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The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Tag: doctor who dark water

Doctor Who: Tantalising Adventures Really Defined by Incoming Sequel

Hey, so, after the crapstorm that was last week’s episode, and a week where I speculated in dramatically wrong ways about what would happen in the Doctor Who season eight finale, I’ve come across something sorely missing in the last ten weeks: an episode that I loved almost unconditionally.

I think it’s telling that, for the first time this series, me and the Consort finished watching Dark Water and immediatley negotiated more episodes to watch. It was an outing that reminded us of Doctor Who at it’s best, and made us want to go back and wallow in the triumphs of yesteryear (we matched it with the Lake Silencio two-parter, and the Bad Wolf finale for season one, both of which are always better than you remember). This episode was tantalising, and wasn’t enough on it’s own. That’s a good sign.

I really thought Dark Water was a belter of an episode, the best and most true to form of the series so far (Listen was magnificent, but it didn’t have the fun or breakneck pace of this one). Early in the episode, Danny is killed, and Clara and the Doctor go to find him (incidentally, Jenna Coleman’s performance throughout this entire segment was jaw-dropping, award-winning stuff, particularly the scene where she explained the real tragedy of his death lay in the mundanity of it all), leaving Danny Pink in Heaven/Hell/The Nethesphere with Chris Addison as his poison-tongued tour guide. This segment had some of the best writing all season going for it, with Chris Addison’s description of our understanding of the afterlife being a particular highlight. And the offscreen screaming as Chris Addison winced that they had “left their body to science”? Masterful.

A big shout out to Rachel Talalay, one of the distressingly few female writers or directors to grave Moffat’s run of Who, as she did a cracking job on the direction. Her close-up, tight shots on Danny and Clara as they have their last conversation were heartbreaking, but not as gutting as the cut between soldier Danny realising he’d killed a child, and afterlife Danny realising he was going to meet him. C’mere, Samuel Anderson, let me buy you all the drinks for saving the series.

And then, of course, there was Missy. I’m going to put a big fat SPOILER ALERT here, which I rarely do as I assume most people coming here have already seen the episode, but the reveal of Missy’s identity was so good I don’t want it ruined for anyone here. Go away. Come back. Watched it? Are you sure? Certain? One hundred percent? Okay.

HOLY SHIT IT WAS THE MASTER! I do not exaggerate in the least when I say that I threw a bottle of juice against the opposite wall in excitement when she announced her identity. Like most two-parters though, the success of this episode will rest on how well they pull of the actual finale. Either way, Michelle Gomez is a saccharine delight and a worthy successor to the formidable John Simm. And surely we’ll be seeing more of her after this season ends, because you don’t bring the Master back as a woman then only give us one episode of her. Everything comes down to next week, and I’m hoping they do well because this episode was teeming with brilliant lines, scenes, and ideas-more than I can even touch on here- and I want it to remain as good as I think it is now.

But. Well, there’s always a but, isn’t there? This isn’t really a criticism of the episode, but you’ll have noticed that I haven’t been talking a whole lot about the Doctor. And there’s a reason for that. It suddenly struck me, in the middle of the night, which is when I write these reviews in my head and mentally paste them into the blog in the morning, that the problem is not with Peter Capaldi. Peter Capaldi is doing an excellent job playing the role he’s been given, but the problem is that role isn’t the Doctor. It’s leaning towards the sociopathic otherness of Moffat’s Sherlock, stripped down of much of his humanity and warmth. Watching Chris Ecclestone’s Doctor again, it’s so clear that a “dark” Doctor doesn’t have to be the aloof, trickster, testing personality that Capaldi’s playing to perfection right now- he is still the same man at heart(s), and doesn’t want to torture, tease, and even kill those who he comes into contact with. Anyone else of the same page here? Either way, I think that Moffat needs to hand over the reins to someone else and focus his attention on Sherlock, as it seems to be where his mind is at right now anyway. I’ll have you yet, Moffat. But if you can pull of next week, I’ll call off the hordes.


Doctor Who Dark Water: Wild Speculation Abounds

So, blogosphere, I’ve decided to forgo a review this week- basically, I thought In The Forest of The Night was an eye-rolling disappointment and thoroughly enjoyed listening to my dad shred it into comedically tiny pieces- and everything that I’ve been saying over the last eight weeks pretty much applies to this episode. Bad pacing, cluttered plot, a crammed-in enviromental message (I’m really, really, really not sure how to feel about the Doctor encouraging a girl on medication to stop taking it because the voices in her head were saving the world, because it seems wildly irresponsible. And seems to back up that widely-held theory that those with mental health problems who choose to take medication to control it- like me- are cutting off some brilliant part of themselves as opposed to taking control of an illness), not enough Danny Pink, oddly cold Doctor, and a cool idea thrown to the four winds of blah. So, this week, I’m going to share my theories about the season finale, a two-parter that kicks off next week with Dark Water. Take a drink for every time I get proved right. Expect to stay sober.

1. Danny Pink

I’ve been theorising for weeks that Missy and the Nethersphere are actually a big Maguffin, and the really twist will involve Danny Pink. Here’s my thinking: we met him in Into The Dalek, in the same week we spent some time with a soldier named Journey Blue who had lost her brother in a war at the start of the episode. There’s a link with the colours in their names, and Zawe Ashton and Samuel Anderson don’t look entirely different (big brown eyes). I think Danny was the brother who died, was sent to the Nethersphere, and offered a chance to live again if he brought Clara and the Doctor back with him. His past is mysterious- all we know is that he was a soldier who had “one bad day”, and that he very probably killed someone he feels an immense amount of guilt about-and, when we meet his grandson, it’s revealed that one of that man’s grandparents was a time-traveller. I initially assumed that this was Clara, but could it be Danny instead? Anyway, I think his plotline will involve him being turned into a cyberman upon his return to Heaven, and that may or may not be the last we see of Mr Pink. If it is the last we see of him, the series is going to have to do something spectacular to win me back.

2. Clara

We know there are hundreds of echoes of Clara all through time, so where did these echoes go? Did they die and….wind up in the Nethersphere? The trailer showed a lot of abrupt costume changes and seemingly personality changes too, and I think that a bunch of vengeful Claras have ended up in Heaven wanting to wreak revenge on the Doctor. In this theory, Missy is definitely one of these Claras, having orchestrated the whole thing to make sure she gets revenge. The Clara in this series has been an echo of the real Clara who remained trapped in the timeline (River said she would die, but maybe she got it wrong?), aged into Missy, and eventually ended up in heaven (see Missy’s “You know who I am” in the trailer). At this point, anything they can do to really stretch Jenna Coleman’s considerable talent and charm to make her a real match for Capaldi’s colder Doctor will be warmly welcomed. If it’s not this theory, then I think that all the cybermen will be Claras from various timestreams.

3. Missy

I wrote an article about my theories on Missy at the start of the series, and I still think it’s up in the air. However, I’m leaning towards The Rani, because it makes sense, and it would be really cool. She’s presumably evil, very likely experimenting on her charges, and has a beef with the Doc. I’m even going to go waaaay out there and tentatively suggest that Chris Addison is also a timelord, and both of them, after a timelocked Gallifrey was basically brought back, are still in defensive mode and believe that they need to defend themselves against another attack with cybermen. The fact that most of the victims have come from the episodes we’ve seen is to do with the fact that they’re able to manipulate the Tardis into a matter transporter to get them there, and has nothing to do with the Doctor’s guilt as I initially thought.

But then again, the episode is called Dark Water so it WILL be River.