So, we’ve finally reached it, the first part of the Series 8 Season Finale, Dark Water.
In many ways it feels like we’ve come a long way, since a certain newly regenerated titular character, burst out of The Tardis, on the banks a very Victorian, River Thames.
We’ve had a dinosaur, a bank heist, first dates, Robin Hood, a forest that sprung up over night, and robots, lots of robots, but in the end, everything that has transpired for this new Doctor, and his companion Clara Oswald, comes down to how well these story strands, and narrative themes, can be weaved together in this, Series finale.
Follow me now as I take a long, rambling look at the 11th episode of Series 8.
For me at least, Dark Water often feels like two episodes squished together.
On the one hand you have a story that is centred around the tumultuous subjects of loss, grief, manipulation, and exactly how far someone might go to save the person they love.
The other half of the story feels as if it’s running to keep up, revealing just enough of the fate of Danny Pink, The Nethersphere, while simultaneously, shoehorning in the unmasking of the identity of Doctor Who’s latest mystery woman, Missy.
Death and Danny Pink.
Death has been the unseen companion of The Doctor and Clara Oswald since Deep Breath, and we the audience have glimpsed what becomes of the casualties once they have suffered their often brutal demise, which is usually a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake with the mysterious, Missy.
In Dark Water, however, death claims an even greater prize, in the form of Clara’s boyfriend, the former soldier, turned maths teacher, Mr Danny Pink.
Romantic partners don’t get an easy ride in Moffat’s NuWho, just ask Rory Williams, the long suffering spouse of Amy Pond, who was doomed to die, whenever the plot needed a little emotional tension.
Poor Rory Williams died so many times, that his potential demise at any given moment, and Lazarus like tendencies, became something of a running joke, but there is nothing funny about the death of Danny Pink.
This in many ways is where Series 8, and more importantly the era of the 12th Doctor, chooses to stamp its individuality, from what has gone before.
While Rory Williams usually came back to life, and the 11th Doctor always tried in some way to ease his passing for Amy, there is no such comfort offered to Clara, and she is shown having to fight, bargain, blackmail, and even beg the Doctor into helping her save the man she loves.
More than this, Danny’s death is devoid of any heroism, or greater meaning.
Not to be to morbid about it, Danny Pink dies in a way that any of us could on any given day, and it’s a salutary lesson on always remembering to concentrate while crossing the road.
I only speak the truth.
Although the conventional story arc of Series 8, centres around the identity of the character of Missy, and more importantly her relationship with, and to, The Doctor and Clara, the emotional arc of this series, is focused on betrayal, and the lies people tell one another.
Series 8 finds Clara lying to The Doctor about new squeeze Danny Pink, while at the same time lying to Danny about all the space and time travelling she enjoys when they’re not together, and of course The Doctor lies to just about everyone, because that’s just what he does.
Dark Water opens with the decision Clara had reached in the conclusion of the previous episode, In the Forest of the Night, to finally tell her boyfriend, Danny Pink the truth, about well everything.
Three months anyone?
The horrible, if brilliant twist in this episode, arrives in Clara’s deciding to tell Danny the truth over the phone, instead of waiting for him to reach her flat.
Clara is so nervous, excited, and unable to hold off on all this truth-telling, that her desperation to finally be honest, along with her declarations of true, undying love, distracts Mr Pink ,to the point where he literally walks out into on coming traffic.
In the end it all counts for nothing, Clara never gets to be honest, and Danny never learns the truth.
The unexpected death of Danny Pink, leads Clara to what may be considered as the ultimate, if understandable betrayal of The Doctor, when she decides that the only course of action left to her in her desperation to bring Danny back to life, is to blackmail The Doctor into using The Tardis.
Clara betrays The Doctor in two ways, firstly in using her knowledge of the places he hides the spare keys to The Tardis against him, and secondly, by using the thing The Doctor cares the most about, his precious Tardis, as leverage, holding The Tardis and The Doctor literally hostage to her will, and her grief.
A great deal has been written about Clara’s actions in this moment,and while they may seem crazed, manipulative, and even cruel, how many of us wouldn’t do the very same thing, if our best friend owned a time machine?
In conclusion, the strengths of Dark Water, lies in the emotional weight it puts on the death of a main character, and the impact that has, on the relationship between The Doctor and Clara.
The failure of this episode on the other hand, as mentioned previously, is that it feels as if it’s left itself too much to do to in terms of weaving some coherent narrative from the snatches of Missy and her assistant Seb that we have been treated to thus far.
Overall I’d give this episode a 6/10.
It probably would have been a 7, if we’d got some interaction between Ollie Reeder and Malcolm Tucker.