There are going to be roughly eight million spoilers in the post below, because hi, we’re discussing plot points of the first part of the Doctor Who season finale. If for some reason you’ve made it here because you think Peter Capaldi is strikingly handsome but have missed this week’s episode, then you and I are in total agreement, but you probably shouldn’t be reading this. Enjoy this picture of the Doctor, Missy, and…is that Handles?… and then depart in peace and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Oh, Moffat, you beautiful, beautiful genius. Like I said last week, I was reasonably sure that Moffat had an ace up his sleeve, something that would tie this season together, solve the mystery of the big bad, Missy, and probably make me cry. I’m not crying yet, but that’s probably because I’m a Whouffaldian with a heart of stone. Pinkwalds were bawling by the first commercial break; but while Danny’s untimely and flat-out ordinary demise was a shock for me, I didn’t break down, even on the heels of Clara’s declaration that she would only say I love you to him from then on.
I won’t say that the Whouffaldians escaped this episode unscathed, though, because Moffat is trying to mess with us in a very “Who shot JR” way—really, sleep patches? The whole “Betrayal at the Volcano” scene was spectacular acting from Capaldi and Coleman, all the bits of their relationship woven up into one moment. Two things stuck with me from this sequence: the Doctor’s obvious relief that Clara is still so human as to let her emotions control her entirely, and that beautiful, beautiful moment in the TARDIS when he says “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” He knows that she has chosen Danny, he knows that she is capable of ultimate betrayal, and he still wants to help is Impossible Girl. Here, Moff, just drink my heart’s blood until the tears show up.
Now that I’ve watched the episode twice, I realize that all my favorite parts of “Dark Water” were character-driven. The plot line was still just a build to next week’s episode, and we got barely any Cyberman action once they were revealed. But the characters, oh, the characters. From 3Ws cheeky guide to the afterlife Seb to the boy that Danny killed in the war and the major characters in between, this episode was a bonanza of great characters and great acting. Two more of my favorite moments:
- Danny’s repeating “I love you” as a protective maneuver to get Clara to hang up, once he realizes that she will come after him, which he believes means she will kill herself to get to him. That final “I love you” to ensure she won’t come after him is the ultimate Protective Danny move we’ve seen this season. I hate Protective Danny. Hate him. I’ve railed against him time and again this season, but this…this is the ultimate grand gesture and a really beautiful twist of the knife Moffat has stabbed me with. Given that the final image of the episode was Danny’s finger hovering over the delete key and the reflection of the boy he killed on the iPad, I think this boy may be Danny’s salvation. Sometimes even protectors need protected.
- The reveal of Missy as the Master was an absolute high point of this episode. Yes, there was speculation that this would be the case going back the entire season, but the way it came out was a thing of beauty and you know there are a million Doctor/Master shippers out there who screamed “THANK YOU, MOFFAT!” at the top of their lungs. I think Michelle Gomez did an incredible job capturing everyone’s favorite arch nemesis in her first prolonged appearance of the season. She nailed the attraction that’s always been between the Doctor and the Master, the knife-edge teetering the Master does between sanity and insanity, and his incredible deviousness. I cannot wait to see how the character evolves next week.
There were also some fantastic Easter eggs this ep: one of the TARDIS keys being in a copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife (bet that one was River’s), the Doctor scoffing that lava is rubbish (which ties in nicely with Caecilius from “The Fires of Pompeii”), and even a little nod to Capaldi’s character Malcolm Tucker from The Thick Of It when Dr. Chang asks why there’s so much swearing on the ID of a government inspector (btw, Seb? Played by Capaldi’s Thick of It co-star Chris Addison). I can’t say that this episode was fun, but in true Who style even in the midst of the blackest day, there is humor to get us through. Maybe it’s the Irish in me, but I appreciate the bit of gallows humor.
A final point to ponder: the issue of cremation. Is it the key to this arc? Are the Cybermen and Missy going to fall because they burn? And does anyone else now have a very real fear of cremation and donating your body to science? The Cybermen pale in comparison to the terror I get from the thought those things now.
As you well know this is a point/counterpoint piece. But it was so well written I felt it deserved to stand on it’s own. So a change of format! My response can be found here: Doctor Who “Dark Water” Review Point/Counterpoint Rebuttal