Initial (Interim) Verdict of Series 8: Episode 11: Doctor Who – Dark Water

Dark Water

Steven Moffat

SPOILERS SWEETIE – You know the drill…

Things have taken a dark, deep and devastating turn. Watching Clara’s (Jenna Coleman) relationship with Danny (Samuel Anderson) build over the season – the passage of time was well established if you were looking for the clues. We met young Rupert, then future Orson, and “In the Forest of the Night” where Clara chooses Danny over the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) we understand that Danny is the man Clara loves, the man she chooses to die with – if ever there was a need to make such a choice. If you missed the hints about the depth and duration their relationship, watch the season again – which is no hardship because it’s rich with detail, dense with clues, and is better every time.

All of this carried out when Clara tells Danny she loves him, and that he’s the last man that’ll ever hear those words from her again, and tragically these are the last words he’ll ever hear.

devastatedOh my!

Although we were all expecting something going wrong, the unexpected impact of this ton of rocks all happened before the credits was like the dream where I have a red carpet ripped out from under my feet by an Apache pursuing every cat in hell at once. This must be the most powerful intro all season, perhaps the hugest ever.

“Dark Water” is when the measure and integrity of this passionate, erratic, eclectic, brusque, eloquent Doctor is all out on the table – though if you told him he wouldn’t want to hear it, because he already knows all that. All season we’ve seen him and Clara in comparison, in parallel, and reflecting one another and although we could be mistaken into believing the two are similar, in her grief, Clara betrays him, and in return, he helps her with veiled humility – because he hasn’t time for all that other modesty pish-tosh.

"Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?"
“Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

All season our Clara has been at the forefront of the action, but in her grief, she’s struck down, and desperate for a compensation of sorts. We’ve all been there at moments in our lives where the walls tumble down around us, and we’re left in a smoking pit of our own making, with no idea where to next. And because Clara is our weakened anchor, we the viewer are now at the mercy of our Doctor. A psychological sting sits in our subconscious as we feel Clara’s previous confidence drop away like a bowling ball in an abyss, as she’s faced with the terrible truth, and all it’s implications. She no longer has Danny to return to at the end of her dangerous adventure with the Doctor. What is that going to look like?

“That could change a man” – at this time these resounding words from Perkins ring with ‘universal truth’

All season the sets have been gorgeous… stylish, imaginative, detailed, with atmospheric lighting, painting a detailed tapestry that’s brought us to this point. The cinematography is just beautiful, and once again we’re delighted with a completely new place – one we’ve been anticipating since “Deep Breath” and although I had my own theories – I am not disappointed by the reality – or unreality so to speak.

I don’t know of many storylines that have so bravely explored the concepts of death, the afterlife, and the potential role our body plays in the underworld – Star Trek certainly did – but never so close to our world, culture, and reality. Ancient civilisations believed that what you accumulated in life would go with you in death (the Egyptians dedicated themselves to fully understanding the process of Death), but it’s more vivid when these notions are presented on screen within the hyper-real HD format, as opposed to dry history books that live only on library shelves into contentious perpetuity.

Dark water, and the technology, the afterlife, the premise – it was all completely unexpected and it seems almost flawlessly delivered… though I’m reserving comments until the analysis of both episodes is complete…

my heartI’m still trying to wrap my head around the Master is not John Simm. Missy is gorgeous, diabolical, whimsical, and madly terrifying. Michelle Gomez conveys her role with evil poise, grace and a wicked sense of humour. I loved the surreal moment in which Clara doesn’t know where to look, while Missy snogs him. If snogs are as big, wet and slobbery as the onomatopoeic connotations, this snog shamed all the rest.

I am heartbroken when Clara refuses to believe Danny is who he is. That his consciousness is still alive though his body isn’t. All his physical memories stored in his human brain, are separate from his conscious mind that now seems only to know terrible guilt, and deep love.

“All the graves on planet Earth are about to give birth.” Missy declares – freaking heck she’s a terrifying genius – she’s got all of John Simm’s nuances down pat with a whole lot more of her own added in. The only other comparable scary lady villain was Shirley Manson in Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Missy makes the villainous Shirley look like a puddy-laptat.

And we end on the cliff-hanger of the decade, as Cyberman Whoop-Ass is unleashed upon a blithely unsuspecting population, with the chilling observation bouncing around our skull cavities – mind-blown, system rebooting… “The dead outnumber the living…”

where did you get timelord techWill I admit that the thirteenth Doctor is the best one ever? Not yet… I’ll reserve judgement on that for now… but it’s one of those very rare times where I hope I’m not proven wrong.

I know it’ll all come right in the end, but how that looks is anyone’s guess. We still haven’t seen the scene where Clara utters the words, “Clara Oswald never existed” or where Danny elects to delete himself. It’s just clear that this “Promised Land” is a farcical representation of civility, fairness, and longevity masking the most evil of agendas – conveyed masterfully through its agent Seb (Chris Addison).

Dark Water” is the eleventh episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. The episode was written by showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat and is the first of a two-part story; the concluding episode is “Death in Heaven“, the finale of the eighth series. It was first broadcast on BBC One on 1 November 2014.

© Nicki Kirby , All Rights Reserved

Images copyright of the BBC ©

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4 Comments

  1. Don’t know if Moffet is just dying to bring about a female Doctor, because he’s been (sorta) building Clara up to that all season long. Not with the return of the Master/Mistress….
    -And not that he hasn’t done it before either, even if it’s not within actual continuity.

    I remember the mention of The Corsair (in The Doctor’s Wife) as having taken a female form, like it was a big deal, but then I’ve been reading Shada (by Gareth Roberts, based on Douglas Adams’ script for the abandoned storyline) where it’s mentioned that The Corsair was a female time-lord.

    Liked by 1 person

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