Doctor Who First Impressions Review & Spoilers: Season 8 – Episode 11 – “Dark Water”

Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 11

Dark Water

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay

Peter Capaldi – The Doctor
Jenna Coleman – Clara Oswald
Samuel Anderson – Danny Pink
Michelle Gomez – Missy
Sheila Reid – Gran
Chris Addison – Seb
Andrew Leung – Dr Chang
Bradley Ford – Fleming
Nigel Betts – Mr Armitage
Joan Blackham – Woman
Antonio Bourouphael – Boy
Jeremiah Krage – Cyberman

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers! I MEAN IT! NO TURNING BACK!!!

Quick Summary: The episode starts with Clara talking to Danny on the phone. She decides to tell him the truth about still traveling with the Doctor. First, she tells him that she loves him…and a distracted Danny ends up getting run over and killed. Clara is driven insane by this, and tries to force the Doctor to save him. She goes so far as to seemingly steal the TARDIS keys and threaten to destroy them unless he does it.

The Doctor acknowledges her betrayal, but decides to try and help her anyway. He links Clara into the TARDIS telepathically (like he did in “Listen”), and the TARDIS says that Danny still exists. They follow the trail and end up in a company called 3W, which seems to be preserving dead bodies. The Doctor finally comes in contact with the mysterious Missy.

In “the promised land,” Danny is confronted with the memory of a young boy he killed while he was a soldier. Later, Danny’s spirit tries to contact Clara, but she refuses to believe it is him. A 3W employee offers him the opportunity to wipe out his emotions entirely.

In the end, we find out that 3W is located right in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. And the dead bodies are being used to create Cybermen. Missy’s real identify is revealed…more on that later! The episode ends with Cybermen ready to take over London, and Danny considering wiping out his emotions entirely to become the perfect Cyberman soldier. TO BE CONTINUED!

First Impressions:

  • There is only one complaint I have about this episode, so I want to get it out of the way immediately. It was real dumb of BBC to spoil the Cybermen being featured in this episode. Especially since we have seen pictures of them in the streets of London. To me, it could have really killed two of the huge moments in this episode. The episode was strong enough to make up for these spoilers, but it still bugged me.
  • The performances in this episode were just outstanding. Jenna Coleman genuinely put me close to tears at quite a few times in this episode. Her pain felt so real. You want to hate her for trying to betray The Doctor, but I couldn’t help but be on her side. Her performance was just that compelling. I had said earlier in the season that I thought some of the scenes with Clara and Danny took away from the show, but they really made up for it in Dark Water.
  • Peter Capaldi continues to hit home runs each episode. He hit some strong emotional high points too (his line to Clara about “Did you think I care about you that little that I would abandon you for your betrayal” hit hard), but still kept the episode from getting too dark. I am pretty sure the psychic paper gag was a reference to Malcolm Tucker: “Why’s there all this swearing?” “Oh, I’ve got a lot of internalized anger.” BUT, at the same time, it was also a powerful indication of what the Doctor was going through. Clara tried to betray his trust on an epic scale.
  • I thought the direction on this episode was particularly brilliant. Rachel Talalay did a hell of a job ensuring every scene hit for maximum impact. I’m not even talking about the big emotional moments at the beginning of the episode (which were also perfect). But the little things, like when you first realize the 3W logo resembles a Cyberman’s eyes or when the Cyberman is emerging from his tank behind an oblivious Clara…even the perfect timing at the end with Missy taunting the Doctor claiming he is just another mad Scotsman raving in the streets because of a soccer match. Everything comes together into one of the most masterfully crafted episodes of Doctor Who I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching….And I’ve seen just about every possible episode since 1963 at this point…so that is huge praise.

  • Okay, elephant in the room time: The Missy reveal. I really hope you aren’t reading this review before you saw this episode. This really is the last warning. I have to discuss it. I WANT to discuss it.In this episode, we find out that the mysterious Missy is really a regenerated version of the Master. Fanfic writers will be wetting themselves since earlier in the season, Missy refers to the Doctor as “my boyfriend” and in this episode, she greets him with a passionate kiss. I had been speculating since the first episode that she might be the Master, but I will admit, it still surprised me. Watching this episode with that knowledge…and Missy’s earlier episodes…you can definitely see it.Michelle Gomez definitely follows the proud tradition of Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainley, and John Simm…all right, I guess I have to throw in Eric Roberts too…I definitely hope she makes it out of this season alive. I always loved the rivalry between Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and Roger Delgado’s Master, and I can really see them doing a lot more with this version of the character.

  • Even though I was complaining about BBC spoiling the Cybermen, I do appreciate that this episode made a strong effort to make them scary. Everything about 3W was creepy. The moving skeletons, the idea that spirits can feel pain long after they die, and the slowly draining tanks revealing Cybermen standing there.  Once again, huge props to Rachel Talalay . She really kept the viewer’s attention. When Dr Chang is explaining what 3W means, and you sort of figure it out before they explain it, there is just a perfect pause which makes you lean in demanding answers.
  • I tend to like Moffat’s finales, though I know there are a lot of viewers who don’t. This one has been getting pretty universal (and well deserved) praise for a change. It helped that there wasn’t a lot of time travel or reality shifting. This was about as blunt and straight forward as you can get, and it worked perfectly.

  • I was going to say that I liked the simple approach of this episode where they pared down on having such a big supporting cast, but both Seb and Dr Chang were really great characters.
  • Next week’s episode Death in Heaven – Sadly, we have reached the end of our season, but I should be back to do a review of the Christmas episode in a few weeks. I just really hope the next episode maintains the terrific quality of this one, and that Missy makes it out alive.

    Final Score: 10/10: Big time rebound from last week. I can’t help but wonder if they intentionally put the “worst” episode of the season before the best just to really amp this one up in comparison. Well, whatever the reason, IT REALLY WORKED!!

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