THERE WILL BE SO MANY SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW OUT OF NECESSITY. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE EPISODE AND DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU COME BACK TO THIS LATER. WE CARE ABOUT YOU.
Wow. Just…wow. Tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, “Dark Water,” written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay, packed in more drama and surprises than the last several episodes combined. Certainly after last week’s nothing-actually-happened episode, I was yearning for something with some dramatic meat, and we all got a big rack of beef ribs. Figuratively speaking, of course. This series’ mystery regarding who Missy is and what she’s doing with all these damn dead people gets partially answered and we see a plot so heinous, so sadistic, that it could only have been dreamed up by one being in the whole universe. Jeepers creepers, everybody. What a crazy episode.
We begin with Clara finally ready to come clean to Danny, going to the trouble of calling him while he’s mere feet away from her flat so as to make sure he knows what he’s getting into when he arrives. She’s got a lot to account for, and all of that is written on Post-it notes throughout her office. After professing her undying love for Danny, the phone goes silent. When someone finally speaks again, it’s a woman saying she just picked up the phone from the ground because, oh no, Danny’s been hit by a car. And a quick (and very cool, I might add) dissolve lets us know that Danny has died and Clara is catatonic. She’s especially angry that his death was so boring, so ordinary, so meaningless. She doesn’t deserve better, but she’s owed better. Her gran isn’t much help and Clara just sits and waits for the Doctor, wherever he is, to pick up his phone.
When he does, Clara acts like nothing’s the matter, but secretly she has a plan. She wants to go to a volcano and she walks around the TARDIS finding various keys from the Doctor’s various hiding places. She also gets what she calls a sleep patch, although the Doctor doesn’t want her to. She puts it on him and he wakes up at the volcano. She wants the Doctor to save Danny and she’s willing to throw each and every one of the TARDIS keys into the lava if he doesn’t do it. What follows is one of the best and tensest scenes the show’s ever produced. Clara’s anger and grief shines through, Coleman giving one of her very finest performances, and that’s quite saying something. It’s a Mexican standoff without weapons.
Ultimately, though, Clara didn’t destroy the TARDIS keys, but she would have and that’s how the Doctor knows she’s serious, or how serious she is. He tricked her, of course, and her betrayal of him seems to even everything out. Using the telepathic circuits again, Clara takes them to where Danny is, or where Danny could be. He’s in the afterlife, also known as the Nethersphere. His caseworker is Seb (Chris Addison) who is exactly the kind of bureaucratic stooge you wouldn’t want if you were actually dead. By that, of course, I mean the actor does a great job of making him slimy and cold while still being smiley and pleasant. Seb seems particularly interested in whether Danny wanted to be cremated or not. And with if he killed anybody while he was a soldier. We find out through flashbacks that Danny seems to have killed a child and that’s why he quit the army and is so touchy about his time at the service. The little boy even wants to come see him, though he clearly doesn’t want to talk.
When the Doctor and Clara arrive where they’re going, they find it’s a mausoleum, apparently run by the 3W Company. Missy appears and says she’s an android, but if anyone actually believed she was an android, I’d be very surprised. She’s very kissy with the Doctor and he’s confused and ponderous when she makes him feel her heart…s. There are dead people, skeletons, sitting inside tanks of water. But, they are apparently not totally dead. Their bodies, Missy says, are getting upgraded while their minds have been uploaded. A man named Dr. Chang tells the Doctor and Clara the awful truth, which is that, apparently, people’s minds still feel things even after their body is dead. That’s why the three words nobody should hear are so chilling: “Don’t cremate me.” White noise won’t be so normal anymore, will it? Or comforting.
Using Seb’s iPad (because Steve Jobs is there, of course), Danny is able to answer a call from Clara, but as per the Doctor’s warning, she can’t trust that it’s actually him. She needs him to prove that he’s actually Danny Pink and, despite his constant assurances that he loves her, she says that isn’t enough proof. He’s apparently going to be cremated, also, so if she’s going to save him, she’s running out of time. And Danny, now incredibly distraught, is given the option by Seb to delete himself. All it will take is a single button push.
The scary stuff starts happening here. The water in the tanks is x-ray water, or Dark Water, which only allows people to see the organic matter of a person. They’re all skeletons…but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any synthetic material in the tanks. When the Doctor enters a lift and its doors close, we finally see what the plan is: the 3M logo looks just like a Cyber-eye. Oh no! Missy begins draining the tanks and, yep, every single person in a tank has been turned into a Cyberman. What’s the Earth got in abundance? Dead people. Oh, this is not good at all. And all their consciousnesses are just in a little floating orb in 3W. The afterlife is a lie!!!
The Doctor runs outside only to find that they were, in fact, inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, a very important location in Doctor Who/Cybermen history. He runs and screams and tells people to leave, but they don’t. Why don’t they? Missy tells the Doctor it’s too late. The Doctor doesn’t understand, nor does he know who she is. She’s a Time Lord — excuse me — Time LADY, and one that the Doctor left for dead. She’s Missy, short for Mistress, because she couldn’t still be called THE MASTER.
Who called it? Anyone? The Master was certainly one of the main speculations as to Missy’s true identity. That, to me, explains why she’s so evil, why she knows the Doctor so well (calling him her boyfriend), and why her plan seems so insane that it just might work. The Mistress is the Doctor’s greatest foe, and now we have onscreen evidence that Time Lords and Ladies can change sex during regeneration. Surely, this will lead the way for the Doctor to be a woman in the future, right? It would have to. I think of all the possible outcomes of what Missy actually is, though perhaps the most predictable, her being the Master makes the most sense. The fact that she’s raising an army of undead Cybermen is still a big question mark, but one I imagine we’ll get the full answer to next week.
One thing they still have not addressed, and I truly hope they do, is the Doctor’s face. In “Deep Breath,” he mentions recognizing himself but he doesn’t know why. Clearly, they’re playing on the fact that Capaldi once played a Pompeiian saved by the Tenth Doctor from Mt. Vesuvius. I want to know why he looks like that, dammit! Why bring it up if it wasn’t going to be addressed. Also, is Missy the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number? That’s another mystery we need to find out. I don’t think so anymore, unless there’s not some huge reason for the Mistress wanting to get the Doctor and Clara together. Maybe so.
“Dark Water” was the exact kind of shocking and rule-breaking episode I was hoping it would be. Things were revealed, though not everything, which is perfect for a cliffhanger. Moffat’s script was tight and driven and Talalay’s direction gave the episode, which actually is mostly people just talking in rooms, a real cinematic quality and made the whole affair very dynamic. As I said, Coleman knocked it out of the park again and Capaldi was his trademark mixture of bristly, semi-kind, and exasperated.
I loved this episode and can’t wait to see how it wraps up. I’m nervous, folks. There’s no next time trailer for “Death in Heaven,” but parts of it were shown in the last one, specifically UNIT and the older Cyberhead. And, I can only imagine with a title like that, we’re going to have a lot of sad crying times. Probably won’t get a snappy rendition of “It’s Christmas in Heaven” from Monty Python and the Meaning of Life, but that was, I’m sure, too much to hope for.
Let me know what you think below! Lots to mull over here.