This is the response to Julie’s Review of the Doctor Who Season 8 episode “Dark Water”. You can find her review here: Doctor Who “Dark Water” Review Point/Counterpoint.
There WILL be spoilers! You’ve been warned.
“Oh, Moffat, you beautiful, beautiful genius.”
No Julie, not even close. This was by no means the best he’s done, by no means the best this show has been. Don’t get me wrong this was a well written episode but again (am I beating a dead horse here?) Capaldi just can’t sell the character. I still think it’s directing (even though there have been different directors on the episodes I didn’t like) but the 180 from gruff snotty crumudgeon to pantomime gasps is so weak it drives me nuts. A little consistency of character maybe? Everyone is written so well, and everyone inhabits their parts so cleanly that every time The Doctor hams it up, like the kiss, after the kiss, the heartbeat, it’s so over the top it just seems insipid. I’d write it off as his take on the character but the personality he displays upon hearing the the explanation for 3w is brilliant. He scoffs, he rails, he’s shocked, but he doesn’t resort to moronic eye-rolling and gasping. All of that can be chalked up to a personal preference. Let’s get past that and into the episode.
The Episode opened so well! Danny’s death was brilliant. Funny in a way it’s exactly what he wanted, no adventure please, he’d seen enough, let’s see the beauty of the world around us. Guess what Mr Pink it’s just as easy to meet your end crossing the street as it is being the last man on a stranded space station. (And speaking of that are we ever getting the explanation for the whole life and times of Danny’s friends and family? So the Doctor can only fix certain things but the fact that Danny and Clara’s grandchild existed in the future didn’t hint that maybe this isn’t one of those “fixed points in time” that we always hear about?) But again I digress… Back to the episode at hand.
As Julie said the “Betrayal at the Volcano” was excellent. I do think however if The Doctor were really trying to see if she’d betray him pushing her as hard as he did wasn’t the best plan. Now if he was really trying to see how much control he had over her… well that’s different isn’t it. The sleep patches were a nice plot device but couldn’t he have had one more key? Or opened the Tardis without one (as he’s done in the past). The line “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” is probably one of the single most wonderful lines and sentiments I’ve ever heard. As a husband, father, friend I know that feeling all too well. And I can admit that the threads of that caring have been there, most obviously in the “Mummy on The Orient Express” during that opening conversation at the club car table. It’s a shame that they haven’t been able to impart it better throughout the season.
The inclusion of the boy from Danny’s past is where (for me) the episode began to unravel. But I come back to that presently.
The cybermen reveal was cheeky and well done, and any Whovian worth their salt saw it the moment it was presented, though that didn’t ruin that prideful moment when I got it. I especially enjoyed the science of Dark Water itself, though why you’d want to see the organic remains so clearly rotting in a tank is beyond me. Guess it was the only way to hide the cyberman “upgrades” to the relatives of the deceased? But wait, this was on earth. Present day? Who the hell was visiting this place with the technology that hadn’t happened yet? Unless we’re in earth’s future and we just weren’t let in on it?
Julie mentions that this episode ties up the mystery of the season’s big bad Missy. Really? So why (and how) was she watching the Doctor through the whole season, why did she refer to Clara as “her Clara” and why is she so intent on making people who cross paths with the him into cybermen. Oh wait that thread seems to have been a blind as well, we were given every indication that they’re capturing every “soul” they can for their army. Simply by her own admission “The weakness of the human race is that their dead outnumber their living”, and the inclusion of the boy from Danny’s past. So all those cute little snippets throughout the season, the ones where people who’ve crossed paths wound up with Missy? Guess they really didn’t have much significance. If they try to sell us the idea that The Doctor (especially THIS Doctor) would be swayed or moved by the fact that he knew the people who are now cybermen I’ll probably turn the episode off right there and then. So no, I don’t think the reveal of “Missy the Mistress” tied up any of the season’s questions at all.
So as usual I’m left with a good episode, that leaves one completely unsatisfied. I’d write it off to the two part factor but for one thing. The whole damn season has been one unsatisfying episode after another. I’ve been admonished for not “taking the ride” or suspending my belief enough for Doctor Who, really? Go back and watch the previous seasons. Even the mess that was the River Song plot line was tied up at some point (no matter how convoluted it remained.) and always played fair with it’s limitations. And individual episodes, though they live in the scientifically elastic universe of The Doctor, were at least true to their own universal constants. And if they weren’t the writing was good enough to hide that fact. How can anyone not groan when Missy tells the Doctor she’d “turned off the lift” and instead of using his sonic to, I don’t know, turn it back on he uses the sonic to open two wooden doors. Didn’t we just cover this in the last episode?
Again and again we’re supposed to ignore the past, ignore the other Doctors, their personalities, their companions, how their technology worked last week, when that was never what this show was about. Julie mentioned it in a previous p/cp “I think you’re thinking of another Doctor” she said when I mentioned he hadn’t contacted U.N.I.T. This is a huge problem for me. Every Doctor has built upon, and referenced, the previous. Usually as a means of distancing themselves from one another if nothing else. But this season seems to be telling us to forget what we know and in doing so has missed a big point, what we know, what we remember, is why we love this show. That each subsequent actor, each regeneration, brings a new wrinkle to an existing character. Not a reinvention. A new reflection. Except this time.
This time they’ve replaced the heart of the show, a show about This “Doctor” growing and changing, alternating between apologizing for his past, exploring the universe, and trying to repair the damage he may have done, they’ve replaced it with Jelly Babies, cute book titles, cheap references to the lead actors previous roles, throw-away lines about other episodes “I’ve never killed Hitler” and “Are you my mummy”.
I’m sorry to say it but I see The Fonz on his water skis ready to jump over that big tank. No, this season was an almost total wash. Save for the superb acting of Jenna Louise Coleman. I wish there was another regeneration in the works, the whole show, save for her. That might just save it.
I’ll be here next week, watching my favorite show continue along like a train wreck, waiting for a ray of hope that the heart and soul of a show that used to mean something finds it’s way back. Till then? Fantastic! Allons-y! & Geronimo!