If you’re reading this, then you’re on the Internet. And if you’re on the internet, there’s no way you’ve managed to avoid the revelations of ’Dark Water’. So, without any respect for spoilers, let’s see exactly how dark this water was below the surface …
“Just This Once, Everyone Lives!”
The rebooted series has a noble tradition of turning over-familiar elements into vital plot points (the double heartbeat of the theme music, the question inherent in the title itself). Now it seems Moffatt is ransacking his own dialogue, and returning to a line from ’The Doctor Dances’, and a trope of his best episodes – even the victims haven’t actually died. Before, this has been way of a happy ending for all – but now that we know the dead still have a connection with what’s going on with their bodies, the afterlife has been rewritten as the darkest concept the show has explored so far.
“By The Goddess, We Have”
If the idea of souls being tethered to the pain of their corpses wasn’t upsetting enough, there’s the large-enough-to-miss-it suggestion of who exactly Missy is to us. No, not the big reveal near the end of the episode, which we’ll be coming to later on, but ever since ’The Caretaker’ and Seb’s dry comment “She’s a bit busy today” when the policeman says “Oh my God”, there’s been a heavy hint that the dead have a pretty firm idea about who is in control of Heaven. By the way, The Master has tried God-heading Earth in his own image before, back in ’The End Of Time’.
“Time Lady, Please. I’m old-fashioned”
For this reviewers money (not that he has a great deal), the revelation that Missy is actually The Master makes complete sense, and is a beautiful continuation of the character. Generally the reaction was largely positive, the nay-sayers panicking that it was a PC move (want to walk me through that?), or that it leads the way to a female Doctor. It’s probably more likely that the existence of The Mistress actually delays such a thing for a good few years – it would be quite a leap, albeit an admirable one, if both the shows hero and villain end up as women. Annoyingly, even the fact that The Master is now a woman doesn’t have to be set in stone: it is possible that an escape clause has already been written into the plot – who says that Missy is a direct regeneration from the John Simm Master? She could be from earlier, even before the Derek Jacobi incarnation. It’s worth acknowledging, then, that in an episode with death, cybermen, hell and sentient corpses that the most terrifying thing for some fans was the idea of a female Doctor. We’ve been having this argument for about thirty years now – ever since Baker The First suggested it as a playful joke – and I’ve heard/read hundreds of arguments and reasons as to why The Doctor must NEVER be a woman. And not a single one of those arguments make any sense. Nor will any argument in the future. And yes, that was the sound of a gauntlet being thrown down.
“Leave The Girl. It’s The Man I Want”
Another, less hysterical, and more understandable criticism is that a female villainous Timelord being revealed to be The Master was something of a missed opportunity, when there was a perfectly good Rani going spare. Let’s ignore, for now, the response that nobody really remembers The Rani, and that Kate O’Mara’s magnificent performance belongs firmly in the camp-neon era of the eighties. The truth is somewhat subtler: certain sections of fandom are voicing the concern that because the Master is now the Mistress, you rule out any chance of The Rani ever returning. That, we hope, is rubbish, because it would suggest the show only has room for one female bad guy. And it’s not like there’s a quota on that sort of thing. Not like there is for female writers (cough, cough).
Missy planted a smacker on The Doctor before she revealed her true identity. Now, if that’s simply The Master/Mistress screwing with her old Time Lord fremeny, then fine. However, if it’s a Moffatt ’strong woman’ trope (sarcastic remarks, sexually confident, a fondness for power dressing), then we rather think he’ll have missed a trick here. We’re inclined to believe the former, however, if for no reason other than this: we can absolutely believe that John Simms’ Master would have done the exact same thing, given half a chance. And, yes, it’s worth pointing out that Matt Smith’s Doctor spent a lot of TARDIS hours delivering unasked for kisses, and yes, we’re not exactly happy with that, and yes: that’s an essay for another time.
“Where There’s Life ..”
Three words. Three words heard in the ether by Doctor Skarosa (hang on, what was that name again?) on which the Cyber-plan hangs. But they are not the most important three words spoken in this episode. It’s another three words, spoken at two pivotal points, that condemn Danny Pink to his fate – once by killing him, and the second time trapping him in a hell without Clara. The three most terrifying words in the Master-plan are, of course, “I love you.”
“Is There A Particular Dead Person You Want To Talk To?”
You want dark? Here’s dark. The Doctor says that almost every culture has a concept of the afterlife, and that he always meant to have a look. Which means, simply, that he considered it at least possible to visit, speak to, or maybe even save anyone who died. Which means only one thing: he must have really hated Adric.