I recently spoke about how I have really come around on Peter Capaldi, how I think he has become a fantastic Doctor. So when it comes to talking about the new series, needless to say I enjoyed it more than I did the preceding one. It was good, and I’ll get to that, but first lets talk about the elephant in the room:
So, Clara. She’s been a contentious topic these past few years. Her story arc had mainly ended with the anniversary special, and afterwards she seemed to just float about with no real story to call her own. At least, one that didn’t become apparent until the final few episodes of the series. At this point Clara was a veteran companion, she had become much more capable and “Doctor-Like” in how she dealt with situations. The thing is, that’s what happens to all companions who stick around, so her mimicking the Doctor and becoming more brash being a new arc for her wasn’t exactly apparent until the very last minute. I’m not saying it felt like a tacked on trait, more than like it wasn’t foreshadowed enough.
I never disliked her, but I was happy to see the writers kill off a companion during the Face the Raven episode, because it’s something they seem to shy away from. It’s because of this that I maybe should have seen the final few episodes coming, in which the Doctor breaks his own rules to try and save her from death, which he kind of does come the end. I’m not too down not he finale though because Moffat kept me guessing always the way to the end. And he tied up the Clara and Ashildr/me story nicely and in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Enough about Clara though. Overall, I thought it was a strong series, full of high points that outweighed the small amounts of dead weight. One of these highs being Michelle Gomez as Missy, who picked up exactly where she left off in the prior season. Gomez obviously has a lot of fun with the role and it made the character come across as far more likeable, which is hard to do for a cold blooded murderer. While she still couldn’t be trusted, the character seems to have a much more complicated relationship with the Doctor than I ever knew. While her part was over far too quickly, I get the feeling Missy is definatly going to be making a reappearance, which I’m very much looking forward to.
Capaldi is a great Doctor and brought so much more to the character this season. Despite me not been a fan of the sonic sunglasses, they suited him so well that I was able to forgive the dumb gimmick. Plus his guitar playing has reinserted a much needed sense of fun back into the character, who was a very dour during his first season after regeneration. Capaldi adds a gravitace to the character that has been lacking for the past few years and now the focus is less n his morality crisis and he is given more elbow room, he has taken the role and made it his own.
I was also impressed by the high level of story telling and the scripts this season, giving us nice twists and turns throughout series that “got me” in places where is all felt a bit forced last year. Under the Lake and Before the Flood were two episodes that begin quite typically but then make use of what the Doctor called a “Bootstrap Paradox” to twist the story around into a self fulfilling prophecy, a time travel trope that I’d not seen the show use before. Heaven Send worked really well too, giving the viewer a grim revelation what was was really going on before flipping things around. I actually had a smile on my face when I realised what the Doctor’s plan was come the end of the hour.
I’ve already discussed the Zygon Inversion, which contains an incredibly powerful speech from Capaldi who ends a crisis simply by talking everyone down. It was a series filled with misdirection and surprises. The Doctor was at his manipulative best and in spite of a complete dud episode in Sleep No More (That was ambitious, at the very least), it was a very strong series and one that is helped in no small part by Capaldi really taking the role and making it his own.
As good as Capaldi was, the cast around him made the series too. I’ve spoken about Michelle Gomez and even Jenna Coleman had her moments (especially as the Zygon leader). I have to mention Maisie Williams too, who showed up early and felt like a wasted role to begin with, playing a wide eyed girl from a viking village. With an almost unessesery reference to Capaldi’s previous role in the show during the Tennant era, The Doctor saved Williams character as she died and caused her to go on to be an immortal human. Despit only being 18 years old, she played well beyond her age and brought some gravity to the role. Not sure if we’ll be seeing her again, but her occurring role was a welcome one.
With all that mind in mind, this series might even be the best since I started watching it after the revival. It was fun, but also pretty dark, darker in tone than any during Smith’s run. The final three episodes has a shared serious undertone, ending on a very bittersweet note. After a very somber series finale, I’m glad to see the Christmas episode is going full on silly again.
Little has been said about the future at this point, but I’m hopeful and the biggest talking point is going to be the identity of the next companion for the Doctor. Personally, I hope they mix it up and go for something a little different than the lone, attractive female from the 21st century and give him a larger group to travel with, or someone from a different time or planet. Maybe a non-human. I know I’m probably being overly hopeful here, but anything that mixes up the formula at this point is a welcome change.
I was a little doubtful of the direction the series was taking after the end of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. By all accounts, he was fantastic in the role and brought some great moments to us. I’m glad to see the transitional series between Doctors was just that, and now everyone knows their new Doctor, they can really get to the meat of the storys. I look forward to the Christmas special and beyond and to who will take over the hole left by Jenna Coleman.