Aha! I can finally post this! My sister’s birthday is past. I really did try to get more on the page but I just couldn’t draw anything else and so reverted to drawing random circles on the page and splotches of colour everywhere. Ah well.
As you come into this world, something else is also born. You begin your life, and it begins a journey towards you. It moves slowly, but it never stops. Wherever you go, whatever path you take, it will follow - never faster, never slower, always coming. You will run; it will walk. You will rest; it will not. One day, you will linger in the same place too long; you will sit too still or sleep too deep. And when, too late, you rise to go, you will notice a second shadow next to yours. Your life will then be over.
“Steven Moffat had the Doctor murder another Time Lord; he obviously doesn’t understand Doctor Who.”
Setting aside the obvious poor reading here that the Doctor committed murder (not that his assault of the General is not a big deal, but come on), the scene in question is concrete proof that Moffat understands Doctor Who very well. The impact of the scene relies on the audience’s understanding that the Doctor coldly shooting down another person is an act that goes against the Doctor’s ideals. It’s “out-of-character” because the Doctor is being driven to perform “out-of-character” actions by his attachment to Clara. These character extremes are the whole point of the Series 9 climax, and the single motivation for the Doctor and Clara to part ways.
Of course, this scene also proves that Moffat understands Doctor Who, because it is not actually out-of-character for the Doctor to go to extremes or take things too far. This has been an aspect of the Doctor’s character that has been hugely focused on ever since the show returned in 2005.
You can point to bits of dialogue that are evidence of the Doctor’s pacifism and refusal to do harm, but when the Doctor repeatedly commits violence and causes harm, you can’t claim that he is out of character when he does so.
The Doctor tries to express and live by certain ideals. The Doctor does not always live up to these ideals. The Doctor sometimes fails.
One of my favourite little details in Heaven Sent is that whenever the Doctor enters a room he is tapping his fingers against his palm on his right hand - ticking off the seconds he has available to spend in that place before the Veil catches up to him.
This is in the script too, a couple of elements were slightly truncated to account for more visual storytelling, but the intent is so distinctly present.
You see it most clearly telegraphed by the camera in the scene where he discovers the diamond wall (the camera pans down and we see it’s like an instinctive reaction to being in a new place), but I only just noticed, on my last rewatch, that Peter Capaldi never stops that ticking motion.
Even when his hand is out of the camera’s shot, when you see it again he’s still doing it.
And that’s how he knows it’ll take him a-day-and-a-half to crawl and drag himself to the top of the tower after the Veil kills him - he’s been counting the seconds the entire time and extrapolates from there.