Heaven Sent

There are a few, not many but a few, episodes of Doctor Who that are either so bad or so problematic that you can’t really face tackling them, even though one of the things about fan editing is the way that it allows you to “fix” things. Heaven Sent was a Series Nine episode so replete with problematic waddafukerry that, when it came to editing the closing trilogy of that series, I avoided it altogether and went straight from Face The Raven to Hell Bent, skipping the Doctor’s time in the confession dial completely. But, like Clara and the Raven, I knew there would come a day when I would have to face it. And that day has finally come…

The impetus for having a go at this one was the Series Nine box set, which arrived just over a week ago. I started work on this edit the next day and it took two days to complete.

Yes, I know Series Nine was two years ago but I usually hold off buying the NSDW box sets until they go down in price a bit as they don’t strike me as being particularly good value for money compared to the vanillas, given the lack of Extras they contain. About the only thing of any interest was the Deleted Scenes section of Disc 7, which had three alternate takes of three scenes from this story that had hit the cutting room floor.

Viewing them reminded me of how I had managed, in my own Kirk-like way, to avoid it in the fan editing equivalent of The Kobayashi Maru But then an idea began to form in my fan brain, a possible solution to the problems I  have with the story. And so I faced down my own personal Veil and faced up to the challenge of fan editing one of the most flawed episodes of the New Series.

So, to recap, an overconfident Clara has got herself into a dead end on Trap Street, snuffed it as a result, and the Doctor is whisked off into the Time Lord trap that is the confession dial, in order for them to discover what he knows about The Hybrid…

Clearly Rassilon has been watching The Perils of Penelope Pitstop as his plan to trap the Doctor and get him to confess what he knows is about as convoluted and bonkers as anything The Hooded Claw ever came up with. And while we’re on the subject of the Time Lords, the whole “let’s go looking for Gallifrey” thing of the Fiftieth, well that didn’t last very long did it? And Donald Sumpter is a rubbish Rassilon, couldn’t they have got Patrick Stewart instead?

The episode is the first time we’ve had the Doctor with no companion since The Deadly Assassin way back in 1976 and it’s a tour de force performance from Capaldi. He holds your attention whenever he’s on screen anyway, but here, without Coleman to share the screen with him, he really gets a chance to shine and show why, for me, he’s one of the best Doctors ever. Pity he’s going to be replaced by that Skinny Victoria Wood with the reelleh  annoying-g accent, but I digress…

When it came to editing the episode, the first thing to do was to get from Trap Street to the Confession Dial, which involved cutting the credits of the one & the intro of the other before joining them together so the Doctor teleports straight into the story…

You’ll notice that both clips used the full mix audio, but when we get into the rest of the episode I moved to the individual audio tracks of the 5.1 mix. These tracks are the Dialogue track, the Music track and the FX track. The last one is optional as it usually has echoes of the dialogue and/or the music track mixed into it as well, but I find it gives a better finished sound palette if you use it along with the two that you do need. Having the music and the dialogue each on their own track makes fan editing the New Series a lot easier, as less Murray Gold means it’s easier to make cuts that you can’t do if his bloody music is all over it.

We transition to the individual audio tracks when the Doctor leaves the teleport room, just before the Producer and Director credits come up when he’s in the corridor…

The first deleted scene from the S9 box set occurs during the opening moments of the story, and features “the writing on the wall” (hint, hint) that gets ignored in the TX version. You can see it behind Capaldi as he’s doing his dialogue but its reveal isn’t in the finished episode. Inserting the footage meant locating the point at which the two versions of the scene diverge – it’s after the line “…so let’s see what we can do about yours” – and then finding the point at which they become the same again. Having matched up the two sections of footage, I was able to see that the colour balance on the DVD footage was different to the TX version…

That meant I had two options, either try and colour correct one to match the other or do a slow crossfade between the two, so I went for the latter as the easier option. The next deleted scene is the one at the locked door (“I hate wood!”) and the third is at the graveside, with this one requiring another match up and slow crossfade to get from one to the other.

With all the deleted scenes included for completeness, it was time to move on to cutting the rest of the story together, with the first major cut being all the skulls Twelvy sees under the water. Although he still has to do a Hamlet and pick up the skull in the teleporter room, as it’s impossible to cut it out completely, that skull is now the only one he finds. The implication remains that he is merely the latest resident of the Castle of Confession, instead of the revelation that all those skulls are his. Which brings me to the three problems I have with the story, as both a viewer and a writer…

Problem #1: Steven Moffat kills the Doctor in this episode. A copy, even an exact copy, like the one Twelvy says is held on the hard drive of the teleporter (how does he work that one out anyway?), is still a copy and not the original. If the Doctor burns himself for the energy to create the new copy of himself, then the Doctor that appears in the teleporter is a duplicate and not the original. The Doctor kills himself to create an exact copy of himself and so the original Doctor is dead. Nice one Moffat… and why does all of the Doctor’s body burn except for his skull?

Problem #2: Why does he just let the Veil burn him up in the first place? Why doesn’t he just dodge out of the damn thing’s way, (it’s not exactly Speedy Gonzales is it?) run around the castle, get himself eighty-two minutes, punch the wall, dodge the veil, run round the castle, get himself eighty-two minutes, punch the wall, dodge the veil, run round the castle, get himself eighty-two minutes, punch the wall, dodge the veil… you get the idea. Why does he effectively commit suicide? And why not hit the wall with the spade he was digging the grave with instead of punching it? And when he gets fried for the very first time, how the hell does he manage to crawl up the steps from room 12 and somehow manage to leave the message for himself in the grave before he drags himself to the teleporter room? Unless he did that before he committed suicide, but then how did he know the grave was there for him to leave the message when he arrived for the very first time???

Problem #3: If every room resets if The Duplicate Doctor leaves it long enough, then why doesn’t room 12? Why is it the only room that stays the same? Because it’s the way out of the story, that’s why. It’s the same nonsense RTD pulled with his “Donna mustn’t remember me” rule which he set up in Journey’s End but which he then broke in The End of Time. Moffat similarly writes himself into a corner of his own making here, setting up a rule about rooms that reset only to then ignore that rule, give it a singular, unexplained exception, and hope nobody will notice. It seems Steven Mufftwat isn’t as good a writer as he likes to think he is, and all the Script Editors the BBC employs on this show are either incompetent or get over-ruled by the Showrunner, who just happens to be Steven Mufftwat…

And so, in this version, all those problems get fixed. The Doctor spends his days running round the castle, getting himself eighty-two minutes, punching the wall, dodging the veil, running round the castle, getting himself eighty-two minutes, punching the wall, dodging the veil… until he finally punches his way through to Gallifrey! The audio for that montage sequence was the most complex and involved part of the edit. It took ages to put together, longer than it took to edit the rest of it, with an additional sound effect for each punch to give it a bit more oomph. As you can see from this screengrab of how it all cut together…

In order to cut together that montage, get into it and then back out of it, I had to drop the music track after the reveal that the castle sits in the middle of the ocean. Stripping things back to just the dialogue track helped with the cuts I needed to make to the closing montage but I needed to put some music back in as we got the climax as the cuts made from the montage would be far too obvious without it.

Question was, what music should I use? As you can see from the above image, there was only ever one choice – I Am The Doctor.

I like the original music but the 5.1 mix has an echo of the dialogue in the track, meaning it wouldn’t match the new montage. But not only did my choice of new music fit the sequence perfectly, much to my surprise and delight, I didn’t need to make any alterations to the cuts I’d already made. Result! I also like the idea of this cue being used for Capaldi as well as Smiffy et al [See my Doctor Who: 1963 – 2013 music video on the Other Edits page] and it seemed a better fit than Twelvy’s own theme, (The Majestic Tale Of) An Idiot With A Box.

Once Twelvy was back on Gallifrey, the next question was how deep to go into Hell Bent, given that I’d already edited the bulk of that episode in the original Face The Raven edit. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I really ought to go back and edit Raven again as an episode on it’s own.

And so, instead of cutting out the middle episode of The Hybrid Trilogy, as I did first time round, I ended up editing all three of them, which if nothing else, appeals to the completist strand of my fan gene. I started this edit first, then I moved on to Hell Bent, before coming back to finish this and then finally returning to Face The Raven to change the ending back to the original cliffhanger and make it an episode on its own, one where the Doctor doesn’t kill himself over and over again for no good reason…


3 thoughts on “Heaven Sent

  1. That was quite a feat, the reformatted montage worked, and is by far a more creative means of getting around the forced drama, this is a definite “go to” version for me now.

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