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Monday, 3 November 2014

Doctor Who S34E11: Dark Water.

Sorry this is up late. Trains happened.

Doctor Who
S34E11: Dark Water.

[Spoilers for Doctor Who S34E11]

After a blissfully long period of No Moffats Allowed (four whole episodes! It was a charm and a delight, I say, a charm and a delight) he's back for the finale two parter, which promises to see a conclusion to the frustrating Clara-Danny subplot and the boring and often barely noticeable Promised Land plot.


Here's the bingo as it stands prior to this episode:

With that out of the way, now that we've had a break from Moffat, is his return to the series a jarring shock to the system or am I more inclined to like his stuff now that I've had a little breathing room from it?

Eh. Neither, to be honest.

This is an episode most striking in how boring it is.

The plot is as follows: When Danny fails to observe pedestrian safety rules, Clara turns evil - because she's a woman in Moffat-era Who, they literally always try to destroy the universe when a man they're attracted to dies, see River, see Amy - and threatens the Doctor if he doesn't use time travel to bring Danny back. Spoiler alert, it all comes to naught, but they set out to find the afterlife, even though the Doctor has shown no interest in this before.

I say 'spoiler alert' because I think this is the first time the media build-up to an episode has attempted to cover up the total lack of a plot twist. The preview for the episode contains several moments which are totally absent in the episode and exist only to fool you into thinking that Clara's rebellion might actually have some purpose or be a major part of the episode.

Road safety.

It's not. The thrust of the episode is two-pronged: Clara and the Doctor talking to a genial man in a suit, and Danny talking to a genial man in a suit. That's it for most of the episode. Conversations with genial men in suits. Had I had a craving for such a thing, I could have just spent my Saturday evening in a bank discussing the finer points of interest rates, but instead I chose to watch Doctor Who in the mistaken belief that there would be something to hold my interest.

There isn't. It's unspeakably dull, and there's no real tension about anything: Oooh, is Danny really dead? No, Moffat has never killed off a major character permanently in his life, he just kills them off temporarily in order to have plots about women doing anything to save them. He's done it twice now in Doctor Who, nobody is expecting a sudden turnaround the third time around. Oooh, what's the secret with Missy? Well, the episode does its very best to kill that particular mystery early on, although it makes a welcome return later. 

(Speaking of, I think the 'oh, people you cremate can feel it' was going a bit far. There are people who are recently bereaved, including children - and much as I hate the 'oh, think of the children' argument, it is a children's show - and this is just going to be needlessly distressing for them. At least have a BBC Action Line number at the end of the episode, guys.)

So many things to take in in this picture.

The best that can be said about this episode is that the first and last ten minutes of it are genuinely pretty good. 

Clara facing off against the Doctor is annoying, because for god's sake just accept that your poorly fleshed out boyfriend is dead and that he should have looked out into the road before he walked, but it's tense. There's a sense that something genuinely awful might happen, and Coleman and Capaldi shine in this kind of close, suspenseful scene with each other.

Similarly, the plot twist at the end is pretty great - not the one with the Cybermen, the other one - and one that caught my completely by surprise, even though I know for a lot of people it was wholly expected. One problem, though: Time Lords (and possibly all Gallifreyans) can sense other Time Lords (and possibly all Gallifreyans). They are telepaths who are used to associating with people who can change their faces, and it's been long established that they can identify each other even if they're just on the same planet as each other. That's one big reason for the Archangel Network in Russell T. Davies' third series. 


But I admit, the twist does put a lot of the stuff in this series in a better light - like Missy's 'ooh, the Doctor is my boyfriend' shenanigans, and it's a good twist. Moffat did well there. Painful sentence to write, but true.

So, let's look at the updated bingo:

Next episode, we have the final episode of this series, and I fully expect it to be a letdown. Moffat has never been a good finale writer, I don't see that changing. 

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