DOCTOR WHO Series Eight Review: “Dark Water” (Co-written With Sabrina Wolfheart @ Books And Bark)

HELLO, WHOVIANS! I’m super-excited because today, I’m reviewing A) one of the finale episodes with B) a super-cool, super-geeky blogger known as Sabrina from Books and Bark. Because “Dark Water” is part of a two-episode story, Sabrina will also be reviewing its sequel, “Death in Heaven,” with me – so be sure to look for it sometime next week!

P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s eighth series here.

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Sabrina is a book-obsessed hermit who rarely ventures out of her cave. When she does, it is usually to get food – contrary to popular belief, an apple a day does not keep the Doctor away – or, very rarely, to experience “social interaction.” On the weekdays, Sabrina must attend school, which is rather fun, but detracts from her fangirling time. When she is not reading or studying, Sabrina spends her days cuddling her dog too much and trying to figure out crafty ways to get her family to get her more books. This Halloween, she accidentally wore a jacket that was reminiscent of the Ninth Doctor’s. She blogs at Books and Bark.

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Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!

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Hey, it’s Engie. I meant what I said just now about spoilers. MEGA SPOILERS EVERYWHERE. If you haven’t seen “Dark Water” yet, I definitely don’t recommend reading this post.

Anyway. Sabrina and I organized this review by subject, rather than as a top ten list or whatever. And, you know, there’s one subject who’s been discussed at the END of every series eight review thus far, so why don’t we talk about her FIRST this time?

P.S. Sabrina’s thoughts are in italics, by the way.

Missy

 [Wordless shrieks of glee and surprise]

WHOA, MOFFAT, I WAS NOT EXPECTING THAT. HOLD YOUR SONIC SCREWDRIVERS! WHAT?! She’s the MASTER?!

[Continues to make unintelligible noises]

When I reviewed the first episode of series eight, I wondered if Missy was the Master. I mean, Missy = the Mistress = the Master isn’t a difficult leap of logic. But that seemed waaaaay too easy, so I thought that it must be a trick. Well, it wasn’t. She was hiding in plain sight… which is an old habit of the Master’s. I mean, the Doctor Who Wiki made an entire page just to list all of the Master’s incredibly obvious aliases throughout the years – including, for heaven’s sake, “Masters” used as a surname. (Find better pseudonyms, dude!)

At first, when she said, “Missy. As in ‘Mistress,’” I thought she was referring to Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s mistress. Given the reference to the S.S. Madame de Pompadour in “Deep Breath,” I thought it was plausible.

In retrospect, even her mannerims and little quips are spot on. I’ve only seen short video clips of most of the earlier Masters, but I can totally imagine Saxon!Master saying/doing the things she did. Like, they have similar attitudes. Which makes sense, since they’re the same person… anyway.

However, it’s like River and Eleven all over again – “mysterious woman appears and starts making out with the Doctor.”

And Clara and Eleven. And Madame de Pompadour. And Queen Elizabeth I. Even Amy has a weird obsession with the Doctor, although that didn’t result in much snogging… thank god.

It was the one thing I really, really did not want this series. 

I’m both happy and a little bit disappointed about it. I mean, I hope Moffat writes the Master* with some depth and doesn’t make her, like, a carbon copy of River Song. We’ll just have to see how it turns out.

But on the other hand, the Doctor and the Master have been frenemies since, well, forever, and the penultimate version (as played by John Simm) really upped the flirtiness/subtext. So it’s not a new idea. Also, it’s now canon that one of the show’s main characters has been more than one gender AND likes more than one gender. I mean, it was already established in the series six episode “The Doctor’s Wife” that time lords can become time ladies and vice versa. But it hadn’t happened to anyone super important yet, so I’m glad it did. (Sets a good precedent for having a lady Doctor someday, too!)

*I’m referring to this regeneration interchangeably as the Master or Missy. I mean, “master” doesn’t really imply a gender. So you’ll see me refer to her either way in future reviews/posts.

I’m actually really excited to see what Missy does next! 

The Doctor

This season, I haven’t exactly been pleased with the Doctor (even less so than I was with Eleven). He keeps making snide comments to Clara, which is so NOT OKAY on a family-centric show. And he does it again in this episode.

Yes, I don’t understand that. I think the writers are trying to show that he doesn’t fancy her anymore, but there are better ways of showing that! And they don’t involve being mean! I mean, he told her in the first episode of this series that he’s “not her boyfriend,” so I’m pretty sure we all got the message.

And then like the weirdo that he is, he takes Clara to see Danny, risking both their lives for a guy he apparently deeply despises.

Yeah, he changed his mind so suddenly, didn’t he? I wouldn’t mind if he eventually liked Danny – I’d love to see that – but it should happen gradually in order to be believable. Clara and the Doctor have been fighting about Danny for WEEKS, so I don’t know why he was so eager to rescue him now.

(P.S. I did really like the scene where he tells Clara, “Go to hell!” and she’s like DOCTOR YOU’RE MAKING ME CRY and it turns out he’s being literal. They really are going to hell. Using their time machine!)

Clara Oswald

Clara had such a weird reaction to Danny’s death… it’s like she doesn’t even care about him as a person. She’s defining him by the way he died, complaining that it was too normal for her.

I didn’t understand that. But then, I don’t understand most of the writers’ character-development decisions for Clara.

I mean, I get that she’s in shock, but couldn’t she say something nice about him other than “I love you”? What was with that, anyway? They go on, like, ten dates, spend half of their time arguing with each other, and all of a sudden they love each other? I’m sorry, but I’m not a terribly huge fan of their relationship.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to dislike a couple more than I disliked Amy and Rory, but now I think Clara and Danny take the prize. All that “I love you” stuff is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when it comes to, like, YA love stories or whatever, anyway. I mean, there’s a well-known writing rule that says, “show, don’t tell.” SHOW ME that they love each other. For heaven’s sake, if the writers had to TELL me, they could have at least been more subtle about it. Like, Clara could’ve mentioned something specific that she likes about Danny, or how much she misses him, or whatever.

I don’t know. I just see it as very, very sloppy writing, I guess. Fictional relationships should be believable, and theirs wasn’t. And it was so UNNECESSARY. What was the point of putting those two together?!

Now, about Clara in general, Clara without Danny…

I could really see why the Doctor called her a control freak in “Deep Breath,” because she is. Everything for both the Doctor and Clara is about control.

Yeah, I didn’t understand that comment in “Deep Breath,” but maybe it foreshadowed what was to come? She’s definitely become controlling.

Her behavior at the volcano was just… erratic. If Rose, Martha, Donna, or even Amy had pulled that with the Doctor, he would have thrown them out of the TARDIS, right then and there. Unless I missed something, Clara didn’t do a single nice or admirable thing.

Yeah. That scene (among many others throughout this series and the one before) made me feel sorry for Jenna Coleman, the actress who plays Clara. Like, she gets really LOUSY, not-good-character-development scenes to work with. It didn’t fit with things she’s done previously. It was melodramatic and ridiculous and… blah.

(Also, this isn’t strictly related to Clara, but… after she threw away the keys, why didn’t the Doctor open the TARDIS by snapping his fingers? I mean, come on, Moffat wrote this episode AND he wrote the one – “Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead” – in which the finger-snapping thingy was established. Sure, the quality of some other aspects of his writing are just a matter of opinion, but you can’t argue that he has a problem with keeping track of what he’s written before. It’s just weird.)

Danny Pink

Well, I’ve mentioned multiple times in the comments of your previous reviews that Danny’s and Clara’s relationship is not my favorite. I don’t think there’s any depth to it, and it feels sort of like a poorly-written version of Rose’s and Mickey’s relationship.

And now Danny will never end up with someone who actually deserves him!

In this episode especially, there was a lot of space for Danny to evolve as a character outside of their relationship, as well as space to explore what it is to be a soldier. (Think of the little boy whom he accidentally killed during the war.) Instead, we see Danny as already being developed, and he realizes everything he’s done wrong. I think having the little boy speak to him would have been nice, but Danny’s “I’m so, so sorry” reaction is reminiscent of the Doctor’s.

UGH THEY COULD HAVE DONE SO MUCH MORE WITH THAT SCENE. Like, he’s an interesting character on his own, but the writers keep glossing over all the interesting parts.

Ultimately, he’s just someone who’s nice for Clara to look at. He’s honestly only played a tiny part in the story so far. (I mean, until he was Clara’s motivation to destroy TARDIS keys to get what she wants…) If Clara weren’t leaving at Christmas (I’ve heard that her actress quit), I would have loved to see him join Team TARDIS like Mickey did. But, um, without the teenagery-love-triangle aspect of Rose/Mickey/Ten.

If Danny and the Doctor didn’t fight so much, I would’ve loved to see Clara leave and Danny take her place. But whatever. RIP, Danny Pink. You had a decent amount of new-character potential and then it just went POOF and disappeared.

(P.S. I suspect you return in Cyberman form sometime during next week’s episode. I AM NOT READY FOR THIS.)

Cybermen

We didn’t see much of them in this episode, but Cybermen are always bad news for the Doctor. I really liked the concept of dark water. I thought, “Oh, a creepy skeleton episode for the day after Halloween,” but NOPE. Cybermen! Although how the Doctor walked through those CYBERMAN-EYE-SHAPED DOORS and didn’t even bat an eyelid eludes me…

Oh, god. The Cybermen’s BIG REVEAL was excellent for me, because I am SO FREAKING OBLIVIOUS at times. Here are all the clues I failed to notice:

  • The door windows were shaped like Cyberman eyes
  • 3W’s logo was shaped that way as well
  • Missy said the skeletons were encased in armor
  • Dr. Chang proved that “dark water” hides anything metal
  • There was a close-up shot of a tear in Danny’s eye that looked like a Cyberman’s eye
  • The Cyberman theme music played multiple times

And last but not least, I KNEW they would feature in the finale. I guess I thought maybe they’d show up right at the very end? I don’t know. But I was kind of oblivious, and it made their appearance that much more awesome.

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Engie here, again. Time for the conclusion, and for our thoughts on this episode overall!

I really liked the idea of the dark water, and it was nice to have some good old, RTD-era Cybermen and Master stuff thrown in. And I liked the idea of the Nethersphere, and the whole cremation concept gave me chills. Really, I thought this had classic Moffat trademark of great concept, not-so-great execution. The magic of RTD’s Who was really in the characters, and how well-developed they were, even though the plot was sub-par sometimes. Moffat has these awesome plotlines, but sometimes, with sub-par characters. If I had to give this episode a rating, it would be 3.5/5. 

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What is YOUR opinion on “Dark Water?” I’d love to know!

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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16 Responses to DOCTOR WHO Series Eight Review: “Dark Water” (Co-written With Sabrina Wolfheart @ Books And Bark)

  1. moosha23 says:

    GAH!!! Have you watched the last episode yet?
    I personally didn’t like Missy as the Master, sure there were some moments (in the final episode) where she seemed like the Master but most of the time it felt like she was trying to be the Master and sort of failing. Clara’s control-freak nature was apparent from the beginning for me, but I really loved how she duped the cybermen (in the final episode) and the preview on dark water showed her to be some sort of evil woman which wasn’t true. That was very sad.
    How could you miss the cybermen cues?? I got it when the Doctor and the tech guy left Clara and the lift doors closed to show the cybermen eyes and the theme tune played. then everything made sense. It was awesome! I’m glad Clara’s leaving, but on the final episode they slashed so many really good plot archs!!! And you’re right about Danny, he was such an interesting character…but they seemed to take advantage of him and turn him into some sort of flat guy. Your heart will break for him in the next episode though. Really, that’s the only thing I’m sad about. And the Doctor realises something about himself (again)…oh I don’t know. All my feelings for the whole series are really scrambled. 🙂

    • nevillegirl says:

      YES I HAVE OMG.

      Hmm, well, to each their own! 🙂 I think Missy reminded me even MORE of Saxon!Master in “Death in Heaven,” and I really like her chemistry with Twelve. (Not /necessarily/ romantic chemistry, but, like… I just really like their interactions and their frenemy stuff.)

      I have NO IDEA how I was so clueless about the Cybermen. Oh, well. xD

      Omg, Danny. Honestly, I think his best scene was in his very last episode. ❤ I wish he could've traveled with the Doctor…

      • moosha23 says:

        What did you think of the last episode overall? I think they hurried a lot of it – we could’ve gotten so much more from it!

    • nevillegirl says:

      Hmmm… I think the parts with UNIT were definitely rushed, but on the other hand I felt that the parts with Clara + Danny were unnecessarily drawn out! So I think in the end it all balanced out for me. 😛

      • moosha23 says:

        I felt that the whole Missy poofing in the end was really rushed (I still think that she isn’t really dead). The ending was really sad but it was perfect. The cybermen newborns were just so unnecessary…there were no scary parts in this finale. None at all. And what happened to the ghostly singing? I thought that it was part of the whole episode not just a soundtrack! Really good build up to the finale but really anticlimatic for me. 😦

    • nevillegirl says:

      Of course she’s not dead! She teleported away. 🙂 I’ve read loads of reviews already and it seems like a lot of people thought she died, though. But that blue flash was for a teleport, I believe. When she vaporized people it was orange.

      Yeah, I’m not so sure how I feel about the Cybermen now. I LOVED the concept of hiding them in the dark water, and I liked the cloud/rebirth/graves stuff, but then the Cybermen didn’t DO much. *pouts*

      I really liked that singing too… oh, well.

      • moosha23 says:

        Yay! Hah…I had an inkling that she might not be dead (crosses fingers)…and well if she isn’t dead…than I’m happy…I’m looking forward to the next series anyhow…I want more Missy appearances! (And time for a new companion!).
        The dark water concept was so interesting and they could have done so much more with it (it was so creepy and awesome at the same time…I loved Part 1 to the finale!). The rebirth was scary, but yeah, it was disappointing when the Cybermen just wondered around doing the robot move.
        Series 9 better be absolutely awesome! And the Christmas episode seems kind of funny (it’s following the pattern of the last couple of years)…this time Nick Frost is appearing!

    • nevillegirl says:

      Tbh I just want 12 to finally visit Gallifrey again and bound out of his TARDIS all excited and everything only to find Missy standing right outside going hiiiiiiiiii Doctor and then he’s like oh god it’s you again why. 😛 That would amuse me muchly.

      So, yeah, what I want for series 9 is:
      1) A new, better-written companion
      2) MISSY!
      3) Vastra, Jenny, and Strax

  2. Yayz! (I do not know if it is socially acceptable to comment on a post you have half-written, but I am doing it anyways.) This has turned out fantastic. 🙂 I’m so pumped to see the last episode tonight. ❤ ❤ I have to wait until my mom has time, though, because it's more fun to watch it with a fellow Whovian… and besides, I caught her searching for spoilers on Facebook last night. I almost had to confiscate her phone. 😛

    (Oh, and I just got the time to completely look through all the Master's aliases… It's kind of creepy that both he and the Doctor have gone by "Dr. John Smith" at some point. *screams parallels are fantastic* Do Time Lords seriously hear of no other male Earthen names?)

    • nevillegirl says:

      *seconds Sabrina’s “yayz!”* 😛
      (Why not? 😛 I mean, you didn’t really know my thoughts on the episode yet except for KSADJGSHDLGJHGLDSHGLDGHA from my first email. xD)
      Ehehe, that’s so funny about your mom! …I tried showing MY mom “The End of Time” last night and she fell asleep. 😦 *le sigh* I’m determined to make a Whovian of her yet. She did ask if there might ever be a lady Doctor, though, so that’s cool. 🙂

      (I know, right? They’re soooo obvious. *giggles at dorky time lords/ladies*)

  3. I have nothing more to add because you’ve said all my points in your last paragraph, but I feel like I should comment anyway. The thing I’m most disappointed with is the Missy reveal. Okay, hiding in plain sight (and Michelle Gomez is AMAZING. She is exactly how I picture the Master), but I feel like they could have done so much more with that character in terms of NEW. However, because it harked back to old RTD atmosphere, I’d also give 3.5.

  4. themagicviolinist says:

    OH MY GOSH I totally forgot about that finger snapping thing! 😛 Why in the world would he have keys at this point to give to anyone except his current companion? His enemies could get a hold of the TARDIS with those.

    I saw that “Go to hell” thing coming. XD Not for one second did I think he was directing it at her. But it was so funny to watch.

    Okay, Clara after Danny died was just weird and, well, creepy. Especially after she started throwing the TARDIS keys away. I honest to God thought she’d been posessed or the Doctor was having a nightmare or something. It all just seemed way too . . . dreamlike. Freaky.

    Then the Doctor just forgave her so easily. I mean, I get that they’re friends–really, really close friends–but she just proved that she was going to throw away THE FREAKING KEYS TO HIS TARDIS. He STROKES pieces of it and talks to it and loves it more than anything. And he’s just like, “Oh yeah, you went absolutely psycho and almost got us trapped here, no biggie.” What was up with that?

    Anyway, besides all that, I really like it. 🙂 Both parts of the finale were absolutely fantastic (and yes, I did just say that on purpose).

  5. Pingback: “Doctor Who” Series Eight Recap: Reviews + Thank You + Lists + Analyses | Musings From Neville's Navel

  6. Pingback: Dear Mr. Moffat, Series 8 Edition | Books and Bark

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