Doctor Who, Dark Water, BBC1 - review: Part one of the series finale contained plenty of tantalising clues

Several major cliffhangers have been saved for next week’s finale

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The Independent Culture

The trauma of war emerged as a theme in part one of thrilling two-part series finale of Doctor Who. The Doctor never really warmed to Clara’s ex-soldier boyfriend, Danny Pink, and in “Dark Water” we found out more about the events in Afghanistan that Danny has tried to suppress.

Reflective Whovians will recall that Danny isn’t the only one with a military background he’d rather not be reminded of. In past episodes it’s been hinted that the Doctor was involved in some wartime atrocities back in Gallifrey – or at least one of his incarnation’s was. If that plot thread were ever to be picked up again it would surely be during Clara and the Doctor’s trip to the home of the dead, a sinister organisation known as 3W and headed up by our old friend Missy (Michelle Gomez), whoever she is.

While several major cliffhangers have been saved for next week’s finale, there were also plenty of tantalising clues here. Is the episode title “Dark Water” a reference to Blackwater, the controversial US security contractors employed in Iraq? And did everybody notice that copy of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife on the shelf in the Tardis library?

 

Fanboy theorising is part of the joy of Doctor Who, but even if these all turn out to be red herrings, it was hugely satisfying just to land in the Nethersphere for more than a flying visit. Aside from being a mind-bending and beautifully realised set, the Nethersphere offers the possibility of an on-screen Thick of It reunion between Capaldi’s Doctor and Chris Addison’s underworld administrator Seb.

Much like that thrilling prospect, the Big Bad this series may well be a little too grown up to enthuse Doctor Who’s younger viewers – certainly 3W’s theories on white noise and cremation seem designed to unnerve the adults just as much, if not more, than the kids. Still, the wit and invention of its delivery make all such flaws forgivable. As far as visual metaphors for impending mortality go, it doesn’t get more fun than a row of Jason and the Argonauts-style battle-ready skeletons.

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