After my previous post, I very much intended to watch one of my newly purchased films to review. I even had a discounted tub of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream ready to keep me company.
But then I had a slight change of heart. I’m still going to review those films, but something else came up that warranted an Phishy accompaniment, and that was the penultimate episode of Doctor Who.
Now anyone who follows this blog will know that so far I have looked upon Series 8 of Doctor Who with disappointment. Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson have all been great, but the stories have just been awful. The moon’s an egg? A forest grows whenever the Earth is in danger? Who has been writing this shit, and why are they writing it into my favourite show?
It’s been incredibly disappointing. In fact, 11 episodes in, the only episodes I actually came out of thinking ‘that was a good one’ are The Caretaker, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline.
Meanwhile, I regarded Robots of Sherwood, Listen, Time Heist and Kill the Moon as ‘okay at best’, whilst I thought Deep Breath, Into the Dalek and In the Forest of the Night were all just flat-out rubbish.
It could be because I had high expectations. It could be because I despise child actors. Or it could be any number of other factors. But there is no denying this series has mostly left me with a foul taste in my mouth.
Dark Water was the last chance for Series 8 to redeem itself. I know Moffat can write a good story, but I had begun to feel he had lost his touch. That is, until halfway through Dark Water, when I thought to myself ‘this episode has been fantastic’.
[SPOILERS TO FOLLOW]
The episode starts with the death of Danny Pink, leading Clara to attempt to blackmail The Doctor into going back in time and stopping his death from ever happening. Of course, The Doctor is several steps ahead of her, manoeuvring his way out of her blackmail and offering her an alternative; together, they will travel to the afterlife and rescue Danny from oblivion.
The pair instead arrive at the centre of 3w, a place that deals with finding a better home for the dead, whilst interacting with a place known as the Nethersphere so as to contain the dead in a substance known as dark water. Of course, there is a twist, as ‘heaven’ turns out to be a computer that toys with the minds of the dead, whilst their bodies are transformed into Cybermen, all with the help of Missy who reveals to the Doctor “Oh, you know who I am; I’m Missy”, and when the Doctor quizzes her further, she explains “Oh, please, try to keep up. Short for Mistress. Well, couldn’t very well keep calling myself The Master, now could I?”, and the Doctor stares on distraught, as he realises he’s played ‘tonsil tennis’ with his arch-enemy.
dun Dun DUN! Excitement.
I mean, it wasn’t all that surprising. People have been suggesting that Missy and The Master are one and the same since she first appeared. But still, it was a clever twist, and a nice change of pace in the Doctor/Master battle. As for the Cybermen, they seemed to have been powered down somewhat from that awful Neil Gaiman episode from the last series, which means they might once more return to their position as my favourite Who villains, alongside The Master.
So really, for me, this episode couldn’t have been more perfect: my two favourite villains, an excellently written and intelligent story, surprise twists, and dark themes that really make you think.
I was especially fond of the revelation that 3w stood for ‘Three Words’, and that the words in question were the dead screaming “Don’t cremate me”, as it is explained that the dead are still conscious. I found this particularly interesting as it reminded me of a dream I once had. It wasn’t a particularly nice dream, and I fear I may have had it more than once. In this dream, someone snapped my neck, and I dropped dead to the floor. Of course, I didn’t wake up, and I remained in this dream staring on from my lifeless body as time continued on around me as no one had closed my eyes. It’s not a dream unique to me, I’m sure. But it was one that made it so when those words were uttered, a chill was sent down my spine.
Of course, the mood was helped slightly by the Doctor bluntly asking the speaker “Why? Was he… an idiot?’ about his former boss, for believing he could commune with the dead. This mixture of gravitas and cutting humour is just a small part of what has made Capaldi an outstanding Doctor for the whole of the series.
The use of a two-parter is also something that should be highlighted. It is well known that Moffat isn’t a fan of spreading a story over more than one episode, so the fact that he is doing it here shows that he has an important story he wants to tell, and he’s not going to rush telling it, like some of the other episodes of this series. The details are gifted to us slowly and delicately, and sets up Death in Heaven perfectly.
Will Clara survive? What will happen to Danny? How will The Doctor stop the Cybermen? What is The Master’s end goal?
For the first time this series, I’m excited to see what comes next!