Dark Water Advance Preview

Note: Doctor Who TV’s pre-air p/reviews aim to be as detail-free as we reasonably can while still offering a critique, but as everyone’s spoiler sensibilities are different, we advise you read on at your own discretion.

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A foreword: This is a trickier episode to review in the regular sense. Secrecy is expectedly high, with parts of the episode embargoed and a couple of major scenes excised entirely from the preview version. So without knowing the full picture and along with the fact this is just one half of the full story it would be unfair to give a full verdict or score. Therefore consider the following more of a preview.

What happens when we die? That’s the enthralling question at the centre of Dark Water and writer Steven Moffat explores this in a very interesting and generally unsettling way in part one of the grand finale. This exploration begins when the TARDIS takes an unexpected trip to an organisation known as the 3W, who claim to offer aftercare in the afterlife. It’s not long before Missy shows her face and things start to take a turn for the sinister.

Dark Water sees some huge events happening to the Doctor, Clara and Danny right from the off and it’s hard to say anything about where each of them end up in the grand scheme of things. What can be said is that all the actors bring their A-game with the challenging material they are given. Whether you’ve been a fan of the dynamic changes this year or not you will be forced to re-evaluate your position on things. There is going to be a lot of debate about some questionable actions come Saturday night.

The BBC have made no secret that the Cybermen make their return. The Metal Menace’s more recent stories have been mixed at best, but fortunately Moffat might just have penned the one fans have been waiting for. What is surprising, given all this promotional exposure, is that they don’t really feature much at all in the first part. Well, at least not how you might expect to see them. This is a very gradual and creepy build-up to their final reveal. Moffat gets the closest yet to aping “The Tomb of the Cybermen”.

Of course the Cybermen aren’t the only threat. There’s also the mysterious Missy, superbly played in all her unhinged glory by Michelle Gomez. The character has been teasing us all series with those cameos and we finally get some answers on exactly who she really is and just what is really going on. The confirmation that she is actually a regenerated Chloe Webber is sure to divide fans…

…We jest! But the truth is we couldn’t say anything even if we did know. As mentioned earlier certain parts of the episode have been removed from the screeners including, frustratingly, the actual reveal of Missy’s true identity! Given this level of secrecy it seems safe to assume she is a major player in the Whoniverse. Or Chloe Webber.

Assisting Missy in the Nethersphere is Seb, who deals with the latest dead arrivals. Fans will remember the character from his brief appearance at the end of “The Caretaker” and you get to see more of the same here, a lot more in fact. Played by Capaldi’s former The Thick of It co-star, Chris Addison is brilliant and hilarious, even if the subject matter is as grim as it gets.

Rachel Talalay, the final new director to Doctor Who this year, captures the drama well. Despite the Next Time trailer, there isn’t a great deal of action in the first half. It seems the bigger invasion scenes glimpsed are in the second half.

All in all, this is an extremely promising start and as long as Moffat delivers a satisfying second half it could be one of the best finales, next to The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. One thing is for sure, if you think the wait for part 1 is tough, the wait for part two is going to be even more agonising.