Published on August 26th, 2014 | by James Lomond
So Just Who Is Missy, Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere?
One of the best/ worst things about Moffat’s writing, depending on what kind of viewer you are, is the complexity he works into his stories. Some feel the mysteries themselves are better than the eventual pay-off, some live for the intrigue! One thing you can say about the Grand Moff is he certainly plans ahead – and I’m already sucked in…
Peter Capaldi’s debut episode, Deep Breath, aired Saturday and was packed with new mysteries. Top of the list is the identity of “Missy”, who welcomed the aptly named half-face-man to “Heaven” at the end of the episode…
There’s a precedent for a cameo from mysterious women foreshadowing perils-to-come. Back in Series 4, Rose made a surprise appearance at the end of the first episode, Partners in Crime. She cropped up several times throughout the series before returning from a parallel universe for the Dalek-fuelled finale. Then there was Madame Kovarian in Series 6, who kidnapped a pregnant Amy in order to train her daughter as the perfect assassin. She kept popping up in break-through hallucinations that Amy’s remote avatar had when Corvarian spoke to the real Amy – a sedated captive. Not at all mysterious!
In fact Moffat has a real thing for mysterious women driving the plot – arguably both River Song with her “spoilers” and Clara as the Impossible Girl appearing in various different times and places were similar devices. It looks like Michelle Gomez, stand-up comic and actress of Green Wing fame is another such teaser. So what do we know about Missy so far?..
She welcomed a partly-human clockwork droid to a place she called “Heaven” and “paradise” after he landed awkwardly on the spire of Big Ben’s clock tower. She knew about the Doctor, knew he had either pushed half-face-man or convinced him to jump, and referred to the Doctor as her “boyfriend.” She also sounds Scots, likes his new accent and says “I might keep it”. So whoever she is she’s been keeping tabs from afar.
From the official synopses we know her character is called the “Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere” and she plays an important role in the finale two-parter Dark Water/ Death in Heaven alongside the Cybermen. And from last night’s teaser we know she does *bonkers* as only the wonderful Michelle Gomez can. So let’s take the bait and go THEORY MAD…
Missy is a recurring character from way back in the show’s history and top of the list is The Master. The idea is that if the Master took on female form, he might refer to himself as The Mistress (despite the slightly naughty connotations) it’s a short Scots hop to “Missy”. Hmm, perhaps.
The theories go further to suggest that “Heaven” with its circular ornamental garden might be the control room of the Master’s -sorry- the Mistress’s TARDIS. There is a precedent for this kind of thing. Perhaps the Master/ Mistress has set up a fake “Heaven” for duping people into thinking they’re in the afterlife as part of some of some appropriately devilish scheme. TARDISes have been used to create controlled environments before especially in the Virgin New Adventures published in the 90s which inspired a lot of NuWho. In Blood Heat the Doctor materialised his TARDIS around the whole of the Earth and in Interference it transpired that the junkyard the TARDIS first appeared in in Totters Lane was in fact a TARDIS belonging to a Time Lord named I.M. Foreman (!)..
Anyhow, the Master/ Mistress theory gets a Kasterborous red-card. This is too easy for Moffat, and we know he prefers to create his own mythos and ideas for the show rather than to hark back. Move along…
2. Could she be the Rani?
Renegade Timelord and amoral scientific genius who exploits “lesser races” for her own nefarious ends. The Sixth and Seventh Doctors fought her back in the Classic series when she was played by the late Kate O’Mara, oozing 80s glamour from every pore. The Rani might fit the bill – she’s a lady Timelord, though we know that Gallifreyans can change gender when they regenerate so that needn’t sway us. The problem is fans of old have been shouting “Rani!” every time a mysterious woman appears in Doctor Who – and there have been a few…
This gets another K-red card. If the Rani was returning, Big Finish almost certainly would not be allowed to bring the character back in their own audios. Siobhan Redmond is due to re-create the role on audio this December in Rani Elite.
3. River Song.
Yes the forums are buzzing with RIVER ALERT. The lovers and the haters are champing at the bit… Is this a sinister version of the Eleventh Doctor’s Mrs Robinson? In favour: She referred to the Doctor as her “boyfriend” (husband, surely?), at a time when he’s pointing out that he’s too old and alien to be a squeeze for a mere human – is Missy someone who might have a more legitimate claim to being his better half? Someone closer to a Time Lord than human?
Those putting this theory forward point out that River’s final resting place was the Library database where she exists as a digital consciousness. She and her archeology pals were last seen all wearing white in a sort of stately home simulated Paradise in angelic whites. Could she have turned evil and converted the Library into a sort of e-Afterlife, collecting lost souls and amassing a “Nethersphere” army? The Doctor did kinda abandon River. And she was originally brain-washed into wanting to kill him. Could her murderous programming have been reactivated after years trapped in the Library?
Again, I call foul. Moff is trying to move away from the romance side of things with Capaldi’s Doctor and what can be gained from returning to a character that he’s just finished with? To bring River back to explain where an evil bonkers lady has come from seems completely unnecessary. Backward rather than forward. She’s as likely to be the little girl from the library. No.
4. Is Missy not his “other half” but his other half?
Might she be a Dreamlord-style amalgamation of everything evil in the Doctor? It’s been hypothesised that she might be the sum of all the Doctor’s past misdemeanours – apparently based on the line that it’s time he did something about all the mistakes he’s made over 2000 years. My feelings in brief are: 1) Yaaaawn, 2) already been done (Dreamlord, Valeyard, the “dark side” of the Doctor’s mind in a skin-tight leotard from The Three Doctors). As theories go it’s a bit under-developed. How did these mistakes combine to make a demon-nanny custodian of the pearly gates?! Not enough to go on. This theory FAILS.
We know, again from official filming photos, that Missy is somehow involved with the Cybermen in the series finale. Is the Netherspere somehow linked to the Cybermen? A part of the Cyberiad hive-mind or waiting station before being full convertion? Could Missy be left-over from Mr Clever in Neil Gaiman’s Nightmare in Silver?.. An insane yet calculating recruitment consultant for the Cyberiad? I’m again skeptical about this one. Who tradition would have the Cybermen teaming up with someone independent with mutual backstabbing intent.
So let’s summarise. Moff might be bringing something old back, but he tends to create new characters and ideas. Missy knows a lot about the Doctor. She is linked to a place called the Nethersphere which is somehow related to the idea of an afterlife and may be linked to the Cybermen. There’s also the possibility that her character will solve another mystery. Way back in The Bells of St John, modern-day-Clara phoned the Eleventh Doctor in the 13th century, to get some Internet advice. When asked where she got the number for the TARDIS from she said…
“The woman in the shop wrote it down. It’s a help line isn’t it? She said it’s the best helpline out there – in the Universe, she said.”
Hmm. In Deep Breath the Twelfth Doctor brought this woman up again and implied she was the same person that planted the Impossible Girl advert which got Clara and the Doctor to meet at the Clockwork Droid’s organ-donating restaurant. Might Missy be an arch-manipulator behind both events? Why would she be so keen to keep the Doctor and Clara together?
We also have a quote from the finale synopsis:
“You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust, our friendship, and everything I’ve ever stood for. You let me down.”
But we don’t know exactly who says this. Is it the Doctor addressing Missy – might she be someone from his past who we’d never come across before? Or is that Missy addressing the Doctor? We know he’s made “many mistakes” in the past and might Missy be mounting her revenge for a wrongdoing far in the Doctor’s past? Is she in league with the Cybermen? Is she manipulating them too? And what does she want with half-face-man? Is she recruiting those who die by the Doctor’s actions or inactions, massing an army with a ready made vendetta against him?
Two things are certain. It looks like the relationship between Clara and the Doctor has more behind it yet and there is a lot that has happened in those 2000 years that we don’t know about…