Doctor Who and the Master Really Get in Your Face, 3D-Style
The BBC's 3D treatment of Doctor Who episodes ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Death in Heaven’ makes the cruel plot twists truly pop.
Doctor WhoDistributor: BBC Home Entertainment
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Michelle Gomez, Jenna Coleman
Network: BBC America
US Release Date: 2015-09-22
Many television shows are not cruel. Watching TV is supposed to be escapist fantasy, after all. Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s show runner, however, sometimes decides to not let his audiences escape.
“Dark Water” opens the two part Doctor Who Series 8 finalé with an expression of love. We knew that Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) were leaning into each other, but with The Doctor in the picture, a love that might have blossomed quickly was stretched out over the timey-whiminess that affects The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and all of his companions.
Clara finally says it: “I love you.” Not a brief love in passing, but deep and abiding love. She tells Danny that those words are always and for ever for Danny only.
And then silence.
A women finds Danny’s phone, tossed free, and relays the news of Danny’s death to Clara.
Danny Pink isn’t killed by an Dalek laser beam. He isn’t abducted and transformed into a Zygon double. He doesn’t die defending Clara. No, Danny Pink dies being hit by a car whilst walking through a British cross walk in broad daylight.
These two episodes are exceedingly cruel for television. Indeed, “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” are two of the most emotionally wrenching episodes ever dropped into the Doctor Who canon. Clara looses Danny not once, but three times.
We also experience the saving of UNIT’s leader, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Kate Lethbridge-Stewart), by her father turned Cyberman, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. As the Doctor recognizes this final act by a father, he finally salutes The Brigadier, an act he has just recently learned he always wanted from his undisciplined friend.
We also find the Doctor reunited with archenemy, and life-long friend, The Master (Michelle Gomez), in the guise of Missy, the orchestrator of the chaos. At The Master’s hand we loose Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), evaporated by an energy weapon, her glasses crushed beneath The Master’s high-heeled pumps.
The repeated loss of Danny transforms Clara into a much more brazen character, one who seemingly has nothing left to loose. She now goes all in when she finds herself in a precarious position.
But that is not all...
The Master is running a bit of hell or heaven it seems, by employing some Time Lord technology. The minds of all deceased humans, it appears, have been rerouted to a server prepared to download them, we discover, into Cybermen. Cybermen created from the resurrected corpuses of the human dead.
In the end, it is Danny Pink’s dedication to humanity that wins the day. The dead Pink has become a Cyberman in form, if not in mind. After a scuffle and some exposition between The Doctor and The Master, Danny ends up with the Cybermen command bracelet. He takes command of the Cybermen and orders them to create an inferno in the sky that destroys the nanotechnology that threatens to kill of of humanity and convert their corpuses into Cybermen. That is Danny’s second death.
The bracelet it turns out, will permit Danny to move from the Time Lord server and return from the odd deadness imposed by The Master. Just him, and just once. He chooses to bring back a child he killed in combat in the Middle East. We have seen glimpses of Danny’s war guilt before, and now we get to see him redeemed as he lets the boy (Shane Keogh-Grenade) pass through the portal, saying goodbye, and asking forgiveness, of the devastated Clara Oswald one last time. Death number three. I would say this is the final death, but this is Doctor Who and who really dies if the plot calls for their return?
The episodes on this DVD are classics for the gut wrenching emotion, and for their commingling of classic Doctor Who characters the Cybermen and The Master. Of course, viewers discover that in crisis, the world bestows upon The Doctor the title, President of Earth, giving him control of all of Earth’s armies. Of course, we learn he doesn’t need them at all. He just needs one former soldier with feelings for his companion to lead an army of the undead to destroy themselves in service to the living.
For those of you who acquired tickets to the 3D theatrical release of “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” ahead of Series 10, know that the 3D work on these episodes isn’t really necessary and adds nothing to the plot. It's a gimmick used to enhance the episodes on the big screen. Bringing the modern Doctor Who to the big screen is something that occurs too rarely. All of time and space is as vast as vast gets. The modern Doctor Who stories need more room than can be offered on a five-inch phone, a nine-inch tablet or even a 57-inch HD TV. (Bigger than that and you almost end up with theatrical experiences, so get the Blu-ray with 3D and do this episode right!) It is nice to be able to experience theatrical television in a theater setting.
That said, Doctor Who is as personal as is it large. Sure there are great vistas of space, and stars, great glowing interstellar dust clouds and planet of all shapes and sizes—and sure, there's even an occasional space ship. But at its heart Doctor Who is about heart. That most special feature of the spectacular is powerful regardless of format. The character of Doctor Who, like the Tardis he inhabits, is bigger on the inside than he is on the outside.
Perhaps the most personal relationships on the show exists between The Master and The Doctor. Many have played The Master but none as well as Michelle Gomez. She deserves an Emmy and a BAFTA for her perfectly pitched bat-shit crazy portrayal. The episodes are worthy of collection just to study her acting.
The “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” Blu-ray set is a particularly good investment if you have a large, 3D screen. If not, you may want to wait for the inevitable streaming to re-experience these episodes. We re-watch episodes like this not for the special effects, but for the special characters that affect us.
The DVD, however, increases its value with extras, including an extended interview with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman conducted by Star Trek’s Will Wheaton. The theatrical trailer for Doctor Who Series 9 is also included as an extra enticement.
I leave you with this quote by the Doctor to Danny Pink in his Cyberman suite as he pleads to have his emotions turned off: “Pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain. We can’t feel the hurt we inflict.”