Monday, November 10, 2014

Doctor Who 8.11: "Dark Water"

“You betrayed me. Betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I’ve ever stood for. You let me down!”
“Then why are you helping me?”
“Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”
-The Doctor and Clara

So, I’ll admit, I’m writing this post having already seen the season finale, which directly continues the plot that begins here. It’s going to be kind of hard to mentally separate this episode from what I know comes next, but I’ll do my best. It was also kind of hard to mentally prepare to watch this episode again. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely a good episode. The emotions of Clara in the episode, though, were too raw to want to watch too often. That’s a sign of a solid performance on the part of Jenna Coleman, though. In this episode, the Doctor and Clara go where the Doctor usually tries not to go. The afterlife, such as it is. I worried that this episode would come too close to series 1’s Father’s Day. Thankfully, though, this one was a different take on what happens when a time traveler’s companion wants to do something about the death of a loved one.

The beginning of this episode is brutal, but I appreciated the artistry behind how it was staged. Clara and Danny are talking on the phone, and Clara wants it to be a big conversation. She wants to admit to Danny that she’s been lying about continuing to travel with the Doctor, and she wants to give him all the specifics of what she’s been doing. First, however, she decides to tell Danny she loves him. And not in a routine way. In a “I will never, ever tell anyone else I love them” way. She’s distressed when Danny’s response is silence, but she is devastated when she learns that the reason for the silence is that Danny has been hit by a car. We don’t actually see Danny get hit. A passerby picks up his phone and tells Clara what happened, and we see her rush to the scene, which eventually becomes a memorial to Danny.

Several days (presumably, since it seems to be post-funeral) after Danny’s death, Clara is talking to her grandmother when she gets a call from the Doctor. He apologizes for being incommunicado for a few days, but he’s ready to travel. Clara eagerly heads for the TARDIS without telling the Doctor what has happened. Inside the TARDIS, Clara tries to sneakily gather up all of the Doctor’s keys as she tells him she wants to see a volcano. Clara stands before the lava and finally tells the Doctor what happened. Danny is dead, and she wants the Doctor to help her save him. The doctor repeatedly says he can’t do that, because rewriting time requires extreme precision, and every time he says, “no,” Clara throws another TARDIS key into the lava. Apparently lava is the only thing that can destroy a TARDIS key. After she destroys the last key, she breaks down in tears. That’s when the Doctor points to a patch on her hand. The volcano surroundings were an illusion, and they are still inside the TARDIS. The Doctor wanted to see how far she would go. Despite the betrayal, the Doctor still cares about Clara, so he’s going to try and help her.

Meanwhile, Danny finds himself on the Nethersphere, in an office talking with ever-enthusiastic Seb. Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy Chris Addision? He played the smarmy Ollie Reeder on one of my favorite British comedies, “The Thick of it,” which also happened to star Peter Capaldi. Danny is very confused at first and doesn’t really understand how he ended up in the Nethersphere. Seb gets the honor of informing Danny that he is dead. Seb also informs Danny that someone has requested to meet him. That person happens to be a child Danny inadvertently killed while he was fighting in war (presumably in Iraq or Afghanistan). Danny tries to talk to the kid, but he just runs away. The whole thing is pretty emotional for Danny, as it should be, I would think. It was definitely interesting to learn more about Danny’s backstory and why he always had such a strong reaction to people asking him if he had ever killed anyone.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor has Clara once again use the psychic interface and think of Danny. The Doctor says this will lead the TARDIS to try and find him. They end up in what appears to be a massive mausoleum where skeletons are kept in big water tanks. A screen pops up, and the Doctor and Clara learn that the mausoleum is run by a company called 3W. Missy is actually reading the narration for the 3W introduction, and prompted by the Doctor, she enters the room and introduces herself. She greets the Doctor with a make-out session (sort of), which is just as awkward for us viewers as it is for the unsuspecting Doctor. Clara manages to avoid a similar greeting.

Dr. Chang gets the honor of doing much of the episode’s info dumping. He teaches the Doctor and Clara about the tech behind 3W. He also tells them a bit about 3W’s history. Apparently, one day somebody listened really hard to white noise from a television and heard the message “Don’t cremate me.” Those are the three words behind 3W. Basically, 3W keeps the dead in a way that won’t cause them any pain in the afterlife. There’s a really funny bit where the Doctor tries to use the psychic paper to show Dr. Chang some credentials, and Chang remarks about all the swearing on the paper. The Doctor just responds, “I’ve got a lot of that internalized anger.” It made me laugh because it was obviously a nod to Peter Capaldi’s other iconic character, Malcolm Tucker.

Dr. Chang asks Clara if there’s a particular dead person she wants to speak with, and of course this winds up as a Danny and Clara phone call. Apparently getting a call in the afterlife is a rare thing, or so Seb tells Danny (can I mention again how thrilled I am to see Chris Addison on my U.S. TV screen again?). The conversation is more painful than cathartic, with Clara saying she wants to be with Danny and Danny saying he wants Clara to go live her life. Danny keeps saying “I love you” until Clara gets so upset that she just hangs up the phone. Danny is clearly devastated by the phone call, and Seb offers a solution. All Danny has to do is push a button, and his emotions will be deleted.

It probably doesn’t take much at this point for you to figure out what has really been going on. The tanks, which seemed to just be holding skeletons, start activating. It is then revealed that Missy is Chang’s boss instead of the other way around, and Missy decides to kill Chang. But only after he says something nice to her. As the tanks continue to bubble away, it’s pretty clear what is inside. It’s a mausoleum full of Cybermen! Timelord technology had been keeping them in stasis, which makes the Doctor even more suspicious. The Cybermen are in the room where Clara had been talking to Danny, and now she’s got to run. Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral (the mausoleum is inside of the cathedral), the situation is getting even worse. In the midst of the chaos we get a huge reveal. Missy is actually the Master, although she goes by the Mistress these days. Well played, Moffat. Well played.

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