We’ve come so far, that it feels like a lifetime ago that I sat down to watch the first episode of Doctor Who‘s ninth series, with that familiar mixture of excitement and trepidation; hoping against hope, but expecting to be disappointed.
Actually, that familiar disappointment hasn’t come. There haven’t been any out-and-out bad episodes, or even any mediocre ones. The odd one or two which hasn’t worked has been a noble failure, in that I could see what it was trying to get at, and it’s failure was not any real disgrace to the series, simply experiments that did not quite pay off.
And along the way, we have had a few episodes which weregenuine greats, up there with the likes of “Midnight”, “Blink” and even old greats like “The Genesis of the Daleks”.
The question now is whether the season finale can finish on that high note, or whether the dying chord will let the whole thing down.
At this point in a series of Doctor Who, I’m usually feeling a little reticent, wavering on the hit-and-miss quality that it always seems to oscillate around. Not this time around though. Three episodes in, and all have struck the right notes for me.
I do wonder if what is essentially a family show is perhaps at risk of becoming too dark. Some of the worst episodes of new Who, in my opinion, have been those which go too absurd, too flat out silly. But given that that’s where the series has gone more often than it has gone the darker and more serious route. It feels like we’re onto new ground, and it’s rather an exciting move.
The previous season, Peter Capaldi’s first in the leading role, was a hit and miss affair, but it did rather end on a high note with Michelle Gomez’s fantastic “Missy” (The Mistress… As in, The Master, but female. Geddit? -Ed) as the perfect villainous counterpoint for Capaldi’s mad Scotsman. One of the finest climaxes, in fact, since the BBC resurrected the series.
This, though, is the difficult second album of the Twelfth Doctor. In some ways a little more hopeful that it might be a little smoother this time around, given that the episodes here have all been specifically written for the Capaldi, rather than Matt Smith’s leftovers.
And, having had a glance down the episode list, it looks to me like the episodes are actually structured as a series of two-part stories. Which, from my perspective, sounds great. What we need from this new Doctor is some exploration of the particular character of this incarnation. And Capaldi is just crying out for a darker, grittier sort of Doctor.
I have always found Doctor Who Christmas specials to be a bit hit or miss. That’s probably a description you could apply to the series in general, but the required shoehorning of Christmas paraphernalia into the storyline tends to stretch the credibility that bit further.
David Tennant’s debut in “The Christmas Invasion” is probably the pinnacle of them, whilst offerings like “The Next Doctor” were no different than ordinary. And the likes of “The Snowmen” were just pretty bad.
And, it being Christmas, the viewership figures will be higher, and opinions will be divided. So this, humbly offered below, is mine.
Somehow the final episode of Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor is upon us. Already.
It got off to a shaky start, I’ll admit, but I do think it has grown into the new leading man. As a complete break from the previous styles, it was going to take a while for the writing to adjust to a new, brusquer Doctor.
It has, though. Grown into it. There have been some truly outstanding episodes this season, and it has managed to give Clara’s stunted character development some life. Not to mention that the Doctor’s new grumpy seriousness hasn’t, as some suspected it would, robbed the series of its light-hearted fantastical edge.
But it all comes down to this. If the last episode is a dud, then it could well destroy much of what has been built. The set up last episode was good, but then it always is. I am not, though, typically a fan of series resolutions with Doctor Who. But with a different Doctor, maybe we’re in for something new?
Here we are then. The beginning of the end of this first journey with the twelfth Doctor. Can we really be here already?
The thread of “Missy”, and “Paradise” has been running through this season from the very beginning, and it is clearly going to come to a head in this episode and its concluding part “Death in Heaven”. I have frequently boiled down to the series conclusion approaches of the series since its revival as: Russell T. Davies could set up excellent stakes, and then disappoint in the resolution; whereas Steven Moffat sets up equally gargantuan stakes, alongside a conclusion of bat-shit bonkers.
Capaldi is not Tennant or Smith, and his Doctor is more along the lines of Ecclestone’s. So I don’t think that the over-exaggerated, camp-ish style which they used. I’m hoping for something a little more measured. Insane, I’m sure, but a bit more…Capaldi.
The general trend of this, the first season of the Twelfth Doctor, has been one of improving confidence and writing getting gradually better. I started, and remain, a firm fan of Peter Capaldi in the leading role, but his settling down has been a little bumpy due to some initial writing-based clumsiness.
Since the sea-change episode “Listen”, that has turned around. The whole thing has a completely different feel to previous Doctors, but it is a welcome change. Still there is the mischevous twinkle in the Doctor’s eye, but it’s an older eye to start with. With “The Caretaker”, though, it seems we’re heading back to Earth (and back to school) for a character-based personal episode.
I blogged only last week on the kind of Doctor Who episode I prefer. Arising from the admission that I don’t much care for the “romp through a primary school history textbook” type of episode, I laid on the table that:
“[The] next episode looks dark, haunting Doctor Who-style horror. Which is my favourite flavour of Who. I’m hoping for something weighty, some blend of psychological and philosophical. I’m hoping for “Blink”. I’m hoping for “Midnight”.“
This week’s episode is called Listen, and the teasers which have been running for the last week certainly suggest it is cast in that sort of mould. It has been six years since “Midnight”, though, and seven since “Blink”. Can “Listen” be a return to that sort of magic?
To say that I’ve been looking forward to Peter Capaldi’s debut as eccentric box-based time traveller the Doctor is a bit of an understatement. Those with a keen memory may remember that when Matt Smith announced his departure, my favoured choice was the enigmatic Iain Glen.
Despite this, I felt that Capaldi was an inspired choice, ticking many of the boxes I outlined in my plea for Glen. Older, with a sense of gravitas. Even if I was half-hoping for Malcolm Tucker in space (on which note, his first line on the show back at Christmas, morphed in my mind into “Do you know how to fly this f***king thing?”).
I was never much of a fan of Matt Smith’s tenure, if I’m honest. What seemed fresh about him at first pretty quickly felt like David Tennant on too much sugar. The series has been crying out for a lead with a shade more seriousness; a return, perhaps, to the Doctors of yesteryear.
So with the above weight of expectation on Peter Capaldi’s shoulders, how did he perform?