Doctor Who series 8: the big questions for Death In Heaven

Spoilers: we pick up the Doctor Who series 8 threads left hanging at the end of the Doctor Who finale's first half, Dark Water...

Warning contains spoilers for series 8 up to Dark Water, and speculation on Death In Heaven.

Given that Dark Water seemed to set fire to the internet with its triple cliffhanger, there’s already a lot to resolve in this weekend’s series finale of Doctor Who series 8. So what are big, head-scratchy questions we’re hoping will be answered by Death In Heaven? And what puzzlers have been left in place by Dark Water, and the episodes before it? 

Let’s go through them all – and feel free to continue the speculation in the comments…

Where exactly is Missy’s Neversphere?

This seems like a good place to start.

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“Go to hell!”, the Doctor says to Clara at one point in Doctor Who series 8’s penultimate episode, Dark Water. Hell, it turns out, is the long-teased Nethersphere, the ‘heaven’ we first encountered in Deep Breath. It’s also found at St Paul’s Cathedral, given the last shot of Dark Water. What it clearly isn’t is a heaven or hell in any religious sense. It’s a Cyberman factory, by the looks of it, although more may yet be revealed.

So where is it? How does a body die, and it magically appear there, ready for its soul to be uploaded? How do the Cybermen via cyberspace come along? How does a Gallifreyan hard drive work anyway? We know that Missy has been uploading dead people’s minds to it, stripping away their emotions before popping the remainder into Cybermen. But there are still questions remaining. Its geographical location being one.

Well, the best explanation we’d seen thus far, but it’s still far from a perfect one, suggests that ‘Heaven’ is actually tucked away in The Master/The Mistress’ TARDIS. In Who of old, The Master’s TARDIS was also a bit more effective at blending in. Might ‘Heaven’ be something to do with that? 

Or maybe Belinda Carlisle had it right years ago. Maybe it’s on Earth, although via what transmission methodology the souls/bodies people get there is unclear. Time Lord technology though would at least cover the transportation problem…

Is it possible to go in and out of the Nethersphere? 

Well, yes. We’ve seen Missy inside it, and we’ve seen her outside it. It’s clearly not quite the binding, final place that it may seem. Unless Missy has some special sonic Nethersphere device or something… 

What’s the relevance of the child that Danny Pink meets in the Nethersphere? 

The obvious answer to this is that the child is Danny’s dark secret, that he’s been harbouring for much of series 8. That he’s someone who was caught in the crossfire of battle, a reason and a half for Danny to go in completely the opposite direction to a military life (and also to be so protective of children, as we saw in In The Forest Of The Night). 

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However, as Danny hovers his finger over the delete button, pondering accepting his potential cyberfate, did you spot the reflection? Here’s the shot…

Crucially: this is the last shot of the episode. After the cybermen reveal. And after Missy’s reveal.

We argued in our review of Dark Water that it was arguably the least interesting of the three cliffhangers we got, but could it be the most crucial? It was hardly placed last for a reason, and is that young child going to be a vital part of Death In Heaven? If, somehow, there’s a chance to get seemingly dead people out of the Nethersphere, does Danny Pink have a shot at redemption he never thought he’d get? Might he, as someone who’s wary of the Doctor at best, be the person who becomes the most grateful to him come the end of the series? 

Why is Clara’s gran back? 

Don’t know, but it was nice to see her. Also, we don’t believe in mere coincidences when you get to series finale stories. Expect a reason. 

So is Clara a pawn of The Master/The Mistress? 

There’s clearly some link there. Two reasons. Firstly, that moment at the end of Flatline, where Missy gazes at Clara via her iPad and utters the line “Clara, my Clara. I have chosen well”.

So then: “my Clara”. There’s a big clue. Which begs the question why has she chosen Clara, and just as interestingly, when did she choose her? Was Clara a pawn of The Master/The Mistress from the moment she appeared in Asylum Of The Daleks? Given that the Doctor meeting Clara unlocked events that ultimately led to the reappearance of the previously time-sealed Gallifrey, was she part of the masterplan then? 

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That said, The Master would have been stuck behind the timelock at that point, so how he’d be able to escape to ‘plant’ Clara in the first place could happily warrant many trillions of words on the internet should it happen. 

But then we need to hide behind the spoiler squirrel for a minute, as we’re going to talk about something that appears in the promo trailer for Death In Heaven. It’ll be safe when you get to the next picture….

There’s a line in said trailer where Clara says to a cyberman “Clara Oswald has never existed”. We’ve no context for that, so it may be just a trick being pulled in the episode itself. But what if it isn’t? What if Clara was a Turlough for modern times, placed in the Doctor’s life to basically bring him down? We thought the big mystery of Clara may have all been sorted in series 7. But there might just be a bigger one about to be revealed…

Who is Clara, then? 

This may yet be the biggest question of series 8. From day one, she’s been a mystery, and this past series run has been the only one where she’s been a consistent character throughout. 

Remember back in The Bells Of Saint John when she said that she wasn’t Clara Oswin Oswald, but instead just Clara Oswald? And that she couldn’t remember the Doctor? Then, the seemingly limitless versions of Clara that went through time to save the Doctor in The Name Of The Doctor, which her memories are, inevitably, shaky about? 

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So which Clara is this, the one who we’ve been spending time with all the series? Who is Clara? And was Clara ever real? If you’re looking to centre your speculation as to the immediate future of Doctor Who, those may be the questions to start with. 

Oh, another thing: she needed Post-It notes at the start of Dark Water for her chat with Danny. Memory aids? Or did she simply have a list of what she needed to say? Was there more subtext to them? More on that, here. 

The Cybermen/Missy are harvesting humans, then. Didn’t the Great Intelligence do that last year? 

Yes. And Clara stopped him, by heading into the Doctor’s tomb on Trenzalore – is your head hurting yet? – and by spreading herself and the Great Intelligence countless times through the Doctor’s timestream. The assumption, as voiced by Madame Vastra, was that this would be the end of the Great Intelligence. But what if it wasn’t? The tactics being used this series certainly have a crossover… 

How did The Master get off Gallifrey? 

The simple answer to that would be that come the end of Day Of The Doctor, Gallifrey was back in play. That the locks to it had been removed, the Time War averted, and thus The Master wouldn’t have been stuck there at all. 

Remember: we last saw him in The End Of Time Part II, when he threw himself in front of Rassilon’s attempt to kill the Doctor. As such, he was seemingly drawn back in the time lock with all the other Time Lords. And presumably he would have regenerated at that point. 

Even without the time lock, though, it’s not as if Doctor Who hasn’t been able to bring The Master back from seemingly impossible scenarios in the past. It took a leaf out of the ending of Flash Gordon come the end of The Last Of The Time Lords, after all. 

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Chances are then he got off Gallifrey with no trouble whatsoever. 

But what about the other Time Lords? What about Gallifrey? 

We’d suggest that that’s being kept in the back pocket for a potential series 9 arc. After all, we know the Doctor can now go home. So why hasn’t he been yet? Why hasn’t he been actively trying to find Gallifrey? The logical answer is that he’s had the small matter of a regeneration and the Missy mystery to deal with. But might there be more to it? 

The woman in the shop with the TARDIS phone number? Any further clues?

Well, she’s clearly pivotal, not least because she keeps being mentioned. If you remember, she popped up in The Bells Of Saint John, giving Clara the number to the TARDIS. But who was she? Clara doesn’t look at Missy and recognise her, interestingly, so possibly not her.

So is it someone we’ve seen – a River Song or someone like that? Or does the Missy story start there in some form? In which case, the question of how The Master got off Gallifrey becomes a bit harder to answer without using the words ‘timey’ and ‘wimey’.

Will The Rani ever come back? 

Doesn’t look like it. This may be controversial, but – and with due deference to the late, great Kate O’Mara – we were never massive Rani fans. It didn’t help that her two stories were, er, ‘not great’. 

The introduction of a female regeneration of The Master seems to make The Rani as a character rather redundant. 

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A female Master! Does that mean we can have a female Doctor? 

Well, yes. But that’s never really been denied. In fact, we’ve had one once before, when Joanna Lumley briefly became the occupier of the TARDIS… 

Okay, so there can be a female Doctor! Will we get one? 

Presumably. But we’re not the right people to ask. 

Apologies, given the size of this article we’ve had to do the thing we don’t like doing, where we split over two pages. Regular readers will know we don’t and won’t make a habit of this. It’s only for long pieces, to help with load times particularly on mobile devices.

Without further ado, more questions and speculation…

Why did Missy say to the Doctor that she’d left him for dead once before? 

Now that’s an interesting one. It could relate to the end of The End Of Time Part II, but then it was The Master’s choice to sacrifice himself there. As one Den Of Geek commenter, Sean, argued, there’s another Time Lady that the Doctor has apparently left for dead since the show returned in 2005, and that’s his ‘daughter’, Jenny. Seems very unlikely, not least with the lip kiss between Missy and the Doctor, but bugger it, this is a speculation feature, so why not throw her name in? 

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Can’t the Doctor open the TARDIS door just by snapping his fingers? 

He certainly used to be able to. In fact, Clara’s done it.

The whole threat of Clara throwing away the keys to the TARDIS would be rendered a bit moot if that still worked. Maybe it depends on if the Doctor has a TARDIS key in his possession? Or maybe it was all part and parcel of the dream sequence itself? 

Or maybe it paves the way for a Doctor Who/Saw crossover, where a future Doctor Who nemesis cuts the Doctor’s fingers off AND nicks his keys? 

Was one of the TARDIS keys hidden in a copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife? 

It was, and was presumably a River Song reference. Well spotted. Help yourself to two extra points from the geek jar.

Is the restaurant in Deep Breath relevant? 

You know what, it might be. This was the moment that brought the Doctor and Clara together, when they both found a piece in a newspaper directing them to meet at a certain restaurant at a certain time. However, neither of them put the message there. The assumption would be that it’s Missy’s doing, but what if it’s not?

What about a link to The Girl In The Fireplace? 

We were just coming to that. The restaurant from Deep Breath ended up, in part, floating into the sky, and was revealed to be part-made of components from the SS Marie Antoinette, a sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour. Madame de Pompadour being the object of the Doctor’s attention (and affection) in the Steven Moffat-penned The Girl In The Fireplace. Just a nice Easter Egg, then, or is there a deeper link there? There’s no sign of Sophia Myles returning to Doctor Who – despite rumours… 

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Who is Doctor Skarosa? 

He’s the founder of 3W. He is the man who heard the cold three words – “don’t cremate me” – and set up 3W so that the dead can communicate with others. When Skarosa died, Missy took over 3W. His body is still there, in the late Dr Chang’s office. 

It’s not lost on us that the first part of his name is ‘Skaro’, which again, we’d be amazed is coincidence. But it’s looking more like red herring at the moment. The Master, the Cybermen and the Daleks all converging at once? The internet wouldn’t be able to cope (the Daleks were namechecked, though…) 

So what is 3W?

Well, we just covered that, but it’s presumably short for ‘three words’. Missy and Seb are currently key personnel. They have lots of branches too.

Will Missy regenerate?

Eventually, but it’d be a shame to do it in Death In Heaven, before the show has had time to see just what Michelle Gomez can bring to the role of The Master/The Mistress. Those expecting the Charles Dance Master rumours to be true might want to take a peak at this interview we did with him recently where, er, he wasn’t particularly positive towards the BBC.

Will Danny Pink come back to life? 

Don’t know. It’s looking possible, though.

But what about when Clara meets his descendant in Listen? 

Well, that’s where it gets interesting. Clara has already said this series that they’ve been to the future, so as a result of that, she knows things turn out okay. Not in the context of Danny, but the argument still holds (accepting that the Doctor has given explanations for why the future can change). 

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With that in mind, we know that Danny and Clara have at least one descendant. So, theory time. That phone call at the start: could Clara have been about to tell Danny that she was having his baby? “Things to say, not all of them good”, she opens with (well, after telling him to shut up). Does the fact that they presumably have a child together at some point mean that Danny will be surviving, and he and Clara get to continue their relationship?

If you want a further very big clue suggesting a Clara pregnancy, then look at one of the Post-It notes she refers to at the start…

After “Just Say It” and “Truth” is a tantalising “Three Months”…

Then she picks up the ‘Just Say It’ ticket, tells Danny she loves him, and then fate intervenes.

Will Courtney go on to become somebody important?

Yep. Seems that way.

The volcano at the start! The Fires Of Pompeii, then?

One thing that this series of Doctor Who hasn’t done, which was suggested it might, was to deal with the other appearances by Peter Capaldi in the Who universe. There was a nod to it in Deep Breath, but his role in The Fires Of Pompeii and Torchwood: Children Of Earth both remain ripe for exploration. The lava at the start of Dark Water is the closest we’ve got, but we suspect there’s nothing more to it than that. 

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Is Steve Jobs a Cyberman? 

Unlikely. An iCyberman maybe?

When Steven Moffat is denying characters are returning, should you believe him? 

Never in a squillion years. But he’d tell you that himself…

Since this article went live, one or two amends have been made, that are acknowledged in the comments below!