TV Review: “Doctor Who” – “Dark Water”

Written by Caitlin Cooper November 06, 2014

Doctor Who

“Doctor Who” is pretty much known for doing the unexpected, so viewers have begun to think outside the box. This leaves little room for surprising the audience with each episode, especially since plot-lines seem to be getting recycled a lot this season. But the latest “Doctor Who” episode takes things so far out of the box that I was left rather shocked during the duration of it. Please note that I will be discussing major spoilers for this shocking “Doctor Who” episode. River would be appalled.


“Dark Water” is part one of the finale for “Doctor Who” season 8, and it’s an episode that definitely shakes things up. Someone dies, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) try to bring this person back from the dead. But the afterlife isn’t anything like even the Doctor had imagined. In fact, it’s his worst nightmare as one of his oldest foes has come back from the dead to torment the Doctor and earth. To add to that, Clara isn’t behaving like herself and the trailer certainly flips everything on its head with regards to how we know her.

“It’s always better when you’re here, Danny.”

For perhaps the first time since his character was introduced, Danny (Samuel Anderson) is a very central figure in the “Doctor Who” episode, aside from just disapproving of the Doctor. He gets a strange phone call from Clara, and then gets hit by a car. Does he survive? Sadly not. But this occurrence is the motivator for the Doctor and Clara to go to the afterlife to bring him back, if possible. Not only do we get emotional scenes where Danny struggles to accept what has happened to him, we also learn a little about his past prior to his time as a teacher. With all Danny’s talk of wars and soldiers and “teams”, it was pretty clear that war was a part of his life which left him with PTSD. Now, we get to see one of the reasons why he’s particularly haunted. The only issue with the writing for this back-story is that it doesn’t come out and say what happened, but rather remains quite vague. I was left to fill in the blanks myself.

Doctor Who

The back-story does, however, give us some perspective into why Danny is so wary of the Doctor. He doesn’t want Clara to do something she will regret and become traumatized by the battles she inevitably fights in. All of the emotional scenes Danny has wouldn’t have been so moving if Anderson wasn’t a good actor, but he plays the character particularly well in this “Doctor Who” episode so much so that I was rather disbelieving and emotional myself when Danny was killed, and when he realizes that he’ll never see Clara again. The fact that he has the strength to tell Clara to let go of him resulted in a poignant scene.

“Time can be re-written.”

Clara has been a big focus of “Doctor Who” season 8. That’s especially true of this episode. I almost feel like the Doctor became a rather minor character in “Dark Water”. What puzzles me, however, is the odd way Clara acts at the beginning of the episode. As for her grief, that is slightly better written yet I can’t agree with Clara ever wanting to take the Tardis away from the Doctor; Clara is too caring of a person to do that, no matter how much pain she is in. It’s not good when the writer’s of “Doctor Who” can’t even get their own character right. This sequence does, however, enable for us to see the Doctor as someone other than a sarcastic – and at times cruel – man. He lets Clara get out some of her worst anger, but ensures that no one is actually hurt while she does so (he makes her dream her ultimatum and dramatic threats rather than have the chance of acting them out). In the aftermath, it really feels like the Doctor loves her and I’m glad we got to see that. Too bad the writers didn’t do Clara justice.

Doctor Who

The Doctor was at his best in this episode of “Doctor Who”. While he almost seemed like a minor character in comparison with Clara and Danny’s stories, his scenes were generally some of the most emotional of the episode. Again, we get to see him vulnerable and show his affection for Clara which is a nice change from the usual roughness and grumpiness. “Doctor Who” is part comedy, and the Doctor is generally the one to provide the witty one-liners. That’s true of “Dark Water”. There’s a smart little hint at who the villain is which is actually funny. The Doctor says he feels like he’s missing something that’s right in front of his face, and when the doors to the elevator close in front of him, the windows are in the shape of Cyber-men’s eyes. Well played, “Doctor Who”.

“Let’s see what we’re made of, you and I.”

Overall, “Dark Water” is probably one of the most shocking “Doctor Who” episodes. It goes big for part one of the season 8 finale which results in some moving scenes through Danny’s back-story, the Clara-Danny interaction in the afterlife, and the Doctor’s support of Clara. The writing really seems to not do Clara justice, though, and there’s a rather confusing scene with her at the beginning where she doesn’t seem like herself at all. “Dark Water” has only made me worried about the season finale of “Doctor Who”.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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