Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Devil is Six: An Overanalysis of "Dark Water"

I wasn't able to say this on Facebook because I don't want to spoil things for people who haven't seen the episode, but since this blog has a spoiler warning on it:

I called it and, not only do I have this blog to prove it, but I also mentioned back in the last episode of my Podcast that I thought Missy was the Master.  Now that I've gotten that out of my system, moving on...

I call it the Unholy Trinity of Doctor Who villains.  The Daleks, The Cybermen, The Master.  If you threw out all of the other villains of the show--The Zygons, The Ice Warriors, The Silurians, The Weeping Angels--you'd have a far less interesting show, but you'd still have Doctor Who.  They are the main pillars that hold up the show and they will continue to come back no matter how many times they are seemingly destroyed.  In the history of the show, almost all possible combinations of any two of these three villains have been seen:  The Master and the Daleks teamed up (however briefly) in "Frontier in Space," while the Daleks and the Cybermen presented a dual front for the Doctor back in "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday."  However, up until "Dark Water," we had never seen the Master team up with the Cybermen.  It's a simple, cheap gimmick to bring together two of the most popular villains, but it's one that makes me positively giddy every time I see it.  And never has it been done in quite so imaginative a way as this.

Now, if only Radagast the Brown had kept his damn mouth shut, it would have been a much bigger surprise!

"Ain't I a stinker!"
Not that it was too hard to come up with the idea that Missy was short for Mistress, the female version of Master.  I may have brought it up in my last blog, but I wasn't the only person on the Internet who made the exact same guess.  Also, I can't believe that the BBC released what was essentially the last scene, revealing that the Cybermen were behind everything.  Not that that was the only way in which that information was let out early:  The trailer last week showed a Cyberman in a room with Clara (in a scene that it seems is from next week's episode).  On top of that, there was a photo that came out even before the season started that showed one of the final scenes of this episode with Missy, the Doctor, and some Cybermen.  It felt like those first two seasons of the revived series, where far too much was given away in the damn trailers at the end of episodes.  A lot of things were poorly kept secrets about this episode, to the point where I was pretty sure that Missy was the Master, but I still kept jumping up and down as I heard the slow reveal, so excited to see my favorite villain return.  Also, as she started describing herself ("two hearts, both of them yours") my mind started to go to the Valeyard, and I was beginning to be excited about that possibility as well.  But, ultimately, Missy being the Master is so much more exciting.

The Doctor and the Master have always had a weird respect for each other, on top of their hatred for each other.  The Third Doctor, back in "The Sea Devils," says that they were old friends from back in their school days.  And, as I mentioned in my last post, according to the expanded Universe, The Doctor and The Master were part of the same elite clique at the Time Lord Academy.  I've always wanted to know what made them turn against each other.  (But, no, I've never wanted to know so much that I wanted to see a spin-off about it.  Please don't make that spin-off!)  However, it seems that friendship ran a little deeper than I had thought.  Apparently all it takes for the two of them to jump on top of each other is for one of them to switch genders.  I suppose it's true what the Tenth Doctor said to the Fifth Doctor back in "Time Crash":  "No, no beard this time.  Well, a wife."

And Michelle Gomez (of the Scottish Gomezes, apparently), who we've only gotten to see tiny little glimpses of throughout the season, finally came out to shine in this episode as our first ever female Master, and boy did she shine in the role.  While John Simm will probably always hold a special place in my heart for his particularly manic Master, Michelle Gomez's Mistress is at least on par if not a little bit better.  Her evil is buried just ever so slightly below the surface.  Where Simm's Master unleashed his full fury at almost all times, Michelle Gomez's Mistress harkens back more to the restrained sadism of the original Master, Roger Delgado.  Only, you know, in a dress.

"What?  I look good in a dress, too!"
Funnily enough, while researching this, I discovered that Michelle Gomez is married to Jack Davenport.  For those of you who don't know the significance of that, Davenport was pretty much the star of what was probably Moffat's second most famous show, Coupling, where he more-or-less played a slightly fictionalized version of Steven Moffat himself.  Besides the fact that Davenport's character was named Steve, and his girlfriend's name was Susan (the name of Moffat's real life wife), I take the character of Steve to be based on Moffat himself due to Moffat's explanation about what happened to the characters after the show ended:

"Steve and Susan have two children now, and have recently completed work on a sitcom about their early lives together. They’re developing a new television project, but it keeps getting delayed as he insists on writing episodes of some old kids show they recently pulled out of mothballs."

So that's pretty cool, but enough about the real world.  

How the hell did "The Mistress" get here?  She tells the Doctor he left her (him? The pronouns are getting confusing here) for dead.  Well, yeah.  He had good reason to.  The Master was pretty far gone by the end of "The End of Time."  After Lucy ruined his resurrection, he was hemorrhaging energy, and even if the Doctor had just done nothing, it looked like the Master was ready to burn out anyway.  I knew he was never done for good, as he never is, no matter how dead he seems to be.  But I would appreciate an explanation next week, and perhaps one better than "His DNA was left on his ex-wife's lips years later" or "The Time Lords just brought him back from the dead for the hell of it."

Okay, enough about The Mistress, as there are other things that happened in this episode, after all.

Funny story, I've actually heard that metaphor about babies in the womb before.  I went to a Catholic school and, every morning, we had a morning prayer over the school's intercom system that usually involved the speaker telling some sort of story that turned into a moral fable.  One of them was about two babies in the womb and one of them insisting there was no such thing as life after birth, while the other one was a firm believer that there had to be something more than that.  The obvious point of the story was to teach us that non-belief is silly.  It may have sold me at the time, but as a 30 year old with a lot more world weariness, not so much.

"There is one, simple, horrible possibility that has never occurred to anyone throughout human history," says Chris Addison's character, with the strange name plate that just reads SEB.  Actually, Mr. Moffat, while I've never actually had a nightmare about anything grabbing me from under my bed, I have had horrifying thoughts about the possibility of the dead being fully conscious.  It's actually why I consider being cremated, because I always thought it might actually be better than the true horror of being forever conscious in a box that I can never get out of.  Thank you, Moffat, for a whole new set of unendurable nightmares.

For the love of God, no!!
Clara and Danny's fight finally did come to something, and boy was that painful.  She's finally ready to stop lying and be honest, and that's exactly when he dies.  But that did lead to probably my favorite line Peter Capaldi has delivered thus far:  "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?"  The Doctor has struggled so much this season in trying to remember how to be a good man, and I wasn't entirely sure that he was going to be that good to her after what she pulled.  In the moment where she tells the Doctor that Danny is dead, his underreaction is just so cold.  "And?"  The Eleventh Doctor wouldn't have been that cold.  Neither would the Tenth.  And I'm not entirely sure the Ninth would be so heartless, at least not by the end of his season.  The Doctor has lost his way, and that coldness felt like further proof of it.  But that one line where he tells Clara how much he cares about her, even after her betrayal, is a reminder that somewhere inside, the Doctor is still the Doctor.

It looks to me like Missy must have had something to do with Danny's death.  We never saw the actual accident (probably at least in part because the BBC wouldn't let them, it is a kid's show after all).  But Missy obviously wanted the Doctor to find her from the beginning.  All the people she's been targeting all season have all ben people the Doctor has come into contact with.  And she mentioned the Doctor when the half-faced man showed up in "heaven."  I mean, she is the Master, and the Master can hardly pull off a big scheme without making sure the Doctor is watching.  But is that all that's happening, or is there a specific reason she wanted the Doctor there?

I also can't figure out, for the life of me, what's supposed to happen when Danny presses that button on the iPad.  So, that just disconnects him from his body in the real world?  Why?  What would be the upside of that for The Mistress?  And I don't know how that kid is going to come into the plot later on, but he's going to have a pretty huge role pretty soon.  Possibly, he's going to save Danny, showing the kind of forgiveness only a small angel could show.

Oh, and also, you have Steve Jobs in the afterlife, so that's why you have iPads?  So, Steve Jobs talked some other inventor in the afterlife into creating them for everyone?  Because Steve Jbs never invented shit, he just marketed other people's shit.

In an interview with MTV, Michelle Gomez said, when asked what she could tease about the second half of this episode: "Oh, just watch it, it’s very good. You wont be disappointed – and nothing that you think is happening is happening… Nothing."  So now I have no idea, because I thought I had a really good idea of what was happening.  The Mistress (I'm not sure she insists on using "The," but I'm going to insist on using it for her) has teamed up with the Cybermen to use all of the dead people on Earth, turn them into Cybermen, and use that to battle the human race.  So what else is going on?  I'm not sure.  Davies probably would have left it at that, but it makes sense that Moffat would have another clever little twist up his sleeve.  And I can't wait to see what it is!  Like I said, I do think Moffat is eventually going to start catching some hell for giving us a female Master before he gave us a female Doctor, but I don't care.  He's given us this version of the Master who is truly creepy.  I'm just ecstatic to see my favorite villain in the Doctor Who universe back again!  Welcome, Michelle Gomez, to one of the most important roles in Doctor Who cannon.  I can't wait to see where this is going!

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