This review contains spoilers
Well, everything has its time and everything ends – Doctor Who included. After what’s been a pretty strong season of Doctor Who in parts (though there’ve definitely been some dud episodes), it’s time for a finale – in two parts! I’ve mentioned before that that’s a good decision – an extra part gives the finale room to breathe, and this one spends most of its runtime sitting down and looking at the characters.
So what actually happens? Well, for starters, Clara’s boyfriend and the Doctor’s sort-of-but-not-really-companion Danny Pink gets unceremoniously killed while crossing the road, and Clara takes it honestly quite badly. So badly that she tricks the Doctor into flying her to a volcano, drugs him and steals his TARDIS keys, and gives him an ultimatum – either he can go back and save Danny, risking all of time in the process, or he’ll never open his TARDIS again.
Meanwhile, Danny wanders around the afterlife – it turns out there IS one, run by the smiley-if-sinister corporation 3W who’re trying to cure death (I assume they forgot about Torchwood’s Miracle Day, but frankly I really really don’t blame them). And a couple of the Doctor’s very old enemies are lining up to take over the world…
Any episode that starts with a major character death in the first five minutes is gonna throw its characters through the wringer, and ‘Dark Water’ doesn’t disappoint. Danny’s death breaks Clara enough to bring her darker side out, which allows Jenna Coleman to turn in what’s possibly her best performance this series. The scene at the volcano was a personal highlight, as was the scene later in 3W’s headquarters where she actually manages to find Danny.
Danny, of course, has his own problems to work through, the least of which is that whole “being dead” thing. It turns out that, during his career as a soldier, he killed a child by accident – and the child’s ended up in the afterlife, and wants to see him. Their interactions are limited, but pack a real impact. Danny spends most of the episode adjusting to Heaven (or, strictly speaking, the Nethersphere) alongside celestial bureaucrat Seb, who Chris Addison plays with an enjoyably smarmy relish.
An episode about death also means that this one’s a strong contender for creepiest of the season. We learn that in the Nethersphere, the dead can still feel everything that happens to their bodies, and communications with the outside world can be summed up as a constant plea of “don’t cremate me”. That’s an unpleasant little image that’ll stick in your head.
Beyond that, the Cybermen are back, and after a string of so-so showings, they actually manage to come off as a little scary this time round. They work best when their former humanity’s made explicit, rather than just making them stomping robots, and the idea of human souls consciously and willingly deleting their emotions to become one’s an unnerving thought.
It’s just a shame about the OTHER classic villain making their return this time round. You see, the mysterious Missy’s actually rival Time Lord the Master, in his first female regeneration – a twist most people’d guessed ten minutes after Deep Breath – and from what we’ve seen of her, she’s depressingly similar to most of the other female villains Steven Moffat’s tried to write. A flirty, well-dressed psychopath who spends half her time talking about how much she wants to shag the hero – probably the most direct comparison’d be Melody Pond, or Irene Adler from Sherlock. Maybe she’ll get better later. We’ll see.
For now, though, all the graves on Earth are about to give birth, and a bunch of Cybermen are doing an Invasion homage and clomping down the steps of St. Paul’s. Can the Doctor save the day, bring back Danny and stop Clara’s shuffle to the dark side? Well, I guess we’ll find out next week…