Monday, November 10, 2014

Gender bends and farewell - Dark Water and Death in Heaven

Well, that wasn't the most explosive finale we've had. Well, apart from the obvious... Sorry. Too soon?

One of the things about New Who has been trying to separate the Cybermen ever further from feeling like discount Daleks they became in later Classic Who. Russell T. Davies did it be introducing the body horror to the show, but Moffat takes that idea and goes even further, with not just body harvesting, but harvesting the dead.

Which is quite a big thing. Has this taken them too far for any future Cyber stories, or was this a one off deal because of the uploads? But anyway, we're getting away from the important stuff. The dark water and the Cybermen was a great concept, fantastically hinted at in vague terms before the reveal. Unfortunately it was completely ruined by promotional material, but that's a rant for another day. My flatmate barely watches any TV or follows stuff on the net, and he got to enjoy the Cybermen reveal in all it's glory, and it worked amazingly on him. I'm sorta jealous.

However, you can't miss out the absolutely brilliant nod towards Classic Who with the water tombs. That's a word that has a lot of weight behind it with Who and Cybermen. “Tomb of the Cybermen” is without a doubt their most iconic story. And in “Dark Water” they didn't just use the same name with a nudge and a wink, but with the glass cases they even looked like what we saw back on Telos. What a great way to reintroduce them in what just might be their best New Who story yet. Course I've just finished watching it, so that might be slightly hyperbolic.

But again, the 'monsters' were almost secondary to what was going on in the rest of the episode.

The reveal of Missy was incredibly clever. Not that it was the Master. As hard as I was trying to avoid spoilers and theories, even I caught sight of that one. But the fact was that I never put much credence to the idea of a female Master. Even when it was revealed Missy was a Time Lord/Lady I immediately thought it would be the Rani. And then talk of 'the one you left behind' had me really worried they'd made Romana evil. Thankfully I was just failing to go for the obvious.

It's a brilliant move too. When Matt Smith handed in his resignation and people were trying to figure out whose next, there was a lot talk of Sheridan Smith getting the role (and if you think we've got fun with the Doctor having the face of someone he met in one adventure was interesting, then imagine what it would be if he had the face of an old companion... - yes, Sheridan Smith is an audio companion – it'd also mean we have two Smiths as well as two Bakers but that's just amusing for silly reasons). Could the Doctor be a woman? We've been told that Time Lords can gender-bend during regeneration, I don't see why it's not possible. It didn't happen. But Moffat still did it with the second biggest Time Lord to the series. Genius sir.

To top it off with some Mary Poppins imagery was brilliant, with Moffat embracing that rather silly theory that Poppins is a Time lord with Missy flying in on an umbrella. (James Bond as a Time Lord is totally feasible though!)

Is she dead? Well, that's debatable. Both times we've seen Simm in the role it was pretty final. Same with a few appearances with Anthony Ainley back in the Classic days. The Master is never dead. She's just believed to be until the next time we see her. It wasn't the disintegration gun that killed her, it was a Cybermen gun, and there was nothing left which seems a bit strange. Besides, Michelle Gomez acted the absolute pants off of it, and I'd hate for that to be it.

Oh, but the Cybermen gun, and just who was wielding it. That was a nice turn, and a lovely farewell to the Brigadier. This could be quite the standout moment for a Cyberman, but that honour had already been taken. The fact the reveal comes as he saves his daughter was even sweeter. Shame about Osgood though.

With UNIT, along with the Master Missy behind it all, “Death in Heaven” had all the trappings of a Pertwee episode. Not so much “Dark Water”, but part 2 could easily have been an update of the Pertwee seasons. The shots of the water flowing in the graveyards, and toward a undertakers felt like a scene from the same season that gave us “Spearhead from Space. With the finale taking place on a wind swept hilly graveyard in the middle of nowhere it felt like the sort of location that would have been picked back in 1973.

I'll admit, I had no idea this was where Danny and Clara's story would end. Maybe in “Dark Water” it became a possibility, but Danny dying? Okay he got a heroic sacrifice, and was still technically right about the Doctor, but at the same time not quite, but after everything we've seen, that's it?

At least Clara got to leave the TARDIS in a quiet fashion, almost unheard of today. Yes, it was heartbreaking, but at least she wasn't cast into an alternate universe or back in the 1920s. It felt like a proper goodbye instead of the ripping away from the Doctor every other companion has had recently. The reveal that's been hinted at all season, that Missy is the one responsible for getting Clara and the Doctor together in the first place still doesn't sit properly with me. What did she hope to accomplish with that? Yes, Clara can talk the Doctor into doing things he might not normally do, but it never seemed to become a factor in the final. It was a twist for twists sake.

But Clara in “Dark Water” was a tremendous thing to behold. Wracked with grief, she not only stands up to the Doctor, but plays him, and then threatens him. For all my talk last week (LINK) about how giving the companions time off the TARDIS can extend the show, here we got to see the consequences of giving them a life outside the TARDIS. In those moments Jenna Coleman further proves just how much she can do, and just how little her first season of Who didn't stretch her. It's such a shame this is her last season.

Or is it? The hint at the end seems to indicate that there's still some more in store for our Impossible Girl. No official announcement has come yet. I could quite happily believe that the scenes from “Death in Heaven” is what started the rumours, and everyone's refusal to comment has helped put an air of uncertainty over just what is happening right now. Roll on Christmas!

And thus comes an end to our new season of Doctor Who. But not this blog, as we go back to Classic and Audio Who.

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