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Can't Talk | July 2, 2020

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Doctor Who Recap: “Dark Water”

Doctor Who Recap: “Dark Water”
  • On November 4, 2014

Welcome to my obsession. All the recaps are here. For the love of all that’s holy, there are spoilers here. BIG SPOILERS.

I submit my tweets while I was watching Dark Water as evidence that this episode was epic:


Holy shit, is what I’m saying.


Clara calls Danny on his cell while he’s walking over to her house. She tells him to shut up. She’s decided to tell him everything, all the lies laid bare for him. She’s got a wall of post-it notes behind her so she doesn’t forget to tell him things. It’s very sweet.


If you get very obsessive, there’s some stuff on those post-it notes that didn’t happen on camera…

She tells him that she loves him. Not in a like, “love you” casual kind of way, but in a very serious way. She says she’ll never say it to anyone else. There’s a long pause.

Danny doesn’t respond.

There’s an awkward silence, then a woman picks up the phone. She proceeds to tell Clara she’s very very sorry, but the person who was using the phone has been hit by a car. Badly.

It's exactly as upsetting to watch as you can imagine.

It’s exactly as upsetting to watch as you can imagine.

Clara runs to the scene but it’s far too late–Danny’s gone. Dead, just like that. Crossing the street.

Time moves forward a few days. There’s a memorial at the crash site that Clara visits. We hear an announcement given by the school headmaster that Danny is gone and will be missed.

The phone on the TARDIS is ringing. We see Clara calling the Doctor, just leaving her phone to ring until he answers. Her grandmother comes to ask her if she’s okay, and tells her it’s okay to cry and let her feelings out.

Side note: Jenna Coleman is a great actor. Her dead expression in this scene is powerful and on-point.

Grandma: It’s a terrible, terrible thing.

Clara: It wasn’t terrible.

Grandma: Clara?

Clara: It was boring.

Grandma: Boring?

Clara:It was ordinary. People just kept walking with their iPods and their shopping bags. He was alive and then he was dead and it was nothing, like stepping off a bus.

Grandma: He deserved better, and so did you.

Clara: Oh I don’t deserve anything. Nobody deserves anything better. But I am owed better. I am owed.

At last, the Doctor picks up the phone. She fakes happy, tells him she’s fine and I’ll tell you this–it’s the best lying I’ve seen her do all season. She’s such a terrible liar but she is absolutely stone cold here.

Post credit sequence, there’s a brief scene of the Doctor waking up inside a volcano. Then time shifts backward a bit and we find Clara entering the TARDIS. She tells him she wants to visit a volcano because she’s never seen lava. As they talk, Clara wanders through the TARDIS control room and grabs all the keys she can find.

Time flashes forward again, and she tells the Doctor (who’s just woken up) “it’s on your neck.”

Backward, she’s still looking for keys, even finding one in the pages of a book (The Time Traveler’s Wife, no joke. Silly Doctor.) She asks him if he still has those “sleep patch things.” (The TARDIS Data Core seems to think that these are the same patches that the Doctor and Martha encountered in New New York during Gridlock.)

Side note: Captain Jack *sobbing*

He tells her she can’t have one, but she finds them anyway and slaps it on his neck before he can do anything. Time catches up to itself, and now we’re back to the volcano and the Doctor waking up confused. Clara, on the other hand, now has all seven TARDIS keys and is holding them over lava.


Do not fuck with Clara Oswald.

She takes one and tosses it in the lava. She tells him Danny Pink is dead. She wants him to fix it. He tells her no. She tosses another key. She tells him she’ll toss a key each time he says no, and they’ll both be locked out of the TARDIS for good. He tells her he can’t save Danny. She tells him time can be rewritten. He tells her no, he can’t, it will create a paradox.

She calls bullshit, tells him he’s changed the rules and rewritten time plenty of times. He tells her he knows when it’s safe and when it’s not, he’s a fucking Time Lord for fuck’s sake. (Like, just once I want Capaldi to go on a fuck rant. Just once.) Clara responds by throwing all but one key into the lava. She’s done giving any fucks about any of it.

Clara: One last chance. And I don’t care about the rules. I don’t give a damn about paradoxes. Save Danny, bring him back or I swear. You will never step inside your TARDIS again.

Doctor: No.

Clara: Do as your told.

Doctor: No.

Clara: Say it again so I know you mean it.

Doctor: No.

Clara: I’m not kidding, Doctor.

Doctor: Neither am I.

Clara: I will do it!

Doctor: Clara, my Clara, I don’t think you will.

But she does. She tosses the fucking thing over the side faster than Frodo ever did. The Doctor lunges for her but it’s too late. Clara disintegrates into sobs, says she can’t apologize and she would do it again in a heartbeat.


Feels. So many feels.

The Doctor tells her to look in her hand. She protests, but looks and discovers the sleep patch she put on him is actually on her–and that it doesn’t work on him. He tells her they’re not sleep patches, but that they induce a dream state that makes a person suggestible. He let her play out the scenario to see what she wanted. The two of them are still aboard the TARDIS and the keys are just thrown about on the floor.

He scans her, finds her to be “a mess of chemicals.” Only twelve would boil grief down to chemicals, but I like that about him. She asks him, “what now,” and he tells her, “go to hell.” She says right, fair enough, and goes to leave but he stops her.

Doctor: Clara. You asked me what we’re going to do. I told you. We’re going to hell. Or wherever it is that people go when they die. If there is anywhere. What ever it is, we’re going to go there and we’re going to find Danny. And if it is in any way possible, we’re going to bring him home. Almost every culture in the universe has a concept of an afterlife. I always meant to have a look around and see if I could find one.

Clara: You’re going to help me?

Doctor: Well why wouldn’t I help you.

Clara: Because of what I just did. I just–

Doctor: Betrayed me. Betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship. You betrayed everything that I’ve ever stood for. You let me down.

Clara: Then why are you helping me?

Doctor: Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?

He tells her to quit making big eyes at him and to quit whining. He tells her this is one of those moments where you find what you’re made of, and sticks her hands in the TARDIS control goo. Think of Danny, he tells her, make it hurt, but don’t “bleat.” Focus on where he is now.

Side note: It’s a fascinating thing, our culture’s discomfort with grief. Especially the Doctor’s discomfort with it, considering how long  he’s been grieving and for how much. It’s almost like we get a little window into why he keeps running and can never seem to settle down long enough to even have a family Christmas dinner. If he ever slows, all that grief might hit him. Now he’s showing Clara how to outrun it, too. In real life, I think it’s more healthy to be a Danny Pink than a Doctor, but we can all certainly identify with wanting to stay busy enough to outrun our pain.

Clara: Doctor.

Doctor: We’re in a hurry.

Clara: I don’t deserve a friend like you.

Doctor: Clara, I’m terribly sorry, but I’m exactly what you deserve.

Side note: The two of them are little peas in a “run away from discomfort” pod, aren’t they? They do deserve each other. I think the Doctor deserved to have his TARDIS keys threatened after the way he’s been pushing her and hurting her. I don’t believe she deserved to lose Danny because she lied to him a ton, of course, but the pain she feels is at least in part because of her mistreatment of a basically nice dude.

Another side note: how cool is it that a dude got refrigerated instead of a lady? I am super scared for Danny, but I’m glad it wasn’t the other way around like it so often is.

The TARDIS control goo does it’s thing, and the TARDIS does seem to locate Danny, somewhere.

The scene shifts to Danny, who is dozing away in an office. There’s a man asking him to fill out forms and offering him coffee. After some back and forth banter (including the guy asking if Danny is being cremated), Danny figures out he’s in the afterlife and opens the drapes in the office to see a massive city that the bureaucratic guy calls “the Nethersphere, or the promised land.”


Welcome to the afterlife, same as the whole life thing but with spotty wifi.

The TARDIS lands somewhere and Clara asks if this is where Danny is. The Doctor says probably not, that in fact it’s the place where Clara’s timeline is most likely to intersect with his again.

Side note: This line flew by and I missed it’s importance the first time I watched it. He’s not saying Danny is here, he’s saying Clara will encounter Danny here. That’s very different, and very upsetting given what happens later.

The Doctor also tells Clara she needs to quit moping and become cynical and clever, quickly. He needs her sharp and focused. He wants some “attitude.” They emerge from the TARDIS in a mausoleum.


Clever Doctor Who fans will know right here what’s happening in this episode. Sadly, it took me a bit longer.

They find that the dead in this mausoleum are stored in watery chambers. The Doctor doesn’t know what the point of it is, but he feels a niggling sense of familiarity, like he should.


Weirdest fishtank ever.

Clara makes the very salient point that she doesn’t particularly want to see Danny like this. The Doctor asks why anyone would want to see their dead loved one’s like this. As they walk by the tombs, one of the skeletons TURNS ITS FUCKING HEAD TO WATCH THEM PASS.


Anyway. They find a book with digital information about the company, that its purpose is to guard the bodies of the dead from the “death experience.” The company is called “3W.” Clara says it’s strange, and the Doctor says it’s very strange, because standing behind the digital information image is Missy, who evidently read it aloud. He tells her to come on out.


Surprise, motherfucker!

She says hello, and how can she assist with the Doctor’s death. The Doctor stutters over a lie about why they’re there, which is a bit odd, and Clara says they’re just browsing. He asks Missy what 3W is, and she apologizes that he hasn’t received the official 3W greetings package. She then kisses him. A lot.


Quite possibly my favorite screencap of all time. Please click to see the big version.

She offers to give Clara the welcome package as well, but Clara declines. Missy tells them she’s a “mobile intelligence systems interface.” A welcome droid, in other words. She offers to alter her intimacy setting, if they would prefer. The Doctor says yes do that please.

The Doctor asks Missy who’s in charge, and she says she is. He asks who maintains her, and she says she’s programmed for self repair and maintained by her heart. She puts his hand on her chest, and he spends quite a while feeling what’s there. Things slow down just a tad:

Doctor: Who maintains  your heart?

Missy: My heart is maintained by the doctor.

Doctor: Doctor Who?

Music: ominous

Eventually, the Doctor gets her to summon the non-android who runs the facility, a guy named Doctor Chang. Doctor Chang offers condolences, and asks if there’s a particular dead person they want to talk to. Clara says yes, so Chang tells them to come along.

Doctor: Are you okay?

Clara: No.

Doctor: Good. There would be something very wrong if you were.


He takes her hand. It’s pretty great.

As they walk with Doctor Chang, we see all the skeletons turn their heads to watch and Missy giggling to herself. Freaky.

We’re back to Danny and the bureaucrat. They have iPods and Steve Jobs in the afterlife. The bureaucrat explains that death results in more life in the Nethersphere. It’s not really an “afterlife” at all. He asks Danny if he’s ever killed anyone.

Danny flashes back to some unpleasant war experiences. The bureaucrat mentions that they’ve had a request to meet him. After some further flashbacks, we see a kid who looks about 11 lurking in the doorway. Ugh. Poor Danny.


Oh man, ouch.

Back at 3W, if you haven’t noticed this recurring logo by now you are definitely not paying attention.


I didn’t recognize it though, it still took me a little longer.

Chang scans Clara with some machine. The Doctor asks how the bodies stay cohesive instead of turning into a bunch of floating bones. Chang explains that they’re actually encased in a support exoskeleton that keeps everything together. He goes on to demonstrate that the water they’re sitting in actually erases everything from view except organic matter.


Nothing up my sleeve!

Meanwhile, we see Missy agitating all the skeletons, making the tombs bubble and otherwise chuckling to herself. Still weird.

Side note: it was somewhere around here I went “EXOSKELETONS! HOLY SHIT! I’M DOCTOR IDIOT!” I feel dumb that I didn’t catch it from the shape of the logo they kept throwing in our face, really.

Another side note: There’s a really magical interchange that is not related to anything but I want to share it. Chang does his little xray magic water demo.

Chang (smarmiest voice I swear): I keep saying they should use this stuff in swimming pools.

Doctor: Why?

Chang: Think about it.

Doctor: I am thinking about it. Why?

This is the BEST way to call out someone making a racist or sexist or otherwise shitty joke. Bell taught it to me. Instead of feeling awkward or acting out, simply ask them why the joke is funny. Watch them get uncomfortable as they explain it’s funny because “women should stay in the kitchen” or whatever. Good times. 

Moving on, skeletons are turning heads and bubbling and being freaky.

The Doctor shows Chang the psychic paper and Chang assumes they’re a government inspection. They ask him what 3W stands for, and he explains that it stands for “Three Words.” What three words?

Scene shifts to Danny, talking to the child. Danny is crying, and apologizing. He reaches out for the kid but the kid runs away in seeming terror. This is a deeply heartbreaking scene I can’t do justice in a recap.

Before he can ask more about that, someone screams off in the distance. Danny asks what it was. The bureaucrat explains that despite having another life in the Nethersphere, people are still attached to their former bodies. That’s why Danny has been cold this entire time–his body is somewhere cold right now. Following the logic, if someone is cremated or leaves their body to science, they experience that pain of dissection or burning.

Concurrently, Chang explains that the history of 3W is that its founder discovered that you can hear the dead speaking within the white noise of radios and televisions.

Side note: Actually a real belief held by some. White Noise Two is a pretty fun horror movie about the concept, starring Nathan Fillion and Katee Sackhoff.

He tells them that the founder (Doctor Skarosa) managed to isolate three words that convinced him that these were the dead talking, and that being dead isn’t the picnic it seems like it might be. The three words were “don’t cremate me.” The Doctor is skeptical, thinks it may all be a flim flam trick.

Back in the Nethersphere, Danny tries to clarify what will happen once his body is cremated but he gets interrupted by a call. From Clara. The machine in the lab at 3W scanned Clara’s brain and found whom she wanted to talk to. They’ve managed to make a connection.

Elsewhere, Missy claps her creepy hands and all the skeletons in all the tanks stand up. AAHHHHH


Nope. NOPE.

Back in the lab, Clara and Danny are speaking through the mystery of life and death. Momentarily, the wifi goes out and the Doctor suggests that they are reading her mind and telling her what she wants to hear. He’s convinced it’s a fake.

They get the signal back and Danny and Clara are able to have a conversation. The Doctor, in his current brusque manner, gives Clara some space by telling her “ask him questions only he would know the answer to. Be sure.” Then he summons Chang to leave the room. Before going he implores her to be skeptical and strong, even if it breaks her heart. He then runs off to explore further.

Doctor: Who would harvest dead bodies? I feel like I’m missing something obvious.


Yep, pretty obvious.

Meanwhile Missy’s skeleton army is draining its tanks. The water slowly drains out from the top down in perfect “dramatic reveal” fashion. The Doctor and Chang join Missy just as everything is beginning to go right to shit. Chang asks Missy what’s happening, and reminds her she’s a robot.

Oh yeah, about that. She’s totally not a robot. After fucking with him a little, she casually tells him she lied, and that while she’s enjoyed working with him, his contract will uh… not be extended.

And then she disintegrates him


If she is God, she’s the Old Testament version.

She tells the Doctor she’ll be with him shortly but she’s feeling a bit emotional. Meanwhile, the tanks are draining to reveal the exoskeletal structure of the dead people. SURPRISE THEY’RE CYBERMEN. Also OH SHIT THEY’RE CYBERMEN.


It’s the eyes. Man I felt dumb when I saw it.

Action shift to Danny and Clara’s conversation. Danny struggles to answer anything factual about their relationship. He can’t seem to prove that he’s her Danny and not some trick. She begs him to tell her something that proves he’s really Danny, and he can’t think of anything. They are both crying.

Back to the Doctor and Missy. The Doctor freaks and tells Missy they can’t let the Cybermen escape. She chuckles then points to a shiny ball near the roof.


Disco Cybermen.

Missy: The Nethersphere. It’s ever so funny. The people who live inside that think they’ve gone to heaven.

(more Clara and Danny conversation that’s sad)

Doctor: That’s a matrix data slice. A Gallifreyan hard drive. Time Lord technology.

Missy: Imagine you could upload dying minds to that, edit them, rearrange them, get rid of all those boring emotions, ready to be downloaded. Meanwhile you upgrade the bodies. Upload the mind, upgrade the body. Cybermen from cyberspace. Now why has no one thought of that before?

Doctor: How did you get ahold of Time Lord technology?

Missy: You know who I am. I told you. You felt it. Ah! (hand on her heart). Surely you did.

Doctor: Two hearts.

Missy: And both of them yours.

Doctor: You’re a Time Lord.

Missy: Time Lady, please. I’m old fashioned

Doctor: Which Time Lady?

Missy: The one you abandoned, Doctor. The one you left for dead. Didn’t you ever think I’d find my way back?

The Doctor panics and runs for Clara. Missy tells him she shut off the lift so he can’t get back up.

Doctor: You have stairs don’t you?

Missy: Well I’m not a Dalek.

The Doctor heads outside again, and discovers they’ve been on Earth the whole time. He finds himself on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The same steps where the Cybermen started their very first invasion in 1968:


I like the skirts.

Clara and Danny are still struggling to make a connection. Clara asks him to talk to her, tell her something. Then she promises that no matter where he is, she’s going to come after him. There’s nothing that can stop her from going to him. He tells her oh hell no, she is not coming to the Nethersphere. He wants her to forget him and not show up in a place where there seems to be guaranteed pain. He tells her he loves her repeatedly and she gets angry, telling him that if he tells her he loves her one more time she’s going to shut the damn machine off. She wants more.

Danny: Clara.

Clara: Yes?

Danny: I love you.

Side note: If THAT doesn’t prove he’s himself, I don’t know what does. Sacrificing himself to save her is so annoyingly noble.

She shuts it off in a fit of pique, and I can only assume she wants to go get him. There’s a Cyberman standing in the tank behind her with the name Doctor Skarosa on the nameplate.

Danny collapses in a chair, crying, still trying to put his entire fate together. The bureaucrat shows up in slimy bureaucrat fashion with his iPod handy.

Bureaucrat: These emotions. They’re terribly difficult. But you know, we’ve got a thing for that. We can help with all these difficult feelings. Just, press this. I’ll leave you to make a decision.

He hands Danny the iPod. There’s a big “delete” button on it.



Side note: The bureaucrat guy–is he a kind of Agent Smith?

Another side note: Doesn’t this bring all the Doctor’s emotional discomforts to an interesting head?

So, Clara’s in a building full of Cybermen. Cool.

Outside, the Doctor is telling people to run away but no one is paying attention to him. Missy tells him it’s too late, “all the graves on planet Earth are about to give birth.”

Doctor: Who are you?

Missy: Oh you know who I am. I’m Missy.

Doctor: Who’s Missy?

Missy: Oh please, try to keep up. Short for Mistress. Well, couldn’t very well keep calling myself The Master, now could I?

Doctor: OH GOD THE FEELS HAVE CAUGHT UP WITH ME. Actually he says nothing, but he has a hell of a look on his face:


Too many feels. May explode.

And… to be continued. AUGH.

Things we know:

Missy can travel in and out of the Nethersphere, apparently. She was there when the policeman got it in The Caretaker.

Missy can somehow observe the Doctor even when he’s in other times and places, and seems to have been directing Clara and the Doctor together. (How even?)

Missy calls the Doctor her “boyfriend” in Deep Breath and really gets into the kissing thing. Those two have such a love/hate thing going on. This bugged some people but I always found the Master’s obsession with the Doctor and humanity took on a sexual overtone now and then. Especially in the reboot.


How/why was that ship full of robot aliens heading for The Promised Land in Robot of Sherwood? Also the ship full of andriods in Deep Breath?

Why did the Doctor “choose this face,” as he says he did in Deep Breath?

Was that SERIOUSLY just a kid under the blanket in Listen?

How did Missy get ahold of Gallifreyan technology? (Interesting note: she’s come the closest to returning the Time Lords, hasn’t she?)

What the hell with the Cybermen? Do they just keep getting reinvented? And what was the Master waiting for? She has tons of bodies already. Why is she sitting on a pile of Cybermen and doing nothing until the Doctor shows up? Did she kill Danny to get his attention? Or did she set it all up knowing Danny would die and Clara would want to go after him?

Is she downloading everyone who dies in the universe? Just how much storage is available in a Nethersphere, and where can I get one? I have a lot of podcasts to back up. I just read a fan theory that all the folk we’ve seen go to the Nethersphere have been military-types–the policeman, the woman from Into the Dalek, even the robot from Deep Breath was kind of a leader (although this is the biggest stretch in the theory). Interesting.

Didn’t the Master die? Maybe he uploaded his own consciousness to the Nethersphere and that’s how it all started?

What happens to people in the Nethersphere when their bodies are cremated?

Small thing but who is Xylo Jones, a skeleton lingered upon during the episode? Related to Martha, or Ianto, or Harriet?!?!

Horrified realization:

Oh jeeze Danny could wind up like this poor lady:

See you next week, guys.

(Images from

  • Like (0)


  1. Megan

    1. Your tweets were, in fact, spot on.
    2. Headcanon: The TARDIS herself put The Time Traveler’s Wife in The Doctor’s library.
    3. It took me til the doors closed to have my “OH DUH” moment, so you beat me.
    4. I loved everything about this episode. (Well, maybe not the volcano flashbacks… I would’ve liked that better chronologically. Bygones.)

    • I agree, volcano scene was too powerful to be chopped up. Except I liked not knowing it wasn’t real.

      I accept your headcanon because yes.

  2. Cat

    You didn’t mention the swearing on the psychic paper? Nice subtle Thick of It reference (as was the casting of Chris Addison as Seb the bureaucrat)

    • Omg I missed it totally. Fabulous.

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