11 “Dark Water” (Doctor Who series 8) [SPOILERS]


doctor who peter capaldi

Here we are then. The beginning of the end of this first journey with the twelfth Doctor. Can we really be here already?

The thread of “Missy”, and “Paradise” has been running through this season from the very beginning, and it is clearly going to come to a head in this episode and its concluding part “Death in Heaven”. I have frequently boiled down to the series conclusion approaches of the series since its revival as: Russell T. Davies could set up excellent stakes, and then disappoint in the resolution; whereas Steven Moffat sets up equally gargantuan stakes, alongside a conclusion of bat-shit bonkers.

Capaldi is not Tennant or Smith, and his Doctor is more along the lines of Ecclestone’s. So I don’t think that the over-exaggerated, camp-ish style which they used. I’m hoping for something a little more measured. Insane, I’m sure, but a bit more…Capaldi.

We’ll see.

After his ultimatum-ish at the end of the last episode, Clara decides to tell Danny everything. Only for him to be mown down and killed by a car crossing the street. Blinded by grief, she tries to blackmail the Doctor into helping her save him, and despite him outwitting her, he agrees to help. They follow Clara’s link to Danny to a mysterious tomb, full of skeletons sat in water-filled tanks, overseen by the mysterious Missy. And Danny Pink, meanwhile, has woken up inside the Nethersphere.

I’m not sure exactly where to start here, so let’s start at the beginning. Killing Danny was, actually, a pretty bold move. In the back of my mind there is the fear that he may become like Rory, killed again whenever the writers run out of ideas. But I don’t think this is that. His death, as Clara is about to tell him everything, is touching. Even more so is the moment that he realises that Clara’s desire to find him will lead her to throw away her life, and consequently pushes her away.

I’ve not really rated Clara and Danny’s relationship until now, but this episode fleshed it out in a way that previous episodes have failed to do. Danny in general felt a lot stronger here, with the “what he did in the army” question finally answered. The mute child in the afterlife was, all things considered, a little chilling.

And in the same way as this episode gave life to Clara and Danny, it gave a lot of depth to her relationship with the Doctor. The scene in the volcano, where she throws TARDIS key after TARDIS key into the lava to get him to save Danny, might have been a bit of a fake out (it was a hallucination), but it was revealing. So too the moment where the Doctor tells her “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

Also, when he answers “Go to hell,” when she says what they do next. Turns out, he meant literally.

The actual mystery was one of the more interesting of the season. The moment that the ‘dark water’ was explained, that only organic matter remains visible, I immediately thought Cyberman. Though the design of the doors was a pretty good hint too.

As for Missy, I had read a thousand theories of who she might be. My money, for what its worth, was on the Rani. Or maybe Romana, though if they’re going to that they really need to cast Juliet Landau. Not just because of her work as the character in the audio world, but because she was Drusilla in Buffy!

But Missy is, in fact, the Master (Missy, Mistress, Master — geddit?). Which after other speculation feels a little like a disappointment. But if you’re going to bring him back again, then making him a her is a pretty good move. Quite how she got there, quite what she is doing with the Cybermen, is still to be answered. But it’s pretty clear that most if not all of the Earth’s dead have been converted — perhaps willingly? — and once more the invasion isn’t happening, it’s happened.

I really liked this episode, against my better judgement. There is, of course, still the concluding part to come, but this set it up nicely. I’m pleased enough with the Mistress, and with the development of Clara’s character, as she again embraces her burgeoning Doctor-ness. Chris Addison also deserves a mention as an afterlife bureacrat, at the centre of some chilling concept-horror SF.

What I am keen to see, though, is the new Doctor/Master rivalry. If Capaldi is a different sort of Doctor, then Michelle Gomez is a different sort of Master. I am very much looking forward to seeing this rivalry play out.

Closing thoughts:

  • I’m sure we’ll be hearing a complaint to the BBC any day now from Alex Salmond, about that “another ranting Scotsman” line.
  • So, if the dark water leaves only organic matter behind, is the skeleton the only biological element left inside a Cyberman suit? That seems a pretty pointless element to retain…
  • I suspect that the Master as a woman is both a consolation to those who wanted a female Doctor, and a kicking down of the door for that option still to come.
  • The gradual reveal of the Cyberman over Clara’s shoulder, as she didn’t notice a thing, was an excellently done touch. Some real cinematography gold, for which Doctor Who is not usually know.
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