‘Doctor Who’ Recap: “Dark Water”

By November 2, 2014

Steven Moffat just made Doctor Who history.

That’s right, folks. We now have our first onscreen gender-swapped Time Lord/Lady.

In this thrill-laden, emotionally packed episode, we finally get some answers. Who is Missy? What is the Nethersphere? And what really happens to the dead in the Whoniverse?

The catalyst for this exploration is, of course, the sudden and unexpected death of Danny Pink in a street accident. Clara goes off the deep end when he dies and tries to coerce the Doctor into rewriting history.

It’s a chilling scene in which Clara takes Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief to a whole new level. Denial, anger, and bargaining collide; the Doctor will fix this mess, or she’ll destroy all of his TARDIS keys and trap them on an active volcano. And she isn’t bluffing; she tosses all seven of them into the lava before breaking down into tears.

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Fortunately, the Doctor had a trick up his sleeve; the scenario played out in the safety of the TARDIS, with Clara in a dream state induced by a medicinal patch that she tried to knock him out with.

“What do we do now?” Clara asks.

“Go to hell.”

Clara, of course, misinterprets the statement as him telling her off. After all, she just betrayed his trust in a big way. But he won’t let that stop him from trying to help her.

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“Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” he asks softly, before switching off his emotion chip and telling her to buck up and keep her emotions in check.

It’s time to go, quite literally, into hell…or wherever the dead end up. They connect Clara to the TARDIS, ala “Listen,” to find Danny, and wind up in a mausoleum filled with fish tanks harboring skeletons.

And in comes Missy! She introduces herself as Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface (MISI), an android, and practically snogs the life out of a bewildered Doctor as part of his ‘welcome package.’ She calls for Dr. Chang, who explains the purpose of the nether sphere to Clara and the Doctor.

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Apparently, when people die, they’re still conscious of what is happening to their bodies. “Don’t cremate me,” they beg telepathically, over and over again.

And speaking of dead people: Danny’s been shown a new apartment in the Nethersphere, complete with iPads and wifi (because, you know, they have Steve Jobs). And he’s a popular guy; not only does Clara want to call him, but he has another visitor: a young boy he killed while in the army. Despite wanting to see him, the boy doesn’t say a word, and runs out when Danny tries to touch him.

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And if dying and seeing the ghost of the boy he shot wasn’t enough of a roller coaster, once they get in contact, Clara demands that he tell her something only Danny would say. Flummoxed, he tells her that he loves her, but it isn’t good enough. Anyone could say that. He has to prove to her that it is him…and then she will find a way to be with him.

But he knows that the only way she can be with him is to die too, and he can’t let that happen. “I love you,” he says, one final time, after she threatens to shut off the communiqué if he says so again. And, for some reason, she doesn’t realize that that is exactly what Danny Pink would do: sacrifice his own happiness for her.

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Outside, Missy drains the fish tanks of dark water (an x-ray substance that shields anything non-organic from view). The skeletons have an exoskeleton…and not just any exoskeleton. They’re Cybermen!

She kills Dr. Chang and reveals that she isn’t really an android. She’s a Time Lady, and she’s using Time Lord technology to create the Nethersphere. Its actually a Matrix Data Slice, with dying minds uploaded into it, being altered, and placed into cybernetic bodies.

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The Doctor runs out of the mausoleum, and finds himself in the middle of London. 3W, the company that runs the Nethersphere, is located in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Cybermen are ready to invade the Earth.

“You know the key strategic weakness of the human race,” Missy says. “The dead outnumber the living.”

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“Who are you?” The Doctor asks, but in his hearts, does he already know?

Who else could be so malevolent, so devious, so…insane?

Missy is short for Mistress, and she’s the latest regeneration of…

The Master.