Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman
Writers: Steven Moffat, Phil Ford, Mark Gatiss, Steve Thompson, Gareth Roberts, Peter Harness, Jamie Mathieson, Frank Cottrell Boyce
Directors: Ben Wheatley, Paul Murphy, Douglas Mackinnon, Paul Wilmshurst, Sheree Folkson, Rachel Talalay
Doctor Who celebrated 50 years of existence last year, and ended its anniversary celebration by regenerating the eponymous Doctor into a 56-year-old grey-haired stick insect or, as he prefers to be called, Peter Capaldi. Some worried this was a risky move, bringing in an older actor after every Doctor since the “reboot” of the show has been a young(ish) actor. Others worried about lead writer Steven Moffat continuing to hold the position after complaints of overcomplicated plots and misogynistic writing during his run. Another complaint was the blandness of concurrent companion, Clara Oswald, as played by Jenna Coleman, I am glad to say, these complaints can all be shoved away. This is the happiest I’ve been with Doctor Who in years.
First of all, Peter Capaldi has been a revelation. His predecessor Matt Smith, while let down with the stories he was given, embodied the role. Capaldi has down the same, but in a completely different way. Whilst both actors demonstrated the alien nature of the Doctor, it is Capaldi who makes the character more authoritative. Strangely, this series decided to build our trust of this new, more cold Doctor slowly, a serious gamble considering how many teenage fangirls were switching off once Capaldi’s casting was announced. I can gladly say that it definitely paid off (although leaving his definitive Doctor moment until nine episodes in in “Flatline” may have been a misjudgment). Once the finale ended, there was no way to say Capaldi wasn’t the Doctor. I hope he stays in the role for many years to come, because he’s brought an almost anti-hero quality to the character.
The cast of supporting characters has some serious chops too. Coleman gets her teeth into the character of Clara with some great character moments that were lacking last series. Coleman seriously dazzles with her acting skills, and her chemistry with Capaldi is through the roof. The better development of the character is in no small part down to the introduction of a romantic subplot between her and new character Danny Pink, played by Samuel Anderson. Although in some episodes his role seemed pointless, he becomes a sleeper hit in others, especially in his interactions with the Doctor in “The Caretaker” and “Death in Heaven”. And of course, the overarching villain is the mysterious Missy, leading the dead into the afterlife. While I won’t spoil, Michelle Gomez relishes this role, and once she makes her big appearance in the finale, you’ll understand the greatness of her character.
The writing has improved leaps and bounds since last series. While I did enjoy Series 7, I couldn’t help but feel like it was disjointed, too wrapped up in its own story arc. While the story arc this series is prevalent throughout, it is done far more elegantly, and a lot more focus is given to the individual stories. A huge problem last series was that quite a few stories felt rushed in order to fit into the 45-minute runtime. Gladly this hasn’t been a problem this series, with a few episodes being quite liberal with the runtime (series opener “Deep Breath” ran for 75 minutes, whilst finale “Death in Heaven” ran for an hour). Moffat seems to have finally perfected how Doctor Who should be brought to television. The timey-wimeyness of previous series wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the over-reliance on it definitely was. Thankfully, it’s been abandoned this year, in favour of a much less complicated story arc, albeit one which is very controversial, dealing with the afterlife.
The directors of Who this year have done extremely well. Only Douglas Mackinnon returns from previous series, and the assortment of new directors such as Ben Wheatley, Paul Murphy and Rachel Talalay have brought an auteur-quality to the show that was really missing before. The show has had a habit of rotating directors every year since Moffat took the reins, but despite the losses of directors like Nick Hurran and Saul Metzstein, the show continues to look impressive, maybe even more so.
Because I’m a Who fan, I’m probably going to be biased, and say this series has been amazing. Thankfully most of the critics agree with me, so I don’t look out-of-place. The show is in a better place quality-wise than it has been in a long time, and hopefully that continues to the Christmas special, series 9 and beyond.
Rating: 5/5 rampaging Cybermen