Season 8 introduced an unusual plot technique which was quite irregular to feature in past Doctor Who seasons, and that is progression. Unlike other story-lines such as Bad Wolf, Mr. Saxon and the Silence, this season in Doctor Who actually used each episode to progress the motivations of characters and how they’d react within the programme. Anyone who’s been watching this season would be aware of the evident progressions of ‘Who is Missy?’, the relationship between Clara and Danny, and even the conflict between Clara and the Doctor; however there’s been more subvert progressions such as Clara’s independence in deciding difficult choices and the understanding of how the structure of the rules of time travel. Other ideas such as Danny being a protective child minder and all the little details such as the psychic link of the TARDIS, Clara’s ‘control-freak’ nature and more are all implemented in this episode, so how does it play out considering that the entire season was building upon this two-part finale?
It’s hard to judge how well produced this episode was. The entire episode pivots around the idea of ‘Who is Missy?’ and of course results in the typical Moffat plot-twists which his writing is prone to include. The previous next-time trailer seemed to portray Clara as a villain within the episode, yet this apparent conflict seems to resolve within the first 10 minutes. Another Moffat twist revolves around the dead bodies, which lead to a blatant reveal of the Cybermen considering all the promotional information of the Cybermen reappearing for season 8. Of course, the major Moffat twist is the identity of Missy – causing the audience to first assume she’s merely an android, then perhaps the Valeyard (hence the ‘did you not sense it?’), yet finally the reveal ends up being that Missy is indeed the Master; but then the episode concludes.
There aren’t particular negative thoughts of the actual plot-line, yet I felt leaving the episode empty-handed due to the quick resolution – essentially we watched a whole episode on just Danny dying, Clara demanding to resurrect Danny and then the Doctor finding out the dead are being converted to Cybermen and that Missy is the Master. The premise for the episode was enthralling as a fan, however without the second half of the season finale, it’s quite difficult to judge whether the build-up within this episode is actually worthwhile.
It was a bold move to kill Danny off, it will be an even bolder move if Clara and the Doctor fail to rescue Danny from Heaven. Jenna Louise Coleman was outstandingly amazing, she managed to evoke the emotions of Clara beautifully on-screen, creating a sense that there was a genuine chemistry between Clara and Danny and causing the audience to feel distraught for Clara. The much-anticipated scene where Clara exclaims “Have I got your attention yet?” to the Doctor as she threatens “you will never set foot in your TARDIS again” would have been a jaw-dropping scene, had it not been spoiled by the promotional Next-time trailer. In fact, the entire episode almost felt too familiar due to the extravagant amount of promotional material which the BBC released, leaving little gaps in between key pivoting scenes. In fact, the portrayal of how dramatic the conflict between Clara and the Doctor would’ve been in the trailer compared to the actual episode seems anti-climatic as a scene later the Doctor seems to have forgiven Clara completely. Nevertheless, I could only imagine the impact the scenes of Danny’s death and Clara’s initial reaction to the death would’ve been more exhilarating had it not been due to the amount of released material from the BBC. Considering that the marketing team are separate from the production team of the actual episode, I’ll let the criticism slide as not everyone would’ve accessed the clips and trailers which the BBC released.
The Neversphere itself is an extraordinary idea, yet with the limited time we’ve seen of it, there wasn’t much to praise. The idea that the dead continue a new form of live in the Neversphere yet still have a continued sense of feeling from their life at Earth was an eery yet chilling concept, one which I’d imagine we’ll find more about in the next episode. The problem is, ‘Dark Water’ essentially was occupied by 70% of explanation of what the ‘Dark Water’ is and what the symbolism of ‘Heaven’ actually represents and left me clinging for a need of action. As Missy said herself, the necessity to “keep up” with the rapid storyline is vital; without it the episode cannot be enjoyed. Perhaps now that we’ve ‘caught up’ (well for the most part), the upcoming episode ‘Death in Heaven’ will allow more events to take place, rather than just leaving the audience waiting for the plot to progress. The Neversphere was used as a device to finally reveal to us who Danny killed, surprisingly the person he killed was in fact a child, something which I could never have imagined the BBC approving of for their family friendly programme, yet it providing important character context as to why he’s so dedicated of taking care of the children in Coal Hill School, and his devotion of the children’s safety during ‘In the Forest of the Night’. However the ending scenes where Clara demanded for Danny to recall personal situations so that she could clarify it was really him felt slightly tacked on. Presumably, Danny didn’t want to reveal his memories as it was his form of rescuing Clara from joining him in ‘heaven’, it was powerful yet felt almost unnessciary, as we know Clara won’t give up without a fight. Yet it does lead to an interesting cliff-hanger, where Danny contemplates whether or not to ‘delete’ himself and upgrade to a Cyberman.
The final major segment of the episode, is as I discussed before; the reveal of Missy’s identity. Her being the Master was among the popular online theories, yet Moffat ingeniously makes the audience to doubt it could be him as Moffat teases several different theories throughout the episode. Ever since the highly applauded episode, “The Doctor’s Wife”, fans were eager to witness a female Doctor, as apparently the biology of Galifrean’s allowed them to regenerate as either a male or a female, hence being a Time-Lord or a Time-Lady. Perhaps regenerating the male protagonist to a female would be a radical jump to mainstream audiences, the programme has continued for over fifty years, so it’s more than likely that audiences have become accustomed to the idea of the the Doctor being a male; nevertheless, Moffat essentially experiments with the idea of a Time-Lord regenerating to a Time-Lady with Missy, proving that the role of a character can be played by either gender and not break away from their characteristics. In fact I could easily imagine the previous actors of the Master acting the same role in ‘Dark Water’ – except perhaps for the intimate kiss scene! Whilst the identity of Missy is resolved in a shocking reveal, it does leave the episode open to many questions, the main one being how did he/she escape Gallifrey which he earlier locked himself in during ‘The end of Time’.
Overall I enjoyed the idea of the episode and the entire build-up towards quite a thrilling season finale; of course it felt as though events escalated quite quickly with little plot events, once the credits rolled I was almost surprised more on the idea that the episode had already finished opposed to the idea that Missy is the Master. The cliff-hanger in ‘Dark Water’ might perhaps be the weakest of Doctor Who cliff-hangers, which tend to be highly intense and providing a more promising/eventful episode next-time; whilst ‘Dark Water’ somewhat managed to replicate the Doctor Who cliff-hanger formula, the entire process feels almost sloppy and rushed. Unfortunately the penultimate episode of the season isn’t able to compete with previous penultimate episodes, most notably ‘The Pandorica Opens’, however ‘Dark Water’ still provides genuine entertainment and slight excitement on what to expect for next time. What will finally mark just how fantastic this episode was, depends on how it leads on to the season finale next week! Only time can tell…
+ Genuine fun, answers are finally answered which is always a relief for Whovians.
+ Danny addresses my peeve of the constant usage of iPads in the Neversphere, yes I forgive the Doctor Who props department now considering that they ‘have’ Steve Jobs.
+ Missy is the Master was a fantastic reveal, now we have to anticipate what the Master actually intends and gains from making the “graves reborn” into Cybermen.
– Lack of Cybermen or any significant threat. Therefore once it came to the actual storyline, it felt almost too rushed and not well structured, leaving me surprised at the closing credits.