Channel Surfing: Doctor Who – Dark Water

clara-capaldi-danny-series-8Wait…there’s only twelve episodes this season? That means next week is the finale! The finale! Where did the time go? It feels like the season just started! Oh well, better enjoy it while it lasts, right?

The episode begins with Clara calling Danny, who’s walking in around town. She’s got lots of important things to tell him: there are quite a few post-it notes in her room about her adventures with the Doctor. It looks like she’s finally going to tell him everything. But before she goes into everything she did wrong, she wants him to know: she loves him. Really, truly loves him. Danny looks stunned. “No-one else will ever hear me say that, only you”. There is silence on the line…a woman answers the phone. She tells Clara that she’s sorry, the phone must have been thrown clear. Danny was walking across the street and the car came out of nowhere!



We see an ambulance at the accident site. There’s a body on the stretcher, but all we can see is the legs. Nope. Nope-nope-nope-nope. I don’t believe you, show. If you want me to believe that one of the characters in a show about time-travel is really, truly, dead, then you’re going to have to show me the body. Also! You expect me to believe that the phone flew out of Danny’s hand, and landed on the sidewalk in A) complete silence, and B) without shattering into pieces? Nope-nope-nope-nope-nope! Something’s going on here…

We hear a eulogy for Danny as we see a shrine set up for him on the side of the road, with flowers and pictures on a concrete wall. I still don’t believe it.

The TARDIS phone begins to ring: Clara’s calling the Doctor. Her grandma tries to console her, and tells her she should just cry, it was a terrible thing that happened. Clara refuses to cry: it wasn’t terrible, it was ordinary, boring. She is owed better. The Doctor finally picks up the phone. “Clara! What can I do for you?” I think I know what she wants.

Suddenly, we’re on a volcanic planet. The TARDIS is on a shelf of rock overlooking a roiling lava pool. The Doctor wakes up next to the TARDIS on the ground. He looks up and sees Clara in the smoke, holding something glowing in her palm. Well, that’s ominous.

We suddenly flashback to earlier: Clara joins the Doctor in the TARDIS. She wants to see a volcano, she’s never seen one, or ever seen lava. Out of the Doctor’s sight, Clara is surreptitiously pocketing all of the Doctor’s TARDIS keys, going around to all of the Doctor’s hiding spots. Now she wants to know if he has any sleep patches, she’s been having trouble sleeping. The Doctor tells her no, she can’t have one, but Clara finds a couple in a drawer, goes up to the Doctor, and slaps the patch on the back of his neck. Did Clara just hijack the TARDIS? Mutiny! ‘Tis mutiny, I say!

Jumping forward in time, we’re back on the lava planet. Why are they here? Lava is one of the few things that can destroy a TARDIS key. She holds out her hand to reveal all seven of the TARDIS keys. Clara throws one into the lava, to make sure she has the Doctor’s attention. She finally tells him that Danny Pink is dead. She wants him to change it, bring him back. The Doctor says no….whoops, there goes another key! She’s got five left. Every time he says no, she’ll throw another in.

Um…if she’s trying to lock the Doctor out of the TARDIS, there’s a bit of a flaw in her plan…the Doctor has shown that he can open and close the doors with a snap of his fingers. So unless she’s planning on taking his fingers, this plan just won’t work.

The Doctor tells her that he can’t. Changing the reason she came there would cause a paradox loop.

In Doctor Who’s version of time-travel, events are all about perception, though. There’s nothing preventing them from saving Danny while setting up the events to make it seem like he died, then having him come back and tell people it was a case of mistaken identity while he was out of town. Clara’s time-line would be preserved, because she thought he was dead, but then they could save him while making sure the events were still set up such that Past Clara would still think he was dead, thus keeping the time-line stable. You have the resources of all of time and space, I’m sure you could figure someway of accomplishing it that wouldn’t lead to a paradox loop.

No? Not going to try my perfectly logical plan? It only seems confusing at first, I assure you.

The Doctor refuses a second time. He tells her to either throw away the key or stop threatening him: There is no third option. Instead, Clara throws four keys away, leaving just one. Clara doesn’t care about rules or paradoxes. He has to save Danny, or she will throw away the last key and the Doctor will never step inside the TARDIS again. Someone has to explain why no-one seems to remember the finger-snap thing.

The Doctor grabs for the last key, but it falls into the lava pool. Clara starts to cry. Danny’s still dead, and they’re stranded on this volcanic planet. The Doctor doesn’t seem too worried. He tells her to look at her hand: there’s a sleep patch on her palm. The patch doesn’t work on the Doctor, and he slipped it onto Clara when she tried to drug him with it. He pulls the patch off her hand and surprise! It turns out to have been just a dream: they’re still in the TARDIS. The Doctor picks up the keys off the floor. He allowed the scenario to play out the way she had planned, because he was curious how far she would go. Still doesn’t explain why neither of them remembered the finger-snap that both of them can do. Dream logic, maybe?

So what happens now, with the Doctor and Clara? What will they do? “Go to hell”, the Doctor says. Language, Doctor! Clara is sad, but says that’s fair, turning to leave. The Doctor is confused. She asked what they’re going to do and he told her: They’re going to hell, or wherever it is that people go when they die, if it is anywhere, and they’re going to save Danny.

Yeah, I still think my plan is simpler.

The Doctor has a plan: they’re going to telepathically link Clara to the TARDIS again. Danny and Clara’s time-streams are intertwined, so if she focuses on the question “Where is Danny Pink now?”, the TARDIS should take them there, wherever it may be.

Wait a minute! That’s another reason Danny can’t be dead. The last time they did this, Doctor and Clara met one of Danny’s descendants. And I’m pretty sure he would have mentioned having a kid already to Clara…so he’s got to be alive, because he doesn’t have any descendants yet!

Danny wakes up in an ordinary-looking office. A man named Seb shows up to greet him. He doesn’t answer Danny’s questions, but he has some for Danny: Have you been cremated?Danny looks out the window to see a giant city on the inside of a sphere. The Nethersphere, I’m guessing. Seb seems a bit put out that he has to spell things out for Danny: He’s dead, and this is what comes next.

The TARDIS lands in a mausoleum. The lights are off, and row after row of giant fish tanks line the walls on each floor. Actually, no, those aren’t fish tanks. Each tank holds a skeleton. They’re liquid tombs. The Doctor and Clara look around to find some answers, and behind their backs, the nearest skeleton turns to watch them go. Uh-oh…the dead aren’t dead.

They activate an informational hologram. This is 3W. They provide aftercare to the afterlife. The Doctor spots Missy hiding behind the hologram. Finally, she and the Doctor meet! You’d better be providing answers, lady. The Doctor and Clara want to know what 3W is. Missy apologizes for not giving them the 3W greeting package. With that, she slams the Doctor against a wall and kisses him. A brochure would probably be better, don’t you think?

Missy finally lets him go, and the Doctor looks a bit mentally scarred by the experience. Clara refuses the greeting package. She’s just fine, thanks.

Missy tells them she is a welcome droid. I don’t believe her. The Doctor is trying to find out who’s in charge. Who maintains her? She puts the Doctor’s hand on her chest—her heart maintains her. A little creeped out, the Doctor asks who maintains her heart. Missy calls for Doctor Chang, who shows right up at Missy’s bellow. Is there a particular dead person you would like to talk to? He can help with that. As they leave Missy behind, all the skeletons turn to watch them go. Missy smiles creepily, and looks up at a ball hovering at the ceiling, studded with red lights. That’s…random.

Danny and Seb step out onto a balcony. Seb is still asking him questions: Has he ever killed anyone? Danny flashes back to a battle when he was a soldier. There’s lot’s of gunfire and explosions all around. It’s a confusing mess. Back in the present, Seb explains that a request came in to meet him. Who could that be? It’s a young boy…and it’s heavily hinted that Danny killed him in the firefight.

Clara, Chang, and the Doctor arrive in a lab. There is a tank at the back, with a skeleton inside. The Doctor wants to know what holds the skeletons together? Chang explains that there’s an exoskeleton surrounding the skeleton, keeping it in one piece. It’s invisible in the liquid. They call it dark water. Chang sticks his arm in a sample of it, and his sleeve disappears. Only living organic matter shows up through the water, everything else is invisible. Wait, that means the skeletons are alive, not undead…inorganic exoskeletons surrounding living bones? Uh-oh…I think I just figured out what the skeletons really are. This is going to be bad. Bad bad bad bad bad.

Clara and the Doctor haven’t figured it out yet, apparently. The Doctor uses the psychic paper to pass himself off as a government inspector, telling Chang the security is a disgrace. What does 3W stand for? It stands for the three words. Thanks, Chang, that’s very helpful. Are we going to play 20 Questions now?

Danny and the young boy are sitting at a table on the balcony. It doesn’t last long: Danny tries to apologize, but the boy runs away in fear. Danny hears a man scream. Seb says somebody must have left their body to science. Yup. Badbadbadbadbadbadbad. He says it’s time to explain why Danny’s always feeling cold.

Chang is showing the Doctor and Clara white noise on the TV. Dr Skarosa, the founder of the institute, used a translation matrix on the noise and heard what he believed to be the voices of the dead. He isolated some voices and heard the three words: Don’t cremate me! (I guess ‘don’t‘ can count as just one word, but it’s still going to bug me…stupid contractions.) What does this mean? The dead remain conscious.

Seb explains this to Danny. He’s got a new body in the Nethersphere, but he’s still linked to his old one. He’ll still feel what it feels. He’s cold because his old body is in a cold place, most likely a morgue, while it waits to be cremated? That’s probably going to hurt, I’ll bet. But there is some good news: He’s got a call from the other side from Clara.

The Doctor is not convinced, he thinks this is all trickery and cons. Meanwhile, in the mausoleum, Missy claps her hands, and all the skeletons stand up. What is going on?

The Doctor tells Clara to be skeptical and critical when talking to Danny. It could be anyone on the other side of the line, she has to make sure it’s Danny. The Doctor leaves to check the tanks again, making Chang go with him. He feels like he’s missing something obvious. Yes, yes, you are! THINK! Dead bodies inside exoskeletons? You’ve only encountered them all throughout your life!

At Missy’s command, the skeletons press a button in their tanks. It looks like they’re slowly draining their tanks. The Doctor and Chang arrive, and Chang is horrified to see the tanks have activated. They aren’t supposed to do that! The Doctor is more concerned with the fact that the skeletons are now standing. Missy shows up and confronts them. She’s not a droid, she’s Chang’s boss. Oooh, big surprise. Her droid impression needs some work if she wanted us to believe it. The Doctor is off his game today. She kills Chang with a device that disintegrates him. Well, I guess if you die by your body evaporating, then you don’t have anything to worry about in the Nethersphere, right? The dark water level in the tanks starts to go down. We can just see the top of a metal head appear above the water. A metal head with a metal bar across the top, disappearing into the water on either side.

I knew it!

The Doctor finally gets it. They’re Cybermen! Missy obviously isn’t interested in stopping them. She more interested in talking. She points at the weird ball, hovering up at the top of the ceiling, revealing it to be the Nethersphere. That’s a lot smaller than I thought it’d be. The Doctor recognizes it as a Matrix Data Slice, a Gallifreyan hard drive. It’s Time Lord technology!

Missy reveals that the minds of the people who die are uploaded into it, their emotions are edited out while their bodies are upgraded, then they are downloaded back into their bodies. ‘Cybermen from cyberspace’, as she puts it.

How did Missy get Time Lord Technology? She has two hearts…she’s a Time Lord! Er, Time Lady. Which one? She says she’s the one the Doctor abandoned, but she found her way back.

The Rani? Susan? Romana? I’m trying to think of all the Time Ladies I know about. Drawing a blank, here.

The Doctor isn’t sticking around. He runs off to find Clara, but the elevator are shut off. He unlocks a nearby door with the screwdriver and steps out…into London. Wait, so this is present day? You’d think they would have mentioned afterlife-care before now. Missy follows the Doctor, very amused by his confusion
Clara is talking to Danny. She wants him to say something only Danny could say. Danny can’t seem to find it, though. She promises to find him, but Danny doesn’t want her to go to the Nethersphere—she has her whole life ahead of her. He just keeps telling her he loves her, over and over again. She tells him that she’ll turn off the communicator if he says it again. She needs a real answer to know it’s truly him. He repeats it again, and she cuts the link. He sits there, crying, but Seb offers him a way to get rid of also those difficult emotions. He hands him a tablet with a big DELETE button flashing red under his name. He’ll leave the decision up to Danny. Really wish Clara had told him more about her adventures, now. Little bits of info, like Cybermen and their lack of emotions would really help Danny right about now…

Clara pushes away from the communication device. Behind her, the tank is empty, completely revealing the Cyberman inside. The chair it was sitting on says Dr. Skarosa…interesting. Is that a supposed to be a joke? Skaro is the home planet of the Daleks.

Now if Clara would only turn around and see the Cyberman…there we go! Clara runs out the door, calling for the Doctor, while in the mausoleum, the tanks open and the Cybermen step out. Outside, the Doctor is running through the streets, telling people to run as the cybermen exit the building and step out onto the streets of London. Missy tells him it’s too late to stop it: the key strategic weakness of the human race is that the dead outnumber the living.

The Doctor demands she tell him who she is. She’s Missy…it’s short for Mistress. She couldn’t keep calling herself the Master in this form, could she?


I did not see that coming. And, of course, that’s where the episode ends. Argh!

Well, we finally got the answers to our questions about Missy, but now I have even more questions! I was hoping for a brand-new nemesis for the Doctor, but I can’t complain about the Master returning. Only one more episode left! I can’t wait for it, but I don’t want the season to be over. And I still refuse to believe Danny’s dead. I agree with Clara…he deserved better!

~ K.L. Davis ~


Categories: Channel Surfing

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