I recall well how it felt when the Missy reveal was made because I don’t think my throat has been the same since. I was screaming at my screen so loudly it was enough to wake the dead, or it would be if this Missy hadn’t already done so.
MISSY IS THE MASTER!!!
It was one of those moments that rocked the show’s fans to the core and we knew right then that Doctor Who would never be the same again. Is it controversial? Yes. Is it a good thing? Hell yes!
Steven Moffat is ambitious; never let anyone tell you otherwise.
Michelle Gomez is to my mind the definitive version of the Master, somehow managing to effortlessly combine the sociopath malevolence and entertaining campiness that have come to define the character over the years and adding to it a hint of femininity to make the Master just that little bit deadlier. This villainess is a joy and a delight to watch but she’s also extremely ruthless and that’s something Osgood learns the hard way.
Gomez’s Master is also about as demented as it gets but not in the embarrassing way Simm’s version was with less screaming at everything that moves, more singing & dancing around in an exploding plane. At one point she glides to Earth on an umbrella. That’s what everyone’s second favourite Time Lord should be like!
Even before the story begins there’s drama. In the opening scenes of the first episode, Dark Water, Danny Pink is struck dead by a car. I think most of us expected Danny to get it before the season finale ended but to have it happen so swiftly and suddenly is shocking. Equally shocking is how mundane it is, no exterminating Daleks, no 66 second warning from a mummy, no Skovox Blitzers in sight, it’s very ordinary and true to life and makes for a great way to draw us into Clara’s heartbreak instantly by not showing it and instead showing us silence on the end of the phoneline. Then there’s Clara’s betrayal, and this may be a jarring moment for some as she threatens to destroy the TARDIS keys if the Doctor won’t save Danny’s life… and I agree. It is jarring. That’s what makes the moment work so effectively.
Then there are the 3 words. If one of your loved ones died recently and was cremated what would you say if you found out they could feel the whole ordeal? Because Steven Moffat tells us that the dead can feel pain. The BBC got no complaints about statues that break necks or about wi-fi that eats your souls but they did get complaints about this one! This is supposed to be a family show for goodness sake and now you go and do that?!
Never let it be said that Doctor Who is for kids. Anyone who says that is an idiot. In a word, we can call Dark Water disturbing.
The draining water is easily the best Cyberman reveal to date.
The story does have more to do than just be disturbing and controversial though, and that’s to be depressing. I’m not exaggerating when I call this Doctor Who’s most depressing storyline yet. Danny is dead and when he comes back he’s a Cyberman. He can’t bring himself to complete his conversion and that’s because he’s so devoted to Clara. He loves her and doesn’t give in to his new programming.
I know that this plot development attracted some criticism but I have no issues with it. The concept of love being more than an emotion is nothing new (e.g. the wedding ceremony doesn’t say “I do”, it says “I will”) so I don’t see why this generated such criticism from so many fans. Maybe it’s because Clara and Danny shouldn’t work as a couple despite Moffat’s best efforts to convince us otherwise? For me though, I think the whole romance story arc between the two of them was worth it for this payoff. When Danny takes control of the CyberArmy to save the world at the cost of his own life it leaves me an emotional wreck.
So is there anything that I don’t like about the series eight finale? Yes, there are a few issues. For one thing, why is Kate Stewart’s UNIT even in this story other than for Osgood to be killed? For another thing, the Doctor is fairly useless. The hero of the piece is Danny, the tragic figure Clara, the villain is the Master, and the Doctor is just along for the ride. Peter Capaldi still gives it his all, though there’s not a lot for him to do. All he really adds to proceedings is just to be there. At one point he gets appointed President of Earth for some reason and it’s every bit as dumb as it sounds. And there’s the CyberBrig moment, on paper a touching tribute but in practice who knows how well it worked?
Overall though Dark Water / Death in Heaven is a great way to end series eight in an unusual way. As a story it’s depressing and leaves the viewer and cast alike as emotional wrecks, but that’s okay because the Christmas Special will sort that out. The mid-credits sequence at the end when Santa Claus (Nick Frost – inspired bit of casting that) enters the TARDIS especially offers the viewer a chance to smile as they try to deal with the emotional wreck that they’ve been turned into for the last hour.
So what should we make of these two episodes almost two years later? Has the story held up? Yes, I think so. Go watch it again today – just make sure your tissues are ready ‘cos you’re gonna need them!
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.