The final story of season eight starts as an interesting tale that challenges everything humans have thought about what happens after death. The first half ends with the most shocking cliffhanger in decades, with something no one thought was possible.
LOOK AWAY UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE EPISODE
It starts with Clara calling Danny (Samuel Anderson), with a bunch of post-it notes on the wall. One of them says, “Just say it”, and she tells him she loves him, Then the phone goes dead. Danny Pink was killed when he was hit by a car.
A few days later, Clara can’t cry. She says her relationship was ordinary and boring. She says that she is owed. She calls the Doctor because she wants to go to a volcano.
Why? She wants to see lava, but there’s another reason. She slaps a sleep patch on his neck, and he wakes up outside the TARDIS. Clara is there, telling him Danny is dead. She wants him to stop the accident before it starts, or she’ll toss all the TARDIS keys into the volcano.
Anyone who saw “Father’s Day” or “Waters of Mars” know that’s a bad idea. The Doctor knows this, saying time can be rewritten with precision, as shown in “The Fires of Pompeii.” He refuses to help Clara, and she tosses all of the keys. They’re trapped, until he tells her to look at her hand. She had the patch all along, which put her in a dream state. Still, she’d do it again if she was awake.
So, what will the Doctor do? He tells her to go to Hell…or where the afterlife really is. He says this is a major moment for them, “the darkness, the blackest hour. Chin up, shoulders back. Let’s see what we’re made of”. Little does he suspect how right he is.
The TARDIS taps into Clara’s full timeline, while she’s told to concentrate on where Danny would be.
It’s actually the Waiting Room In The Sky, where he has to fill out forms before he’s allowed into the afterlife. He’s welcomed by someone called SEB (Chris Addison), who tells Danny that he’s dead and is now in “What’s Next,” also known as the Nethersphere. SEB asks him if he’s killed anyone. Since he was a soldier, he likely did. In fact, an Iraqi child meets him but doesn’t speak. Whatever the Nethersphere is, it’s hardly Heaven.
It does mean that Missy (Michelle Gomez) is nearby. She and the Doctor finally meet in a mausoleum, which includes tanks with skeletons kept underwater. Missy acts oddly, planting a big kiss on him. She also claims to be an android from a group called 3W, where death is not the end. She has a maintenance man named Dr. Chang (Andrew Leung), who explains the Nethersphere to the Doctor and Clara. Someone named Dr. Skarosa translated white noise from TV sets, and discovered they were voices of the dead. One included a man begging not to be cremated. This is proof the dead can still be conscious of their environment. SEB further explains to Danny that his soul is put into a new body, but it’s still aware of what’s happening to his old body. That’s why he feels cold because the body’s in cold storage. It will soon get very hot for him when it’s cremated, just as another person screams after his organs are donated to science.
So far, the episode of seems to be a sci-fi story that gives a high-tech explanation of what happens when people die. The Nethersphere, 3W and the telepathic connections between old and new bodies of those who die provide a nice structure of what really happens. However, those who remember the trailer from the end of last week’s show know it’s really about something else.
Besides, the Doctor doesn’t believe it. He thinks when people die, they die. No continuing consciousness, no wi-fi in Heaven, no ghosts from your past to haunt you, no pain when your body is cremated.
He may be right. Missy suddenly signals the underwater skeletons to rise. That’s because the fluid covering them, known as Dark Water, is hiding a big secret about them. The Doctor wants to look at those tanks, thinking that he’s missing something. If he took a closer look at the elevator doors, he’d probably figure it out.
Meanwhile, Clara is able to hear Danny from somewhere else in the Nethersphere. She tries to make him say something to prove who he is, but he can only say he loves her. He just can’t get to her. She winds up hanging up on him. As he weeps, SEB has an app that will remove all of Danny’s emotions. Why?
Because of what’s really in those underwater tombs….Cybermen. Missy’s set up a plan where she can upload dying minds, edit out their emotions, and put them back into upgraded bodies. Not only that, she’s applied it to millions of dead people on Earth. She’s created Cybermen from Cyberspace, or rather the Walking Cyberdead, to take over Earth, and maybe a few other galaxies.
What she doesn’t need is Dr. Chang. She tells him to say something nice about her. He does, but he dies anyway. Whoever Missy is, she is one of the cruelest characters ever to be on the show.
The biggest shock is that she’s using Gallifreyan technology to pull off this plan. That means she’s a Time Lady, who claims he left her for dead.
She’s Missy, short for Mistress. “Well,” she explains, “Couldn’t very well keep calling myself the Master, now could I?”
The shocked look on the Doctor’s face represents everybody who watched this episode.
Meanwhile, Clara sees a Cyberman in back of her, with no escape, and Danny’s about to delete his soul.
That’ll keep people thinking until next Saturday.
It also catches writer and executive producer Steven Moffatt in a teensy little fibette. When he was interviewed just after the premiere of “Dark Water” last August, and was asked if the Master would ever come back, he said:
“[Abruptly] No. [Laughter] I accidentally just said the truth! No, not really. I think the story’s sort of done. I thought what Russell [T. Davies] did with that was so brilliant, because I did think it was over. Once you’d lost Roger Delgado who was so brilliant, it was tough to keep it… it’s like Moriarty in Sherlock – yes, I know – you think, ‘you’re a great master villain, you know what you do a lot, you lose! You’re always tremendously confident and then you’re humiliatingly defeated and you don’t remember that the next time you pop up with your ridiculous plan’. So no, the Doctor doesn’t really need an arch-enemy, so we’ll go for new ones. So, sorry John Simm.”
That is, unless you give the Master the ultimate reboot, which also revives the possibility that someday Emma Thompson can be the Doctor.
Actually, Missy could keep the title of the Master, no matter what the gender. Anyone who says “every grave on planet Earth is about to give birth” has got to be so evil, the original Master would sweat a little.
So what happens now? Will Danny become a Cyberman? Is it also the end for Clara? Are the Half-Face Man, Gretchen, and the cop from “The Caretaker” also Cybermen? At least we know UNIT will be in the battle, and the Impossible Girl could make an impossible choice.
One more thing: the Doctor’s use of the psychic paper to pass himself off as a government inspector was very funny, especially since the license had a lot of swearing. He called it internalized anger, but it was really a dash of Malcolm Tucker.
See you next week.