Doctor Who ‘Dark Water’ Recap – Episode 08.11

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When Danny Pink dies in an unfortunate car accident, Clara and the Doctor undertake a mission to find him and bring him home. This brings them to a mysterious mausoleum run by a company called 3W, where the Doctor uncovers the secret of the Promised Land and discovers Missy’s true identity. Meanwhile, Danny grows confused and frightened as he experiences the troubling implications of the afterlife.

The Adventure

Clara pledges her undying love to Danny just as he steps off a curb and into an unfortunate accident. Danny dies, but Clara formulates a plan to make the Doctor rewrite time and bring Danny home. She steals all seven TARDIS keys from their hiding places, asks the Doctor to bring her to see a volcano, and knocks him out with a sleeping patch. Once at the volcano – lava being the only thing that can destroy a TARDIS key – she threatens to throw them all in unless the Doctor agrees to bring Danny back. The Doctor keeps refusing, trying to reason with her, thinking that she could never throw them all away. However, Clara does throw every last TARDIS key into the lava, and immediately collapses to her knees, devastated with shame.

It turns out to be all a dream. The sleep patch actually induces a dream state and the Doctor took it off himself and stuck it on Clara. The entire scenario took place inside the TARDIS, the Doctor letting it play out just to see how far Clara would go. Even though the Doctor feels betrayed by Clara’s actions, he agrees to help her get Danny back. He connects her to the TARDIS’ telepathic interface to bring them to wherever Danny might be. They arrive at a large mausoleum where corpses inside metal exoskeletons sit in tanks of x-ray water – ensuring structural integrity of the corpse while rendering the exoskeleton invisible, leaving the corpse visible inside the tank. Only organic matter can be seen through this “dark water”. Missy greets them, claiming that she’s an interface android. She takes them to see a Dr. Chan, who explains to them what exactly 3W does.

3W stands for the “three words”, the three words that a scientist, Dr. Skorosa, discovered the souls of the dead were repeating over and over again. Those three words are “don’t cremate me”. It turns out that the dead can feel everything that their corporeal body goes through after death. Dr. Skorosa set up institutes like 3W all over the world to protect the dead. The Doctor isn’t buying it, however, and thinks that 3W is set up to harvest dead bodies for a larger purpose. As Missy listens in, she activates the corpses in the mausoleum, who all stand up as the water begins to drain from their tanks.

Meanwhile, Danny is having a hard time adjusting to everything in the afterlife. Apparently Danny accidentally killed a little boy when he was a soldier, and that little boy has requested to see Danny. This, of course, is upsetting. Then they tell Danny about how he’s still connected to his earthly body, bringing up the question of cremation, which is also worrying. Then they connect him with Clara, who must question him to determine whether or not he’s really Danny. All he can say is that he loves Clara, which is no proof at all because it’s something that anyone would know to say. Clara hangs up on him, causing Danny to break down. His case worker offers him the choice to disconnect from his earthly body.

Meanwhile, the Doctor goes to investigate the tanks again when Missy comes along, revealing that she’s actually in charge. She kills Dr. Chan and as the tanks drain it is quickly apparent that the “metal exoskeletons” encasing the corpses is actually Cyberman armor.

Missy shows the Doctor a Matrix Dataslice – basically a Gallifreyan hard drive – where the consciousness of every corpse is stored. Missy takes the dying consciousness and rearranges it to delete cumbersome emotions, upgrading the bodies in the meantime, just waiting for the new consciousness to be uploaded. Missy reveals that she’s a Time Lord, saying that the Doctor abandoned her and left her for dead. The Doctor escapes the mausoleum only to discover that it’s located in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He run around, warning people to run as Cybermen stream from the cathedral. Missy tells the Doctor that her name is short for Mistress, revealing to him that she is the Master in a new body. Meanwhile, Danny contemplates the choice that would upgrade his consciousness and delete his emotions and Clara finds herself faced with Cybermen.

The Master

Obviously this is the main attraction. Knowing what we know now, I feel like I should have seen it coming somehow, but I was honestly blindsided by it. As open minded as I am and as well versed as I am in the quirks of Time Lord biology, when it was revealed that Missy was a Time Lady, it never occurred to me that she might have been the Master. First I thought the Rani, and then when she said Mistress I thought maybe she was Romana gone evil – because K-9 used to call her Mistress. I didn’t even think about how Time Lords can change their sex between regenerations. Oddly enough, while they have all this sort of flirty, sexy stuff coming from Missy toward the Doctor – which the Doctor seems frankly terrified by – the sexual tension seems far less overt and believable than say between David Tennant and John Simm. I mean, have you seen the phone call scene between the Doctor and the Master in The Sound of Drums (S03.E12)? That subtext was almost Pintereque.

Given that, it makes sense that a female Master would suddenly feel free to express her feelings for the Doctor, or else find herself suddenly more aware and taken by those feelings. Remember those early scenes where she called the Doctor her boyfriend? And then in this episode she greets him with a big old kiss and claims her hearts belong to him. Given that the Time Lords are a pretty advanced race and given to genderswapping, it’s pretty likely that the conventional standards of heteronormativity don’t apply to their culture. Maybe they’re all pansexual. I’m probably reaching here, but the nature of the Doctor/Master relationship has never really been revealed. Wouldn’t it make just as much sense as anything else that the Master is simply a jilted ex-boyfriend? I’m just saying.

Aside from that, what’s the deal with Missy being the Cyber Queen? What is the end game here – I mean, besides world domination. After all, she wouldn’t be the Master if she didn’t want to rule the universe and bend everyone to her will. We shall have to see what the next episode brings.

The Doctor

That opening scene between Clara and the Doctor was pretty intense. After kind of a rough season getting to know this new, cranky Doctor – and feeling just as unsure about his methods and attitude as Clara – it’s really beautiful to see that he’s still the kind of man who will help his friends, even after being hurt and betrayed. And we almost thought he wouldn’t. That terrible, wonderful, shocking, heartbreaking moment when we think he’s told Clara to go to hell simply takes your breath away. He would have been completely justified in denying her help and Clara knows it. But when he tells her that he’ll bring Danny home, the look in her eyes is filled with the kind of incredulous gratitude, shamed unworthiness, and overwhelming admiration that we all feel when we come to know the true capacity of the Doctor’s hearts.

And I just want to note here, that right from the start – even when he thought that Missy was a robot interface – there was something about her that threw the Doctor off. Even before she accosted him, there was something about her that made the Doctor stammer nervously. And then, of course, he was absolutely paralyzed by her violent kiss and mesmerized by feeling the beat of two hearts in her chest. It was almost like he knew something was worryingly familiar about her, but couldn’t quite figure it out. What was clear was the feeling of dread she instilled in him even before her true identity was revealed. There might be an awkward moment later where the Doctor might have to break it to Missy that he’s a married man.

Clara

Clara finally decides that she’s going to come clean to Danny about everything, but most of all that she loves him and that he is the last person she is ever going to say that to. Of course, Danny steps out into traffic and gets killed. It is incredible to see Clara’s determination in carrying out her plan to threaten the Doctor into saving Danny. She is cold and calculating, taking advantage of the trust and friendship that the Doctor has given her and completely intends to – and in fact believes she did – take away the most important thing in the Doctor’s life unless he brings back the most important thing in hers. And she is rightly ashamed of herself to the point of devastation that she has betrayed that trust and friendship, and overwhelmed when the Doctor agrees to help her anyway. It’s like for a moment that she can see the man he really is underneath all the alien gruff, and at that moment she is completely right in saying that she doesn’t deserve a friend like him.

Seb

Seb (Chris Addison) is Danny’s case worker in the afterlife, the guy who tells him everything he needs to know about being dead, or at least tells him the right lies in order to manipulate him into deleting his emotions and upgrading his body. That’s not super important, because his character could have been anyone really. What I want to point out here is the striking similarity of the character’s mannerisms and tone to Mark Gatiss. Like, to the extent that it was kind of creepy. Seb, of course, is a character that could have been tailor made with Gatiss in mind. After all, Gatiss does that smarmy, superior, condescending, nonchalance that Seb has in spades – and that actor Chris Addison also does expertly well. It’s only that I couldn’t help but think the whole time that it should have been Mark Gatiss, and wondered if maybe it was originally meant to be.

 

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About the Author

Bethany Lewis
My cinema education started when, at three years old, Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" became my earliest memory of cinema. Since then, I've been obsessed with film and television, learning more about it, analyzing it, researching it, and experiencing different kinds of it. After getting my BA in Theater, I went on to get my MFA in Film Studies. I now spend my free time watching and writing about movies.
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