12th Impressions: Doctor Who, Series 8

12 Oct

Looking at my page stats, this week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had for visitors since I typed my first post back on March 1st.

So thank you for that. Either my dissertation, Doctor Who, Dudeism or my drunken exploits are getting people interested.

I’m not entirely certain which topic it is, although I have my suspicions.

But for now, I’ve got more to say on Doctor Who, so here we go:



I’ve been wondering if I was a bit harsh about Doctor Who series eight yesterday. To recap, I described Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor as “sublime”, but claimed that the series as a whole was “mediocre” to down-right “shit”.

Here’s why:

I love Doctor Who. It has, and most likely always will be, my favourite television series. I was always partial to the Jon Pertwee videos in my aunts possession, and by the time the show was revived in 2005, I was already seeking out older episodes from the Hartnell era to watch from LoveFilm or whatever it was we used back in the day. Or back in my day. I’m only twenty.

But since it’s revival, Doctor Who has had its ups and downs.

The first series was fun, new and exciting. Sometimes, being a pre-teen, I even found it to be a little scary. But I was also a bit of a wimp at that age, so that’s probably why.

Series two was also enjoyable; Tennant breathed new life into the franchise that it unknowingly needed, injecting the show with the neccessary speed and romance that people look for in television. At first, I wasn’t a fan of how Doctor 10 kept getting off with his companions, but I’ll get to that later.

Series three; more of the same, but not quite as good. However, the introduction of John Simms The Master was a thing of beauty. He bounced off of Tennant’s Doctor with untold enthusiasm, and nearly made the Doctor’s weird Christ-like power-up at the very end ignorable.

Series four; my personal favourite of the Tennant era. Although on re-watch, I’ve found that he does still continue necking his companions, for the most part, he found a friend in Catherine Tate, and the penultimate episode’s finale left me more on edge than anything I can remember watching. Ever.

The Specials continued to be a riveting experience. Even if they weren’t showing the show at it’s best, Tennant continued to wow us, as he proudly marched towards his swan-song.

Series five only got better. Sure, the episodes weren’t all fantastic, but some of my favourites showed up here, and like my new History of Art and Film lecturer, I fell in love with Matt Smith. Although probably not in quite the same way…

Series six was the calm before the storm, as it were. But not in a bad (storm) way. We finally found out who River was to the Doctor, but for the most part, the episode’s were a bit crappy.

Which, in my opinion, was not the case in series seven! A new format with blockbuster episodes made the Weeping Angel’s interesting again, and killed off not one, but two companions. Well, sort of three, actually. Or four, depending on how you look at it…

Then there was the Day of the Doctor, which quickly became one of my favourite Who episodes ever. Not because the story was particularly good, because it wasn’t about the story, at all. It was about the in-jokes, the references, and the history. It was pure fan-service. It was amazing.

And then came the Time of the Doctor, and I begun to realise what I had started to worry since series 6 was, in fact, the case. Moffat was losing his touch.

Don’t get me wrong; Moffat is still a fantastic writer. I had held off on watching Sherlock until this past summer. And when I finally did, I watched pretty much all three seasons in one sitting. They’re frickin’ amazing. Have you seen them? Of course you have.

But there are only nine episodes total of Sherlock, and Moffat didn’t write them all. He (hopefully) hasn’t hit his peak yet, not like with Doctor Who. Not like with Day of the Doctor.

It could be that seeing the Day of the Doctor, and holding it to such a high standard, anything that followed would be a disappointment. But I really don’t think that that is the case. What I think, is that the show needs a new pair of eyes to look things over. Steven Moffat always worked best when he could dedicate his time to writing the best episodes of the series, whilst Russell T. Davies coordinated it’s direction, whilst providing an overarching storyline worth investing in.

But Moffatt has made it clear that’s not how he wants it. Gone, for the most part, are two parters. And whilst overarching stories do still exist, it is on a very different level than they used to be.

When he first took over the show, it retained all of this stuff, but we’ve seen it slowly fizzle out over the years, and I think we are worse off for it.

I personally think this overarching storyline has faltered primarily because it’s far more interesting watching sub-plots like Clara questioning Doctor 12’s new actions and behaviour; whereas I lost interest in the ‘Nethersphere’ storyline after episode one. It’s obviously important, but why should we care? It’s not like ‘Bad Wolf’, when it was subtle enough that we weren’t forced to focus on it, or the exploding Tardis when why the hell would you not want to know what’s going on. We just follow along because we have to. We’re not given a choice, as the ‘Nethersphere’ scene’s are awkwardly stuffed into episodes, as we watch random, unimportant character’s deal with being in ‘Heaven’.


Futhermore, Moffat’s episode’s, in my opinion, are no longer the best of the series. Of the episode’s I liked the most, Moffat has only written one of them, and he didn’t even write it all by himself (The Caretaker). In fact, I feel like I mostly enjoyed it because it didn’t feel like he wrote it. The other was last night’s Mummy on the Orient Express. It was good, old-fashioned fun; a creepy monster; an interesting story; a bit of meaningful drama. I loved it.


But those are the only two I loved.


Robot of Sherwood was fun, but a bit too silly at times.


Into the Dalek was a tad bland, and dragged at the end.


On the flip-side, Time Heist and Listen seemed like they were going somewhere, but then felt like they rushed their conclusion.


Kill the Moon was interesting, if only because the Doctor was being a dick. Otherwise, ‘the moon’s an egg’. What?


And on first viewing, I thought Deep Breath was so bad that it made me question whether Doctor Who was still my favourite show. The scene’s with Capaldi and Coleman were great. The scene’s with the Paternoster gang were not. And that was most of the episode. And I feel like I can say this despite the good reviews it has been given. Do you know why? Because if you read those reviews, their basic point is always ‘It was a good episode because Capaldi has proven himself a good Doctor’. Not the story. Not the other characters. Capaldi. Such is the case for the whole series. Coleman and Anderson have their moment’s too.


Now, upon second viewings, some of these episodes are, admittedly, a little more enjoyable. But frankly, I said the same thing about series 6. I can enjoy them both when I watch them again, but at the same time, I still realise that both of them are leave me wanting. After all, I enjoyed G.I.Joe: Retaliation. Doesn’t mean it’s a good film (and, truthfully, I actually enjoyed G.I.Joe more than most of these episodes, which is worrying).

Again, it’s not that I don’t like Moffat. I think he’s fantastic. But I also think he can do better. And that, for me, is the (main, but at this stage, I’ve rambled on for 1402 words, so I’ll come back to the other reasons) problem with series 8. It’s proven it can be great. But most of the time, it just doesn’t seem to bother trying.

Shame, really.

(On a more postitive note, those Radio Times posters are pretty cool, right?)

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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in Film & TV


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