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Recap / Doctor Who S34 E11 "Dark Water"

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The Doctor: This is it, Clara, one of those moments.
Clara: What moments?
The Doctor: The darkest day, the blackest hour. Chin up, shoulders back — let's see what we're made of, you and I.
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The one where Danny Pink didn't Splink.

Written by Steven Moffat. Part 1 of the two-part finale to Series 8.

This week, we're probably going to Heaven! Please don't hang your head and cry. But wonder why...note 

After eight episodes of trying to hold a masquerade together, Clara's finally decided to fear less, trust more, and tell Danny over the phone about all her adventures throughout time and space. And that she loves him — she truly, properly loves him, and won't ever say those three words to anyone else again. That's a distracting thought. That's a very distracting thought, when you're walking into the middle of traffic.

Then Danny stops talking. Then a woman picks up the phone, audibly shaken. There was a car, and it came so quickly...

Clara takes it hard. Very hard. So hard that the next time the Doctor comes round to call, she has him fly her over to a volcano before drugging him and stealing all of his TARDIS keys. Even the one in his pocket and the one in his copy of The Time Traveler's Wife (though she missed the one in the cubbyhole over the "P" of "Police Box".) You see, lava can destroy a TARDIS key. If the Doctor doesn't go back and save Danny (and yeah, saving a companion's loved ones, that went super well last time), he'll never get inside the TARDIS again. The Doctor takes charge of the situation soon enough, staring Clara down while she destroys every last TARDIS key in grief. (Remember, threats are meaningless unless you go through with them.) After which he reveals that she wasn't able to drug him, and he's drugged her instead in retaliation, and they're safely in the TARDIS and never landed at a volcano site at all. And he's angry that she betrayed him, but asks her if she honestly thought that he cares so little about her that betraying him would make a difference. Asked what he wants of her, he tells her to "go to Hell". Literally. Off they fly, using the TARDIS's glowy telepathic hand warmers, to find Danny.

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Meanwhile, Danny's dead. Happily, that's not too big a deal! There's this organization called 3W — a sort of corporate entity/afterlife, headed by Missy, that promises to properly care for the dead. Seb, Missy's extremely chipper assistant, shows Danny the sphere-shaped Heaven.

The Doctor and Clara arrive at 3W, where skeletons are encased in water tanks. They finally meet the mysterious Missy and the Doctor devolves into a stuttering mess at the sight of her. He's definitely not ready to admit to himself who she is, though... so she promptly pushes the Doctor up against a wall and snogs him into complete incoherence. Missy reveals herself to be a droid (a "Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface") and pulls the Doctor's hand against her chest so he can feel her android heart. When she (hammily) storms off to introduce her guests to her techie, Dr. Chang, the Doctor's hand lingers in the empty air, and he has the most concerned look on his face, as though her heartbeat revealed something entirely different...

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Meanwhile, Seb introduces Danny to a guest who's come to see him. Not Clara, but the reason for his PTSD: as it turns out, Danny accidentally killed a young boy while he was in the army. The two very uncomfortably stare at each other before the kid dashes off again in panic.

Dr. Chang explains to Clara and the Doctor what 3W does: the institute seeks to preserve the bodies of the dead, since a bunch of very clever scientists realised that dead people feel whatever their bodies feel when they decay. Chang also demonstrates the eponymous "dark water", which conceals any inorganic matter that's submerged in it. And the static on your television set, that odd white noise throughout the ages, is nothing but the dead crying out — "Don't cremate me!" After Seb relays this information to Danny as well, Clara is able to speak to Danny using an iPad (of course they have iPads in Heaven — they have Steve Jobs!) and Danny soon realises that Clara intends to follow him all the way to the afterlife.

The Doctor soon finds out that the "dark water" surrounding the skeletons is hiding the fact that they're all encased in Cyberman armour. And once Missy sadistically kills Dr. Chang, and turns out to be not actually a droid and actually the CEO of the institution, the Doctor confronts her about other very unexpected things... such as the fact that Heaven is really obviously a knockoff of the Gallifreyan Matrix, the network that stores the minds of all dead Time Lords. Modified to contain humans. Also, Missy has a double heartbeat, which she revealed to the Doctor when she pulled his hand against her chest. The Doctor freaks right out and runs like hell from her, still not willing to admit to himself who Missy is. Out on the streets, 3W turns out to be dimensionally folded into St. Paul's Cathedral, and the army of Cybermen is already making its way down the steps. Which is when Missy, fed up with the Doctor's refusal to realise her identity, finally tells him that Missy is short for "Mistress".

"Well... I couldn't well keep calling myself 'the Master', now could I?"

The Doctor backs away slowly in a mixture of terror and disbelief, very agape and letting out a gasp. While he's not shown much fear thus far in this incarnation, this is the first time he's positively horrified. The Cybermen march in sync on their latest invasion out of the Cathedral, and steadily close in for the kill...

And Danny knows that once Clara is sure that it's really him, she'll follow him right into death. So he says nothing but "I love you", over and over, until she's convinced he's not real. Seb gives him a very handy little button that will DELETE all those pesky emotions. Danny is reduced to a crying wreck after pushing Clara away for her own good, and in a distraught state, is dangerously tempted to press the button. But the little boy he killed steps forward, almost as if to intervene...


Tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Turns out Danny accidentally killed a young boy while fighting in the Middle East.
  • Actor Allusion: The psychic paper identifies the Doctor as a government official, but, Dr Chang asks, why is there all this swearing? Oh, he has a lot of internalised anger. Almost certainly a nod to Peter Capaldi's famous role as spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. On top of that, Seb is played by Chris Addison, The Thick of It's Oliver "Ollie" Reeder (though The Doctor and Seb never share a scene).
    • Just like the first Master we ever saw, the actor playing him/her has an obviously Spanish last name.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Having a perfectly normal conversation with a loved one over the phone when you suddenly stop getting a reply. That would be because they were just killed in a freak accident.
  • Affably Evil: Seb, who does everything he can to ease Danny through his death — including offering a way to get rid of all those painful feelings.
  • All Just a Dream: Clara's betrayal of the Doctor and holding him to ransom by destroying the seven keys to the TARDIS is a dreamscape scenario set up by the Doctor. See Secret Test of Character.
  • And I Must Scream: The people in the Nethersphere supposedly can still feel everything that happens to their original bodies; even if they aren't cremated they still have to feel their bodies slowly decaying and falling apart. This is why 3W exists: to take care of dead bodies by putting them in exosuits that preserve them and hold them together. However, this is all said by Missy's associates, who probably aren't even aware that the whole thing is a lie to get converted bodies and emotionless minds for the Cybermen.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Considering everything he's been through, the Doctor really should be more open to the idea of the dead returning to life. He's seen it happen multiple times, most involving the Master. However, it's an Invoked Trope when the Doctor warns Clara that she needs to be skeptical about everything that she sees if they're going to help Danny. He turns out to be right — everything is not as it seems.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Time can be rewritten."
    • "Do as you're told."
  • Artificial Afterlife: The episode reveals that all the scenes where Missy was seemingly interviewing the dead in Heaven, they were actually caught in one of these, and only as the first step towards her eventual plan to turn them into a Cyberman army.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Once again, the Master, and this time, she's the Mistress.
    • Those who are housed in 3W that become Cybermen.
  • Bad Boss: Missy kills Dr. Chang For the Evulz, despite saying she will regret it.
  • Batman Gambit: The Doctor lets Clara think she enacted a betrayal so that he can see how far she'll go to save Danny.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Missy plants one on the Doctor, and it takes on a whole new dimension when it's revealed that she's not merely a droid with her intimacy settings on too high a level.
  • Bi the Way: Missy is also willing to snog Clara as well, but she insists it's not necessary.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The Nethersphere is nothing but a sprawling mass of buildings, but unlike conventional city worlds, the buildings are on the inside surface of the Nethersphere.
  • Blank Book: Subverted; the book is just the interface.
  • Book-Ends: As pointed out here, in this post, the episode ends and begins with a scene where someone (Clara at the start, Danny at the end) tries to declare their love over a phone, and as such, repeats the words "I love you" over and over again, but it comes off as a meaningless repetition of just that, words. Danny's words don't mean anything if Clara doesn't know who she's talking to/if they don't actually know enough about each other to prove that, and neither does Clara's painfully rehearsed, forced speech that she can't even say to his face and is rife with Suspiciously Specific Denial. Though both mean well, no actual communication happens.
  • Brain Uploading: The Nethersphere is actually Time Lord technology that the Doctor recognises as a "Matrix Data Slice".
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Danny does this to Clara. He deliberately gives her a response that will make her give up, because he doesn't want her coming after him (which he thinks will mean committing suicide).
  • Break the Cutie: The first 10 minutes or so of the episode is pretty much one break after another for poor Clara, culminating in her betraying the Doctor out of grief. She hits rock bottom when she thinks the Doctor has just told her to go to hell (and probably had plans to jump off a bridge afterwards), only to discover he meant it literally and has forgiven her.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Regular bus passenger the Master returns just under five years after his/her last appearance.
    • Clara's grandmother makes an appearance.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the Nethersphere, you get the choice to delete your emotions.
    • In "The End of Time", when the Master took over the whole of the human race, Wilfred wondered if that also included the dead in their graves. Now, "All the graves on planet Earth are about to give birth."
    • The Doctor points out the Nethersphere is a "Matrix Data Slice", referencing the Gallifreyan virtual reality computer that stored the biodata of dead Time Lords, introduced in "The Deadly Assassin".
    • The sleep patch Clara pilfers so she can incapacitate the Doctor is similar to the one from "Gridlock".
    • A companion tries to Set Right What Once Went Wrong after a loved one is killed in a hit and run accident. It's even suggested the Doctor may have mentioned the events of "Father's Day" to Clara, given the lengths she goes to force him to save Danny.
  • Chaste Hero: The Doctor has no idea about either sexual advances or innuendo, as shown by his reaction to being kissed by Missy (and apparently to her having him put his hand on her [ahem] chest, although there turns out to be more to it than that), and his incomprehension of Dr. Chang's idea that water that renders non-organic matter invisible should be used in swimming pools.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Contrived Coincidence: If Danny hadn't been randomly killed by a car, the Doctor and Clara wouldn't have found out about Missy's plan. Given that Missy has already been stated to have "chosen" Clara, it may not have been a coincidence... we never do see who was driving.
  • Convection Schmonvection: The Doctor and Clara feel no ill effects from being right next to molten lava. This is justified when we find out the scene is Clara's fantasy, not reality.
  • Covert Pervert: The otherwise professional and affable Dr. Chang is quick to point out the Power Perversion Potential of the dark water.
  • Cry Cute: The Doctor gets very melancholy when Clara breaks down in tears and gives him her big Puppy-Dog Eyes.
  • Dem Bones: The skeletons of the deceased are shown through tanks of special water that only reveal organic components, hiding the exoskeleton which is keeping the bones in a human shape. When the water drains, that exoskeleton is revealed to be Cyberman armour.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Missy pretends to be a robot, kisses the Doctor, and then nearly goes after Clara as well. (Word of God has it that gender isn't a factor in attraction for Gallifreyans, so this is a race trait, not a character trait. The "depraved" bit is all her, though. The actors have also confirmed that an alternate take of the kissing scene had Missy holding Clara's hand throughout.)
  • Didn't Think This Through: Clara's ransom attempt. Not only can the TARDIS be opened via finger-snap and is sentient enough to unlock herself on her own, but someone who has the Doctor sufficiently figured out to know where all his keys are should also have noticed how he's careful to use gadgets and implements that can't be turned against him (see the invisibility watch); in this case, this says less about any stupidity on Clara's part than it helps to underline that her actions were more an extreme short-circuit reaction than callous, planned evil.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Missy having a lot of fun trolling and snarking at the Doctor while he's running around trying to figure out what's wrong.
  • Double Meaning: When the Doctor says, "It's rubbish", is he referring to lava, or did he realise that Clara was lying to him?
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. While it's not rape, Missy's extended, Forceful Kiss of the Doctor (and subsequently holding his hand over her bosom) could still very much be classified as sexual assault. The actors play it off as appropriately disturbing and, while acting as a droid, Missy even says that her "intimacy settings" were set too high.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Clara tries to urge Danny to say Something Only They Would Say so she knows it's really him and can come save him. Danny refuses to let her do that (since he thinks he's dead and there's only one way for her to get there) and manipulates her into closing the channel between them, something only the real Danny would do.
    • The episode does not treat the appearance of the Cybermen as a big revelation and seems to work on the assumption that the audience will figure it out long before the Doctor. In case the audience has trouble keeping up, the reveal is foreshadowed with steadily increasing blatancy throughout.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Danny gets killed when he's hit by a car. Clara finds this incredibly "boring" and "ordinary".
  • Easily Forgiven: Downplayed. The Doctor still helps Clara (and seems honestly surprised that she thinks her betrayal would stop him caring for her), but he doesn't mince words about how much she's let him down.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Truthfully, Missy isn't out to destroy the world this time - she's just there to make an army for the Doctor. For her, that's a real change - she apparently has a standard even she won't cross.
  • Everything Is An Ipod In The Future: Danny notes that they're using iPads in the Nethersphere. Seb quips that Steve Jobs is one of the residents, and it's further justified when we find out they're on contemporary Earth all along.
  • Exact Words:
    • After seemingly betraying the Doctor in a bid to save Danny, Clara asks "Now what do we do?" The Doctor says, "Go to Hell." Clara thinks the Doctor has just told her off before he then clarifies that he means they will go to Hell (or whatever counts as an afterlife) to save Danny.
    • Dr. Chang tells the Doctor and Clara that the bones in the water tanks don't float around because each one is "encased in a support exoskeleton" hidden by the dark water. Cyberman armour qualifies.
    • Missy promising not to kill Dr. Chang until he says something nice.
  • Expy: Dr. Chang bears a strong superficial resemblance to the Tenth Doctor. One suspects Missy hired him because of this.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • The Doctor passes through a doorway at 3W, convinced that he is missing something obvious. The doors close behind him, showing a pair of windows in the distinctive teardrop pattern of cyber-eyes, and the soundtrack gives us the Cybermen's six-note Leitmotif just to really drive the point home.
    • The Doctor and Clara repeatedly fail to notice the hints that the skeletons are Cybermen, and do not realize this until they see one as the dark water drains from the tanks.
    • The Doctor also only realised Missy was the Master because she told him. Even she seems a little annoyed at this.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Clara appears to be throwing away the TARDIS keys, the Doctor insists that he is in control of the situation, despite his apparent helplessness. Turns out he is literally in control of their situation.
    • Missy lets the Doctor feel her heart. He doesn't say what he feels but is clearly troubled. This suggests that something about her heartbeat is unusual — for example, that she has two of them.
    • The Doctor walks out of the room wondering who is behind this. The doors that close behind him resembles Cyberman eyes — and their Leitmotif is heard.
    • The Cyberman eye emblem is foreshadowed throughout the building — it's the underlying shape for the 3W emblem.
    • When the camera pans over the skeletons in the tank before settling on Missy and the sphere, the music strongly resembles the Master's theme.
  • Forceful Kiss: Missy plants one on the Doctor. He wasn't especially thrilled.
  • Forgiveness: Although he gives her hell first for betraying him, the Doctor otherwise instantly forgives Clara for her blackmail attempt.
  • A Friend in Need: Against Clara's expectations, the Doctor's reaction to her freakout in the opening is to give her a rousing speech to help her get her act together and announce his intention to do what he can to help her, after he's appropriately called her out. She stuck with him all the times he has done callous, irrational things, and he hasn't forgotten.
    "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?"
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • 3W stands for "Three Words" ("Don't cremate me!").
    • Missy claims she's a robot and her name stands for Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface.
  • Gender Bender: After "The Doctor's Wife" revealed the existence of a Time Lord called the Corsair who changed genders, and after the Eighth Doctor was offered a female regeneration as one of the options in "The Night of the Doctor", the Master has the honour of being the first on-screen example of a cross-sex regenerated Time Lord/Lady.
  • Holding Hands:
  • I Can See My House from Here: Seb, after Danny pulls back the curtains and gets a good look at the Nethersphere, which is a giant city built on the interior of a sphere. Danny then looks at him incredulously and he apologises.
  • I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Dr Chang is worried that Clara might Freak Out!.
    The Doctor: She'll be fine.
    Clara: Speak for me again, and I'll detach something from you. (to Chang) I'll be fine.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: Although it doesn't apply to Clara, who uses the phrase with Danny, it still applies to the Doctor. Steven Moffat has confirmed that the Doctor's statement "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?" was in fact a euphemism for "I love you." This won't be the last time the Doctor uses a euphemism for this sentiment.
  • Internal Homage: Want any more proof that Capaldi is channeling Jon Pertwee? We've now got the Master to finish the homage to his era.
  • Irony: Clara tells Danny to stop saying "I love you" to her because it's meaningless and anyone could say that, and she needs him to prove that he's really Danny so she can do whatever it takes to be with him again. However, this would, as far as Danny knows, involve suicide and entering the same "And I Must Scream" hell that Danny is in, and he loves her too much to let her do that to herself. So he refuses to prove he's real and simply repeats the meaningless phrase "I love you" again, turning that meaningless phrase into the most meaningful declaration of love he could possibly give.
  • Ironic Echo: Danny's tablet says "DELETE", a phrase frequently used by the Cybus Cybermen. Typical for a conflict involving Cybermen.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: She's been getting darker all season, but after Danny dies, Clara threatens the Doctor by destroying all of his TARDIS keys while stranding them in the heart of a volcano. Good thing none of it was real. She betrays the Doctor by doing so, and after thinking she destroyed all of the keys, Clara admits that she would do it all again. If the Doctor had truly told Clara to go to hell and made her leave the TARDIS, it's disturbing to speculate what she might have done afterwards.
  • Lack of Empathy: The Doctor's response to Clara informing him of Danny's death is to say, "And?" Although as he's faking the whole thing, he could just be trying to avoid giving the game away by Saying Too Much.
  • Life Will Kill You: Danny's a war veteran who's helped deflect an alien killer robot and lived through a solar flare, and he dies in a routine traffic accident. Clara lampshades this when she calls his death "boring".
  • Literal Metaphor: After the Secret Test of Character, Clara asks the Doctor what he plans to do. He tells her, "Go to Hell." She assumes this means he wants nothing more to do with her, so he clarifies he meant that literally: they are going to go to Hell (or whatever passes for an afterlife) and get Danny back. He's surprised when she doesn't realize what he meant.
  • Look Both Ways:
    • Danny doesn't. He completely neglected to follow SPLINK. Jon Pertwee would be disappointed.
    • Clara goes even farther, walking down the middle of the busy street in a daze sometime after Danny's death.
  • The Lost Lenore: Danny Pink's death drives Clara into a deep funk and then a desperate search to find him.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine:
    • The "afterlife" in question is actually a Time Lord hard drive that uploads the minds of the recently deceased. They are then put into a simulation designed to convince them to delete their emotions, thereby making them perfect Cyberman personalities while their corpses are installed in Cyberman armour.
    • After Clara fails to put a dream patch on the Doctor, he puts one on her instead, which puts her into a dark fantasy where she holds the Doctor to ransom at the edge of a volcano.
  • Love Confession: Writer Steven Moffat has confirmed in multiple interviews that the Doctor's statement to Clara, "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?" was the Doctor finally saying "I love you" to Clara.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Clara goes off the deep end when she becomes distraught after her boyfriend's death.
  • Love Triangle: An off-kilter triangle has been in place for most of the season between Clara, the Doctor and Danny, and it comes to a head when one of the triangle's sides is tragically killed.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Missy" is short for Mistress.
    • The founder of the 3W Institute is named as Dr. SKAROsa, which turns out to have been a deliberate alias.
  • The Master: Though she prefers to go by Missy (short for Mistress). Here, she is the master of the Cybermen.
  • Moral Guardians: The "Don't Cremate Me" plot point was disturbing enough for the BBC to issue a statement after receiving complaints.
  • Mundane Afterlife: Danny ends up in an afterlife that looks urban and is greeted by a salaryman asking him to fill in forms (they're urgent). This is subverted when it turns out he's in a piece of Time Lord technology used by the Master to build her army of Cybermen.
  • Musical Spoiler: As the Doctor says he is missing something obvious and walks through a pair of double doors, the Cybermen's Leitmotif plays when they shut, exposing windows resembling the iconic tearlet eyes of a Cyberman, indicating that the Cybermen are indeed at the heart of this conflict.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Clara realising her phone call distracted Danny so he'd be killed in a car accident.
    • Clara is basically sobbing in a fetal position after she throws all the TARDIS keys into the lava, though she's far gone enough to say she'd do it again.
    • In less theatrical fashion, Clara again after she thinks the Doctor has just told her to go to hell and starts to quietly leave the TARDIS, having lost her only other true friend. Thankfully for her, she's misunderstood the Doctor.
  • Mythology Gag: Doctor Who Magazine had a lengthy storyline involving the Master founding a religion to bring humanity under his control, similar to here.
  • Naming Conventions: "Missy" the Mistress continues the long line of female characters with longer, elaborate, 'fairytale'-style names shortened to something cute and practical, in the vein of "Perpugilliam", "Josephine", "Amelia", "Romanadvoratrelundar", "Melody", "Dorothy", "Melanie" and various "Elizabeth"s. Given how much she loves to troll the Doctor, and her familiarity with many of these, this may or may not have been intentional of her part.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes it appear that Clara has turned evil, with no reference at all to Danny's death.
  • Not Hyperbole: No, the Doctor wasn't chewing out Clara there, he literally intended to go to Hell.
  • The Nudifier: Dark water renders anything not made of organic matter invisible. This would include fabrics made from artificial fibres — hence Dr. Chang's suggestion of using it in swimming pools, which the Doctor doesn't get.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Despite being right behind the Doctor when he starts running, Missy is later seen sitting by a telephone booth only a couple blocks ahead of the exit while the Doctor runs and shouts to tell everyone to run. If she does indeed have a TARDIS, as the Doctor suggests, then this could its doing. The other explanation is the teleport bracelet she uses to go everywhere in the next episode.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Clara, after she realizes she's thrown the last of the TARDIS keys away.
    • Clara, when she is told that Danny has been hit by a car.
    • The Doctor's reaction when he sees the dead have been kitted up into Cybermen.
    • Dr. Chang, when Missy decides it's time for him to burn.
    • Clara gets a moment in Dr. Chang's office when she spins her chair around to see that there is a Cyberman standing behind her.
    • The hallmark expression explodes across the Doctor's face when Missy tells him she is really the Master. Yet again, the Doctor reacts to this particular villain reveal with the same face.
  • Orphean Rescue: The Doctor and Clara set out to bring Danny back from the afterlife.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: The Doctor's horrified response to being snogged by Missy. Oddly, Clara reacts similarly and she isn't even kissed (this may be a remnant of an alternate take where Missy held Clara's hand while kissing the Doctor).
  • Power Perversion Potential: Dr. Chang mentions that he thinks the dark water should be used in swimming pools... and since inorganic things like bathing suits won't appear visible, it implies seeing people in the buff. It's such a prosaic example you wonder if he knows nude beaches are already a real thing.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Clara. The Doctor lampshades it with another reference to a season-long running gag: "Stop it, with the eyes! Don't do that with the eyes, how do you do that anyway? It's like they inflate."
  • Quit Your Whining: The Doctor to Clara (almost word for word), because he needs her focused if they're going to the afterlife, a place he knows nothing about. Skeptic and critical is what he needs her to be.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Variation: Danny's painfully ordinary death had quite literally made Clara mad (as in angry) with grief:
    Clara's Gran: [Danny] deserved better. And so did you.
    Clara: I don't deserve anything. Nobody deserves anything. But I am owed better. I am owed.
    Clara's Gran: ...who owes you?
  • Reality Ensues: In the most mundane death ever for a major character, Danny is killed by not looking while crossing the street. Even grieving Clara calls it "boring" and "ordinary".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Doctor to Clara. "You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust, our friendship, and everything I've ever stood for. YOU LET ME DOWN!"
  • Red Herring: When Missy is revealed to be a female Time Lady that the Doctor 'abandoned'; is she The Rani, Romana turned evil, or even his granddaughter Susan Foreman?
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • Who was driving the car that mowed Danny down? Given the context of the storyline it isn't impossible to imagine that Missy might have been responsible, but the episode never goes there.
    • Clara has post-it notes on her bookcase referencing previous adventures dating back to her time with the Eleventh Doctor. One of them, however, says "3 months". The meaning of this has never been explained; at the time it led to fan speculation that it might have referred to a pregnancy or even life expectancy, given that Clara states that not everything she wanted to tell Danny was good.
  • Rule of Drama: Given that the Doctor specifically stated in "The Sound of Drums" that he would recognize the Master regardless of appearance, identifying it as a Time Lord trait, his failing to quickly recognize Missy for who or even what she was creates a Series Continuity Error.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The volcano Clara takes the Doctor to looks like a Fire and Brimstone Hell, as befits an Orphean Rescue.
  • Running Gag: The Doctor is once again disturbed by Clara's seeming ability to make her Puppy-Dog Eyes even larger. The running joke of the Doctor insulting or making comedic remarks about Clara's appearance ends with this moment; subsequently, he'll begin complimenting her instead.
  • Sealed Army in a Can: The Cybermen are sealed in fish tanks in the 3W building.
  • Secret Test of Character: The entire scene in the volcano was a hallucination of Clara's staged by the Doctor to see how far she would go to get Danny back.
  • Self-Deprecation: The Doctor manages to combine it with deliberate criticism and a display of surprising pure-heartedness and loyalty.
    Clara: I don't deserve a friend like you.
    The Doctor: Clara, I'm terribly sorry, but I'm exactly what you deserve.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    • Even if Clara had actually thrown all the TARDIS keys into the lava, the Doctor could have snapped his fingers to open his ship. (Unless the keys act like the fob on an automobile's keyless entry, that is, but Sexy Thing is sapient enough to know the difference.)
    • Clara's attempts to get Danny to prove himself were technically pointless; if they could replicate his voice telepathically they could feed her the right answers, too.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sigil Spam: Was it really necessary to have the Cyberman eye symbol on all of the doors of the 3W Institute?
  • Single Tear: Danny meeting the boy he killed has one tear, and no more. It's the same reaction as whenever he remembers the incident.
  • Something Only They Would Say: The Doctor gets Clara to invoke this with Danny. It fails tragically, with the implication that Danny is failing on purpose so that Clara won't follow him.
  • Stealth Pun: The Doctor hides one of the TARDIS keys in a copy of The Time Traveler's Wife. A reference to the Doctor's relationship with River, since, they too, never meet in the same order (the book inspired their whole story arc, as well as the earlier episode "The Girl in the Fireplace"). It's one of Steven Moffat's favourite books.
  • Take a Third Option: Deliberately averted by Twelve when he is in a standoff with Clara. She can either pitch his TARDIS keys or stop threatening him. There really isn't a third option.
  • Tempting Fate: Clara says to Danny, "I love you, and you're the last person who's ever going to hear that." She keeps her promise after he dies.
  • Temporal Paradox: The Doctor points out this will be created if they go back in time and save Danny, because if Danny doesn't die, Clara would have had no reason to force the Doctor to save him. The timeline will disintegrate; her timeline.
  • Theme Song Reveal: Right after the Doctor says "Who would harvest dead bodies? I feel like I'm missing something obvious," the Leitmotif of the Cybermen plays.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Averted; Clara isn't surprised when the Doctor appears to banish her, only to find that he knows she's A Friend in Need.
  • Third Law of Gender Bending: There's nothing stopping Missy from calling herself the Master, but she's changed it to the Mistress, and asks to be called a Time Lady with the coy insistence that she's "an old fashioned girl". She does a lot of hyper-feminine eye fluttering as well. She also snogs the Doctor at the first opportunity (though she immediately bends the law by offering to do the same to Clara).
    • Granted, considering it's the Master we're talking about, it's entirely possible Missy is deliberately invoking this trope just to troll the Doctor.
  • Title Drop:
    • Dark Water is mentioned as the liquid that preserves the bodies, but masks all non-organic material.
    • Missy manuevers the Doctor himself to ask, "Doctor Who?"
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr. Chang. When someone says they're going to kill you after you say something nice, you do not say something nice.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers make the viewer think that Clara is turning evil, hiding the two real shockers: Danny dies and Missy is really the Master. Half of the trailer is actually footage from "Death in Heaven".
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers make no secret of the Cybermen's presence, and in fact most of the cliffhanger was actually released by the BBC several days before broadcast. This was all distraction in order to hide the episode's true secrets (Danny's apparent death and Missy's identity). However, the fact that the skeletons inside the tanks are actually Cybermen is still treated as a shocking twist, even though anyone who's seen the trailers would probably guess what the skeletons really are once it's revealed that the liquid in the tanks only lets you see the organic parts of the people inside.
  • Tranquil Fury: Played for Laughs when the Doctor hands Chang his psychic paper.
    Chang: What's all this swearing?
    The Doctor: I've got a lot of internalized anger.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Clara dances it for much of the episode. First, she's facing a difficult discussion with Danny (possibly confessing all, possibly breaking up with him — the episode leaves this ambiguous), then he dies because she distracts him on the phone, then she tries to blackmail her best friend into saving Danny only to fail and feel intense shame after — even at one point thinking he'd just told her to go to hell; then she finds herself in a scenario where she could communicate with Danny, but she isn't sure it's really him. Finally, she finds herself alone and cornered by a group of Cybermen.
  • Truth in Television: Clara's emotional shutdown after Danny's death (in particular the kitchen scene) is sadly familiar to many who experience the sudden loss of a loved one. People have also been known to behave somewhat irrationally in grief (not to the extent of hijacking a time machine in hopes of changing the past, though, but that's for lack of a time machine).
  • Unable to Cry: After Danny's death, Clara stands around in a numb and dry eyed daze. The tears come later.
  • Undying Loyalty: "Did you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?"
  • The Un-Reveal: We never learn anything about the person who hit Danny with the car, even though the nature of the storyline would have made Missy an obvious suspect.
  • Unrobotic Reveal: Missy trolls the Doctor by pretending to be a machine. She's not.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Considering that the last time that the Cybermen flat out tried to take over the world was only eight years ago — both in and out of universe — you'd think people would be a tad more alarmed about seeing lots of creatures that look quite like them coming out of St. Paul's. Instead, they take selfies with them. Then again, given who's in the crowd (as we learn in the next episode), it's not surprising.
  • Villain Team-Up: The Master and (some version of) the Cybermen are working together to upgrade humanity.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Exploited by Missy. When the Doctor runs out telling the people in London to run away, Missy casually tells them how it's just another ranting Scotsman running round in the streets.
  • Weaponized Landmark: St Paul's Cathedral is 3W's base, and the holding area for Missy's army of Cybermen. It also has some kind of connection to the Nethersphere as it's visible from inside the 3W institute.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Danny is hit by a driver and killed, sent to the Nethersphere, and meets the innocent child he killed in battle, and is tempted to delete his emotions to get rid of the pain of both that and having to say goodbye to Clara.
    • Clara betrays the Doctor, but later gives up hope of getting Danny back from the dead.
    • The Master returns to plague the Doctor in a female incarnation.
    • Potentially this trope for the entire series, considering how long Missy's implied to have been collecting Earth's dead, throughout history and up and down the Doctor's own timestream. Go back and watch any previous episode in which a human dies: chances are good they wound up hearing Seb's orientation talk afterwards.
  • Wham Line:
    • First up is the Doctor confronting Missy:
      The Doctor: Two hearts.
      Missy: And both of them yours.
      The Doctor: You're a Time Lord!
    • Next, one from Missy herself:
      Missy: All the graves on planet Earth are about to give birth.
    • In the end, she gives the biggest of all.
    • Subverted, while the Doctor telling Clara to "Go to Hell" was taken completely out of context, it certainly took many viewers by surprise.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: When Clara justifies her actions because she loved Danny, the Doctor scans her and notes that she's "quite the mess of chemicals". According to Word of God his refusal to hold her actions against her is the closest the Doctor will get to a Love Confession.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Doctor chews Clara out after she fails her Secret Test of Character, then immediately forgives her.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Missy to Dr. Chang, but worse. Missy plays with her victim For the Evulz and waits to kill him after he's said something nice, then vaporising him with a Slasher Smile.
  • You Owe Me: Although Clara doesn't say what the Doctor owes her for, presumably she's referring to her saving his very existence in "The Name of the Doctor". And the Doctor is willing to pay her back, by literally following her to Hell.
    Clara: I don't deserve anything. Nobody deserves anything. But I am owed better. I am owed.
    Grandmother: Who owes you?
    The Doctor: [on phone] Clara! Clara?

"You know the key strategic weakness of the human race? The dead outnumber the living."

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