Caution: This review contains spoilers.
A number of theories have circulated for months concerning the true identity of Missy (Michelle Gomez). One of my favorites, but likely a joke, was the Mary Poppins theory. This one probably stems more from the lady’s old style garb and weird little dance rather than any hard evidence. Other theories seemed to focus on another River Song, an older and vengeful Clara, the Rani, or even the Master. Ultimately, it was quite the reveal last night on “Dark Water.”
The episode begins with the apparent death of Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). Feeling cheated, Clara (Jenna Coleman) goes to the TARDIS to steal the keys and drug the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) after they land by a volcano. For a few painful moments, you’re led to believe that Clara destroys the keys because the Doctor refuses to help her save Danny. However, the sleeping aid is a device that backfires on Clara and puts her in a dreamlike state. Along with the Doctor, we see that Clara will do whatever is necessary to get Danny back.
The Doctor agrees to help her anyway as he tells her, “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” It’s a very loaded line that shows the essence of the Doctor, in spite of the broody and reckless demeanor he’s had throughout series (or season) 8. He says they’re going to Hell or wherever Danny is, which sets up their introduction to Missy of the Promised Land or 3W.
The suspense alternates with some slow moments but Moffat throws in enough one liners to carry the scenes. One of my favorites is when Doctor Chang looks at the Doctor’s “ID” and asks about the swear words. “I’ve got a lot of internalized anger,” the Doctor replies, which is obviously a reference to Capaldi’s time as Malcolm Tucker on “The Thick of It.” That the skeletons are actually the Cybermen comes as no surprise because there’s been no shortage of Cybermen promos lately for the finale. Nonetheless, the big moment when Missy drains the tanks is still utterly spectacular and horrifying all at once.
As I’ve noted in previous posts, Peter Capaldi has been amazing as the Doctor in this series. So far, casting Michelle Gomez opposite him as the major villain seems to be a stroke of genius. Whether they can carry the energy and chemistry into the second half remains to be seen. That brings me to the other major twist: Missy is actually the Master, the Doctor’s archenemy! First she toys around with the Doctor by pretending to be an android, Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface (MISI), complete with the standard 3W welcome package in the form of a kiss. After that, there are hints: the two hearts, the technology of Gallifrey, the egoism, and the obsession with the Doctor.
Eventually Missy has to spell it out, “Well… couldn’t very well call myself the Master, could I?” Missy is an intriguing foil to the Doctor because she is very provocative in her sexuality whereas the Doctor is very oblivious or uncomfortable and appears completely disarmed at any sign of emotion or touch from others. It seems to put her one step ahead of the Doctor, something the previous Masters have been able to do. On the physical level, you also have an interesting visual comparison in the clothes: classically and cleanly cut, though the Doctor’s attire still retains a bit of modernity’s spark with the red lining. Missy’s, on the other hand, will always scream “Mary Poppins” (though some argue the Doctor’s clothes evoke a magician).
Going into the second part, we have a lot of questions: why did Missy choose Clara? Missy seems to exercise a lot of control over the Doctor’s life in picking Clara for him. She gave the number of the TARDIS to Clara in the last series. Will Clara be used as a weapon against the Doctor? How will the Doctor stop Missy and the Cybermen? Will Clara be able to save Danny?
Perhaps there are too many questions to ponder before next Saturday. Instead, let’s revisit some of stellar quotes from last night:
1) “Stop it with the eyes. Don’t do that with the eyes. How do you do that anyway? It’s like they inflate!”
2) “…very realistic.”
3) “Who maintains your heart?”
4) “Can you just hurry up, please, or I’ll hit you with my shoe.”
“Doctor Who” airs Saturday evenings on BBC America at 9|8c.