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Whodunnit? The Fate of the Half-Face Man

Guest contributor Paddy O’Meara offers his thoughts on the ambiguous moment, then have your say by voting.

half-face deep breath stuggle

As the dust settles on “Deep Breath” a number of elements of the episode are being discussed and debated – but perhaps one of the most controversial is the death of the sinister Half-Face Man. I say perhaps controversial, because the scene itself is rather ambiguous and before we can ask what the scene means for the Doctor and the narrative, we must first ask what actually happened.

“I’ve got a horrible feeling I’m going to have to kill you.” – The Doctor

Capaldi’s line at the beginning of the scene seems to set the scene – the Doctor, pouring a drink for the condemned man while matter-of-factly stating his intention to kill him. Straight away, however, the focus of the dialogue shifts – and we see the Doctor try to connect with the human underneath the clockwork. He appears to be trying to convince Half-Face of the futility of his existence, and apparently trying to manipulate him into giving up or even killing himself (almost like a cross between the fates of Adelaide in The Waters of Mars and the Black Dalek in Remembrance of the Daleks).

“Self-destruction is against my basic programming.” – Half-Face
“Murder is against mine.” – The Doctor

This clearly sets the two characters in an impasse of principles – Half-Face cannot kill himself. The Doctor cannot commit murder. And yet, very soon, Half-Face finds himself impaled on the church spire. Did he jump, or was he pushed?

“You realise of course, one of us is lying about his basic programming.” – The Doctor

Series-8-TV-launch-trailer-(11)…and this is the question. We think we know the Doctor – but do we know this Doctor? We don’t know Half-Face that well, having only met him in this episode. Which character is “lying”?

We do of course know that the Doctor is capable of killing. Solomon the trader from 2012’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is just one of several examples, going as far back as Hartnell’s first story, where we are shown that the Doctor is prepared to take a life when he feels it is justified. On the surface, to a seasoned viewer, this seems like the simple explanation.

But then, Half-Face could be lying. In the preceding conversation the Doctor has used the broom analogy – so much replaced that nothing is left of the original. Perhaps Half-Face no longer has his “basic programming” and by introducing humanity he now has the capacity to commit suicide.

I would be remiss not to mention the third option – something else happened. Remember just after we see Half-Face on the spire – that quick shot of Capaldi looking down, and then looking directly into the camera? Who/what was he looking at? Was this a throwaway visual moment or a subtle plot hint to be revisited?

“I’ve made many mistakes.”

half-face-death-deep-breathWith this line towards the end of the episode it is perhaps unsurprising that a lot of fans seem to think the Doctor did indeed push Half-Face out of the balloon – and is expressing regret at his action. Assuming this is the case, what does this mean for the character – and was this the right decision on the part of Moffat?

In terms of our perception of the character, I do not believe it contradicts what we have seen before. The First Doctor was happy to stove a caveman’s head in with a rock rather than have the injured man slow him down. The Sixth Doctor killed on several occasions. The Seventh Doctor wiped out the entire planet Skaro, and its surrounding solar system. If we are to assume that the Twelfth Doctor killed Half-Face by pushing him to his death, then the scene preceding it gives us the justification – he knows that Half-Face doesn’t really want to carry on, but cannot kill himself, leaving the Doctor with no choice. We have seen from The Girl in the Fireplace that the Clockwork Droids do not stop plundering parts from living beings until they have achieved their goal, and with the mission of “reaching the promised land” how many countless others would suffer and die to provide components?

As to whether it is a good story choice, judgement perhaps should be reserved partially until we have seen how the plot point is tied up – the scene with Missy at the end seems to suggest we should expect this moment to be revisited in the finale. In the current context it is quite a shocking resolution to the story, but helps to cement the darker, fiercer Doctor we meet in this episode. By not actually seeing the Doctor commit the act, we are saved seeing our hero actually committing the deed – which younger viewers particularly might find difficult to understand.

deep-breath-heaven-missyMy personal opinion, though – I don’t believe the answer is going to be as simple as that. All the signs point to this being something that Moffat will refer back to when tying together the arc of the series, and based on previous form I am going to guess that all is not what is seems. Maybe Half-Face jumped, or maybe the mysterious Missy (or “the woman in the shop”) intervened somehow to cause the droid to fall. At this stage we cannot tell how this question will be answered but it seems almost certain that one way or another we will find out what happened in that balloon.

If the Doctor did kill Half-Face, then it is not a great departure for the character. As long as the Doctor killing is depicted very infrequently and only as a last resort, it can add an extra weight to an episode and a scene by playing on our expectations of the character, and our feelings when the morality of the Doctor is shown in contrast to our own. I would certainly be uncomfortable if it became a regular thing for the Twelfth Doctor – but I have faith that for all the “darkness” we have been promised, Moffat will not allow Capaldi’s Doctor to be remembered as “the killer Doctor”. As a fan of Classic Who I doubt Capaldi would let his Doctor be portrayed this way either.

In summary then, there are more questions than answers in this scene – but it seems very likely we will have those answers by the time the credits roll on the Series 8 finale. Until then, we have a new mystery to ponder, new questions to ask and a new Doctor to watch while we ask them. What more can the fans ask for?

What do you think, did the Doctor kill Half-Face? Vote in the poll below:

Step back in time...

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222 comments
ChrisLeroux
ChrisLeroux

I'm pretty sure the Doctor killed him, for thematic reasons. He tells Clara that he's done many bad things. Perhaps him killing is what made him realize why he got his new face.

harrytelfer
harrytelfer

the doctor did not push him...when the doctor asked the half face man if he realized that one of them was lying he replied "yes"...now how would he know that the doctor was lying since he never even met him, unless he was talking about himself....also these cyborgs have some sort of connection to the clockwork droids in series 2, and if anyone remembers, the droids in that episode switched their own programming off once the doctor convinced them how futile their efforts were

Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

That's not the question. The question is "What happened to Barney the tramp?" Did the Doctor simply stare at him with his 'attack eyebrows' until he got the poor man's upper garments... or did he actually do something worse to him? Well, worse than leaving the man to freeze to death, anyway... Anyhow I don't really want to know.

Doctordov
Doctordov

I voted that he did, but to be honest, I could go either way. if he did push him, it honestly doesn't bother me. 

Starlord
Starlord

Ethically, whether the doctor assisted suicide or killed the robot, it's an equivalent interpretation, murder, assuming of course that you can murder a robot. The difference is whether you consider the Doctor's actions as executioner, or as acting in self-defense. You see, if the doctor encouraged and convinced Half-Face Robot to kill himself, which the robot may have been planning but was not about to do immediately, this is murder, or accessory to murder. a person can be charged under the criminal code in most countries if they enable someone to commit suicide, making the Doctor either an accessory to murder, or a murderer. The alternative is that the Doctor pushed the robot out of the balloon. As I recall, the robot had disarmed (turned off its torch) indicating the doctor was not acting in self defense to protect himself, making this murder. A different way of interpreting this is that the Doctor acted in self-defense on behalf of his comrades. By killing the half-face robot (either by encouraging suicide or by a push), the doctor disarmed all the other robots, and saved the lives of his companions. Therefore with this interpretation his actions, while still murder, were in self-defense.

greggc72
greggc72

I vote "neither". the doctor agrees with HFM to transport him to "the promised land", which he does. Then the remains fall onto the spire.


TheDaleksDaughter
TheDaleksDaughter

In a sense, he killed him anyway. I think that the half-faced man jumped, but it's the Doctor who lead him to suicide. 

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

does it really matter? the tenth doctor once said that he ha got clever, manipulating people into taking their own lives. this is similar and if anything much darker then killing a man who would have killed many more people. but iv decided the doctor did push him as far as im concerned because we know that the doctor was lying about his programming because weve seen him commit murder before.

Dameon
Dameon

Perhaps another option; half-faced man stumbled due to the movement of the balloon, The Doctor instinctively tried to save him but was too slow, still leaving him with a gnawing sense of guilt. In this way The Doctor neither murdered him or talked him into suicide, but the preceding dialogue purposefully keeps us guessing. Alternatively, if the half-faced man suddenly decided to jump of his own volition and The Doctor was too slow to catch him, it could still perhaps make sense.

I'm not saying it's what I believe happened, merely that they are possibilities.

foolmentaljoker
foolmentaljoker

I agree with those who say the Doctor pushed him, regardless of whether it was with his hands or by manipulation. Personally, I think it was the latter, mostly due to the whole 'lying about his basic programming' thing. A staple of sci-fi is Asimov's laws of robotics, which are: 

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The half-faced man has gotten hung up on part of law 3, while ignoring the first two. I would guess he started cannibalising animals, and then gradually, as he became more 'organic', his own existence became so important to him that he lied to himself about the first one. Or perhaps, since he somehow regarded himself as 'human', thought it applied to him more than real people. The Doctor in essence reminded him that, as a robot, he had a fundamental duty to protect humans. 

Drengard
Drengard

remember the library and what the doctor did for river song.. Why can't a robot expect an afterlife - it's never going to be right or wrong, or black and white with Doctor Who, nor should we expect an answer to this question - true whovians know what the doctor would do..

I'm really pleased they picked peter capaldi he definitely makes it right for us to hide behind the sofa again, like i first did in '63 .. Well done a great start for the twelth (or is it really the 13th) doctor!

Roshe_
Roshe_

I doubt Missy's 'Paradise' is the traditional heaven we all think of but bear in mind that in Christianity, and many other religions, if you take your own life you go to hell.

09dh01
09dh01

I just hope that Moffat doesn't actually show us what happened. It would take all of the mystery out of it, like when he showed us what 11 saw in the Hotel Room.

I don't actually want to know what happened. Either way, the Doctor was responsible. We don't need to know the exact details, we just need to know that this Doctor takes no prisoners.

Invictus12
Invictus12

People are acting like killing the half faced man is a darker option than making him commit suicide. Killing, you're obviously going to feel more personal guilt about, but making someone commit suicide? That's a whole other level of messed up, and he can take the guilt off of himself.

Ladydetemps
Ladydetemps

It reminds me of a episode of hornblower where there was question of did the captain fall down the hold or was he pushed.

DrWho879992
DrWho879992

I think if it was the seventh doctor he would have pushed the robot, none of the others probably would have but twelve shares some of sevens darkness and could have done it.

RobertQuezada
RobertQuezada

 The Half-Face killed himself. Here's my opinions. Back when Clara and the Paternoster Gang were fighting the clock droids. They all were holding their breathe when suddenly, Strax tried aiming with his blaster. Strax was still holding his breathe but he was struggling. Strax was ready to commit suicide. By aiming his blaster and still holding his breathe, he was fully prepare to take on the clockdroid himself. Sacrificing himself for his friends. It's commonly known a Sontaran will not commit self destruction. Strax is going against his own moral code to do what is necessary. This is what the Doctor, this Doctor has been able to do to people. So i strongly believe it wasn't the Doctor who pushed Half Face off. He did it because it was the right thing to do. 





Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

It's funny how everyone calls Missy "The Woman in the Shop". I mean, she probably is , but it'd be funny of it turned out she wasn't.

donjuannebulon
donjuannebulon

The Doctor made it pretty clear. He didn't want to kill Half-Face. He established that he could. Then argued that Half-Face's existence was built on suffering and death, that Half-Face was ignorant of his own nature, and that his belief system was false. Then The Doctor made it clear that he could kill Half-Face if he wanted to (you are stronger than you look). Rather than physically push Half-Face out, he convinced him to jump. If the Doctor wanted Half-Face simply dead, he could have pushed him out of the blimp the instant Half-Face turned off his blow-torch and acknowledged the Doctor's strength. The question is when you're that much smarter than your enemy, is it better to just push them out of the blimp, or is it more selfish, darker, worse, to convince them to jump only to salve your own conscience? 





MikeFalino
MikeFalino

I'd love him to have killed the guy... but he probably won't have.  Although, this "return to Classic" Doctor just may have left off where his Classic predecessors did... hopefully!

Please call me Gus
Please call me Gus

But the other question, did he really die? Is Missy's heaven all that it is cracked up to be? A hologram like river song? Ascending into higher conscience? Will we ever know? Will I ever stop asking all of these questions?

LaviniaSmith is heading for dark water
LaviniaSmith is heading for dark water

I voted no. I think this will become a bigger story arc, and we will come back and see this scene from a different perspective later in the series. We will see what the Doctor looked at before looking up. I have a very left field theory about this scene - did anyone else notice the Doctor use the words 'the moment' when he was talking to the Half-Face man? on a second viewing it leapt out at me, and it made me wonder ... perhaps it was just a word, a phrase used casually, but I think not, Moffat uses words so carefully. So is the Doctor using the methods of the Moment with this droid, to convince him to give up on his 'life'? But another thought occurred to me and it is going to sound very odd but I will go out on a limb here - is the Doctor in this room actually The Moment? - what happened to The Moment after Day of the Doctor? I think my theory is flawed because everyone has seen and interacted with this Doctor, but is the Doctor in this room real? He does not take a sip of the drink, and he does mention (I think?) blowing up the room ...  in other words, is this the Doctor? Capaldi did say about season 8 'trust noone'.



MoserGray
MoserGray

I answered no. The Doctor remarked that the half-faced man was more human than cyborg, and if he indeed murdered him, then he's going to have to quit using the name of The Doctor just as he did in his John Hurt incarnation, and I'd like to think he learned his lessons from that era. It's set up to make one think The Doctor did it, but I feel that's just typical Moffat misdirection. The answer is probably a lot more complicated, and remember - after that bit, The Doctor went off and running without Clara for no real reason. He was never abandoning her, so where did he go?

the Doctor's euphonium
the Doctor's euphonium

I've been thinking about the idea that "Half-Face has altered and replaced so much of himself that his basic programming no longer exists" as well!  Another possibility is that the Doctor was trying to convince Half-Face that he was already dead or was killing his original self with that whole discussion.  And the idea that something else happened that resulted in Half-Face impaling himself is certainly intriguing, and would definitely be a very Moffat thing to do.

pinkjaguar12
pinkjaguar12

I answered yes, and even though I wouldn't argue and defend that answer I still stand a bit behind it.  We have seen him kill, we have seen him manipulate.  On the other hand, if the Half-Faced Man jumped, isn't the Doctor just as equally at fault?  I saw parallels drawn between this moment and the Tenth Doctor's bitter speech in End of Time - "I've taken lives.  Worse, I got clever.  Manipulated people into taking their own."  Even though I personally think he pushed him, it would be just as juicy a plot point if he didn't - because the Half-Faced Man wouldn't have even thought about jumping if the Doctor wasn't there to convince him to.

AaronMcGahon
AaronMcGahon

I'm not even answering the poll. I love not knowing that. I do think that is the best part of the episode. Because the odds genuinely are 50/50. It either showed that the Doctor talked the Half-Face Man into committing suicide or he went and killed himself, both are very extreme. I just think the idea to leave it up to the audience was absolutely genius. I really do hope that it's left unanswered, because if it does, that moment could become a stronger and stronger Doctor Who moment with time.

TheNightmareChild just got fitted for a loincloth
TheNightmareChild just got fitted for a loincloth

For the moment, I'm going to go with the theory that Twelve pulled a Seven and convinced the Half-Face Man to commit suicide.  They seemed to be pretty much at a physical impasse during their whole fight, so I think it would be pretty difficult for the Doctor to push the droid out of the escape pod without accidentally or even purposefully throwing himself off anyway.  Plus, I think it makes Mr. Half-Face a more tragic character, which I like. :)

CharlieFulcher
CharlieFulcher

Was Half Face even alive? He was created a droid, so it's like dropping your phone in the street and it cracks or breaking a computer.

Padaster
Padaster

He traded his watch for the coat, remember? He said so in the Restaurant. Anyway, if said watch is as nice as Clara said it was, I reckon Barney could probably trade it for a much nicer coat! Unless he accidentally gave him a fob watch... You heard it here first, folks!

Starlord
Starlord

By the way, I have to say, shout out to Peter Ferdinando the actor who played the Half-Face Robot. He turned in a really subtle, nuanced, great role in this part, adding just a the right amount of emotion and character to this character almost making his role that of a tragic villain, which I think was unfortunately overshadowed by the interest over Capaldi in the title role. 



LucasW
LucasW

And Ashen Hill Manor! I love spotting reused locations.

nparker
nparker

@Roshe_ Most Christians don't believe that any more though.

barrowsstephen1992
barrowsstephen1992

@Roshe_ Who says it is heaven? There is an episode of the twilight zone where a man believes he is in heaven having led a terrible life, only for his idea of 'heaven' turning into his own personal hell

Dameon
Dameon

@Roshe_ Sorry, but that's not entirely true. Try the wikipedia article 'christian views on hell'. Throughout the history of Judaism and Christianity  'hell' has been redefined many times (originally not even existing in Judaism). It's far from being as simple as good = heaven, bad = hell.

MrJimiTheFish
MrJimiTheFish

@Invictus12 I've taken lives. And I got worse, I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own.

mrpaddy1984
mrpaddy1984

Which reminds me - that whole snarling bit about "how far I would go to protect them" - didn't he sound just like McCoy?

Dameon
Dameon

@RobertQuezada How would Strax's suicide be of any help to anyone? I've seen a few other people suggest it was a noble sacrifice for his friends' sake but i'm really struggling to see how.

Am I missing something?

Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

@Padaster Yeah, but where exactly would he have kept that watch? He was wearing a nightshirt, not sure if he wore anything underneath - but I don't think there were any pockets anywhere near that. And I don't think he had time to go back to the TARDIS... so the point still stands...

DigitalShadow
DigitalShadow

@Dameon yes, if he had exhaled one breath then the clockwork droids would have noticed them in the room, meaning that they would have all died. Strax decided one death was better than causing them all to die because he was the only one struggling with holding his breath.

Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

@EvanPrince @Kathrin Lily Franke @Padaster Fair point. But he probably knew he was going to need that. Now be his own admission the watch was his favourite - but he probably thought he might get back to Paternoster Row to get changed before investigating... so why would he take it only to have something to swap for a coat? Unless it's got some special powers. Then again this is the Doctor we're talking about, so who knows...