Just … wow.
After doing my coverage for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival last week I didn’t really have time to go into the previous Doctor Who episodes “Flatline” and “In The Forest of The Night.” Between an episode dealing with denizens from a gritty revisionist and twisted graffiti version of Flatland and practically a children’s special about the specialness of children and the Earth saving itself respectively I found I didn’t have very much to say about the characters that wasn’t a continuation of previous insights.
Now, Missy — the erstwhile main antagonist of this story arc — did have some appearances in both of these previous episodes. In “Flatline” Missy looks at Clara through her tablet and calls her “Her Clara,” and that she chose her well. This already brought some questions as to who Missy actually is: especially given that she was calling herself The Doctor’s girlfriend. Her appearance “In The Forest of The Night,” expresses pleasant surprise over the world essentially saving itself. There is no lead up, no particular indication as to what is going to happen in “Dark Water.”
Between creepy beings from another dimension attempting to engineer lifeforms in ours and invade our space and a sunny fairytale hearkening back to the ancient tales of the Black Forest, what was about to be revealed in “Dark Water” is blacker than the blackest soul, and appropriate when you think about it in retrospect.
We are going into Spoilers now. Turn back if you have not watched “Dark Water.” Turn back while you still can and see it as soon as possible.
In “Dark Water,” Danny dies.
That’s it. In the beginning of the episode he is talking to Clara, freaking out on the phone about telling him she loves him, and he gets hit by a car.
Now, Clara has already been exhibiting some rather questionable and immature behaviour. In “Flatline” she gets called on her dishonesty to Danny and The Doctor by The Doctor himself — through the backhanded compliment of saying she made a “good Doctor” — and we all know that The Doctor always lies. In “The Forest” Danny pretty well figures out that she had been lying to him about no longer adventuring with The Doctor as well, but he takes it in stride all things considered: as The Doctor is helping them deal with the situation, he is dealing with his duty in chaperoning his young students and, ultimately, tells her he is happy where he is. Personally, I think that Danny is a better man than most people would be in his situation: both then, and now.
And in “Dark Water,” so is The Doctor.
I know you can say that Clara is desperate to save her boyfriend’s life and is willing to destroy all space and time to do so. Very few people would be less than willing to do almost anything to save someone they love if they have the hope and the chance to do so.
But Clara’s character, as she has been written this entire time, seems to have come to a head. Tell me: how would you feel if your best friend, who hadn’t been returning your calls, who then shows up, who had been lying to you for some time, took all the spare keys to your ancient home, seemed to knock you unconscious, takes you to a dangerous place and threatens to destroy all your keys and leave you two there if you don’t break all the rules and potentially cause more pain and suffering than has already happened?
Remember: this is your friend who you searched for ages to find again, who had been with you in all your changes and all your life, and who you never thought would betray you. Ever. How would you feel?
I won’t lie: in that time before the commercial break, I really hated Clara. I actually despised her: or at least the way that Moffat has been writing her and wrote her in this one part. And I also won’t lie: when The Doctor revealed that he had simulated all of it through a telepathic connection — after she thought she destroyed all the keys and ruined any chance of her finding Danny or getting anywhere again — and she had to face the fact that she had betrayed her friend, I felt a bit of satisfaction in seeing her crumble.
In fact, I almost wish that when The Doctor told her to, “Go to Hell” that he sincerely meant that …
Beyond, you know, actually being literal and helping her and attempting to take them into the afterlife to save Danny’s existence. To bring him back. Perhaps the afterlife is simply another dimension to the TARDIS, or maybe there is a reason why all TARDISes would, presumably, have safeties in place: even with a Time Lord pilot.
I guess it’s not that accurate to say that The Doctor is a better man than most people in that situation, when someone you love hurts you, but then again he isn’t human: and he did see how far she was willing to go.
So here we are. We follow The Doctor and Clara into a place called The Nethersphere which seems to be the afterlife. Now, we’ve seen this place before. We’ve seen Missy here in what she called The Promised Land dealing with seemingly dead people that encountered or had tangential contact with The Doctor.
But it’s here where we begin to understand how this place works: through Danny. Yes, Danny is now the one sitting at a desk being told that he is dead and the creepy seemingly metaphysical rules for how this afterlife works is just … creepy. It is here, however, that we seem to uncover Danny’s secret.
You know all the times that Danny reacts to his military past being brought up? Well, we get a glimpse as to why it is so devastating for him. And when you consider his previous occupation and what he had done compared to his current one working with children … I feel bad for him. As a viewer, I feel bad for Danny Pink and what he tries to atone for and how he tries to be strong for everyone: even after he is supposedly dead.
By the time you see The Doctor and Clara around the skeletons in their tubes, and if you’ve seen the trailers for this episode and how “the dead out number the living” and how they are told that the liquid in the tubes is dark water that makes all inorganic matter invisible: you can figure out just what those things are.
But then we have Missy.
Oh Missy. You know, I thought that the twelfth incarnation of The Doctor was the ultimate troll — the master of stirring up trouble — but watching Missy do that to The Doctor was nothing short of brilliant.
Imagine a warped version of Mary Poppins pretending to be a tactile AI simulation, providing hints that she isn’t and, well, manoeuvring The Doctor towards the punchline.
And the punchline is this.
All this time some people have thought that Missy meant “Miss C:” perhaps a corrupted version of Clara. Others thought that Missy was The Rani or Romana. We see all this evidence: the mind-machine interface Matrix-like technology of The Promised Land, the cruel meeting that Danny is introduced to, the most probable lie that he is actually dead and the option to erase his own feelings, even the mechanized sound that the Cybermen — who we knew were there — make when they march.
What do footsteps sound like when they march? Who has a derisive view on a human heaven, or utopia? Who likes to find the weaknesses of humankind and use them against them: changing humans into their own worst enemy?
Missy is not Miss C. Missy is short for Mistress. And Mistress, for all its other connotations, is the female noun for …
Quite a few people guessed that Missy is a female regeneration of The Master, but Steven Moffat said The Master and the Time Lords wouldn’t be playing a role for a while. Of course it has been said that Moffat lies. And so he did.
So how did Missy survive attacking Rassilon in her previously unstable incarnation while, presumably, being sent to Gallifrey to get sealed into a pocket dimension? How long has she been working unseen and in the shadows? And does Gallifrey play a role in all of this? Missy claims that The Doctor abandoned her but why hasn’t she killed him yet? What are her plans in presumably controlling this army of Cybermen? Will Danny erase his feelings and join the Cybermen after bravely getting Clara to shut off communications between them? And how will Clara deal with facing down the Cyberman that is right behind her?
Where is this all going?
Well, whatever happens next it all seems to be leading into a “Death In Heaven.”