In many ways, I feel like whoever edited the preview seen at the end of “In the Forest of the Night” did a huge disservice to the two-part season finale by including footage from both episodes in the preview. I get that it’s hard for the BBC to not publicize the return of an old monster like the Daleks or (in this case) the Cybermen, but I felt like a lot of the tension that “Dark Water” was trying to achieve was undermined by the preview and SPOILER photos that had leaked through various tabloids before the season began.
But I still felt like “Dark Water” kept a lot of its cards close to the vest and still had a few surprises along the way.
The most enjoyable was how much it felt like an homage to the Patrick Troughton era Cybermen stories. In most second Doctor Cybermen stories, the Cybermen are a threat for the first half of the story, but really don’t emerge in force and en mass until the mid-point cliffhanger. And that’s what happened here, even if the Doctor doesn’t necessarily realize that the Cybermen are behind the Nethersphere and using it as a way to harvest new humans to convert into Cybermen. The feel of the tanks, running side by side and stacked up several deep, brought to mind visions of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” while the Cybermen emerging into modern day London and among iconic landmarks felt like it was a page right out of “The Invasion.” At one point, I fully expected to see a sewer cap thrown aside and a Cybermen emerge.
And while the Doctor was a bit distracted by the mystery of the Nethersphere and the mystery of just who Missy really is, once we found out the water served as an X-ray of sorts, I knew that it had to be an army of Cybermen lurking right there, ready to emerge and take over the world. Exactly if and how the Cybermen fit into MIssy’s scheme (and what exactly that scheme is) remain to be seen. But given that Moffat is coming back to helm another season of the show, I don’t necessarily expect to get every question answered in next week’s finale.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though I know a lot of on-line fans will disagree — especially those calling for Moffat’s departure sooner rather than later. I don’t necessarily agree with that or their frustration, but I can understand how they’re feeling. It’s pretty much how I felt toward the end of RTD’s run, especially with “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End.”
And I guess this puts me into a minority who liked this episode and have liked the direction the show has taken this year.
I will admit part of me was disappointed that the script teased us that it might go classic series heavy in the revelation of Missy’s identity — for about as long as Moffat wanted to me to think it could be Romana or Susan, I was hoping it might go that way — but I can understand why it has to be the Master and why we should always believe Moffat when he says he wil lie to us. I’m sure this will only add fuel to the fire when Peter Capaldi eventually leaves the show and we wonder why we can’t have a female Doctor. Certainly that door is open, for now. It should be interesting to see how this is addressed in the upcoming second half of the story.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see the dynamic of the Doctor and Clara continue to grow and evolve this year. Clara’s anger and pain at Danny’s death worked well as a catalyst toward her attempted blackmail of the Doctor. Her insistence that he take her back in time to prevent Danny’s death and to rewrite history while she threw the TARDIS keys into lava was a nicely done scene. I also liked that it was underscored by the ringing of the cloister bell. I also wondered if the Doctor might not have a different trick up his sleeve making her think she was destroying them — if there might be an emergency key in his shoe, for example. (Again, it pays homage to classic stories, even being one that was repeated last year for “The Doctors Revisited.”)
Do I necessarily think that Danny will stay dead? I’m not sure, but I can see this as the sequence of events that move Clara from companion to former companion. And I’m not necessarily sure that she was speaking to Danny in the Nethersphere, since he couldn’t recall some aspects of their relationship beyond that he loves her. I wonder if we’ll find out that this was part of the Master’s trap to lure the Doctor there and set into motion…well, whatever the plan is.
It all leaves me eager to see what we’ve got in store this week to wrap up what I feel has been the most consistent season since Matt Smith’s first season. I am probably in the minority on this one, but I’m used that when it comes to Doctor Who.