We finally reached the penultimate episode of Series Eight of Doctor Who. We’ve had glimpses into Missy and the Nethersphere throughout the series. In “Dark Water” we finally saw them for what they are.
While I enjoyed the episode and a number of the themes it addressed, I was a little disappointed with the reveal of the Cybermen. I know they’re one of the Doctor’s most long-time nemeses, but it also seems a little like a bait and switch. We’ve had a season’s worth of build up for the Cybermen. Instead of something new, it’s just an old foe that the Doctor has readily defeated time and time again.
The revelation of Missy as the Master, though, was quite a bit surprising. I loved Tenant’s episodes with the Master but have yet to go back and watch any even older episodes with the Doctor’s evil Time Lord counterpart. The Master’s reappearance as Missy makes me want to go back and watch “The End of Time,” since I can’t remember what happened to him (now her).
Here are some other thoughts I had while watching “Dark Water.”
The theme of death obviously ran through the entire episode. It began with Danny’s death and Clara’s desperate search to find him. Before it was revealed that Danny and others hadn’t died, the episode raised a lot of questions about death and the afterlife. When Danny and the audience thought he was in some version of the afterlife, it forced us to think about our own mortality. While most media representations of the afterlife involve some other place “out there,” I much prefer the afterlife represented in the Bible. God is going to come here and bring with him a new heaven and a new earth. All the brokenness of this world will finally be put back together and instead of living forever somewhere “out there,” we’ll get to experience an eternity praising God right here.
When Danny thought he was actually dead and not just stored on a Time Lord hard drive, he was told that he had more life than he was expecting. That is a profound truth, not for when we die but for while we are still living. Each of us, on this side of eternity, has more life than we expect. It’s easy to think that our time spent on earth will amount to little more than working for 50 or 60 years, leaving behind some children and impacting a few close friends. A life with God, though, has so much more life than that. God has created each of us with a unique purpose and seeking to fulfill that purpose will give us so much more life than we were expecting. Instead of just working for 50 years and retiring, we can participate in work that could reach from here into eternity.
“Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”
After she watched “Kill the Moon” my sister told me that the final scene had caused her to tear up. Clara’s impassioned tirade against the Doctor was rather moving. While that scene and that speech didn’t make me cry, the above line almost did. That line showed us the heart of the Doctor, a process that Mike at The Sci-Fi Christian has been observing all season. The Doctor is accepting his role as protector, a role he can’t fulfill as an aloof and disconnected observer. Perhaps in spite of his best efforts, the Doctor cares deeply for Clara, deep enough to show her unconditional love and affection. When the Doctor spoke that line I couldn’t help but think of Jesus sitting with Peter on that Judean beach. After his betrayal of Jesus, I’m sure Peter felt like Jesus wanted nothing to do with him. Much like the Doctor, though, Jesus’s love was greater than any betrayal, both Peter’s and our own.
I wasn’t terribly impressed by the reveal of the Cybermen, but I still thought this was a strong episode of Doctor Who. Even though the existence of the Matrix Data Slice undid most of the implications of death and the afterlife, it still addressed some serious topics. And science fiction is always at its best, when it addresses the deepest aspects of the human condition in a setting of aliens, robots and time travel.
What did you think of “Dark Water?”