By Will Barber – Taylor
Plans have been drawn up in the mysterious world of the Nethersphere. Missy is about to come face to face with the Doctor, and an impossible choice is looming. “Death is not an end” promises the sinister organisation known only as 3W – but, as the Doctor and Clara discover, you might wish it was.
Dark Water is the Utopia of the Steven Moffat era. It only exists to set up a bigger series finale in which a returning villain teams up with some cyborgish type creatures to take over the Earth. While Utopia can be viewed as a mini master piece of television, Dark Water is something else entirely. It is an odd piece of television in that it makes the viewer not sure if what they have watched is really good or a bit of rubbish.
The episode begins with Clara and Danny finally trying to sort out their sitcom relationship of “will they, won’t they”. However, before the Pink mister can learn the full extent of Clara’s feelings for him he gets killed by a car. Oh, well that was unexpected wasn’t it? The emotional impact of Danny’s death is generally dealt with very well, aside for a scene in which Clara stands in the middle of the road where Danny was killed while cars pass around her. Didn’t someone stop to tell her to get out of the road? Or is this normal in the magical world of “London”? Clara’s expression that Danny’s death wasn’t seen as a special or un ordinary event by the rest of the world perfectly manages to capture how someone in a situation like that would grieve.
Clara then decides to go and visit The Doctor to try and bring Danny back from the dead by re writing history. The problem with this bit though is that Clara, who has clearly planned threatening The Doctor to help her save Danny forgets something. Rather, Steven Moffat forgets something, something he created.
Thanks to Moffat’s 2008 story Silence in The Library/Forest of The Dead, The Doctor can open the TARDIS by clicking his fingers something which he has been able to do ever since. This is also something Clara has done herself (aka Day of The Doctor). Yet, somehow she thinks that if she takes all the TARDIS keys and threatens to throw them into a volcano then she will be able to get The Doctor to take her back because without the keys he won’t be able to get back into his ship. Yet she known he can do that even without the keys! You could argue she forgets this due to the emotions she is feeling at the moment but surely she would be able to remember that seeing as ruins her whole plan?
Following on from this, the rest of the episode can be boiled down to The Doctor and Clara looking around the 3W lair while we get interjections of Danny and Seb in “Heaven”. As I said earlier in the review Dark Water is like Utopia in the fact that its sole purpose for existing it to build up to the climax of the series. While Utopia masterfully brings together plot points and creates a fantastic reveal, Dark Water is almost the opposite of that. Utopia can be watched and enjoyed because even though it simply exists to set up the finale, it deviates from its basic intention and instead tells a brilliant story of struggle for survival at the end of the universe. Dark Water, though it has some good moments, doesn’t deviate from that path. It does its job of setting up the finale excellently but in terms of being an interesting and thought provoking story in itself it fails completely. To use an analogy, Dark Water and Utopia are like two bridges. While one is excellently designed and is something that is as interesting as what is on the other side of it, the other is a basic wooden bridge, nicely put together but nothing too special.
The reveal of Missy as The Master was surprisingly underplayed not only by the script but by the actual episode itself. No build up was given and it just sort of happened. It felt almost like something that was left to the last minute and just shoved in at the end. Ironically, the reveal wasn’t even the cliff hanger. The actual cliffhanger being Danny looking at his IPad with the small child he had shot while in the army looking over his shoulder; which as the culmination of the episode seemed surprisingly out of place with the rest of the action.
The use of the Cybermen in the story though minimal should be commented on. Moffat downplays the cybernetic menaces but this makes them seem all the more creepy and menacing. Moffat’s take on the usual method of conversion is fantastically innovative though it does beg the question as to why the skeleton is needed in the first place if the consciousness can simply be uploaded into the Cybermen’s body.
Michelle Gomez managed to bring out a mix of an incredibly campishly sinister and funny portrayal of The Doctor’s arch enemy. She managed to bring an intriguing combination of Simm and Ainley while also injecting her own unique spin on the character.
Chris Addison also brings alive what otherwise could have been the lackey character of Seb. Addison always makes the roles he inhabits brilliant and Seb is no different. His crisp, shiny demeanour perfectly elaborates upon the role he is given within the story, that of Saint Peter standing at the gates of Heaven guiding the dead inside.
In conclusion, Dark Water does its job of setting up what promises to be a spectacular season finale but unlike its predecessor, Utopia, it doesn’t have the exact same impact as it possibly could have had. While it still features interesting and new ideas, Dark Water just doesn’t quite live up to the mark set by previous stories.
DEATH IN HEAVEN