Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mistress of The Doctor


*Author's Note: As per tradition two-part stories earn one grade.  In a break from tradition, each part will be reviewed separately, with the second review having the final score.

Well, the big reveal as to Missy's true identity was come upon us.  A Big Reveal that left the Moffia stunned.  In other words, only those who are generally dim-witted were shocked, SHOCKED by something that had been correctly predicted months ago.  Dark Water, the first part of a two-part season finale, has something going for it.  I'm not sure what exactly that is though: more bastardization of Canon, more "the dead really aren't dead" storylines that writer/showrunner Steven Moffat recycles, or just a set-up to an even greater fiasco than most of this season (barring one or two episodes) has already been.

It does have, however, a delightful puzzle, one that may never be answered if Doctor Who co-star Jenna Coleman really does end up leaving after either Death in Heaven or the upcoming Christmas Special Last Christmas, but that's for later.  If I'm honest, this is not a review I want to write.  I'm not Kyle Anderson at The Whorist...I mean, Nerdist.  I don't think Steven Moffat's farts smell like Chanel Number 5.  Dark Water was more than a disappointment, far more than an embarrassment to all that had come before.  It was a sad thing to see.  Simply sad.

Clara (Coleman) was happily chatting with her boyfriend, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson, no relation to Kyle that I know of), about to really push the idea that she loves him, when the phone goes silent.  Danny was hit by a car and killed, leaving Clara devastated.  Fortunately for her, she has access to a time machine.  In a story thread NOT similar at all to the Ninth Doctor story Father's Day, Clara tries to get the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to go back and save Danny.  If it means virtually drugging him and throwing the TARDIS keys into a volcano (which destroys them), so be it.  It doesn't matter that the TARDIS can be opened by a snap of the fingers (which Clara herself has done) or that throwing all the keys leaves the Doctor AND Clara stranded on this volcano (wonder if she thought this plan out completely).  Why be bothered by such trivialities?

In any case, this was all a dream, so no worries.  The Doctor then whisks Clara to where Danny is, for their timelines are connected.  They end up in The Nethersphere, where they meet the Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface, or Missy (Michelle Gomez).  Missy plants a big kiss on the Doctor, part of the greetings.  They then meet Dr. Chang (Andrew Leung) who introduces them to the 3W Company, and the shock of what 3 W stands for...Don't Cremate Me.  The dead, apparently, remain conscious and are fully aware of what is happening to them. 

Well, while the Doctor and Clara are getting the full tour, Danny has to deal with Nethersphere bureaucracy thanks to Seb (Chris Addison), his post-mortem case worker.  Seb informs Danny that he is dead and that someone wants to see him.  It is the Afghan boy he killed in war, the boy who is visibly frightened by him.

At this juncture, how does the little Afghan boy, who I figure doesn't speak English and certainly doesn't know Danny's name, know whom to ask for?  Did he just say, "I want to talk to the man who killed me?"  Yet I digress.

Well, the Doctor won't accept the idea of Heaven, the Nethersphere, whatever this place is, but some things he can't deny, even if he senses he's missing something.  While Clara and Danny chat via cyber-phone (with Clara not accepting that it's the REAL Danny she's talking to), he feels Missy's heart(s) beat and sees she's in possession of Time Lord technology.  He also finds that those dead incased in 'dark water' are turning into Cybermen!  Rushing about, he finds himself running out of St. Paul's Cathedral, where the Cyber-Army is about to strike London...again.

He even discovers who Missy is.  He insists he doesn't know, but it is soon made clear.  Missy is short for Mistress.  After all, she couldn't keep calling herself...The Master, now could she?

Well, Missy turns out to be The Master.  This apparently made NuWhovians gasp in shock, despite widespread speculation that Missy would be short for Mistress and Mistress is the female term for Master.  A lot of people are either thrilled or outraged with the transgender Time Lord.  Those who are excited think this is 'progress', and that a female Doctor is soon on her way.  Those who are infuriated think this is obscene, and that a female Doctor is soon on her way.

Here is my reaction...

Frankly, I reject the idea that Time Lords are essential hermaphrodites.  I've said so repeatedly.  Now we are stuck with the idea that Time Lords can change sex, though for what purpose no one can answer.

I know many people now insist that Doctor Who has firmly established that Time Lords can go from male to female (even though this has never been seen in any story).  Technically speaking, it STILL hasn't been shown, for we didn't see the Master regenerate into a woman or into anything really.  I also would remind people of The Keeper of Traken.  Here, the Master, on his final regeneration, essentially steals the body of Tremas (yes, it's an anagram of 'Master', but I'm not going to get hung up on former producer John Nathan-Turner's idiocies, which now makes Moffat's merry adventures look like Hinchcliffe-level brilliance by comparison).  Who is to say the already bonkers Master, last seen fighting the Time Lords at The End of Time, didn't kill some poor Mary Poppins impersonator and steal HER body?   At least I have a way out of this most distressing circumstance, until the Doctor regenerates into a woman and I quit watching (assuming I don't quit sooner).

Dark Water really is a bad Doctor Who story.  We get cop-out after cop-out (oh, it was all a dream, oh, the Doctor doesn't realize Missy is real).  We get bad moments (all of Addison's scenes, which were not funny, and the question, 'Doctor Who?' popping up Moffat so bereft of ideas?!).   We get moments that don't make sense.  And I quote, "That's rare.  That never happens."  This is what either Seb or Dr. Chang says when Clara calls Danny.  That is a contradiction in terms.  Something can either be rare (in that it happens SOMETIMES) or it can NEVER HAPPEN.  It can't be both.

We also get some of the same tropes we've seen from Moffat, in particular his pathological fear of death.  "You know how people are scared of dying?  Like, everyone?" Dr. Chang tells Clara and the Doctor.  This is peculiar, given that I thought Listen established that it was monsters under the bed that was the most fundamental fear.  One wonders what martyrs or the 300 Spartans thought, because they didn't look like they were afraid of death.  All those Christian martyrs at the Roman Coliseum, what fools they were not to realize they should have been afraid of death!

Moffat really goes all out to put his idea about death and how to overcome it, but with Dark Water he puts something else in: clear continuity error.  Now, it is all possible that Moffat may provide answers to how the following will be done, but the NuWhovians and Sherlockians I've talked to have flat-out told me they don't care how something is done.  One Sherlockian has told me she doesn't care if we never learn how Sherlock Holmes on Sherlock faked his death.  It's like a magic trick, she says, and doesn't need it explained.  I have long argued no explanation is possible, but fortunately the Moffia really don't care to have answers.

Listen had Danny and Clara's descendant, Orson Pink.  Dark Water has Danny dead.  NOW, while it is possible Clara may be pregnant by now, how exactly can she prove the child is Danny's?  He's dead and has no known living relatives (hence, his stay at the boys' home).  Furthermore, even if Clara does give birth to a child, regardless of sex, why would said child carry the surname Pink?  She isn't married to a Pink and has no legal proof that the father was a Pink.  Clara's love child would carry the name "Oswald", so how would Orson Pink, direct descendant of Danny (who is dead before his heir is possibly conceived) come about? 

Riddle me that, Steve.


What is really surprising is his take on cremation.  Moffat has us think the dead are conscious after death and that cremation is painful to them.  I wonder what the British Hindu community thought about that new turn.  Cremation is part of the Hindu faith, and here is this European telling them in essence they are torturing the souls of the Mahatma and Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, not to mention the billions of Hindus long past over four thousand years.  I know there were protests to the BBC, and I can imagine a child who just watched Grandmama roasted horrified that Doctor Who now tells him Mummy and Daddy tortured Granny, but I'm just curious both what people thought about this and why Moffat has a continuing obsession with death (and how to avoid it)?

So many  things don't make sense.  How did the 3W founder, Dr. Skarosa, who him/herself is encased in a vat of Dark Water, find Time Lord technology?  How did the Doctor know that Clara was going to try to use sleeping patches on him to get her way? (And by the way, am I the only one who thought Clara was a selfish b*tch and a dumb one too for pulling this stunt)?  Why is the Doctor bothered about bringing back Danny from the dead?  It's not like there is anything like a fixed point in time nowadays, given how timey-wimey things are on Doctor Who.

The performances are also nothing to write home about.  Leung, who appears briefly and I don't think was in any other episodes, not only looked like the British Edward Nygma from Gotham,  was simply not on screen long enough for me to care.  Same goes for Anderson, whose weepy Danny struck me more as annoying and pathetic than as worth my sympathy or tears.  Furthermore, why couldn't Danny give Clara information that would confirm who he was (you know, apart from plot contrivances)?  Coleman was nothing here.

I know a lot of people love Gomez's Missy, but I never thought she was any good.  She struck me as camp gone mad, another 'Crazy Master' and nowhere near the serious threat we're suppose to imagine.  I know Roger Delgado would never stoop so low as to be virtually pantomime and certainly never expressed any desires for his old rival.  I thought she was silly and over-the-top, a joke from start to finish.  Why do people serious think Gomez was any good, what with her Mary Poppins get-up and broad hysterics?  Maybe Gomez is a good actress, but this didn't show it.  Granted, she was working with garbage, but she's been this way for some time, so I'm the only one not impressed.

I feel for Capaldi.  I think again he did what he could with the role, but nothing could save this blunder. 

Another thing that I wasn't impressed with was Rachel Talalay's direction.  I detest visuals that call attention to themselves, and when Clara emerges from the smoke, that shot, rather than beautiful, was almost parody. 

In the end, I found it all not so much terrible (though it was that), but boring.  Boring it was.  Dark Water, particularly whenever we meet Seb, made me think of all things R.I.P.D. with Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges.  It's never a good sign when Doctor Who reminds you of one of the worst movies you've seen.

One thing we all did learn from Dark Water is just what an egoist Steven Moffat is (as if we didn't know already).  "Cybermen from Cyberspace.  Now why has no one ever thought of that before?" Missy tells the Doctor when revealing her plans.  I can hear Moffat thinking what a genius he is for coming up with that one.

I don't give two separate grades to two-parters, so the final score won't be announced until the review for the second part, Death in Heaven.  If I WERE to give Dark Water a score, I'm tempted to say...


Next Episode: Dark Water/Death in Heaven


  1. If Danny killed that boy years ago, and everyone is quickly deleted and Cyberconverted, then why is the boy wandering around the Nethersphere years after he died? or do you bring this up in the review of Death in Heaven?

    The whole 'Cybermen are the bones' thing is also typical Moffat. It makes no sense within the context of the story, it contradicts various past Doctor Who stories, it's actually totally impossible...but it made for a visual reveal that all the 10-year-olds no doubt thought was cool.

  2. The 'recently departed' situation will be addressed in the Death in Heaven review.

  3. It seemed like this was going to be a good idea - a "Fabulous Riverboat" or similarly SFey take on death and the afterlife all being ... a cyberman invasion? This fell very flat, for me, from the sublime to the ridiculous in one go. A high concept that turned out to be neither mysterious nor interesting, and waaay too contrived. The "dark water" was ONLY there to hide the fact that they were cybermen, it had no in-story purpose. So the Missy has been around since the year dot capturing human souls - billions of them - to put in cyberfolk. Why? If you have that technology why not just biuld an army of robots, rather than the current plan, which was "build an army of robots from dead bodies" with implanted souls that you then stop doing anything (because they've been cyber-ified anyway).

  4. Curse Neil Gaiman for taking an offhand joke made by Tom Baker on his departure into canon. At least there's the satisfaction of his lovely poetic bit about the Tardis choosing the Doctor being blatantly ret-conned by Moffat himself in The Name of the Doctor as a karmic backhand.

  5. LizR, I imagine all these hoops had to be there for one reason: to make the simple, complex (a Moffat trope if ever there was one).

    Eric Hurd, the fact that The Doctor's Wife and The Name of The Doctor contradict each other shows that NuWho cannot keep continuity, which Classic Who didn't have too much of despite running for 26 years.

    I hate what BOTH have done to Canon.


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