Having had so much build-up and so many little teaser shots featuring Missy, Seb, and ‘the Promised Land’, it wouldn’t have been much of a shock if the reveal was anti-climatic. Yet that couldn’t have been further from reality, as we were treated to just about one of the best episodes of the revived series.
When there’s absolutely nothing to fault – save for cliffhangers for next week – and oh so much to praise, it’s hard to point out episodes that can match ‘Dark Water’. From not one, but two huge reveals, to the general flow of the episode, to still finding time to weave in humanity and emotion with Clara and Danny – everything was on point.
So, let’s start with the two revelations that back ended the episode. The first, more chilling yet ultimately less significant one, was of course that the dead were in fact dead and had become Cybermen. The concept was something I’d predicted a few weeks back, but nevertheless, the drip feed of references before the full reveal was a treat. There was the brief airing of the Cyber-motif and the tongue-in-cheek hint as Doctor Chang mentioned, “the dark water that houses the skeletons only shows biological matter”.
For those who had already picked up on the clues, this moment was one of many that caused a huge grin to break out. If that was good fun, then the reveal itself was glorious, the tanks draining slowly to show the familiar metallic exoskeletons hidden in plain sight. It was made all the better by the fact that it all actually makes sense too, as the Doctor asks, “who could use human bodies?”. Feeding into this, let’s quickly mention Chris Addison as Seb, whose material could easily have turned into an Ofcom complaints hit list, but instead fitted snugly into the off-kilter tone of that whole ‘world’, making the reveal of it’s falsity all the more acceptable.
With such a dramatic reveal, ‘Dark Water’ could have stopped there. Yet the best was saved for last with Missy, short for Mistress because, in her words, “I could hardly keep calling myself ‘The Master”. The gender-swap made sense, precisely because there was no ‘sense’ to go on; The Master’s always been an erratic character. Plus, Michelle Gomez fits the bill brilliantly, with a delicious mischievous streak. Again, the drip feed of clues was great, especially the heartbeat scene, fuelling the theory of her being The Rani.
There was still time for an emotional continuation of Clara’s arc too, with Danny’s purpose revealed to essentially be the catalyst for the discovery of ‘the Nethersphere’. Clara’s scenes concerning Danny throughout were superb, and while it might be tame for ‘dying’ to be his destiny, we can imagine he’ll have a significant role ‘inside the Matrix’ next week.
‘Dark Water’ was a tour de force Who spectacular, featuring emotion, thrills, and two marvellous reveals to boot. And there’s still so much up in the air as the Cybermen spill out into the world. Bring on next week!