Nov 13, 2014

[TV] The New Doctor Who: Series 8

The 2013 Doctor Who Christmas special, "The Time of the Doctor" formally introduced us to the latest incarnation of the Doctor. We all know him to be the 12th Doctor (since the War Doctor was something else entirely) and this 8th series of Doctor Who was meant to feature the 12th Doctor at a level that's far more prominent than his eyebrows.

Doctor Who remains to be the longest-running science fiction show on television and it has gotten pretty used to dealing with regenerations and everyone getting used to a new Doctor fulfilling the role. And this was one of those cases when we get an existing Companion in the form of Clara being pretty much the audience guide to this latest incarnation of our favorite Time Lord.

This season featured quite a number of changes in terms of the writing. And while the long-term meta-plot has been a regular feature of the show since the 2005 reboot, this season in particular felt like it had some major themes that it wanted to tackle and it made sure to bring everything together at the very end of things.

Synopsis: Doctor Who is a science fiction TV series created by Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber and Donald Wilson. This 8th series is the first to feature Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.

This series started at a rather interesting point in time - back in Victorian England with the Paternoster Gang - the Silurian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her human wife Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart), and the Sontaran Strax (Dan Starkey). We last saw this trio of investigators in "A Good Man Goes to War". They go off to investigate odd reports of a dinosaur appearing by the Thames - one that eventually spits out the TARDIS. From there we find a newly regenerated Doctor (Peter Capaldi) who is still in that mixed up state post-regeneration, and one flustered Clara Oswald (Jenne Coleman). But things fall into place soon enough as there's a bigger threat at work in London that requires the Doctor to come to his senses.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a mysterious figure known only as Missy (Michelle Gomez), who appears to be greeting the dead as they enter a so-called "Promised Land". And what her connection to the Doctor could be is what is eventually revealed at the end of the series. On another front, we are also introduced to Math teacher and former soldier Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), who represents a bit of a love interest for Clara later in the series. And of course Clara has to deal with the challenges of juggling a "normal" life back on Earth amid her various interstellar adventures with the Doctor.

Now I really liked how the initial episodes of the series all seemed to be following this greater theme of examining who the Doctor is what what makes him, well, the Doctor. We have him questioning whether or not he is a good man or even a hero - something that seems obvious given all the folks tat he has saved over time. But then again, he has made many questionable decisions over the years all in the name of the greater good. And Capaldi is quite the accomplished actor who lends a different flavor to the Doctor - one that feels a lot more like the Classic series given his maturity and even his anger. It's hinted that a Time Lord's regenerations could be a message in itself, and it's hard to determine what his latest form is trying to tell him.

The show had some rather interesting stories that went outside the usual monster of the week format. Sure,this series had the new Doctor facing the Daleks again and even meeting Robin Hood, which seems par for the course. But then you get episodes like "Listen", which clearly had a greater concept that it was aiming for and thus it wasn't automatically popular with all Whovians tuned in.

We also had the Doctor pretty much at odds with Danny Pink in terms of vying for Clara's time and attention. And while it was never officially determined that the Doctor would have any designs on Clara in a romantic fashion, clearly there were strong feelings that continued to linger in this incarnation. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this tangential angle (he's supposed to be married to River Song after all!) but it made for an odd bit of tension here and there.

The whole Missy angle did make for an interesting story to explore throughout the series. She's such a striking, clever character and one that I enjoyed a lot, even though she had very short scenes. The final reveal of her identity in the penultimate episode "Dark Water" was clever enough and just a reminder that Moffat lies all the time when it comes to the show. I was admittedly hoping for something different, but this reveal was still a decent one.

The finale really did a lot to bring all the themes explored across the various episodes and sort of tie things together, which struck me as pretty impressive as a whole. This is not to say that the episode was perfect - there were still a number of revelations and character deaths that were rather unnecessary or confusing, but then that's Doctor Who for you. It's an interesting combination of the brilliant and the outright campy in one weird mix of British television.

Doctor Who continues to be one of the most entertaining science fiction shows on television today and one whose popularity continues to grow. And Peter Capaldi has certainly proven that he's very much the Doctor, even though he's rather different from his various incarnations since the 2005 reboot. Thus 8th series gets a good 4.5 scenes in the Promised Land out of a possible 5.

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