Doctor Who: Dark Water (EPISODE REVIEW)

A clear step above the rest of series 8, the penultimate episode ‘Dark Water’ is immense, tragic, and… the first of a two parter. It sets the stage, reveals who’s actually behind the curtain this season, and is an all around excellent science fiction episode – well on its way toward a Hugo nomination. Generally I allow myself to watch an episode of Doctor Who two or three times before going into a review, but this episode is the exception. The Internet needs more opinions. Spoilers will follow.

For once we actually get a Moffat script that isn’t timey wimey. It’s actually quite the opposite. Clara wanted the Doctor to create a paradox by saving Danny from his unfortunate (yet “boring”) death, but he refused. Rather they used the TARDIS telepathic circuits to find their way to… 3W. But more on that later. By this point we’re ten minutes in and we’ve got some of the best scenes the show has to offer in the way of drama. Who could’ve guessed Danny was going to pass away like that – or at all? Or how Clara would react? How unbelievably brilliant was that scene where she was throwing out the keys into the lava (quite LotR), only afterwards to find out that the Doctor was truly one step ahead of her, in control the whole time – essentially allowing Clara to show her true colors when under extreme emotional trauma. And then for him to continue helping her. I loved this scene to bits.

Danny’s time in the Nethersphere was also exceptional. I never found his attitude about being dead unbelievable or overacted. Samuel Anderson is perfect as Danny Pink, and he really digs deep into the psyche of his character. We also got to see the scene that’s been teased a few times throughout the season – the moment Danny shot an innocent person. It ended up being a child. I’ll admit the flashback was lackluster, as was the child’s appearance, but throughout it all Anderson’s performance was sound.

The Nethersphere, as introduced by Seb, was also incredible. If one could mold the imagination of Inception and the atmosphere of The Matrix, Dark Water accomplishes that in spades when it comes down to the visualization of the Nethersphere. And all we got to see of it came from the view from one porch. Every angle was gorgeous. But what exactly is the Nethersphere?

Let’s go back to where the TARDIS lands: 3W. We are at first unsure whether this is within the afterlife or not, but by the end of the episode we find its actually, oddly, within St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. 3W stands for 3 words, the three words that, apparently, the dead always seem to utter postmortem. Those three words? “Don’t cremate me.” …alright. Why not? After we learn the 3 words they basically drop the subject to be picked up next week, but I’ve got a few theories. Perhaps, playing off of what Seb told Danny, since the physical body is still connected to the consciousness within the Nethersphere and that consciousness feels all that the body does, it’d be excruciating to be cremated. Or perhaps it’s a matter of there not being a body to be attached to anymore – so one’s postmortem consciousness is no more? Perhaps Missy can no longer use the bodies as Cybermen if they’ve been cremated. Or all of the above.

And yes. The Cybermen are back. Menacing. Ooh aah. This is where the episode title Dark Water comes in. Dark water is a special kind of water that only reveals organic material, such as human flesh and bone. Missy was hiding Cybermen in plain site. And how cool was that seeing the tanks drain slowly, deliberately showing off the transformation. The individual pods where their organic tissue was on display was almost reminiscent of The Tomb of the Cybermen. But a far more blatant homage to the past was the Cybermen descending the cathedral in the fashion of The Invasion. That looked excellent. But it’s still somehow more creepy in B&W.

As soon as she mentioned Missy was short for Mistress, I knew it could only be The Master. Excellent. What a way to end an episode. But then… She kissed him earlier. Does that mean she’s now more attracted to him now that she’s a Time Lady? Or was the Master always into him? I don’t even want an answer. But hey. The Master is back! I was sooo rooting for the Rani. But if this is done correctly there really shouldn’t be much of a difference if this was the Rani or not I suppose. Oh well.

I loved Dark Water. Of course, this is but one part of two, and the second is 60 minutes in length as apposed to this first part’s 45 minutes. Together it’ll be the longest story under Moffat’s reign/rein/rain. My opinion of tonight’s episode may drastically change once the story is complete. But by itself, with the revelations we have unfurled thus far, it’s been the strongest link of series 8 for me. Will Moffat and Talalay deliver a stunning conclusion next week? Will the presence of the Cybermen be unnecessarily campy? Will Danny click DELETE and turn into a Cyberman himself?!?! Stay tuned.

Current ranked average of Doctor Who Series 8: 7.91

21 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Dark Water (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. I enjoyed this one especially the St Pauls homage despite the still awful reinvented cybermen action toys.
    BUT with Missy’s denouement it ruined it for me. She really has to be the Rani if she’s a Time Lord. Being the Master re-sex change-generating is beyond naff. Shame as I’d have rated this as an the excellent episode otherwise. Its not too late to redeem itself and pull a rabbit out of the hat as the He/She could still turn out to reveal itself as the Rani just bluffing the Doctor since the experiment with human kind etc fit in with her character quite well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree re naff sex change Master. It’s like the current showfuehrer has only heard of the original Master from the Third Doctor stories but never actually watched any of them. The Master was an evil alpha male- frequently quite seductive and indeed overtly chauvinistic at times. That remained true right through to the Jacobi comment about being killed by a girl.

      This gender studies crap that is being foisted on the viewers is embarassing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Another thing that bugged me… though it was a dream sequence… one presumes there really were extra Tardis keys hidden around.

    BUT… that makes no sense.

    What good is hiding all your spare Tardis keys inside the Tardis IF losing the keys means you never could get back inside? Since you would likely be outside the Tardis when you lose your key and need one of those spares, right?

    I can’t believe the Tardis wouldn’t let the Doctor back inside unless it was prevented from doing so anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Eager to see how some loose ends tie, and which are taken to next season.

    I like Danny Pink’s character, and everything he brings to the table attracts Clara. Clara has strong ties to the Doctor that cannot be broken but, Danny has always been outwardly opposed. In any case it is believable that she loves Danny for several reasons but, she knows she must maintain a relationship with the Doctor. Until now?

    To be so adamant about Danny that she would be stronger than ever, thinking she has taken control over the Doctor is a surprise because, to me this is also one of her weaker moments as she discards all the keys to the TARDIS.

    The Doctor has prepared for her possible betrayal. She realizes she was never in charge, and now must repair her position with the Doctor. She asks ‘where do we go from here?’ His reply, ‘Go to hell!’ She prepares to exit (Jenna Coleman contract exit?) He calls her name before she is about to leave the TARDIS (for the last time?) ‘We are going to hell to find where you & Danny’s timelines intersect.’

    One of my favorite lines is when Clara struck with disbelief that the Doctor is going to continue to help her, and he says: ‘Do you honestly believe that I think so little of you that your betrayal would cause me to not help you?’ Bam! The Doctor is true. His mission transcends betrayal.

    Can’t wait to see how Missy plays out but, I get the feeling there are more ‘fibettes’ surrounding her existence. I’m ultimately hoping for a River Song/Missy confrontation with River being responsible for exposing the ‘fibettes’ clouding Missy’s character.

    What if it turns out Clara isn’t real? Could it be Danny Pink was never real either? However, what if they both are very real in a different time in space? That being the true their timelines do ultimately live to meet….again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So much to like about this comment. But I share your sentiments on how awesome the Doctor’s line was and how weak of a moment (in contrast to how strong of a scene) that was for Clara.


  4. I figure cremation must just be really painful… Remember the guy who was charred to a solitary burnt hand by the Skovox Blitzer, and then appeared in Seb’s office in the Nethersphere. So, it must not “kill” Netherspherians, although I don’t understand the point of taking that guy if he only had one hand left of his physical body. Maybe they make cybermats out of those…?

    There are a lot of logistical questions yet to be answered.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A lot of this episode fell flat to me, mostly due to the fact that I never really bought into the Danny/Clara relationship. Over the course of the season, Clara has sniped at, repeatedly lied to, and deceived Danny and now I’m supposed to believe that she loves him so much that she’s willing to create an universe shattering paradox to save him? Give me a break!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm. Youre not the first that’s brought this complaint to my attention. I’ve never shared it so I can’t entirely relate. But I see why it’s a complaint in the first place. I’ve just always sypathized for her position. She loves Danny, but loves her lifestyle with the Doctor. Her struggle in Listen to continually go back and try with him proved to me that’s what she wanted. But it was a mistake on her part to withhold information about her continuing adventures from him. I bought into their disjointed relationship. So I had no problem buying into their arc by this point. If the Caretaker is to be believed, along with In the Forest of the Night, the two had been going out for over a year.


      1. But what does she see in Danny that’s worth it? Outside of “Listen”, “The Caretaker”, and then “Dark Water”, we haven’t really gotten to know Danny. The only things I know about Danny are: used to live in children’s home, Math teacher, ex-soldier, has PTSD, patient on the verge of catatonic, and the Doctor doesn’t like him. Compare him to Rory in Season 5. Rory’s brave, devoted, caring, able to assess situations quickly, a nurse, funny, smart, doesn’t put with the Doctor’s crap, nervous, and a bit insecure. Danny falls completely short. There is nothing to Danny, and the show proves this by having Clara ditch him for the Doctor in every single episode since “Kill the Moon”.


      2. Well. To my perspective, everything you’ve attributed to Rory (with the exception of being a nurse and insecure) could easily be attributed to Danny – since he has training to be brave, smart, and to assess situations. He doesnt take crap from the Doctor as seen in the Caretaker. And in the same line of thought, Amy’s ran with the Doctor a few episodes instead of Rory, forgetting him for several episodes, and even leaving him because she couldnt bare child. I loved Rory and never questioned his devotion, but never believed Amy was worth him. She didn’t deserve him.


  6. I agree… that this is the best episode of the series thus far. I found myself thinking this very early in the episode and it didn’t let me down even after making that opinion.

    This is one of those times I wish we didn’t come to this episode knowing about the Cybermen… because how cool would it have been to not know the Cybermen were coming? And catching those glimpses of the teardrop windows… you would be thinking “Cybermen!” but you wouldn’t know for sure. I miss those days of not knowing stuff like that.

    I still wonder about “Missy” though… I’m not sure I completely believe she is the Master yet. I’m holding out to see what the next part tells us.

    I’ve always been against gender-bending in Doctor Who because it doesn’t make sense for a race to have male and female genders IF they can regenerate into both genders. It renders the genders moot if you can become the other gender essentially whenever you want like that.

    That’s why I wish it had been the Rani… or even a brainwashed Romana or someone new… rather than give us a female Master. IF it is the Master, why not show us a regeneration? They could show that next week… anyway, that’s the only part I don’t “like” about it… if they are telling the truth in the reveal. I don’t hate it… I just would have rather had the Rani, as this whole scheme is actually right up her alley.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think the notion of death being moot would be more troubling for a race than gender changing. Especially if it’s true that they grow children in looms or whatever the late 90’s books came up with in order to keep the Doctor celibate.


      1. I sort of always got the feeling that while all Timelords are from Gallifrey, not all Gallifreans are Timelords… so Gallifreans are born and die through traditional reproductive means… but some of them group up to be Timelords and are granted regenerations.

        I suppose one could make the argument, though, that maybe Timelords themselves are sterile and can’t reproduce once they become Timelords… in which case gender no longer matters to them? I might could be persuaded to that if I thought about it.

        Which would mean… if Susan was the Doctor’s granddaughter… it means he had a kid (or kids) before becoming a Timelord… and Susan herself may not have been a Timelord with regenerative capabilities.

        There’s a lot of potential concepts to weave in there.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. “Does that mean she’s now more attracted to him now that she’s a Time Lady? Or was the Master always into him? I don’t even want an answer.”

    Well, after that beard comment in “Time Crash” (also by Moffat), it seems the Doctor’s always thought that the Master’s been into him. Not to mention that scene in “The End of Time”, where the Doctor tells the Master that he’s beautiful and wonders what they’d be without each other. As well as the homoerotic choices made the character in the TV movie (whispering “I need the Doctor’s body” while shirtless, stuffing himself down Bruce’s throat, etc.), it looks like it’s always been a thing.

    In fact, I should make a fan trailer out of it, making it appear that they’re lovers.

    Liked by 1 person

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