Monday, November 03, 2014

My Review of Doctor Who's 8x11: "Dark Water"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay

The Doctor: “Who’s Missy?”
The Master/Missy: “Oh, please try to keep up. Short for Mistress. Well, couldn’t very well keep calling myself the Master, now could I?”

Well, Steven Moffat really went there and in the space of forty five minutes has probably changed a lot more about the show’s internal workings that ever before. On Saturday, we finally learned that Missy was actually the Mistress or formerly the Master and it was the very thing that overrode an episode with a lot of going on in it.

It’s been two days and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this reveal. I’ve always been vocal about my preference for both the Doctor and the Master to remain male characters but now that the latter is female, it’s quite likely that this could possibly work after all. At least with Michelle Gomez playing the role, Moffat has managed to find a worthy successor to John Simm at the very least and her scheming with the Cybermen is very Master/Mistress like as well.

I did like that Missy played the role of an overenthusiastic interface droid that flustered both the Doctor and Clara before killing the rather cute Dr Chang and revealing that the Nethersphere was actually a Matrix Data Slice. The very mention of Gallifreyan technology was the obvious indicator as to whom Missy would turn out to be but even she literally had to tell the Doctor at the near last moment of this episode.

I guess the obvious question isn’t how has the Master become a woman but more how did he/she escape the time lock and hopefully that’s one that Moffat does at least answer in the hour long finale on Saturday. As for the teaming up with the Cybermen – hardly a first for the Master, now is it?

Like the Master, the Cybermen’s presence was made obvious the moment that Chang explained to the Doctor and Clara about the properties of dark water and while they only briefly appeared towards the end, their presence worked really well. If we’re lucky, this two parter is not only going to be an excellent story for the Master/Missy but also for the Cybermen and they really are overdue one.

Of course while it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of two major enemies returning, there’s also the fact that Danny Pink died in this episode. Not in a heroic way but in an ordinary way but also one that saw Clara become mad with grief and threaten the Doctor in order to get her boyfriend back. The scene alone where she’s throwing TARDIS keys into lava before it’s revealed to be a dream is some genuinely powerful acting from Jenna Coleman – possibly her most memorable to date if I’m being honest.

I do like that despite Clara’s betrayal, the Doctor was willing to entertain the idea of saving Danny by taking her to the Nethersphere. While I do think that Danny is more than likely done for, this episode raised some very disturbing notions about death. The idea of being able to feel what your corpse is feeling despite being dead is probably the most unsettling thing this show has ever done, along with the words ‘don’t cremate me’ being used to horrific effect as well.

The Nethersphere stuff is reasonably great, even more so when the Master/Missy revealed that the Cybermen were getting one hell of an upgrade but more to the point, it also turned out that Danny’s very bad day was a lot darker than expected when Seb arranged a little reunion for him. As for the Clara and Danny stuff, some of the scenes worked, some didn’t, despite Coleman and Anderson’s performances. I just get the feeling that Danny’s death is somewhat going to stick.

Also in “Dark Water”

Clara was trying to explain her travels with the Doctor to Danny via some post it notes.

Gran: “You know what you should do. You should cry, let go.”
Clara: “Of what?”

I loved that we got to see Clara’s grandmother again. I hope she appears in the second part of this story, if there’s room for her. You also have to smile at the fact the Doctor has a copy of The Time Traveller’s Wife as well.

Clara: “You know what, Doctor, when it comes to taking control, you really are out of your depth.”

Clara: “I don’t deserve a friend like you.”
The Doctor: “Clara, I’m terribly sorry, but I’m exactly what you deserve.”

It’s just occurred to me that for the first time, both the Doctor and the Master are played by Scottish actors. Oh and they kissed too.

The Doctor: “Who maintains your heart?”
The Master/Missy: “My heart is maintained by the Doctor.”

Chang: “Why is there all this swearing?”
The Doctor: “Oh, I’ve got a lot of internalised anger.”

This is also the second time the Master has murdered an assistant named Chang, only this time I get the feeling this one won’t be coming back from the dead.

The Master/Missy: “Humankind, bring out your dead.”

The Doctor: “Who are you?”
The Master/Missy: “You know who I am. You felt it.”

The iconic St Paul’s Cathedral (where the Nethersphere actually was) with the Cybermen got it’s 2014 remix in this episode too.

Chang: “Are you going to kill me?”
The Master/Missy: “Now, come on, let’s not dwell on such horrid things. This is going to be our last conversation and I’m the one who’s going to have to live with that.”

The Doctor: “I presume you’ve got stairs.”
The Master/Missy: “Well, I’m not a Dalek.”

Chronology: London 2014 I assume.

“Dark Water” was the first half of a story and it’s been a long while since we’ve had a two parter. It’s also one of Steven Moffat’s most exhilarating and even for him rather dark pieces as well. Regardless of gender, the return of the Master has been something I’ve been clamouring more for than the Cybermen and with Michelle Gomez at the helm, it looks like the character is going to be as volatile and unpredictable as ever.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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