SPOILER ALERT: Don't read ahead if you haven't watched Doctor Who series 8, episode 11: Dark Water
With all the shade I've thrown at Steven Moffat during his reign as the Doctor Who show runner, one thing I can't hate on is how well he knows and trolls the fandom. Last week Tumblr was buzzing with a phenomenal theory that Missy was a dark iteration of Clara merged with The Great Intelligence resurfacing from the Doctor's Timeline. It seemed like all the loose ends since the introduction of Clara Oswald as the new companion would get tied up in a pretty bow. It would explain who gave Clara The Doctor's number, who placed the ad in the paper and maybe even answer my favorite mystery of why River was able to maintain a psychic link with Clara after the latter jumped into The Doctor's timeline. Moffat very skillfully reinforced those speculations in the preview for 'Dark Water,' cutting together scenes that made Clara and The Doctor seem at odds. It was a similar strategy that we saw for 'Mummy On The Orient Express,' as Clara was completely left out of the trailer, launching the fandom into a frenzy over her departure from The Doctor.
I had the same reaction to the revelation of Missy's identity as I've had to most other Moffat mysteries, shocked and not surprised all at the same time. But before diving into the big reveal, we have talk about the true lifeline of this season, Clara's relationship with The Doctor.
'Dark Water' made me seriously fall in love with Clara's dynamic with Capaldi's Doctor. For much of Jenna Coleman's initial tenure as the companion, I had a hard time buying into her disposition toward The Doctor. However with so much of this season focused pretty much entirely on Clara as a three dimensional character, the emotional narrative arc feels like it is coming to a logical conclusion. In the past my biggest issue with Moffat's treatment of Clara has been the lack of reasoning behind her actions, but this season everything she's done makes perfect sense.
After a tragic phone call with Danny, Clara attempts to black mail The Doctor into rewriting history. She is so distressed by her loss that she completely betrays The Doctor. This is a defining moment in their relationship and specifically for the new Doctor. We see him being completely empathetic towards a friend, despite an entire season of being an old grouch. There is nuance to his personality, it makes him relatable and a hero an audience can identify with.
Overall, Capaldi was magnificent in this episode. It took me a long time to warm up to his portrayal, especially as a lot of the lines he was given in the beginning of the season were simply annoying. In 'Dark Water' he finally struck the right comedic balance that didn't feel forced. In most of the episodes we'd seen so far he seemed like a formulaic one trick pony per episode, either constantly rude, or constantly "dark" and mysterious, or constantly goofy. The writing in 'Dark Water' highlighted the best assets of Capaldi especially his comedic timing.
The character narrative on the show is at its highest, however the same can't be said for the plot. As we finally found out that Missy is a regenerated Master. The last we saw of The Master, he was bent on revenge against Rassilon following him into the time locked Time War. This may mean that we're about to finally revisit the fate of Gallifrey narrative, but judging by the reveals this week, I'm hesitant to bet on any one theory. As reveals go, it was almost painfully obvious, but I will reserve my last judgment until the finale.
The presence of cyberman is a little confusing, but The Master does have a history with robotic humanoids (Toclafane anyone?). I'm not really sure how the cyberman will be taking over the dead in order to take over the earth, but I guess we shall see.
It seems that the real battle will be unfolding closer to home for Clara and The Doctor. We saw Danny manipulate Clara into shutting off their connection in order to keep her form ending up in The Nethersphere, but my guess is that she will soon see through that. The most interesting cliffhanger of this episode is Danny's fate. There's an obvious question of why Clara was calling Danny while he was struck by a car, which ties into the story of Danny's grandson Orson Pink. In 'Listen' Orson clearly implied that he and Clara were connected, leading fans to conclude that Danny and Clara would end up together... or at least have kids together. Now whether Danny will be alive to see his kids grow up is what remains to be seen next week.
Finally for those of us still holding out for the return of River Song... I'm gonna leave this right here.