Doctor Who Review: Dark Water

Clara suffers a personal tragedy which leads to some rather unwise decision-making and some… startling… discoveries. This is the first part of a two-part season finale.

Cast and Crew Information

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald
Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink
Michelle Gomez as Missy
Joan Blackham as Woman
Sheila Reid as Gran
Chris Addison as Seb
Andrew Leung as Dr Chang
Antonio Bourouphael as Boy
Jeremiah Krage as (redacted to preserve plot surprises)
Nigel Betts as Mr Armitage

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Produced by Peter Bennet

Premise

Clara makes some bad choices, which leads the TARDIS to a mysterious place and some surprising, arc-fulfilling revelations.

High Point

  • The darkest day, blackest hour. Chin up, shoulders back. Let’s see what we’re made of, you and I.
  • Actually, the Doctor’s pep talks generally are excellent
  • The numerous moments of reveal are extremely well-handled

Low Point

  • I really was expecting someone else.

The Review

Well it certainly felt original with a lot of surprises and unexpected elements coming into play. Some of what we’re seeing is familiar territory for the show, but it’s a very fresh combination. Five out of six.

The effects tell us where the money went from last week’s. There’s some very impressive work here. Five out of six.

The story is full of surprises, twists, turns and other vile heart-wrenching things. It may be paced slightly too neatly to fit a double episode structure, but that doesn’t harm it excessively. Five out of six.

The acting is wonderful, particularly from Capaldi, Coleman, Anderson and Gomez. Fortunately the newer cast members are capable of keeping up with these four. Six out of six.

The production is careful and feels quite deliberate. We’re still seeing some of the interesting angles and camera movement which started in Capaldi’s first episode and it’s well-used here. There are also visual clues scattered all over the episode that somehow don’t quite fall into place until the episode is good and ready to let you realise what it means. Five out of six.

The emotional response starts strong and basically stays there. I’m feeling genuinely high stakes here, and am anxious to find out where things go now. Six out of six.

Overall, this episode more than makes up for a couple of disappointing weeks and is modern Doctor Who at its best. Six out of six.

In total, Dark Water receives thirty-eight out of forty-two.

8 replies on “Doctor Who Review: Dark Water”

  1. Who were you expecting, any why was this a bad thing? This is exactly who I was expecting, right down to the name.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      I had potentially guessed the correct identity because of the name, too, but when she talked about being the Time Lady he left behind, part of me wondered if they were going to pull a totally unexpected twist and we were going to learn that it was Susan Foreman.

      • zocalo says:

        I had pondered that scenario too, particularly given the references going all of the way back to the Hartnell era like Coal Hill School and so on, but while New Who references Old Who, it seldom leans that heavily on the backstory so it didn’t feel too likely. My other theory was that it was an older Clara bitter at how things had panned out with Danny due the Doctor complicating their relationship – “Missy” implying unwed. I was actually thinking that was indeed the way they were going to go from the moment it become clear that Danny was about to show why it’s a bad idea to go use a phone while walking, more so during the scene with the keys, but ruled it out after the one with the patch.

        Nice work by the team in keeping us unsure right up to the final reveal, I thought.

        • I had proposed the correct answer as to who Missy was at first, but during this episode I had begun to question it. Her ‘left behind’ rant made me think it might be Romana, and I don’t recall the fate of the Rani, but the character’s behavior seemed more in line with hers so I was suspecting her as well. Susan never crossed my mind, but that wouldn’t have been a horrible guess either.

          I’m kind of sad it didn’t turn out to be someone else, but the reveals were all excellently done.

        • quantaman says:

          I managed to not only be blissfully unaware of Missy’s identity beforehand, but I was so oblivious that I didn’t even clue into the fact they were hitting the Missy storyline until Danny’s interview.

          I loved Missy’s identity. A lot of people have been talking about wanting a female Doctor, and while I’m not sure that would be a good idea I defiantly like how they’ve been exploring the concept.

  2. Kiersten says:

    OMG!
    Missy / the Master, kissed with TONGUE!!!
    OMG!!!

  3. Brian says:

    Were there pirates? Please tell me there were pirates upon this “dark water.”

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