252a – "Dark Water"
Doctor Who episode
Dark Water.jpg
Missy reveals her true identity as the Master to a horrified Doctor. The climax was removed from all preview copies of the episode,[1] and the actors involved recorded their lines in ADR to hide the reveal from spectators.[2]
Directed byRachel Talalay
Written bySteven Moffat
Script editorDavid P Davis
Produced byPeter Bennett
Executive producer(s)
Incidental music composerMurray Gold
SeriesSeries 8
Running timeFirst of two-part story, 46 minutes
First broadcast1 November 2014 (2014-11-01)
← Preceded by
"In the Forest of the Night"
Followed by →
"Death in Heaven"
List of Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"Dark Water" is the eleventh episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on BBC One on 1 November 2014. The episode was written by showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat and was directed by Rachel Talalay. It is the first of a two-part story; the concluding episode "Death in Heaven", the finale of the eighth series, aired on 8 November.

In the episode, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) is killed, and finds himself in an afterlife called the Nethersphere. As the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) try to find Danny, they find themselves in a facility that accommodates Cybermen, run by recurring character Missy (Michelle Gomez). In the episode's climax, Missy reveals her true identity as a female incarnation of the Doctor's arch-enemy The Master, last seen in the 2009–10 serial "The End of Time".

The episode received widespread critical acclaim, with the performances of Capaldi, Gomez, Coleman and Anderson being praised. Critics praised the horror strand of the episode, the maturity level, and the darker, more mature and morbid themes.


Clara phones Danny, ready to admit the full truth of her travelling with the Twelfth Doctor and that she sincerely loves Danny. Danny is killed by a passing car midway through the call. Visibly upset, Clara schemes to use a hypnotic patch on the Doctor to blackmail him into saving Danny. The Doctor eventually reveals that the patch did not work on him; instead, he had used it on Clara to learn why she was upset and to see how far she was willing to go. He offers—as a friend, despite her betrayal of him—to see if they can locate Danny in the afterlife.

Clara focuses on Danny's location with the TARDIS' telepathic interface. The Doctor and Clara arrive at a mausoleum called the 3W Institute, which holds several tanks of human skeletons submerged in a substance called dark water; the dark water hides the exoskeletons that support the skeletons. They are greeted by Missy, who says she is a welcome droid. The scientist Dr Chang explains to them that 3W was founded to protect the dead after voices heard within white noise broadcast signals suggested the dead are aware of their bodies being cremated.

During all of this, Danny is greeted by Seb in an apparent afterlife called the Nethersphere. Seb helps Danny adjust to his recent death. As part of his orientation, a meeting is arranged between Danny and a young civilian boy he accidentally killed while he was a soldier in Afghanistan. The boy runs off. Danny receives a call from Clara at 3W. The Doctor leaves with Chang to investigate further while Clara takes the call. Not wishing Clara to die, Danny does not convince her that he is really Danny, and tricks her into ending the call. Though Danny almost deletes his emotions, he hesitates when he sees the boy watching him.

"Dark Water" Cybermen
The Invasion Cybermen
The shot of the Cybermen emerging from St Paul's Cathedral was intended as an homage to the similar shots from the 1968 serial The Invasion[3]

Missy instructs the skeletons to rise and begin draining the tanks. She kills Chang with a handheld device. The skeletons are revealed to be Cybermen. Missy tells the Doctor that dying minds are uploaded to the Nethersphere—a spherical Time Lord "hard drive"—where the emotions are deleted and the mind is downloaded into upgraded Cyberman bodies. The Doctor realises that Missy is not a droid, but a Time Lady. The Doctor races out of 3W and finds that it is inside St Paul's Cathedral in contemporary London. Missy reveals her identity as a female incarnation of the Master, having changed her name to fit her new gender. Clara is trapped in Chang's laboratory with another Cyberman.


The read through for "Dark Water" took place on 12 June 2014. Filming began soon afterwards, on 16 June 2014. Locations for the episode included Cardiff, Pontypool and St. Paul's Cathedral.[4] When filming the episode's climax, Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez mouthed their lines as the Doctor and Missy—recorded later using automated dialogue replacement—to hide the revelation from all spectators of the filming.[2] To further ensure there was no leak, the climax was removed from all preview copies of the episode.[1]

Dan Martin calls the scene with the Cybermen emerging from St. Paul's Cathedral "a direct reference" to a similar shot from the 1968 serial The Invasion, and suspects the tomb-filled mausoleum may likewise reference the 1967 serial The Tomb of the Cybermen.[3]

Cast notes

Sheila Reid made her second appearance as Clara's grandmother, having been introduced in "The Time of the Doctor"; she had previously appeared in Vengeance on Varos in 1985. Chris Addison appears as Seb.

Broadcast and reception

Preview release

Scenes of "Dark Water" were removed from the DVD previews sent to reviewers, and a media blackout had been imposed on any plot details that were not released by the BBC. One notable scene removed by the BBC was the revelation of Missy's identity.[1]


Overnight viewing figures were estimated at 5.27 million. It was watched by a total of 7.34 million viewers.[5] The episode achieved an Appreciation Index score of 85.[6] In the US, the episode was watched by an estimated 1.02 million on BBC America.[7]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
The A.V. ClubB[8]
Paste Magazine8.6[9]
SFX Magazine[10]
TV Fanatic[11]
New York Magazine[15]
Radio Times[16]
Digital Spy[17]
The Daily Telegraph[18]
Daily Mirror[19]

The episode received critical acclaim. Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph gave it five stars out of five and called it "bone-rattling and suitably spooky fare". He praised the source of everyday fears such as death for the horror and praised the performances of Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson and Gomez.[18] Neela Debnath of The Independent said that the episode was "sad, funny, scary, romantic" and "is everything you could ask for from a Doctor Who finale the day after Halloween."[20] Richard Edwards of SFX gave the episode four and a half stars out of five, claiming "...in a series of great Capaldi performances, this is one of the best". He praised the opening premise and the big reveal at the end and also commented on its allusions to The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion.[10]

Matt Risley of IGN praised the episode for its "tense and traumatic dose of Who", but was critical of the lack of action, which usually went hand-in-hand with the Cybermen. Overall, he rated the first part of the finale an 8.4.[14] Alaisdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B rating, claiming that "Dark Water could be a good episode, or it could be a terrible one", indicating that it was only the first half of the story.[8]

Despite the positive critical reception, the episode received criticism from viewers concerning the use of death and cremation in the storyline. The BBC defended the use of the themes in the show's context.[21] The BBC also noted that it was stated several times that the truth may be distressing and that the Doctor dismissed this straight away.[22]

Critical analysis

A book length study of the serial (covering both "Dark Water" and "Death in Heaven"), was written by Philip Purser-Hallard, and published as part of The Black Archive series from Obverse Books in 2016.[23]

The serial was covered in volume 79 of the Doctor Who: The Complete History book series, which reprinted Andrew Pixley's Archive features from Doctor Who Magazine and the various Doctor Who Magazine Special Editions, as well as new articles created specifically for the book.[24]


  1. ^ a b c "Dark Water Advance Preview". Doctor Who TV. Doctor Who TV. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b Kelly, Stephen (30 October 2014). "Who is Missy in Doctor Who? The answer made the director Rachel Talalay shriek". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b Martin, Dan (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who recap: series 34, episode 11 – Dark Water". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Doctor Who, Series 8, Dark Water – Dark Water: Fact File". Doctor Who. 1 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Series 8 Ratings Accumulator". Doctor Who TV. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Doctor Who Series 8 (2014) UK Ratings Accumulator".
  7. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Saturday Cable Originals: 11.1.2014". Showbuzzdaily.com. Archived from the original on 6 November 2014.
  8. ^ a b Wilkins, Alasdair (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who: "Dark Water"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  9. ^ Rozeman, Mark (2 November 2014). "Doctor Who Review: "Dark Water"". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  10. ^ a b Edwards, Richard (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who S8.11 Dark Water Review". SFX Magazine. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  11. ^ Pavlica, Carissa (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 11 Review: Dark Water". TV Fanatic. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  12. ^ Smedley, Rob (1 November 2014). "'Doctor Who' review: 'Dark Water'". CultBox. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  13. ^ Welsh, Kaite (1 November 2014). "Review: 'Doctor Who' Season 8 Episode 11, 'Deep Water,' Is To Die For". IndieWire. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  14. ^ a b Risley, Matt (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who: "Dark Water" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  15. ^ Ruediger, Ross (2 November 2014). "Doctor Who Recap: Cyber Scam". Vulture.com. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  16. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who Dark Water review: Gender reassignment and life after death launch a challenging finale". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  17. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who series 8 'Dark Water' recap: A new twist on an old classic". Digital Spy. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  18. ^ a b Hogan, Michael (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who: Dark Water, review: 'bone-rattling'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  19. ^ Beech, Richard (1 November 2014). "Doctor Who review: Dark Water brought our favourite bad guy back - but she's a bad girl". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  20. ^ "Doctor Who, Dark Water, review: A belter of an episode". Independent UK. 1 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Doctor Who: BBC defends Dark Water death and afterlife plotline". BBC Newsbeat. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  22. ^ "'Dark' Doctor Who storyline defended by BBC". The Guardian. 5 November 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  23. ^ Purser-Hallard, Philip (2016). Dark Water/Death in Heaven. ISBN 978-1-909031-40-1. OCLC 1064473135.
  24. ^ "Doctor Who: the complete history". Doctor Who : The Complete History. 2015. ISSN 2057-6048. OCLC 978424294.

Further reading