"Do you really think that I care for you so little, that betraying me would make any difference?"
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Clara go to hell for Danny, and Missy's identity is revealed.
REVIEW: First-run, the big question was whether this episode, which on the whole feels like it's all set-up for the finale, would stand up to repeat viewings, or if knowing all the answers would kill the buzz. I'm happy to report it actually got better with age. Because it's more than set-up, it's actually misdirection. It's an episode that takes its full meaning after you've seen Death in Heaven, and watching it a second time is a pleasurable experience as things dawn on you that merely intrigued before. Like Missy's Heaven. It's actually a version of the Matrix, that repository of Time Lord minds (waste not, want not) with virtual reality properties AND the ability to archive whatever a TARDIS "sees", which all fits what we see of it here. There's a lot of horrific talk about the dead staying conscious and feeling whatever happens to their bodies, but these are plainly lies ("be skeptical!"), with everything designed to push the uploaded mind/soul to press DELETE (oooh, hint!) on an iPad so the Cybermen Missy is creating can have "operating systems" devoid of personality and the attachments one builds up over the course of one's life. Because one question you might ask after the first viewing is why Missy is joining forces with the Cybermen, but these aren't the Cybermen we've seen before; they're a new breed SHE'S created, an army of the Doctor's friends and foes reincarnated as Cybs. So many lies and red herrings - including the leaked scene/script where Missy reveals she's the Rani - but inside the lies, you'll find the truth. It's a matter of interpretations.
Missy's actual identity wasn't very hard to figure out: Missy, Mistress, Master. It's all part of Moffat's plan to make a female Doctor acceptable to audiences - I'm convinced that's where we'll be going next, CONVINCED I tell ya! - but though a lot of fans had guessed it, Moffat still tries to confound expectations. Missy at first pretends to be an android guide, for example, finds an excuse to kiss the Doctor, and so on. Michelle Gomez makes for a delicious psychopath and could become one of the better Masters. Chris Addison as her Nethersphere attendant Seb still manages to steal the show though. He'd be great at playing the Devil, based on this, hiding great evil in apparent kindness and empathy. The Cybermen are mostly underwater skeletons in the episode, but make for cool zombie-types. They're referencing Tomb of the Cybermen, in a way, and I don't know how I didn't see the two teardrop on the doors as a single Cyber-face first time 'round. X-ray water is a completely bonkers idea, but I'll allow it for the cool reveal.
The real shocker is the death of Danny Pink. It happens abruptly, and like Clara, we might be put off because it was such an ordinary death. Well, until you figure out that it's very likely the car that "came out of nowhere" had Missy at the wheel. It sends Clara into a tailspin, and regardless of what happens in the rest of the episode, the scene in which she tries to force the Doctor to break all the laws of time - inside a volcano, no less! - remains one of the season's best moments. Distraught, she starts throwing TARDIS keys (7 of them... to Doomsday?) into the lava flow, but the Doctor won't back down. It's all a hallucination ("be skeptical!"), but the betrayal is real. Rather wonderfully, the Doctor can get past it and though he agrees to go to Hell (or wherever) to get Danny (telling that his go-to afterlife is Hell), he won't let Clara fall prey to false hope. Danny IS alive after a fashion, or at least a copy of his mind is, but he's being tortured with the child he accidentally killed in the Middle East (so that's what happened), also a denizen of "Heaven", so that he'll push DELETE on the pain. This more than anything fills me with dread. I can take cyber-zombies and so on, but the death of identity (and this theme returns with a vengeance here) is truly horrific to me. Danny's final "I love you", designed to make Clara terminate the call, is another reversal of expectations. Words she wants to hear, but that she can't trust. But at the same time, he means it, and it's a way to sacrifice himself so she can go on. We should be skeptical of everything we see and hear in Dark Water, but perhaps not that. No, not that.
THEORIES: So what Clara trying to tell Danny at the very start of the episode? We know she didn't want to do it face to face, and that she had a hard time getting it out. "I love you" [and only you, forever] was only a prelude. So what was going to follow? Well the prevailing theory is that Clara is pregnant. This will ensure Orson's eventual birth, and would explain why Clara leaves the Doctor in the Christmas special (as is rumored). Like a lot of the episode, much of the evidence has a double-meaning that works both before and after you figure it out. First up are the post-it notes. They list elements from adventures, because Clara was presumably going to tell Danny everything she did with the Doctor, as promised in the previous episode. Two stand out however as possible clues. One of these is "3 months", which sounds like it could be the length of her secret trip, or might be how far along she is. Another says "Miniature Clara", a reference to Into the Dalek... or to a baby? Then there's the Doctor's scan of Clara, where he assesses that she's a mess of chemicals. On the surface, it sounds like he's describing her grief, but could it actually be more than that? On the thematic front, the episode is very much interested in babies and progeny. Missy is giving birth to a new Cyber-race, for one thing, and Seb uses that interesting metaphor about babies communicating womb-to-womb. Is there a reason the script is pointing us towards that image? We'll find out soon enough.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - An episode that works differently but equally well whether you've unlocked its secrets or not, but still not a complete story.