Reviews: Doctor Who – Series 9, Episode 12 – Hell Bent

Chris Jordan reviews the Doctor Who Series Nine finale, Hell Bent.

Events and themes from across Doctor Who lore weave together to form a genuinely surprising and extremely satisfying finale in Hell Bent. Building from Heaven Sent's conclusion, which really could have gone anywhere, Steven Moffat has delivered one of his strongest scripts yet, with a set of twists, reveals, and insights which manage to catch fans off-guard while at the same time feeling totally earned. Not only does it give a fantastic payoff to series nine's ongoing thematic arc, it also casts plot threads from the past several years in new lights, creating a rich feeling of cohesiveness across this first stretch of the Peter Capaldi era.

"I hope you're ready for some feels.
Some serious feels are coming."
Going into this episode I was optimistic but a bit concerned: the trailer at the end of Heaven Sent made Hell Bent look appropriately huge and epic, but also made me worry that Steven Moffat may have thrown away consistency with recent major plot-points in favor of a grand-scale showstopper. I am so happy that he proved me wrong. The opening minutes flirt with this problem, recalling the too-big, suspension-of-disbelief-straining series six finale, but it soon becomes clear that these moments are not just for flash, but in service of a very strong story. Unlike past finales which ramp up the epic stakes to cosmic proportions, Hell Bent actually starts on a grand scale but quickly focuses in on a very personal, intimate dilemma. Everything else that happens, as epic as it seems, functions in support of the same examination of The Doctor's character and actions that we saw in last week's one-man show. Like this entire season, it is interested in a deeply philosophical question at the heart of Doctor Who: what are the ethical implications of adventuring across time in the way The Doctor does?

That is literally all one can say about the narrative content of this episode and stay spoiler-free: this truly is an episode that fans should go into as blind as possible. What I can say is that it probes this question in fascinating ways, and works with the show's mythos in ways that fans of both the original and new series should find immensely satisfying. It explores the show's continuity and themes in some new ways while also honoring established lore; something fans frequently worry about Steven Moffat's ability to do. It also brings a very thoughtful, emotionally resonant conclusion to this year's character development arcs, making this one of Doctor Who's best series as a character-based drama. The actors all bring their finest performances to the parts; particularly Capaldi. Those who felt that Capaldi didn't have enough to do in last year's finale should be thrilled with the excellent script he gets to work with here. The episode's direction is equally strong. Once again showing an excellent control over suspense and emotional buildup, Rachel Talalay has perhaps given us her finest directorial work ever over the course of this two-part arc.

"I like what you've done with the place, Doctor -
all the retro coolness, but with a bit more production value."
Hell Bent is a pitch-perfect conclusion to one of the revived Doctor Who's finest series yet. With the exception of just one misstep, the mediocre Sleep No More, series nine was uniformly excellent. Its eleven great episodes (leaving out that one not-so-great one) add up to an even greater whole, with rich character development and compelling themes and insights concerning the show's core concept. A fascinating look at just how The Doctor effects time as he travels through it, series nine allows us to see Doctor Who's cosmic logic on a grand scale while also giving us great adventures along the way. The show has seldom been better, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Fortunately, with the annual Christmas special right around the corner, we won't have to wait long.

Like this review? Please share.
StumbleUpon Reddit Pinterest Facebook Twitter Addthis


Series Nine Overall Score:

- Christopher S. Jordan