Doctor Who: 811 “Dark Water” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
So it’s finally arrived, the beginning of the end for Series Eight. A shame really because it has been a great series and certainly a brilliant debut for Peter Capaldi. I’ve never felt safe in the sense that I find it very different to what has been the norm within the New Series. I sensed that nice change within Matt Smith’s era and now even more for Capaldi’s era. Moffat has used this year to establish new grounds for the brand new age of Doctor Who. But whether or not I agree with it all is another story.
‘Dark Water’ really did break in some new territories for the show to play with. Moffat, as always, used his clever mind to establish a brilliant idea to develop it in a way that shocks and intrigues us. It has been hinted throughout Series Eight that there is a Heaven, to which various characters went to after death and were met by a certain Missy. The finale went about to explain what this so-called afterlife entailed and without any surprise whatsoever I was right in thinking it wasn’t Paradise. Don’t get me wrong, that didn’t spoil the story one bit, it just meant I still had to learn why I felt these trust issues with Missy’s depictions of Heaven.
What started the episode off on a real high note was Clara facing the fact that Danny had died in unexpected and tragic circumstances, made only worse by the fact she felt guilty. The guilt steamed from her constant lies through the series. After the events of ‘In the Forest of the Night’ Danny finally made Clara see the truth within her shift in character which made her want to tell him the truth and above all her feelings towards Danny in a way that meant something. Using a line of sticky notes Clara had everything ready to tell Danny the truth starting with her declaring her love to him in such a beautiful manner. I loved how she said these words were only meant for him and they wouldn’t be uttered to anyone else. That’s what made the scene all the more tragic. Plus it left the scene ambiguous as to whether Danny heard her words before he was struck down by the car.
The events that followed are without a doubt the most realistic depictions of a companion suffering from loss. It was the calmness of it all in the very beginning. She just zoned out whilst waiting for the Doctor to pick up her call. It was nice to have some continuity elements thrown in through the reappearance of Clara’s grandmother, first seen within ‘The Time of the Doctor’. I had often wondered what happened to her family members waiting for her return on Christmas Day, even to the point thinking it would be hilarious if Clara wasn’t brought back to them until next Christmas. Anyway, Clara’s Gran was slipped in perfectly in order to question Clara’s feelings on the matter and to try and make her face her emotions instead of hiding them. Sure enough this was left for the Doctor.
I absolutely loved the scene of Clara throwing away the TARDIS keys (in fact it maybe one of my new personal favourites) because it showed off her sadness in a dangerous way that left the Doctor vulnerable. The raw power of human emotions had overpowered the Doctor and was left TARDIS-less whilst facing the ultimate dilemma not by his greatest enemy but by his greatest friend. The setting upon a volcano, which also proving to be a nice little idea for destroying a TARDIS key, made the scene all the more tense and harsh because of the volcano’s nature as a uncontrollable element within the planet much to Clara’s uncontrollable emotions bumbling up to the surface of her very being now lashing out at the Doctor. Through Jenna Coleman and Capaldi’s intense performances you really felt for the scene and could feel all of its power through the emotions of their acting. The Doctor tried to become the word of reason but Clara wasn’t listening. In the end the Doctor tried proving her bluff, attempting to take control of the situation through his continuous ability of owning the high- ground of information, but ultimately caused his doom after Clara declared through endless sadness that she would’ve happily done her deed again in a bid to save Danny from death.
This scene ended brilliantly through the clever idea that the Doctor fooled Clara into carrying out her plan within a dream-state, allowing the Time Lord to learn how far she would really go. Though the Doctor was once again being manipulative it was at the same time a very dangerous situation because he had unearthed what Clara was willing to do to gain what she wanted and that led to betrayal. It was a cold scene seeing these two characters, and friends, faced with such a horrid situation and left you wondering “where do they go from here?” To the Doctor’s overwhelming charm he found it in his hearts to forgive Clara for her attempted efforts and be the good friend that he is by still aiding his companion with her wish. For the first time this series we had seen the Twelfth Doctor being the better person which really made the scene and the character’s chemistry all the more meaningful and epic in their design within the story and ongoing-arc.
Revelation became a massive part about the story and left you constantly learning more about what we think we know through a new light. We finally saw what the Nethersphere was and to all extent and purposes was a form of Heaven in which the minds/or souls of the deceased went to after death. It was made all the more scientific to fit in more with the programme, which I think gave it an extra edge and left it feeling more organic rather than establishing it as a typical Heavenly setting from the Bible. This way of doing it allowed the Nethersphere to stand on its own grounds and not necessarily contradict people’s beliefs and make them feel angered or uneasy with delving into this new ground within the show. I found what made the idea all the more compelling and creepy, allowing the darkened nature of the plot to flow even deeper within the story, was the idea that the mind of the dead are still linked to their actual bodies. This meant that anyone who’d been given in for scientific study, been cremated or simply defiled in any other kind of way after death would feel this pain, making the concept of passing on all the more horrific.
I loved how Danny was given tons and tons of character development. He was forced to face the world of death on his own and in a sense face an adventure on his own where he’d gone further than any other character has been. This side of the story was thoroughly engaging as you were constantly wondering how Danny would face this impending discovery of him being dead and what would happen to him. The tragedy began with the revealing that Danny’s sadness towards his days as a soldier was because he accidentally killed a boy, something that’d been hinted since his first outing in ‘Into the Dalek’. This revelation was made only worse by the fact that he was forced to face this demon head on. What must have been going through Danny’s mind when he had to sit there and apologise to the boy that he’d killed.
You felt even sorrier for Danny during his conversation with Clara. He tried his best to convince Clara that he was Danny and not an imposter created by the system of the Nethersphere to mess with her head. The sadness of this plot continued through Clara continuously claiming how far she’d go to be with Danny again, which ultimately meant her killing herself and joining him in Paradise. It’s that horrible tragic love story that has been played out time and time again within Doctor Who in which the two lovers are separated by tragic means. Danny proved himself to be the superior character by giving up what he wants in order to save the one he loves. It was so painful to watch him deliberately force Clara into leaving the conversation just so that she would give up on the idea of finding him. Danny didn’t want to see Clara die to be with him but nevertheless it was still painful to send Clara away, knowing she would be alone and that he would never see her again. This terrible sacrifice was a high price for love. This ended with the ambiguous notion, which will hopefully see a happy conclusion next week, of whether or not Danny will delete his emotions due to the fact that they are too painful to bare anymore. We also have the implications that the boy Danny killed has entered the room at that point, leaving you wondering whether the boy will choose to forgive him, nearby helping him or act out his vengeance by aiding in his deletion.
As promised by Moffat he finally devised a clever and dark story for the Cybermen within the New Series. The Nethersphere was a means to create a never ending army of Cybermen through the clever idea of Cybermen created by cyberspace. The minds of the deceased have their emotions taken away only to be transferred into a pre-prepared Cyber-body. It’s a horrific idea to say the least. It kind of reminds me of the Zombie idea; reanimated people who are no longer themselves but rather killers who wouldn’t think twice before killing their loved ones and fellow kind. This will make defeating the Cybermen all the more challenging because the Doctor will have to make the cold decision of whether or not he can terminate the minds of the deceased in order to stop his enemy. I will admit the Cybermen do feel threatening again and who didn’t love Moffat attempting to re-imagine the iconic invasion scenes from the Classic serial ‘The Invasion’ and also add in tombs just like within ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’. I’ve always felt that Moffat’s usage of Cybermen through cameos have proved to be their best and most chilling moments within the New Series and now that he is handling them in a full-on episode I feel we are in for a treat.
Finally, onto the big reveal. I will happily say that I was utterly disappointed to see Moffat go down the route of making the Master a woman. It just seems cheap, tacky and completely ridiculous not to mention making his character seem like a joke. Trans-gender is a perfectly natural thing within modern-day society but it doesn’t mean that this has to be applied within the concept of regeneration because it just doesn’t work on many grounds. For continuity purposes it just seems absolutely absurd to all of a sudden have the Master turn into a woman because it messes with everything that has come before. As it was shown the chemistry between him and the Doctor has become somewhat creepy and uneasy to watch because now he is demonstrating emotional feelings that step out of line from what we know him as. He is supposed to be a megalomaniac who both admires and despises the Doctor but now he is reduced to snogging and flirting with him in an uncomfortable manner. Plus I suppose I’m against the idea that when regeneration happens to change a Time Lord’s gender that it also affects their behaviour in a way that’s out of place. Maybe this is the part that makes it all the more silly because we have to witness our characters undergo a dramatic change of character outside of their own characteristics for no real logical reasoning other than taking a stamp on something new which doesn’t need to happen. As that old saying goes, ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’.
Maybe I’m just old fashioned but I’d prefer my beloved characters to remain their own genders and not make things complicated. This isn’t me having anything against trans- genders, not in the slightest, but I just think it should be left alone when it comes to the Time Lords. At the moment the Master seems totally out of character, pretty much acting like Moffat’s typical female characters such as River Song, and the reveal just didn’t make sense in my eyes. I’m really hoping that next week’s conclusion sees Moffat gain my respect again by pulling something clever out of his sleeve like he normally does. I guess I’m just praying that Missy turns out to be lying in a ploy to fool the Doctor away from the actual newly incarnated Master (which hopefully turns out to be Chris Addison’s Seb who appears to be an untrustworthy character to say the least and appears to have a bigger role in the grand scheme of things). If anything a good old fashioned Cyberman invasion with UNIT involved should be worth a watch at least.