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WHO KNOWS: The WATERs Are DARK Indeed…

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Season 8, Episode 11 “Dark Water”

“Who is Missy?”

Oh, it’s SPOILERS all the way down folks…

Welcome to “Dark Water”, an episode that is causing fans to scream “DAMN YOU, MOFFAT!!!” for reasons that I’ll get to presently, but I think everyone needs to take a (heh) Deep Breath (heh), and remember two things:

This is the first part of a two-parter, and Moffat Lies.

So let us jump right in, shall we?

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 11

Poor Danny Pink… just when Clara is finally ready to be truly honest and give him her whole heart, he’s hit by a car and dies. No aliens, no monsters, no heroic end saving the world or Clara, just a tragic, senseless accident. Of course Clara – having seen the wonders of the Universe, walked on alien worlds, traveled in time with an ageless god, and broken by grief – can’t let that be the end. So she does the unthinkable, trying to essentially blackmail the Doctor into rewriting time and saving Danny. It’s a scene that is shocking because we’ve never seen Clara like this – half-mad with grief, willing to destroy her life and friendship with the Doctor, to betray the Doctor – and for the briefest of moments we can hear Missy’s claim to have “chosen” Clara, and we ask ourselves has it all been a lie? But no… just the pain of loss and the hope of changing the past, made even more tantalizing by having access to a time machine.

And of course the Doctor says no, but how could he say anything else? He can’t just rewrite the past, no matter how much he wishes he could, and how much his friend is hurting. Yes, there have been plenty of times the Doctor has changed things, but Pompeii still erupts, Van Gogh still commits suicide, and Adelaide Brooks still dies so that Mankind can head to the stars.

Adric. Katrina. Sara Kingdom. Astrid.

Amy and Rory.

The ones he couldn’t save. All the ones he couldn’t save.

“Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

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It’s here though, when it’s revealed that all of Clara’s plans, and her attempts to destroy the TARDIS keys to get her way are just a dream that the Doctor has let her play out, that we get to the core of the Doctor and Clara. Actually, we get to the core of the Doctor and everyone he has called his friend, and even those fans who think Capaldi’s Doctor is a little too heartless have got to acknowledge that simply isn’t true, because while this Doctor doesn’t have the ease of expression that many of his previous Incarnations had, he loves Clara. She’s his friend. He’s a Time Lord, he’s 2000 years old, and one little betrayal isn’t going to be enough to stop him from helping her.

It’s a great scene, made more so by “Go to Hell” and its double meaning, and it’s a turning point for Clara on a couple of levels. First, she’s made her choice between the two men in her life, and it’s Danny at any cost. Second, she’s finally accepted that the Doctor, this Doctor, is her friend. For all the doubt she’s had this season, for the confusion of “Deep Breath” or the rage of “Kill the Moon”, she finally sees that the Doctor loves her. If this is where the episode ended it would be a great ending… the Doctor and Clara, traveling to Hell or whatever awaits us after death, to save Danny.

But that would be a really short episode, wouldn’t it? Powerful work from Peter Capaldi, and just wonderful work from Jenna Coleman.

We finally get the answer to what it is that Danny did as a soldier that drove him out of the Army and left him so traumatized, and it’s a… mostly satisfying answer. In short, he killed a child, and even though it wasn’t intentional, he’s still damaged by it. Of course, it beggars belief that we wouldn’t have learned this by now, because there’s no way he wouldn’t’ have had this conversation with Clara ages ago, and their relationship would never have progressed this far without her dragging it out of him, but hey. TV shows. It’s what happens.

The flashback is pretty intense, and Samuel Anderson does a fantastic job here throughout, but something feels… off about the Afghanistan sequence. I think it’s the military tactics that are bothering me, but I’m not, and never have been, in the military, so I could be wrong. In any event, Danny’s experiences in the Nethersphere revolve around both the disturbingly funny bureaucracy – personified by Chris Addison’s Seb – and meeting the soul of the boy he killed, and their awkward attempt to, what? Talk? Explain themselves? It kind of doesn’t really matter, since the boy runs away, and with him, any apparent chance of the weight being lifted from Danny’s soul.

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“I love you.”

Combine that with Danny and Clara’s conversation later, and you can see why Seb’s offer to take away those “pesky emotions” might have some appeal. Before that though, we do have the conversation, and for me, the weakest part of the episode. Now it could be argued that Clara is in her Doctor mode, and indeed, the Doctor encouraged her to be suspicious, but we’re told she’s been telepathically scanned, so there is absolutely no answer Danny can give that couldn’t have been pulled from her mind, and she knows that. The only answer he could give to prove who he is, is the one he gives her, telling her that she shouldn’t come after him, because that’s who Danny is. He’s put her ahead of himself for most of this relationship, and telling her that she shouldn’t risk herself to try and save him is the very proof she is asking for. That she doesn’t see that feels so very much Hand Of The Writer, and it frustrated me beyond belief. Of course, if Danny points this out to her next episode, I’ll chalk it up to her pain and fear and giver a pass, but I’m not holding my breath.

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The Three Words. Hmm. Cremation is much more common in the UK than here in the States, so the “Don’t Burn Me” terror doesn’t quite have the same punch, as I can imagine that the embalming process and decomposition aren’t terribly pleasant experiences either. But since the whole premise is a lie, then it works, aside from the question of Gretchen. Remember her? Killed, disintegrated in fact, back in “Into the Dalek”? Sure, her consciousness was uploaded to the Nethersphere, but with the emphasis on using the corpses for the core of the Cybermen, one does wonder if we’re going to see her again. And striking visuals though they are, one does wonder about the skeletons inside the Cybermen. The Dark Water makes inorganic material invisible, but the tanks just have skeletons in them… why do the Cybermen need human skeletons?

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“Couldn’t keep calling myself the Master, now could I?”

And then there’s the Elephant in the Room. If you’re one of those fans who said “You know, Missy could be short for Mistress”, then you’re either saying “YES!” or “NOOOOOO!” right now, because it seems the Master has returned from the dead. I say seems, because there are some interesting lines of dialogue that make me think that we may be getting a bit of a fake-out here, with Missy claiming to have been abandoned by the Doctor and that’s… an interesting way to interpret the events of “The End of Time”.

Still, I really enjoyed the whole kissing-pretending-to-be-a-robot thing, and all the interactions between Missy and the Doctor, in fact.  Oh, there are some quibbles of course, but most of them come from only having this first half of the story. One that doesn’t was her killing of Dr. Chang and the whole “say something nice” bit, which actually didn’t make any sense, but was darkly fun nonetheless. And one does wonders if this is the trial-balloon for a female Doctor, by making his greatest enemy switch genders… if the Master works as a woman, why not the Doctor? Whoever she is, personally I’ll be quite happy to have Michelle Gomez as the new Master, as I think she’s wonderful. But maybe, just maybe, we don’t have the full story here.

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Well, OK, we obviously don’t have the full story, it’s a two-parter, and we’re left with the great recreation of the iconic image of the Cybermen and St. John’s from the classic “Invasion” as another little gift to fans of the Original Series. We’re also left with a TON of questions.

Will Danny make the choice to delete his pain, and unwittingly become a Cyberman?

Will the spirit of the boy he killed – reflected in the iPad – stop him, or push the button for him? (And why would the Missy/Master even grab the kid’s soul/consciousness? Hmmm.)

How does the scene we’ve seen in the trailers of Clara saying that Clara Oswald never existed factor in to all of this? And how did the Master/Missy manipulate Clara into meeting the Doctor in the first place as its been implied? And why?

Can Clara save Danny?

Is Missy really the Master? Everything she’s actually told the Doctor about who she is doesn’t quite fit what we know about how the Master apparently died. When last we saw him, he was free of the Drumming, and fighting Rassilon. Hardly abandoned by the Doctor as she claims here, and certainly we’ve seen nothing in the past relationship between the Doctor and the Master to indicate that there has ever been a romantic component to their relationship. A brotherly rivalry, yes, reflecting the original plan to have the Master be the Doctor’s brother, but this is more the Rani than the Master. Could Moffat be setting us up for a second reveal?

How is Missy in charge of the Cybermen? What is their plan? Because you know they have a plan… oh. Oh. IS MISSY REALLY MISTER CLEVER?

How the bloody hell is the Doctor going to stop all of this?

We’ll find out on Saturday.

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Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with something of a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror films American Maniacs, Blood of Me, and the pilot for the science fiction series Paradox City. His own short films include the Noir Trilogy, 9 1/2 Years, The Statement of Randolph Carter - adapted for the screen by Jason Hunt - and the music video for IAMEVE’s Temptress. He’s a former President and board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, and has served on the board of Film Society KC.

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