Dark Water (Doctor Who)

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252a – "Dark Water"
Doctor Who episode
Dark Water.jpg
Missy reveals her true identity as the Master to a horrified Doctor.
Directed byRachel Talalay
Written bySteven Moffat
Script editorDavid P Davis
Produced byPeter Bennett
Executive producer(s)
Incidental music composerMurray Gold
SeriesSeries 8
Length1st of 2-part story, 45 minutes
First broadcast1 November 2014 (2014-11-01)
← Preceded by
"In the Forest of the Night"
Followed by →
"Death in Heaven"
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"Dark Water" is the eleventh episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. The episode was written by showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat and is the first of a two-part story; the concluding episode is "Death in Heaven", the finale of the eighth series. It was first broadcast on BBC One on 1 November 2014.

In the episode, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) is killed, and finds himself in the Nethersphere. As the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) try to find Danny, they find themselves in a facility that accommodates Cybermen, run by recurring character Missy (Michelle Gomez). In the episode's climax, Missy reveals her true identity as a female incarnation of the Doctor's arch-enemy The Master, last seen in the 2009–10 serial The End of Time.

The episode received widespread critical acclaim, with the performances of Capaldi, Gomez, Coleman and Anderson being praised. Critics praised the horror strand of the episode, and, the maturity level of the episode – and the way the darker, more mature and morbid themes were handled.


Clara is talking on her phone to Danny Pink, ready to admit she has still been travelling with the Doctor and that she sincerely loves Danny, when the line goes silent. A stranger picks up and sadly informs Clara that Danny was hit by a passing car and has died.

She struggles with his death for days, unwilling to let her emotions go. She ultimately schemes to force the Doctor to change the past. She suggests that they visit an active volcano, secretly collects all seven TARDIS keys and, after the TARDIS arrives, slaps a sleep-inducing patch on the Doctor's neck. Once the Doctor wakes up at the volcano, locked out of the TARDIS, Clara throws the keys one by one into the lava – the only way to destroy them. She says she will not stop unless the Doctor agrees to save Danny, despite his claim that it would create a time paradox. The Doctor, however, refuses and Clara destroys all of the keys, tearfully saying she would do it again. The Doctor eventually reveals that the entire scenario was only a hypnotic vision of hers. The patch did not work on him; instead, he had used it on her to learn why she was upset and to see how far she was willing to go. He then offers—as a friend, despite her betrayal of him—to see if they can locate Danny in the afterlife and rescue him.

The Doctor has Clara link with the telepathic interface of the TARDIS to focus on Danny's location. They arrive at a strange mausoleum which holds several tanks of human skeletons underwater. They are greeted by Missy, who says she is a Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface ("MISI"),[1] an android receptionist for the 3W facility. Missy behaves very forwardly with the Doctor, even kissing him passionately as a gesture of welcome, which shocks both him and Clara. Missy then introduces them to Dr. Chang, one of the scientists working there. Posing as a government official, the Doctor inquires about the facility. Dr Chang reveals that the skeletons do not drift apart because they are submerged in a substance called dark water, which only allows organic material to be seen, and that the bodies are encased in supportive exoskeletons. He further explains how the facility was founded based on the discovery of voices of the recently deceased within white noise broadcast signals. The facility's name, 3W, is short for the "3 words" that were heard repeatedly in the broadcasts: "don't cremate me". The Doctor remains dubious of the 3W facility's intentions.

During all of this, Danny has regained consciousness in a spartan office and been greeted by Seb, who reveals he is in the Nethersphere, a giant city enclosed within a sphere. Seb explains that Danny has died and helps him to adjust to this revelation. Seb reveals that Danny is still tied to the state of his body — it is probably being kept in a refrigerated morgue, as he constantly feels cold. As part of his orientation, a meeting is arranged between Danny and a young civilian boy that he had accidentally killed while he was a soldier in Afghanistan, the guilt having plagued Danny for years. Danny tearfully tries to offer his apologies, but the boy refuses and runs off. As Seb and Danny talk, Seb receives a notice that Clara is trying to contact Danny—arranged by Dr. Chang from the 3W facility. The Doctor leaves with Dr. Chang to investigate the facility further while Clara takes the call, asking questions to try to confirm that she is really speaking to Danny. However, Danny cannot provide conclusive information. Clara says that she will do anything to be with him once she is convinced. Danny, not wanting her to die to join him in the afterlife, tricks Clara into ending the call. This final act renders him emotionally distraught. Seb then offers him the option of deleting all of his emotions.

"Dark Water" Cybermen
The Invasion Cybermen
The shot of the Cybermen emerging from St Paul's Cathedral was intended as an homage to the similar shots from the 1968 serial The Invasion[2]

Meanwhile, Missy instructs the skeletons to rise and begin draining the tanks. As the Doctor and Dr. Chang enter, Chang reveals that Missy is the facility's supervisor, not its receptionist. Disappointed with Chang, Missy kills him with a handheld device. As the tanks start to drain, the skeletons are revealed to be Cybermen. Missy shows the Doctor a spherical device on the ceiling called the Nethersphere, a Gallifreyan Matrix Data Slice in which the consciousnesses of the deceased are held and prepared to be inserted into new Cybermen soldiers after their emotions are deleted. Stunned, the Doctor realises that Missy is really a Time Lady having two hearts, which he had first noticed from their earlier contact. As the tanks finally drain and open, the Doctor races out of the facility and finds that it is inside St Paul's Cathedral in the middle of contemporary London. He tries to warn away civilians, but Missy calls out that his warnings are the ravings of a lunatic. The Doctor insists on knowing who Missy is, and she reveals her true identity as The Master.

The episode ends with the Cybermen beginning to march on London. The Doctor is horrified by Missy's identity, Clara is trapped in Dr. Chang's lab with another Cyberman. Danny is about to activate the deletion of his emotions when he sees in the reflection of his afterlife iPad the young boy that he had accidentally killed.


The read through for "Dark Water" took place on 12 June 2014. Filming began soon afterwards, on 16 June 2014. Locations for the episode included Cardiff, Pontypool and St. Paul's Cathedral.[3] When filming the episode's climax, Capaldi and Gomez mouthed their lines—recorded later using automated dialogue replacement—to hide the revelation from all spectators of the filming.[4] To further ensure there was no leak, the climax was removed from all preview copies of the episode.[5] Moffat included a reference to the Rani as a fake hint to trick fans about Missy's real identity, as the character defines herself as a "Random Access Neural Interface" (that is, RANI). The Rani, last seen in the 1987 serial Time and the Rani, was the only Time Lady the Doctor had faced as an adversary until this episode.[6]

Dan Martin calls the scene with the Cybermen emerging from St. Paul's Cathedral is "a direct reference" to a similar shot from the 1968 serial The Invasion, and suspects the tomb-filled mausoleum may likewise reference the 1967 serial The Tomb of the Cybermen.[2]

Cast notes[edit]

Sheila Reid made her second appearance as Clara's grandmother, having been introduced in "The Time of the Doctor"; she had previously appeared in Vengeance on Varos in 1985. Chris Addison appears as Seb.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Preview release[edit]

Scenes of "Dark Water" were removed from the DVD previews sent to reviewers, and a media blackout had been imposed on any plot details that were not released by the BBC or Steven Moffat. One notable scene removed by the BBC was the revelation of Missy's identity.[5]


Overnight viewing figures were estimated at 5.27 million. It was watched by a total of 7.34 million viewers.[7] The episode achieved an Appreciation Index score of 85.[8] In the US, the episode was watched by an estimated 1.02 million on BBC America.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
The A.V. ClubB[10]
Paste Magazine8.6[11]
SFX Magazine4.5/5 stars[12]
TV Fanatic4.7/5 stars[13]
CultBox4/5 stars[14]
New York Magazine4/5 stars[17]
Radio Times4/5 stars[18]
Digital Spy4/5 stars[19]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[20]
Daily Mirror4/5 stars[21]

The episode received critical acclaim. Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph gave it five stars out of five and called it a "bone-rattling and suitably spooky fare". He praised the source of everyday fears such as death for the horror and was praised the performances of Capaldi, Coleman, Anderson and Gomez.[20] Neela Debnath of The Independent said that the episode was "sad, funny, scary, romantic" and "is everything you could ask for from a Doctor Who finale the day after Halloween."[22] Richard Edwards of SFX gave the episode four and a half stars out of five, claiming "...in a series of great Capaldi performances, this is one of the best". He praised the opening premise and the big reveal at the end and also commented on its allusions to Second Doctor stories, The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion.[12]

Matt Risley of IGN praised the episode for its "tense and traumatic dose of Who", but was critical of the lack of action, which usually went hand-in-hand with the Cybermen. Overall, he rated the first part of the finale an 8.4.[16] Alaisdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B rating, claiming that "Dark Water could be a good episode, or it could be a terrible one", indicating that it was only the first half of the story.[10]

Despite the positive critical reception, the episode received criticism from viewers concerning the use of death and cremation in the storyline. The BBC defended the use of the themes in the show's context.[23] The BBC also noted that it was stated several times that the truth may be distressing and that the Doctor dismissed this straight away.[24]


  1. ^ Holmes, Jonathan (November 1, 2014). "Doctor Who: Missy's identity revealed". Radio Times. Retrieved December 31, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Dan (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who recap: series 34, episode 11 – Dark Water". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  3. ^ "Doctor Who, Series 8, Dark Water – Dark Water: Fact File". Doctor Who. 1 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  4. ^ Kelly, Stephen (30 October 2014). "Who is Missy in Doctor Who? The answer made the director Rachel Talalay shriek". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Dark Water Advance Preview". Doctor Who TV. Doctor Who TV. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Doctor Who: Steven Moffat tried to trick fans that Missy was the Rani". On Sunday. 12 November 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Series 8 Ratings Accumulator". Doctor Who TV. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Doctor Who Series 8 (2014) UK Ratings Accumulator".
  9. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Saturday Cable Originals: 11.1.2014".
  10. ^ a b Wilkins, Alasdair (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who: "Dark Water"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  11. ^ Rozeman, Mark (2 November 2014). "Doctor Who Review: "Dark Water"". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  12. ^ a b Edwards, Richard (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who S8.11 Dark Water Review". SFX Magazine. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  13. ^ Pavlica, Carissa (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 11 Review: Dark Water". TV Fanatic. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  14. ^ Smedley, Rob (1 November 2014). "'Doctor Who' review: 'Dark Water'". CultBox. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  15. ^ Welsh, Kaite (1 November 2014). "Review: 'Doctor Who' Season 8 Episode 11, 'Deep Water,' Is To Die For". IndieWire. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  16. ^ a b Risley, Matt (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who: "Dark Water" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  17. ^ Ruediger, Ross (2 November 2014). "Doctor Who Recap: Cyber Scam". Vulture.com. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  18. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who Dark Water review: Gender reassignment and life after death launch a challenging finale". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  19. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who series 8 'Dark Water' recap: A new twist on an old classic". Digital Spy. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  20. ^ a b Hogan, Michael (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who: Dark Water, review: 'bone-rattling'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  21. ^ Beech, Richard (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who review: Dark Water brought our favourite bad guy back - but she's a bad girl". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  22. ^ "Doctor Who, Dark Water, review: A belter of an episode". Independent UK. 1 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Doctor Who: BBC defends Dark Water death and afterlife plotline". BBC Newsbeat. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  24. ^ "'Dark' Doctor Who storyline defended by BBC". the Guardian.

External links[edit]