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