Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 11 Review: Dark Water

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The Master is back.

Yes, as many imagined, Missy is, indeed, The Master. She couldn't very well use the name Master anymore given her gender reassignment, right? Missy is short for Mistress. That's a neat way to bring back one of The Doctor's biggest enemies, and also allows for a female Doctor in the future without much fuss.

That wasn't the best part of Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 11, however. Not by a long shot. Instead, there were bits of story that were superb and the ideas behind them rather bone-chilling (pun intended).

Missy and the Doctor - Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 11

Clara's feelings for Danny were put to rest with three events. The first was when she told him she loved him, words she would never utter to another person in her life. That's a mountainous statement. Danny's death before he could reply was as cutting as you can imagine. That was the second event. The perils of speaking on a cell phone and walking on a busy city street are many.

For Clara, however, it was the method of his death, how boring it was, that really caught her off guard. With everything she has been through with her adventures with The Doctor, the idea of someone being hit by a car was almost pathetic. That lead to the third event.

Clara wanted the wrong righted. She thought it through, with one small problem. She didn't understand what a sleep patch was before she attempted to use it on The Doctor. It was time for their friendship to be tested; it was and it survived. 

The Doctor: Clara? You asked me what we're going to do, I told ya. We're going to go to hell, or wherever it is people go when they die, if there is anywhere. Whatever it is we're gonna go there and we're gonna find Danny. And if it is in any way possible, we're going to bring him home. Every culture has a concept of an afterlife. I always meant to have a look around, see if I could find one.
Clara: You're going to help me?
The Doctor: Well, why wouldn't I help you?
Clara: Because of what I just did, I just...
The Doctor: You betrayed me. You betrayed our trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I've ever stood for. You let me down!
Clara: Then why are you helping me?
The Doctor: Why? Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?

Such beautiful words coming from The Doctor. It's sad to think that in her grief Clara had so little faith in her friend, but sorrow can do terrible things. Many have done worse. Whether The Doctor was honest in his long-term desire to look into the afterlife doesn't matter. What matters is to what lengths he was willing to go for his companion.

This is it. The darkest day. The blackest hour. Chin up, shoulders back. Let's see what we're made of, you and I.

The Doctor

It wasn't just Clara's darkest day, it was theirs together. The Doctor made it clear that not only would he help her find "her boyfriend," but he would be beside her every step of the way, come what may. It was difficult not getting a little emotional at everything that formed those terrific scenes.

I have a fascination with death -- what it is, what happens after -- and our introduction to Doctor Who's version of the Nethersphere, the Underworld or the Promised Land was perfectly in line with my many questions. There was a nod to another of my fascinations; the possibility of voices heard in white noise. In The Doctor's world, they were real and most of them were screaming three words:

"Don't cremate me!"

As The Doctor and Clara were getting the guided tour by the affable Dr. Chang to what, exactly, they did at 3W, Danny was getting initiated in all things Nethersphere, such as the fact that he was cold because the dead remain tied to their bodies. As a man screamed out in agony, Seb pointed out it was probably just someone who donated their body to science. Whoopsie!

This isn't really an afterlife, it's just more life than you were expecting.


That's a very cool idea -- for a while. We've always wondered why it mattered that Danny was a soldier. They've kept that secret until tonight. Someone requested to see Danny, and it was a little boy he killed in combat. That little boy ran away before Danny could get any information, but he appeared in the iPad screen (yes they have iPads in the Nethersphere...they have Steve Jobs, Seb reminds Danny) as his finger hovered over a delete button (more on that in a bit).

When Chang explained about the fluid chambers and how the skeletons were residing in X-Ray water that only showed biological bits (or something), it didn't hit me to wonder then why, when he put his hand into the water, we didn't see his skeleton. It was so matter of fact that I missed it. When they stood, I should have known, but I didn't. I was swept up in many other directions. The skeletons were Cybermen.

Missy, being a Time Lord/Lady, had a piece of Gallifrey technology -- a data slice -- that allowed her to upload the dead, delete their emotional bits and download them back into Cybermen. Cybermen were always humanoid, but knowing they can now be our loved ones makes them a bit more terrifying. 

From what we were shown in "Dark Water," not all dead become Cybermen. It seemed to lie within that delete button on the iPad that Danny's finger was dangerously hovering over. If a human decides, through its own will, that it would prefer to delete ties back to its body and emotions, it appears they will become the Cybermen.

The boy in the reflection of the iPad assures me that Danny will not hit that button. He will get some sort of encouraging words from the boy that gives him the faith to go on and to find Clara and... what?

Clara has made it clear that she has no intention of going on without Danny. She can join him in the Nethersphere or he can be brought back. If he's taken back, he'll either have to agree to join her and The Doctor or she'll likely decide against a companion's life. Thus the rumored departure in December. "Death in Heaven" is an ominous title for next week's season finale, no matter the path that is taken.

Bringing the Cybermen back and The Master/Missy showing The Doctor exactly where they were -- St. Paul's Cathedral -- so that they could walk down the steps into the city exactly as they did in an episode of Doctor Who in 1968 was a nice nod to the past, but I'm not ready to call a win on the Missy/Cybermen line yet. We'll have to see how it all pans out.

Stray observations:

  • The Doctor had the heebie jeebies over kissing Missy. What must he be thinking knowing he kissed The Master?
  • Seb and Dr. Chang were some of the best characters in ages. Here's hoping we haven't seen the end of either of them (and won't for some time).
  • If Danny dies, or even if he and Clara decide to sit things out in an alternate ending to his current state, it would mean his character truly was nothing more than a catalyst to create story for The Doctor and Clara. 
  • I always wanted to be cremated. Is anyone else having second thoughts on that? I wonder if there's a disconnect to regular decomposition that you don't feel down there.
  • Was anyone else really impressed with the fully fleshed out Underworld? I loved the way it seemed like the earth, but inside... the buildings' roofs all pointing at each other. Clever.

No matter what happens next week, this has been a successful run for both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. They brought their A games to a difficult follow up and The Doctor and Clara were more captivating due to their performances.

Be back here next week for the finale. It's too bad this wasn't an extended episode. It would have been fine with me! In the meantime, you can watch Doctor Who online via TV Fanatic to relive Doctor Who Season 8 so far.

Dark Water Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (93 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 11 Quotes

You told me once what it would take to destroy a TARDIS key. That's what's so good about lava. All seven from all of your hiding places.


Danny I will never say those words again, not to anybody else. Ever. Those words from me are yours now.