So, we’ve now finished another series of the long running British Sci-Fi show, Doctor Who. And we’ve now had a few days to sink in what we’ve seen and ask ourselves, what did we think?
We got a lot this series, a lot of old and a lot of new. We got Davros, we got the Daleks, we got the Zygons, we got U.N.I.T. and we got Gallifrey. We also got a new tone to the show, a new format to the series and a new Doctor.
Yes, this is Peter Capaldi’s second series I know, but I feel Series 8 was much a carbon copy of Series 7. It would have better suited Matt Smith, and I feel that’s when people reacted with mostly negative comments. This series however showed us Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. A veteran Punk, with a short tempter and an air of grace that only comes with old age from both the character and the actor.
Fans’ feelings on Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of our favourite alien is cleanly cut down the middle with no room for a grey area of thinking. You either love him or you hate him. I personally love him. I find it hard to describe why I love him so much, because if I were the Doctor or had the privilege to write the Doctor, this is exactly, to a T, how I would portray him. Peter Capaldi is, without a doubt, MY Doctor.
Again, fans’ opinions are also mixed upon the series as a whole. As mentioned, one big change we’ve had to this series is the two-part stories. With this new format we had chance to delve more into characters, settings and plots, allowing richer, more explored stories. I really enjoyed these. When I first heard about this I was so pumped! It was exactly what we needed! One of the major issues with the show previously was that Doctor Who’s show runner, Steven Moffat, had too much ambition and not enough time in an episode to show it. His stories and ideas are, without a doubt, amazing. Moffat has a naturally creative head and a genuine love for the show. However, with only 45 minutes to express his great ideas and an apparent dislike for double episodes, as evident in previous series’, Doctor Who has been severely let down with sloppy pacing, a lack of balance between character and plot development, weak establishment of the story line and massively underwhelming conclusions. Finally accepting two-part stories has now allowed Moffat to spread his creative wings and give us much better stories.
The only issue new two-part story format is that this series has definitely not been casual/new-fan friendly. You couldn’t just dip in and out for the odd episode. This is especially detrimental of the premier story ‘The Magicians Apprentice’/ ‘The Witch’s Familiar’. This story required so much knowledge of previous Doctor Who that it’s almost impossible for anyone who hasn’t watched the last 8 series’ and at least read a little on the Classics to join in with this series. But for me, as a life-long fan, I was blown away by how this series started and continued to be glued to the screen every Saturday night up until it started going downhill for me…
‘Sleep No More’, episode 9, was when I got concerned. I liked the episode as a self-contained standalone story, but it didn’t fit with the rest of series. We suddenly fell out of the two-part format and back into the bog-standard, subpar, wacky, poorly paced, badly concluded and overly complex Doctor Who episodes of Steven Moffat’s era. The next 3 episodes, including the well anticipated finale, were, frankly, awful.
In ‘Face the Raven’ it felt like the writers went “We need Clara to die and we need Maisie Williams in it again” and the rest of the episode was just filler to support that. The plot development felt really artificial and forced. A plot should not be there to solely support the conclusion. We need to see a natural progression and development of a plot to lead to an organic and natural conclusion. It felt like the Star Wars prequels.
Saying all this, I was also happy with Clara’s death, not because she died, but because it made sense. Throughout the series Clara was really annoying me, and I thought that it was just down to poor character writing, but actually, she was purposely written this way. Reflecting back on Clara, she really showed us what too much time traveling with the Doctor might do to someone and then the consequences of that. I thought it was really clever and really satisfying. All the other previous companions were forced to leave the TARDIS due to external forces and we never got to see what someone would do to themselves if they travelled with the Doctor for too long. Her death happened because she no longer feared death and she believed too strongly in the Doctor. I was happy. Until the bloody finale.
I know I said I hated the last 3 episodes, but I didn’t not hate ‘Heaven Sent’. It was good, I really enjoyed it. It was a thrill ride. But it just didn’t fit. It was something Moffat wanted to do but didn’t know how to properly fit it into the story arc so he just jammed it in like trying to fit a block of cheese through a key hole. And for that reason, the episode, after all of its amazing concepts and ideas, was wasted.
I was so excited for the finale. We got bloody Gallifrey! Like, who wouldn’t be excited for that! After first watching this episode, I actually liked it. It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t feel unsatisfied or underwhelmed. It was okay. I was planning on watching it again before I wrote this review, but I realised that I really did not want to watch it again. Like, I really did not want to put myself through that. And then I realised... It was god awful.
The reason why this finale was a big bag of poo was because, once again, we got promised something and then never got it. The series opens with this amazing two-part story about Davros trying to build Dalek-Time Lord hybrids, which actually terrified me. I was like, OMG WHAT!? NO! And then it turns out, that actually, the hybrid prophecy was metaphorical, open ended, dumb. Clara also did not die. She came back. And actually, the anticipated story arc was lost in a random mash of scenes that, although very emotional and moving, made absolutely no sense.
This series started on such a high point. It was doing what Doctor Who needed to do to improve as a show and as a cult, but then quickly fell back into its usual nonsense.
Everyone says that Moffat loves to kill characters and that no-one’s safe in that universe. NO HE DOESN’T! He clearly hates killing characters, otherwise THEY WOULD STAY BLOODY DEAD! He just likes shock factor and reactions. He’s an attention seeker. We, as an audience don’t get scared or emotionally invested when characters die. We know they’re just going to come back.
Everyone also says that Moffat’s such a clever writer with all of his twists and complex plots. Again, NO HE ISN’T! He likes bigging up his fans with promise of massive plot reveals; the Doctor’s death, the Doctor’s name, the return of Gallifrey, a Dalek/Time Lord Hybrid, but he never delivers. Ever. He backs himself into a corner and cuts himself up trying to get out of it when he can't fulfill what he promised.
I feel like Moffat never truly looks back at the series he’s written before producing it to make sure it all fits together.
Moffat needs to learn the limitations of an episode in terms of time frame, the limitations of the show financially and the limitations of himself as a writer. He has all these great ideas, but all the things just let himself down, let the show down and let the fans down.
In summary, I really loved the first 3 quarters of this series. To me, it’s definitely a high point for the show as a whole. But as I said, the last quarter really let the side down. It was such a shift from the rest of the series and the finale was so disappointing, I really feel it damaged my view of the series as a whole.