Doctor Who recap: Dark Water
The first half of the season finale begins as the Doctor discovers what happens in the afterlife.
And so it’s come to this. The finale of a rollercoaster season featuring a new Doctor, an increasingly unnerved companion, a vague new mystery, and an unreadable entity. Or, more accurately, the start of the finale. This is the first two-parter of the season in a show that has had seasons almost entirely made up of them before. It’s easy to forget that we’re not going to get the conclusion this week and will have to wait another excruciating seven days until you’re staring at the “To Be Continued” screen, trying to make sense of the words.
So, of course, a good two-parter has to have one hell of a problem to kick it off. The episode starts with Danny and Clara speaking over the phone as Danny walks over to her apartment. Clara is uncharacteristically flustered about something, struggling to find words, and reading a mindmap of ideas and events laid out across her bookshelf. She starts her eventual diatribe telling Danny that she loves him—well and truly loves him—but gets no response. That is, she gets no response until a few moments later when a woman picks up the phone and breaks down. It seems that Danny has been struck and killed by a car in what must have been the quietest car accident ever. Quite a doozy of a problem.
Clara spends the next few days in a state of emotionless shock, rambling incoherently to her grandmother. Until the Doctor picks up his phone, of course. And then she’s back to her old self. In the TARDIS, she walks around collecting keys hidden all over while the Doctor distractedly plays with the console. She insists that the Doctor take her to a volcano before slapping a sleep patch on the Doctor, putting him to sleep.
The Doctor wakes up outside the TARDIS inside a volcano to the sight of Clara standing near the edge of a safe piece of ground and holding the seven keys to the TARDIS and threatening to destroy them all, preventing the Doctor from ever getting back into his TARDIS, unless he helps her bring Danny back to life. Either Clara has been massively lied to about the number of TARDIS keys out there (or in the Doctor’s pockets as we’ve seen in “The Sound of Drums”) or something’s happened with the keys off screen. The Doctor holds fast against her and she throws all the keys into the lava, breaking down in tears but saying that she’d do it again if she could.
But there’s been a good ol’ switcheroo! It wasn’t Clara that drugged the Doctor, but the Doctor who drugged Clara when he caught her trying to knock him out. They’re both on the TARDIS just fine, having never left, and Clara was in a dream state. The Doctor wanted to see how far Clara was willing to go for what she wanted. And he saw that Clara hurt him, violated his trust, betrayed him, and was unapologetic about it. But he doesn’t really care about it that much since he says he cares for her enough that none of it matters, so they set out to go and save Danny. Clara plugs into the TARDIS like she did in “Listen” and the Doctor turns off all the controls so that they can go places they should otherwise not be able to go.
NEXT: Life and death and life again
We see Danny wake up in the office of Seb (Chris Addison), Missy’s coworker from “The Caretaker”, where Seb gives Danny the bad news. Danny, of course, does not take it too well. It does seem pretty inopportune that a place that would routinely deal with this sort of thing does not have an efficient way of convincing people about it but it does give reason for Seb to flout about. We do get our first good view of the afterlife—a gigantic Blade Runner style city built inside of a sphere called the Nethersphere.
Clara and the Doctor land in a mausoleum of sorts with water tanks for corpses. Inside they can view the skeletons of the deceased, sitting in chairs. The Doctor finds a holographic node that explains the place as an enterprise that seeks to make death comfortable (though why it’s inside a regular book at all is up to your imagination). It should be noted that it’s not exactly clear when in time this is, so there are no indication of people being pulled from across time or if this operation has been happening for years in the present day.
They come face to face with Missy who introduces herself by making out with the Doctor and is, apparently, a welcome android despite all we’ve seen from her this season and in the last few seconds. With an intimacy setting. Hm. She places the Doctor’s hand on her heart and the Doctor seizes up as Doctor Chan (Andrew Leung), Missy’s supposed caretaker, approaches. In fact, Clara has to snap him out of it so that Doctor Chan can take them back to his office. As they leave, we see Missy watch and give an amused smirk. Seems she wasn’t an android after all. Who would’ve guessed?
Back in the Nethersphere Seb shows Danny his afterlife living quarters (and explains away the iPads throughout the season pretty amusingly). Seb questions Danny about his actions in life, specifically whether he’s killed anyone. He asks this because Danny has had a priority visitation request. Throughout the exchange we see flashbacks of Danny’s time as a soldier when he cleared a building in the middle of a battle. And then we see who the meeting has been arranged with, and who he has killed in the heat of battle, and thus the source of Danny’s perpetual traumatization about being a soldier: a young boy. Danny tries to sit down with the boy and speak to him but accidentally scares the boy away.
In Dr. Chan’s office, Clara and the Doctor are given further explanations about the mausoleum company 3W. The tanks are filled with something called Dark Water which only shows organic material. The skeletons that Clara and the Doctor saw in the tanks are actually held together by an exoskeleton of sorts so that the body can remain preserved. The name of the company, 3W, refers to the three words the creator heard when he first discovered that the dead were communicating through the static on TV: “Don’t cremate me.”
NEXT: Are they alive or dead? Have they thoughts within their head?
What happens to the bodies after death is felt in the afterlife, as Danny’s perpetual feeling of coldness confirms—his body is stored in the morgue. So the company 3W was created to “protect the dead” from that sort of outcome via the Dark Water tanks and the exoskeleton that encases the bodies. Also, have you noticed the logo of the company yet? It’s only everywhere. Doesn’t it look a bit… familiar?
Dr. Chan manages to put Clara in contact with Danny in the Nethersphere through the WiFi connection, probably because the 3G models were an unjustifiable expense. The Doctor and Dr. Chan leave the two alone to converse but the Doctor warns Clara that she has to try and remain skeptical and critical instead of blindly accepting that it really is Danny. As the Doctor and Dr. Chan enter into the tank area, they see that the tanks are draining and the bodies have been activated by Missy, who reveals to the Doctor that she was not an android at all.
But Missy is, basically, a psychopath. She makes Dr. Chan beg for his life, toying with him as if she’s playing with a toy, before passively disintegrating him. As the tanks drain, the Doctor sees what the exoskeleton looks like: Cybermen. Suddenly the 3W logo that has been all over the episode makes sense. Every single one of the bodies in the mausoleum is a Cyberman, populated by the dead bodies of humans. Their minds are kept in the Nethersphere, a large floating cybernetic ball that follows Missy around. The Doctor recognizes it as Time Lord technology… but how could Missy have possibly got her hands on it?
Danny and Clara, meanwhile, argue incongruently as Clara tries to get Danny to prove that it’s really him and Danny, flustered, has no idea what she needs to hear. She eventually says that if Danny really is Danny then she will stop at no costs to join him. Danny, of course, does not want that at all since it involves, you know, dying so he purposefully chases her away and makes her shut down the communication. He breaks down as Seb hands him an option to delete his self from the afterlife and, unbeknownst to Danny, solidify himself as a Cyberman.
Clara, after hanging up on Danny, finds herself trapped in an office with a Cyberman. The Doctor runs outside the mausoleum trying to warn others only to find Missy in complete control. “Missy” as it turns out is short for… The Master.