Warning: contains spoilers for Doctor Who series 8 up to and including Flatline.
The article will begin after a picture of Daphne The Spoiler Squirrel. Only if you’re ready for spoiler chat should you scroll past Daphne. She won’t be offended either way.
“Clara. My Clara, I chose well.”
Empiricism and Steven Moffat series arcs. We meet again.
The line above, said at the end of tonight’s Doctor WHo episode, Flatline, strongly implies that Missy chose Clara for something, which ties in with the on-going plot strand about the ‘Woman in the shop’ who gave Clara the Doctor’s number. It doesn’t, of course, confirm that it was Missy in the shop, that she was involved, or indeed even that it was Clara who was chosen.
Steven Moffat is not without form when it comes to wordplay (see 2005 – 2014 for details).
With theology-inspired arc building – never a subject to feel limited to one single interpretation – there’s plenty of scope for possibility. We do know that Missy, as played by Michelle Gomez, greets the recently deceased upon their arrival in an apparent afterlife (unless she’s busy, in which case she gets Chris Addison to do it). Gomez’s casting as ‘The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere’ – a title that is practically begging for Richard Briers to do a silly voice – is also suitably vague. A Gatekeeper is associated with Heaven, but ‘Nethersphere’ doesn’t exactly have a pleasant ring to it. It sounds more like a description of Hitler’s rumoured downstairs amendment.
There’s a potential afterlife with elements of both Heaven and Hell involved, then. Visually, Missy’s surroundings have ranged from classically-influenced decorative gardens to crisp circular corridors to dark and bowelly domains (albeit with spotless tablet computers, and some means of viewing the events in Bristol and Victorian London, almost as if they’d hacked the Doctor’s optic nerve). It’s hard to lock down, exactly, what sort of place this is, or its location.
So, is Heaven going to be a place on earth? That’s certainly one suggestion doing the rounds.
Further things to note? Well, Missy dresses like Mary Poppins filtered through gin and the works of Edward Gorey. Knackered and old, but not belonging to one particular time period. Kinda like the Doctor does. Kinda like how Den of Geek sees the world on Monday mornings. Also like certain members of Den of Geek (we won’t say who, obviously, but their name rhymes with Nimon) Missy claims the Doctor is her boyfriend.
The Doctor has had girlfriends and wives with the ability to change form. River Song, obviously, and arguably the TARDIS falls into that category, though it didn’t seem to like Clara initially. It’s possible that she’s from the Doctor’s future and that he just hasn’t met her yet. It’s also possible that she’s delusional.
One theory that is hiding in plain sight is that ‘Missy’ is short for ‘Mistress’, making the character a female Master. Charles Dance was heavily rumoured to be playing the part of The Master in this series, and indeed may have been considered for the role until Gomez became a possibility. The Master’s relationship with the Doctor is certainly enough to generate slash fiction, but only once have they ever been seen as a couple onscreen. That was in Steven Moffat’s Children in Need episode The Curse Of Fatal Death, whose canonicity is somewhat dubious.
Still, there’s precedent of sorts.
Certainly John Simm’s performance as the Master would be complimented (and, indeed, seem restrained) by Michelle Gomez giving it the full Sue White. Presumably the Master is on Gallifrey, returning there in the finale (well, ish) of The End Of Time. Gallifrey was last seen through a crack in the universe, and is now in the sky somewhere, invisible to human eyes, so possibly Heaven is actually there. Et in Arcadia ego and all that.
The Master does usually pick slightly less obvious pseudonyms though. Unless it is Charles Dance dressed up in a Michelle Gomez costume. I don’t think anyone was expecting that.
Although she could just be called Missy because she likes Missy Elliott. Or it could be a Davros’ head – a lure, a distraction away from the real thing.
Anyway, that all got a bit speculative. Let’s list some good solid facts.
– Missy is 1.61 metres tall, or five feet and three inches.
– She is an apparently alive, bipedal and humanoid fictional character.
– Her umbrella makes ‘fwip fwip’ noises when she spins it through the air. Generally, she seems to obey the laws of physics (not always a given in Doctor Who).
– She sounds like she’s from Ayrshire. She ‘might keep’ the Doctor’s new accent, suggesting she doesn’t have to sound like that, or at least hasn’t always done.
– She’s described in this month’s Doctor Who Magazine as ‘a new villain’. The part was written for Michelle Gomez.
– She’s a bit busy.
– When she isn’t busy, she welcomes people to the Nethersphere. The Nethersphere is big on creating a welcoming, relaxing atmosphere to its reception areas. Even the more admin heavy parts of it lack clutter. Check out the circular corkboards in The Caretaker, there’s not one health and safety notice or sign up sheet overlapping. It’s a very Google Afterlife.
– There is tea in Heaven.
There. That’s better. That’s almost certainly absolutely everything we know about Missy, which seems to ask more questions than give answers. Add your own theories in the comments below…
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