And exhale. After the excitement of Peter Capaldi’s first episode Deep Breath, it’s time to ponder some of the episode’s big mysteries, and what they might mean for the series. Warning: there’s some highly scientific total guesswork ahead.
Who is Missy?
Well, on a basic level she’s Scottish actress Michelle Gomez, who you might know from Green Wing and Bad Education. She’s awfully good at acting unhinged, and her umbrella-swinging appearance at the end of Deep Breath certainly ranks up there in terms of mania.
Previously, her character was named as “The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere”, an appropriately morbid title for someone who welcomes people to “Heaven”. From officially released set photos, we know she also appears in the two-part series finale so expect her to keep cropping up throughout the series, most likely after people die.
So she appears to be some kind of dainty Saint Peter at the gates to Paradise, but who is she? She certainly seems to know the Doctor, even calling him her “boyfriend” and claiming “he loves me so much.”
One theory is that this is a new regeneration of the Master. The thinking goes something like this: Missy -> Mistress -> Master. Some people even claim her lovely walled garden, with its circular fountain at the centre, looks like a disguised Tardis. (If you want to visit it, head down to Dyffryn Garden in the Vale of Glamorgan.)
There are a few issues with this. First of all: throughout the show’s history, fans have suspected every mysterious character of being the Master (see also: The Rani). Plus, this would be the first time we had seen a cross-gender regeneration, and while that’s certainly possible, the Doctor has never been a “boyfriend” to his greatest enemy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been some definite flirting, but this theory might be a case of conjugation with no consummation.
But what about River, the Doctor’s wife? Now, bear with me, but remember when we first met River in Silence of the Library? When she died? Well, the Doctor saved her consciousness, (and a bunch of other astro-archaeologists) by downloading it into a planet sized-database. This postmortem data version of River actually psychically visited the Doctor in The Name of the Doctor. Could she have regenerated? Could the library – a massive, circular underworld- be the Nethersphere?
No. This theory is stupid and wrong. Fun to consider though.
The Master/River/Rani theory also doesn’t fit with how Missy acts in the episode. It’s perhaps too basic to even mention, in which case I apologise, but Missy and the new Doctor are both Scottish. OK, they’re aliens, but you take the point. This seems to be a case of Missy directly reflecting the Doctor: “I do like his new accent “ she says “I think I might keep it.”
Also, did you catch the fact that Missy seems to have been the one to reunite Clara and the Doctor? Don’t worry if you can’t remember, but this version of Clara first met the Doctor back in The Bells of Saint John (the one with all the Wi-Fi, faceless robots and anti-gravity motorbikes) when she accidentally called his number, thinking it was an IT help desk. Clara was given the number by “The Woman in the Shop”, strongly implied to be Missy. What sort of person has the Tardis on speed-dial? Except Winston Churchill, obviously.
One theory (from one of those anonymous ‘insiders’ who spend hours making vague noises on forums) is that ‘Missy’ is the sum total of the Doctor’s mistakes. This seems to be mostly based on the Doctor’s “I’ve made mistakes” line in the trailers and the fact that nerds love wordplay. Still, she shows up at a moment when the Doctor might have committed murder, and it seems likely there is a close, somewhat abstract link between the Doctor and Missy. Something like the Dream Lord, who reflected the Doctor’s self-loathing, but with less Toby Jones.
Right, let’s get ridiculous. Look at Missy’s clothes. Natty, aren’t they? With the umbrella and brooch, they are practically perfect in every way. There’s a definite Mary Poppins, nannyish vibe to them, and they’re also vaguely reminiscent of Clara’s costume when she was a Victorian governess. So: children…Nethersphere…sphere…egg…?
Nope, I’ve got nothing. But come on, we’re only one one episode in. Let’s see what next week brings.
Post The Caretaker Update
Well hello there. With the surprise appearance of Chris Addison in The Caretaker, it’s time to take stock of what we know (-ish) about the Promised Land.
First, Chris Addison’s character doesn’t strike us as a leader. Missy seems to be his boss and he appears to handle the less important post-mortem inductions into heaven, like our unfortunate policeman killed by Skovox Blitzer. There’s more than a touch of Ollie Reeder, the snivelling lickspittle that Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) used to chase around the halls of Westminster in The Thick of It. Coupled with the minimalist office décor that surrounds him, there are hints that ‘Paradise’ is a massive bureaucracy. Hell may be other people, but Heaven is middle management.
Second, it’s worth noting The Promised Land has dropped its twee topiary-and-tea aesthetic. The bare white walls extending into infinity suggest a place that can change shape and appearance, possibly a virtual reality a la Silence in the Library. Alternatively, each of the doors could lead to a different, individual heaven, like themed bedrooms in a Las Vegas hotel. Certainly, whatever the policeman sees outside of the window shocks and horrifies him.
Speaking of that window, very circular, isn’t it? Addison is the first person to describe the place as the ‘Nethersphere’, and there’s a ‘round thing’ motif to the décor: round window, round noticeboard, the hallway curving upwards as it disappears into the distance. The Doctor would approve. He loves round things. Coupled with the image displayed on the robot’s screen in Robots of Sherwood, it seems likely that Paradise/The Promised Land/The Cosmic Necropolis is a planet, or at least planet sized.
Robots! First the clockwork droid, then the bling-obsessed knights in Sherwood, now Skovox Blitzer. This has been a robot-heavy series of Doctor Who. Perhaps it’s because Peter Capaldi sounds so great saying the word ‘robot’, where he adds at least five Rs. The half-faced man and robot knights were both looking to enter the Promised Land, and while Skovox showed no such spiritual inclinations, there is a definite Pinocchio theme. We have no idea what this might mean, but don’t be surprised if K•9 knocks on your door and tries to give you some religious literature.
Skovox may not have ended up in heaven, but his victim did. Uniquely, this wasn’t the Doctor’s fault. While all previous Missy appearances have been tied into deaths for or by the Doctor (Mr Tick-Tock, that heroic soldier from Into the Dalek) even the Doctor’s biggest critic could not argue that Skovox ambushing a local bobby had anything to do with the Time Lord. Once the Doctor got involved, the casualties stopped. Yes yes the creature was attracted to the school by Artron emissions caused by Time Travel over the course of 50 years, but we can’t be too hard on the Doc. We struggle enough with the Kyoto Agreement.
Conclusion? Well, the ‘Missy = The Doctor’s Mistakes’ theory seems less likely. Also unlike The Silence, which was a religious cult entirely obsessed with the Doctor (no wonder he has a Messiah Complex) the Nethersphere seems to have larger ambitions than one Time Lord. Addison’s character mentions he has processed a lot of casualties from wars involving Skovox Blitzers (Skovox Blitzkriegs). “We’ve had a few in from that,” he smirks, “wouldn’t feel too bad.” Certainly Paradise seems to exist outside of normal time, taking in victims from the 12th Century to the 25th. Perhaps they process all dead people in the universe. But why the sudden fascination with the Doctor?
The answers are coming, if agonisingly slowly. In the meantime let’s speculate!