This 2015 Peter Capaldi-era episode was certainly powerful and memorable. The Doctor was grieving Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), after she was executed in the previous episode, “Face The Raven”. In “Heaven Sent”, The Doctor is trapped in a strange castle, being pursued by an eerie cloaked figure, and spends four-and-a-half billion years in a torturous cycle, repeatedly dying and coming back to life as he attempts to break through a wall of the impenetrable diamond-like mineral Azbantium to escape.
And yet the crowning of “Heaven Sent” as the number one episode might come as a surprise to many. For one thing, in poll after poll after poll, the tenth Doctor David Tennant has been voted as fans’ favourite Doctor, so it would be natural to assume one of his episodes would easily make the top spot.
And only in September of this year, Doctor Who Magazine published the fans’ favourite Twelfth Doctor stories, and Heaven Sent came second to the 2017 two-parter “World Enough and Time” / “The Doctor Falls”.
This time, after a fresh round of voting, the roles were reversed, with the two-parter coming second in the overall poll. Still, that gave Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat a double-whammy in the two top spots, and they were chuffed to bits.
“I’m delighted – and stunned,” Capaldi told Doctor Who Magazine. “I was lucky enough to be the Doctor at a time when there was the kind of ambition for the show that allowed us to make an episode like “Heaven Sent”… this was an idea that only Steven could have come up with.”
“I’m absolutely astonished, and thoroughly delighted!” Moffat echoed, explaining that during Capaldi’s era he “was always looking to do one per season that was experimental. ‘Heaven Sent’ was a very risky one.”