When the next series of Doctor Who rolls around, somebody please remind me to stop making predictions about series structure? Clearly I just wind up embarrassing myself.
Despite what I said in my review of the last episode, “Face the Raven” is not another standalone episode. It is, in fact, in the same vein as the third series’ “Utopia”, the first part of a climactic trilogy.
Which, naturally, means that we are now approaching the endgame of the series. A series which has gone blisteringly quickly, and mostly without missed notes. I’ve been banging on about this in basically every review so far, so it can’t be a surprise to anybody really, but I‘ve been very impressed with the quality of the storytelling this series. Like, really impressed.
But as everyone must surely get bored of me saying, the most important part of anything is how it finishes. That’s what you take away, that’s what sticks with you. Disappointment there can be fatal.
So the new series of Doctor Who has gotten off to a bang with the opening two episodes, which in this blogger’s opinion managed to do the impossible by making the Daleks feel, if not shiny and new, then at least not groan-worthily stale.
It’s more than that, though. It finally feels like Peter Capaldi has found his version of the Doctor. Grouchy, but all heart under a tough exterior. And it works, even if part of me will always want to see the Doctor via Malcolm Tucker.
We also seemed to have come into a different style of episode format. The two-part episodes are an innovation that I am very much behind, expanding the storytelling ability. It felt, with the first two episodes of the series, to have slowed down the often frenetic pace. Which makes a nice change. It’s like the series, as well as the Doctor, is growing up.
So regular readers will know that when I watched the début of Peter Capaldi’s second series in the TARDIS, I was pleasantly surprised. Having cast my eyes around the interwebs, that wasn’t universally the opinion, but I’m standing by my impressions.
It was funny, it was dark, it was bold, and as the opener to a new series it did what too often New Who has shied away from. The cliffhanger also raises an interesting format, whereby they seem to be going for a collection of two-part episodes, and giving stories two hours to run over. This feels like a little more room for stories to breathe, and a step towards the serials of old.
And given that this blogger grew up on the adventures of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor (Reruns, I have to stress -Ed), a character which more than a few times Capaldi’s iteration has harked back to.
Of course, setting up a compelling story is all well and good. New Who has always excelled in that. It‘s the resolution that Moffat et al usually fall down on, and it’s that on which “The Magician’s Apprentice”/”The Witch’s Familiar” will be judged.
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.