation and times of hopelessness made The Doctor question his heroism, and why he has to survive every time. This was an intriguing moment, as it seemed almost like it's the companions that ride with the Doctor who expect him to save the day and that's what drives him. Suddenly as we find the Doctor on his own, there is no one around for him to 'live up to expectations' nor is there anyone reminding him the he is 'The Doctor' and must step up when he is needed. But the main thing to remember is, in this instance there is no one to save but himself, and this shows the selflessness that we have seen so many times, where he would sooner put others before himself. But when he finds himself alone, we see an inner struggle, where he must find some other way of making him want to save himself. This for me was the main drive in the writing in this episode as this happens so soon after loosing Clara, there is an overwhelming level of guilt riding with The Doctor, and then to suddenly face a challenge alone, his emotional conflict is to much to bear with, as in this circumstance he realises he can't save everyone.
The red herrings and twists running through the episode were subtle yet intriguing, from the freshly laid suit, the shovel still covered in mud and the word 'bird' written in the sand, only revealing their relevance towards the end of the episode . Balanced with waves of emotion coming from The Doctor, him questioning his own purpose, and the heartbreaking nature of the challenge that faces him, this episode shone not only in Capaldi's portrayal of a grieving doctor, but the way in which we saw an episode of Doctor Who that gave us a solid story, a 'fairly' conclusive ending, that will no doubt be developed on in the series finale, interesting plot points, and a beautiful balance of subtle scene direction and special effects that were only ever used to aid the story. Not to mention the fact that some scenes, were genuinely terrifying, and the old school horror we hear about from our parents in days of Doctor Who gone by were clearly resurrected for this intense and groundbreaking episode.
It wouldn't be a fair review without some criticism, but quite frankly i took this for what it was, and the idea of a Doctor Who episode being a 'prime time Saturday night show' that can be enjoyed for being exactly that, i would be merely nit picking. But the fact i took so much more from it's original intention i was left satisfied and so ready for next weeks series finale!