Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Michelle Gomez, Chris Addison
Premiere 25 October, BBC One
Poor Danny Pink. It was looking fairly inevitable that he'd end up paying the Nethersphere a visit at some point, but who would have thought he'd get there for not observing the Green Cross Code? Clara herself remarks on what a boring demise it is, in her numbed, traumatised state - even if 'death is not an end'.
These early scenes see Doctor Who handle death and grief in a very grown-up fashion, perhaps influenced by Broadchurch. Indeed, the whole episode deals with various facets of death, and is set to challenge one or two belief systems. One bit of blackmail-related plot misdirection involving lava and a dressing-down from the Doctor later, and it's time to go and rescue Mr Pink from his new home in the Nethersphere.
Speaking of the Nethersphere, we get our first proper glimpse here. Not only do we get a look at its impossible vistas and see how it works, but we finally get to the bottom of what's eating Danny.
Boldly, he's brought face to face with the young victim of his tour of duty in the Nethersphere, and we see his 'really bad day' in flashback. After weeks of treading water whilst Clara's story continues bounding forward, Samuel Anderson finally earns his stripes, as he finds out that 'death is not an end' via administrator-from-hell Seb (Chris Addison), and is left contemplating his own final end, as he tearfully manoeuvres Clara into hanging up on him.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Clara make their way to the mysterious 3W institute. Here we meet Doctor Chang, who is pressed and pressed until he finally reveals the full horror of what happens after 'death', and the TARDIS crew finally get to meet Missy - who terrifies the Doctor with her unorthodox and highly invasive method of introduction.
After lurking on the sidelines since Deep Breath, Michelle Gomez gives a superb, playful, unsettling performance once given a bit of space to move. The terrified Chang is asked to 'say something nice' before she executes him. We still don't have the full lowdown on what she's about, but unsurprisingly, given the familiar publicity shots - Missy is in league with the Cybermen. The Nethersphere gets the minds, our friends from Telos get the bodies. There's some neat foreshadowing with the Cyber-eye motifs used on doors and the 'water tombs'. This is even used to alert the viewer ahead of the Doctor as to what's coming. The title itself is a plot point, and it becomes very apparent that it's there as Cyber-camouflage. It's good to finally have confirmation that these Cybermen are of organic origin, and not the RTD-era brain-cases though.
In another bit of misdirection, Moffat pulls the rug to reveal that the Nethersphere exists on a different plane to the institute, and the Doctor and Clara are actually in central London all along - as Missy puts things into motion, and Cybermen once again march down those St Paul's steps.
Interestingly, for a change, the Doctor has no inkling of the series arc, he blunders into it by accident while attempting to rescue a man he doesn't much like. Despite his 'so what' reaction to Clara's news, we know whether he's a good man now.
As ever, Capaldi and Coleman are excellent, and their relationship is key. The Doctor gets some good moments, be it his disbelief and horror at Missy's revelation, or tersely telling Clara how much she means to him when she attempts volcanic blackmail. Coleman meanwhile channels grief, deviousness, and pluck throughout, with the underlying unsaid note that her phone call caused Danny's death. The chemistry between the two leads is electric as ever.
Dark Water is a brilliant part one, how part two pans out is anyone's guess, but hopefully our questions will be answered next week, and it'll be worth the wait.