Sunday 2 November 2014

Doctor Who: Dark Water

Water Palaver

Doctor Who: Dark Water
UK Airdate: 1st November 2014

Warning: All the spoilers will be in here... although you might not think much of them once they are revealed.

You know, I really hate it when works of art like books, films, TV shows etc have the same title as another work... it just confuses things. So, the first episode of the two part season finale is upon us and it’s called Dark Water. Not to be confused with the many, many other instances of movies, TV shows and books also called Dark Water... okay?

This episode was a real humdinger of disappointment... not because the episode was consistently bad, it wasn’t... most of it was quite good... but because the big reveal turned out to be something that I personally thought that if Steven Moffat had gone with that option, then he would have been run out of town on a rail for trying something so obvious and anticlimactic... I’ll get to that in a minute.

The show opens strongly with the death of new series regular Danny Pink. Now while this was somewhat tempered with the “I’ve seen this all before” factor (Moffat did this at least once with Rory, from what I remember) and the fact that we’ve been seeing people dying and then returning to something of a life as a part of this season’s running story arc, it still had a certain dramatic weight which gave Jenna Coleman something good to work with and an impetus to threaten The Doctor... so that was good. Yes, you kinda knew the character would be back from the dead in two shakes of a lambs tail but, still, it kinda worked and drove the plot forward to Clara’s confrontation with The Doctor (even though there’s no way she would have done that when she’s, after all, lived many lives through The Doctors various incarnations). 

Then we had some great stuff with the novel concept of X-Ray water (presumably the Dark Water of the title) and, even though you knew it was the cybermen sitting in those tanks because, heck, the BBC had trailered it as such, it was still quite novel to see the moving skeletons and it made for some nice imagery and some nice gobbledy gook sci-fi talk with The Doctor and Clara. After this though, everything went a bit pear shaped, to be honest so... excuse me if this is a short review but I don’t have much interesting to write about beyond this point.

The thing is... I don’t mind seeing the cybermen again, even if they’ve been overused to death since they first reappeared in the Peter Davison years. I even liked the homage to The Invasion, as this episode gave a little nod to the cybermen coming down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral like they did in the Patrick Troughton serial. No, the whole thing wrong with this was the reveal on Missy.

Now, the first reveal which came up early on in the episode... that she was an android software thingy... was an obvious blind put there to pad the running time, is my guess. Nobody was going to be fooled by that. However, it’s the actual reveal at the end of the episode which I really wish I was saying exactly the same thing about. It's like they deliberately put in a rubbish reveal to distract from the fact that the real answer to the mystery is equally lame. I really wish it was a red herring, to be honest...

To explain. The first thing everybody thinks of when they hear that there’s a character in the series called Missy is... “Oh, that’s Missy short for Mistress. So she’s a regenerated incarnation of The Master then?” And then you think to yourself and realise... no way can anybody be that obvious. It’s got to be a red herring because, frankly, it requires no thought at all and it’s a bit dull. All that does is set up that timelords can change sexes in the minds of the viewers to pave the way for a female Doctor at some point. There’s no way an adult is going to look at that for more than five minutes and think it’s anything but a bit of rubbish.

As I was reminded only last week on twitter, Doctor Who is a children’s show. Well, no it’s not actually... I think you’ll find it was always aimed at being a “family” show and, when you start putting it on after 8pm at night, that pushes that idea of its target audience even further. But you know what? Even a five year old these days would have no problem jumping to the conclusion of Missy = Mistress = Master in 5 minutes flat and would be equally dismissive, I suspect. Look at the sophisticated storyline twists on our cinema screens these days and compare them to what happened in last night's episode. This is not up to the calibre I expect from this show and it’s a pity because Peter Capaldi makes an excellent Doctor and Clara and Danny are more than up to the task too. There’s some great performances here and they’re being wasted on the whole Missy thing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy, in anything else but she seems pretty good as an actress too.. but the writing on this doesn’t give her much to work with, to be fair. 

And it’s such a shame because this could have gone to some very dark and interesting places... just like the promising opening of the episode was showing. So, a recap... 

Danny Pink dying = good, although not expected to be that lasting. Especially with his great grandchild or whatever roaming the universe in an earlier episode.

Clara VS The Doctor = good stuff (shame it was just a dream state illusion).

X-Ray water = a really nice idea befitting good science fiction.

Again with the Cybermen = tolerable, just.

Again with the Cybermen at St. Paul’s Cathedral = somewhat more tolerable.

Missy = total waste of time, doesn’t all quite make sense in terms of dead people actually dying... must do better. And I’m not even going to mention the incest implied in one scene by this so called revelation.

My one slim chance at a satisfying conclusion to next weeks episode has to be the twitter buzz that there’s more revelation on the characters to come. I hope so but I somehow doubt it. I would expect a failed suicide attempt from Clara (so she can join Danny and be talked down by The Doctor), a possible rescue on Danny Pink, some rubbishy loose ended timelord stuff which makes no sense, even in current revisionist continuity, The Doctor and Clara parting ways for good (until Christmas)... and a punchline of Missy being around for next year’s season, if the BBC doesn’t cancel the series in the meantime.

To be fair, I really hope I’m wrong on all the above points. I would be really happy about that. So let’s see what happens next, shall we?

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