Distracted by Clara’s phone call, Danny Pink walks into the street and is killed, waking in the Nethersphere. After seeing how desperate Clara is, the Doctor agrees to take her to “hell” to rescue Danny where they find that the consciousnesses of the dead are trapped in a “cloud” set up like a funeral home service named 3W managed by Missy and Seb, the AI liaison. Through the resident doctor’s computer and Seb’s iPad, Clara’s contacts Danny, who’s emotional from having just met the child he accidentally killed as a solider. She promises to find him no matter what if only he can verify his identity, but, knowing just how far “no matter what” means for Clara, he refuses, saying only, “I love you,” over and over until she hangs up. The Doctor on the other hand follows Missy into her monologue. Missy? Short for The Mistress, aka The Master. She’s back and bringing a cloud full of Cybermen with her out of St Paul’s where the Nethersphere portal was hidden and into the streets of London.
As the Mistress gloats over seemingly clueless people taking selfies with “her boys,” a bow-tie-wearing Osgood, Kate Stewart and UNIT (the civilians in disguise) surround the Cybermen, who blast off, the dome of St Paul’s peeling open like a juicer to release 91 total Cybermen for the 91 areas of Britain. One explodes overhead, a dark cloud billowing out. UNIT tranquilizes Missy and the Doctor, but as he goes down, he warns Osgood, “Guard the graveyards.” The electrical cloud folds out over the graveyard and rain falls.
In the Nethersphere, Seb tells Danny that the “cloud” is raining all the deceased minds back into their “upgraded” bodies. Water pours across the graveyard, seeping into the morgue, and the body on the slab rises. The new Cyberman touches its face and the clipboard that reads Danny Pink. This kind of mirrors when the Doctor first met Clara “Oswin” as a Dalek, right?
In the main 3W hallway, Clara tries to talk her way out of being Cybermanned by claiming that she’s actually the Doctor, reciting his life history as proof. One behind her instead recites her true biography. She protests, “Ask anyone who knows me. I am an incredible liar.” The robot droops, “Correct.” It stuns her, and the others realize it’s not under control. “Correct,” it replies, killing them all, the wadded coroner’s report of Danny in its hand.
The Doctor revives in an airplane hangar and boards an official-looking plane featuring a portrait of the Brigadier. As he piles his tea full of sugar, Kate Stewart informs him that his word is law, because he’s now the president of earth. Down in the cargo hold, Missy taunts him with the idea that she may know where Gallifrey is after all. The Mistress bites her lip: “You know the best part about knowing? Not. Telling. You.”
Osgood immediately nails who she is, earning the Doctor’s admiration. TV reports show Cybermen emerging from graveyards everywhere, like the one Clara is in just now, the ground over centuries’ old graves heaving. All around her, they rise. Every gravesite all over Britain is now active, and the Doctor explains that the rain was actually cyber pollen—it can convert any previously living matter into a weapon. He posits that the Mistress went back in time and collected all the souls, potentially even creating the afterlife belief—yet another time this season that he gives an outside force credit for inspiring the origin of a common human fear: nightmares, silence, the woods, the afterlife.
Speaking of Missy, she taunts that she’s going to kill Osgood in a minute, “But don’t tell the boys, because this is our secret girl plan.” Despite Osgood’s very good point that she’s worth more alive, Missy kills her, sassing, “Thanks for being yummy.” Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy, is seriously out of control right here. Completely fantastic.
Graveyard. Clara notices a Cyberman staring at her and confronts it. It crumples the report over and over as she tirades that the Doctor is her best friend, the one man she would always forgive and never ever give up or lie to. It raises its weapon in anger, then removes its faceplate. Poor Danny is stretched and grey, begging her to initialize the circuitry that will inhibit his emotions.
There’s a Cyberman! On the wing! (tm Twilight Zone) Surrounding the plane, they begin their attack as the Doctor realizes Missy has escaped, sliding down into the cargo bay. As Cybermen tear the plane apart, Missy and the Doctor’s Scottish brogue grows thick in the conflict. She wants him to know that he’s just like her, admitting that she gave Clara the TARDIS number and placed the ad in the “Deep Breath” because Clara’s perfect for him: “The control freak and the man who should never be controlled.” The TARDIS phone rings. “That is the sound of your chain being yanked. HEEL, Doctor!” He leaps to answer. Clara cries that Danny can feel everything, but the Doctor won’t help, fearing Danny would kill her when turned. She hangs up on him.
Missy blows the cargo door, the wind sucking Kate out, and calls to her “boys” to blow up the plane and, oh, what the heck… Belgium too. She transports to the Nethersphere, the plane explodes, and the Doctor falls. As she and Seb watch via monitor, he summons the TARDIS. “Permission to SQUEEEEEE,” Seb fanboys with jazz hands as Missy annihilates him. I can’t say enough about their performances. Just delicious.
The TARDIS lands at the cemetery and the Doctor runs to stop Clara. “I will not harm her,” Danny swears. The Doctor replies that the difference between him and the Mistress is feelings. Realizing the Doctor actually does feel the pain he inflicts, Danny says, “Then shame on you, Doctor.” “Oh yes,” he replies, asking Danny about the Cyberman plan, but he can’t see the plan until the chip is activated. Danny drips disdain, knowing the “officer” in the Doctor will sacrifice his beliefs for tactical advantage. Horrified at what must be done, the Doctor hands Clara the sonic screwdriver, absorbing the guilt Danny tosses at him for keeping his hands “clean.”
“I wasn’t very good at it, but I did love you,” Clara cries as they say their goodbyes, turning on the screwdriver, then throwing herself against his armor. CyberDanny reports that the rain will fall again, killing all of humanity, turning them all.
Missy floats down bearing an umbrella like Mistress Poppins, demonstrating her power by commanding the graveyard full of Cybermen through a safety briefing. “Happy birthday… Mr President,” she sings, putting the command bracelet on the Doctor. Surprise! She reminds him that what he needs is an army, and the only way to stop all the injustices of the universe is to take charge and acknowledge that he’s not so different from the Master. She just wants her friend back… Is that so wrong?
The Doctor flashes back to all those moments of wondering if he was a good man… “Thank you!” he says, kissing her. “ I really didn’t know!…I am not a good man. I am not a bad man…. I… am… an idiot, with a box and a screwdriver. Passing through, helping out, learning. I don’t need an army, I never have, because I’ve got them. Always them. Because love, it’s not an emotion… love is a promise. And he will never hurt her.” He tosses Danny the command bracelet. Danny never lost control, and now he gains it of the entire Cyberman army, giving his Look At You Miserable Lot speech one last time. Saluting Clara, he leads the Cybermen in self-destruct, igniting the clouds and saving the earth.
In a final gambit, Missy gives the supposed coordinates of Gallifrey, saying they should go home together. Clara whips around with Missy’s killing device, hungry for justice, but the Doctor takes responsibility for it if it will save Clara’s soul. Missy strikes a pose: “Say something nice.” “You win,” he says. “I know.” He starts to press the button when a laser flash blasts her from behind them. One last Cyberman stands, pointing to Kate Stewart, alive in the grass muttering something about her dad. The Doctor stands, realizing it’s the Brigadier, and salutes him before the robot blasts into the skies.
Two weeks later, Clara is awoken by Danny’s voice calling through a portal in the hallway. The bracelet only has enough power for one person, one trip from the dissolving Nethersphere, and that person is the civilian child he killed in the war. Danny had promises to keep.
The Doctor meets Clara in a coffee shop, noting the bracelet on her arm and assumes Danny is home. He cuts her “news” off, thinking she’s trying to break it off and doesn’t have time for traveling with an old man and lying. He tells her that he’s found Gallifrey, yet we see him looking out of the TARDIS door into empty space, punching the TARDIS controls over and over in anger. He’s just going to go home, he assures her. She has time for one more lie: “Me and Danny, we’re going to be fine. Go home and be a king or something.” She asks if they can hug goodbye, so they do, awkwardly. “Never trust a hug,” he says, “It’s just a way to hide your face.” Their sad, sad faces.
The credits strike up…and are immediately interrupted by knocking on the TARDIS. “Helloooo,” someone calls. “Doctor! You know it can’t end like that! Mm? We need to get this sorted and quickly. She’s not alright, you know. And neither are you. I’m coming in.” Santa (Nick Frost!) opens the door. “Now, stop gawping, and tell me… what do you want for Christmas?”