12 Great Moments From Dark Water
Mark McCullough picks out twelve faves from the eleventh episode of Series 8.
Note: Episode spoilers naturally!
I don’t know how he manages to do this to me with each of his Series Finales, but Moffat manages to have me all over the place. When I watched it last night, I hated it; I thought it was one of the worst episodes I’ve seen. Then today, after three re-watches, I think I’m in love with it. As such I am not quite sure what my opinion on the episode actually is, I really like it, but it has obvious flaws. Nonetheless it was a relatively easy task to decide upon twelve great moments, the trickier task was fitting in all I wanted to say about the moments, so apologies in advance for the length of this article. Before we get into the moments I want to emphasise that the 12-9 entries are all great scenes, but they fall in here because I feel they had even more potential which was left unrealised. So without further ado, here goes:
12. The Missy Reveal
The big moment we had all been waiting for all series: just who was the mysterious Missy who had us picking our brains trying to figure her out? As it transpired this turned out to be an absolute disappointment, it was obvious; it was unnecessary and ruined a character that already had a complete story within the Whoniverse. Once I get my head around the disappointment of the Master’s fantastic ending in The End of Time being undone, I actually quite like the idea of making the character a woman; it should provide an interesting twist on the character. Let’s see if Moffat can pull it off well (just no more kissing please). Surprisingly, I later found that I actually didn’t care that I was disappointed in who Missy was, it was still fantastic and it is great to have the Time Lords back in some capacity. Another reason for the reveal being so low on the list is that I don’t like how it was done. It was hyped and we knew Missy was a Time Lady, but as the time passed before the actual name the Master was given, I’d already guessed where it was going, so the reveal didn’t have the impact it should have had. The staggered timing did not work in their favour at all. Again this may have been my anticipation which pulled it down slightly, on further viewings it worked quite nicely and managed to get me excited even though I knew what was coming.
11. Danny’s Past
Another big burning question raised during the series was Danny Pink’s past as a soldier and just how bad was the act of treachery he committed which he doesn’t like to speak about. Thankfully we do get some answers about what happened. However, like with the Missy reveal, I was pleased with the content but not the execution. Civilian casualties are a very real aspect of war so it is good to see them get some attention in a flagship BBC show. What is established by having Danny accidentally killing a young boy, is that it can happen to good people and have a lasting impact on them. I really liked how it added to Danny’s character and explained the lingering questions we had about him. I also liked that he got an opportunity to face his mistake, but I would have liked to have seen a more of that particular confrontation. I do realise that these wishes were probably never going to be fulfilled given the show’s position as a family friendly show. That said given the content of the rest of the episode was so adult in theme; perhaps they could have afforded a little more exploration into the incidents. Perhaps they will next week.
10. The Cybermen Reveal
The next big unveiling of the episode was great in a sense, but unfortunate in others. The reveal of the Cybermen could have been such an unexpected twist, only it was ruined first by the show’s publicity in advance of the series. Then it was also strongly hinted at by the logo of 3W featured in Missy scenes throughout the series. The consequence of this was that when the concept of Dark Water was being introduced (a sublime idea by Moffat), the viewer’s mind was already tuned in to think along the lines of the Cybermen. Furthermore, following the Doctor’s claim that he was missing something obvious, the camera zooms in on doors featuring a set of Cyber eyes as the Cybemen’s Theme played. This was unnecessary and took away from the impact. It was good, but it could have been great had we learnt it at the same time as the Doctor. I can’t help but feel this reveal was sacrificed so as the Missy one would have a larger impact. I think that’s always a risk of having two major unveilings right beside each other, one is going to impact on the other or they are inevitably both going to suffer. If one reveal had been held off until next week, I think I would have received both a lot better.
9. The Nethersphere Explained
The final chunk of information we required to have a complete picture on the story arc was the basis behind the Nethersphere. This was a concept that had me extremely excited going into the episode as I thought it had the potential to be one of the best ideas in the history of the show. Sadly as you can probably tell by its position on this list, I wasn’t entirely impressed by the manner in which it was handled. Granted there could be more of an explanation next week, but what we were presented with seemed as somewhat a cop-out on what the storyline could have been: properly exploring life after death. What we got instead was the revelation that the Nethersphere was a Gallifreyan Matrix which the Master had manipulated to upload the dead leaving the bodies to be upgraded. From a few more viewings it does rather seem like we have only half the picture which is ok. The visuals of the Nethersphere were really beautiful and the architectural shape of the city sitting on the inside of a sphere really emphasises the idea of an underworld. Another example of director Rachel Talalay’s fine work so far, I really can’t wait to see what visual treats she brings us next week.
8. The Cliff-Hanger
Oh how badly I have missed a good old fashioned cliff-hanger setting up a week of agonising wait for the answers we so badly seek. This one is essentially a quadruple whammy in that a lot of things are happening at once. The Doctor has just learned that the woman whose presence he is in, is in fact his arch enemy the Master, but we don’t get to see his reaction as it cuts away. For Clara she finds herself in a situation where she thinks she as lost Danny, but it transpires that there is a more pressing danger as he realises there is a Cyberman in the room with her. Danny Pink is faced with a difficult decision as he is haunted by his past whilst faced with an impossible choice about his future, the nature of which still remains unclear. In the midst of all this, it is easy to forget that the Earth is in grave (pun intended) danger as the graves of planet Earth give birth to an army of Cybermen ready to conquer. I’m usually a sucker for a good cliff-hanger, so I was half expecting this to be a bit higher up the list, however such was the quality of the other scenes, that the one small flaw in this one pulled it down. What is the flaw I mentioned? The inexplicable cut back to Danny for a second just as the episode ended. I feel this clip would have worked much better incorporated with the rest of the Danny section of the cliff-hanger and that it would have been better to end on the Missy note.
7. Missy Kills Doctor Chang
How amazing was Missy? Right from her first appearance in the episode she had me captivated an on edge anticipating whatever she would attempt next. The first great scene was the false reveal that she was an artificial intelligence interface used to welcome people to heaven. The kiss scene and the reactions of both her and the Doctor to it were hilarious too. As good as that scene was I only have room for one Missy scene and that goes to her murder of Doctor Chang. It shows how seriously unhinged her character is in that she insists upon Doctor Chang saying something nice before she will kill him. (If the radio trailer is anything to go by it would appear this could be some sort of catch phrase for the character?). Whilst I love how it showed Missy, and how ruthless and mercilessly she dispatched him, I can’t help but be touch annoyed at one particular aspect of it. If someone tells you they won’t kill you until you give them praise, the last thing you do is give them the self-gratification they seek. There is one possibility I haven’t considered however and it could be something which is expanded on next week: The Master has hypnotic powers, perhaps she is so insane that she has to essentially make her victims beg for death, and that is pretty dark indeed.
6. The Seb Scenes
Chris Addison’s portrayal of Seb is another real highlight of the episode as he steals all of the scenes he is in. There is still much mystery around the character as we don’t have any answers other than the fact that he is in the Nethersphere itself. Does this mean he is someone who has died? Not necessarily, bear in mind that we have previously seen him with Missy, who is now outside of the Nethersphere causing havoc on Earth. Is there a way in and a way out? Could that be something Danny Pink can make use of? Next week certainly looks very promising. Back to Seb, it is his comic moments that gave the episode an element of tonal depth and come as a welcome break from the heavy revelations. Some of his best moments include explaining the concept of the Nethersphere by comparing it with babies in the womb with telephones, and the wonderful reference to having Steve Jobs in the Nethersphere being the reason they have iPads. It would appear that Seb is an assistant of sorts to Missy and it is his job to emotionally compromise the residents of the Nethersphere forcing them into a decision to give up their emotions and be upgraded to Cybermen. Very crafty use of the word ‘Delete’ being the command for doing this.
5. The Three Words
The set-up of the afterlife as a bland and corporate institution was a genius one by Moffat. The entire premise behind it is not just unsettling, it’s completely disturbing. I’m going to go all out and say I found it excellent, deliciously dark and right up to the promise of a more serious and adult show. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the idea is the revelation that the dead remain conscious, furthermore they try to make contact which only comes across as the white noise of a television. The message they give is a clear and constant one, the three words which Missy company takes its name from: ‘Don’t Cremate Me’. Moffat has a track record of taking normal things and making them scary, so the concept that your mind feels everything that your body does after you die has to go down as his best yet. What he manages to do is add an element of fear to the ideas of cremation, organ donation and donating your body to science. Whilst this is great in fiction, it’s not good from a real world point of view especially to those considering either of the latter two, or for those with recently deceased relatives who had opted for the former. There is a sense of guilt it instils and is bound to come across as offensive to some. Although we can’t say that the narrative didn’t warn us in advance.
4. Danny Gives up Clara
If Danny Pink hits the delete button on the iPad and we never see him again, that would be absolutely perfect. If you’ve been following these articles have will have noticed how much I loved Danny, so you might ask how one scene can be so good that it totally changes my mind. The answer is that the scene in question exemplifies everything good about his character and fits perfectly with the established dynamic of his relationship with Clara. Within the scene we see another phone call where Clara tries to establish if it is the real Danny. (Notice how there has been no physical contact between the two at all, is In the Forest of the Night the last time see them together.) We see Danny in the impossible situation of finding words capable of convincing Clara that he is who he says he is. However he quickly realises the impact that doing so would have on Clara, it would make her want to find him, which he knows the only way to do so is to die. As a result when she threatens to hang up on him if he repeats the phrase ‘I Love You’ he decides to do so, essentially giving up Clara for her own safety. Once more Danny puts Clara above himself, hopefully that is the immortalisation that Moffat said his character would undergo. I dread to think of the alternative.
3. Danny’s Death
This was the single outcome of the episode which I was dreading the most and really didn’t want to happen. I guess it shows how well it was done that I actually really really liked it despite the fact that my favourite character died. Perhaps the best aspect of it was the simplicity, with Doctor Who we expect characters to die in action packed scenes. With that in mind, it was a real shock to the system for Danny to die on a normal day in the middle of a phone call by getting hit by a car. Another stroke of genius was to have it occur off screen without Clara’s knowledge. The sudden silence, both on the other side of the phone and the episodes musical score creates that feeling in the pit of your stomach that something bad has happened. This fear is realised when we hear a woman on the other side of the phone apologising about what happened. Clara’s reaction is very well realised and makes the audience really emphasise with her. A couple of aspects also added to the impact of the scene: this was Clara’s finally telling Danny the truth as foreshadowed in the previous episode; she never got the opportunity to do so fully. Perhaps more tragic is the realisation that Danny most likely took his eyes of the road because he was distracted by what Clara had just said. Moffat, why do you do this to us?
2. The Volcano
The next time trailer for this episode had us wondering what was going to happen with Clara to turn her against the Doctor. This scene addresses that and follows logically from the previous sequence between Clara and her Grandmother’s discussions about Danny’s death which left Clara feeling like she was owed a debt. In the following scene she takes the prerogative and abuses her position in the TARDIS by blackmailing the Doctor into doing what she wants. The stand-off between the two is tense and takes the Doctor-Companion relationship to a place where no writer has ventured to dare before. A lot of focus is place on the controlling nature of the two characters as we see them both try to stamp authority on the situation but never quite manage. The events escalate to the point where Clara actually destroys all the TARDIS keys and is distraught at how far she went, and that she has now lost everything. Thankfully it transpired that the Doctor was in control the entire time and had engineered the situation to see how far Clara would go. Some may argue that the fact it was essentially a dream cheapens it slightly, I disagree however as it was still essentially real for Clara.
1. You Betrayed my Trust
Scene of the episode is also hands down scene of the series so far for me, heck I may even go as far as calling it the scene of the show. It follows the immediate aftermath of the volcano scene with the revelation that the Doctor had realised what Clara had planned and outwitted her in an attempt to see how far she would go. This left a repentant Clara asking what happens now. The Doctor’s answer of “Go to hell” is misinterpreted by Clara in a manner which suggests she still harbours the same thought process as in Kill the Moon, where one big mistake is irreparable. As such she is surprised that as she goes to leave, the Doctor calls her back saying he meant that he would help her. In fact she is so surprised about this offer that she questions it warranting the damning verdict from the Doctor that she betrayed everything he stood for, again drawing the audiences mind back to Kill the Moon. Once again Clara questions his motives following his verdict on her actions, the reply she receives is one of the most powerful lines of dialogue the show has produced and actually brought a tear to my eye. “Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me could make a difference?” Especially coming from a Doctor who has been presented as cold and unkind and contrasted by Clara (aka Miss Perfect’s) reaction in Kill the Moon, it really shines a new light on both characters. Whose reaction was better? It doesn’t really matter other than the fact that we got two incredible moments in the series as a result.