Are you still going through withdrawal from new episodes of Doctor Who? For the first time in 3 months, the El Family spent Saturday evening in the environs of the Fortress of Ineptitude instead of in the friendly company of many fellow Whovians at Geeksboro Coffeehouse & Cinema. But we were not bereft of Doctor Who yesterday as we resumed our rewatch of our Doctor Who Blu-Rays. We picked up with the 1st two episodes of Series 4 which included The Fires Of Pompeii which gave us a bit of Peter Capaldi.
Series 4 is among my favorites of Doctor Who. The dynamic of David Tennant and Catherine Tate was fun and unique. The Doctor and Donna benefited from one of the single strongest collection of episodes of a single series since Doctor Who was revived. I would be hard pressed to identify a real clunker of an episode in this batch. Overall it was a very strong series of episodes that I enjoyed greatly from beginning to end.
But what of the more recent past? How did the recently completed Series 8 do? Over two posts, I looked back over the 1st six individual episodes and the last six episodes of Series 8. Today, I want to look at the 12th Doctor's debut series as a whole.
Looking back over the course of this series, I am struck by how thematically connected the episodes were. Yes, there was a variety of styles and tones from episode to episode which Doctor Who is uniquely qualified to get away. But from the Victorian steam punk horror of Deep Breath to the escapist fantasy of Robot of Sherwood to the surrealism of Listen to the crime caper homage of Time Heist to...well, from episode to episode, there were certain themes that were addressed. I'm going to address two.
Heroism and Hard Choices
The Doctor questions his role: "Am I good man?" he asks of Clara in Into The Dalek and over the course the series that question comes up again and again. He recoils at the obvious heroism of Robin Hood in Robot of Sherwood and denies his own status as a hero. He finds himself caught in his own manipulations in Time Heist as he realizes how much he hates the Architect, the Architect being the Doctor himself.
What undermines the Doctor's self perception of being a good man are the hard choices he must continually make. Being prepared to sacrifice the dying moments of victim after victim of the Mummy on the Orient Express does not make him seem a sympathetic figure, a caring man, a hero. But as the Doctor tells Clara, if he had any chance of saving any lives, he needed information, even if culled from the quaking moments of a person's last seconds alive.
And Clara comes to understand the Doctor's quandary all to well. She resents the Doctor for thrusting her into a hard choice situation in Kill the Moon. Over the course of the next episodes, she's making those hard choices herself. It culminates in Death In Heaven as Clara sets Danny on the course of becoming irrevocably a Cyberman; it's a step necessary to get the information needed to save the Earth.
In the end, the Doctor comes to the conclusion he is not a good man or a bad man, just an idiot with a screwdriver and a box, helping where he can. And in the end, Clara understands this too. She hardly feels like a hero as she watches Danny Pink lead the Cyberman into the sky to their deaths. But she made a hard decision that saved the world.
Truth and Lies
Issues of honesty and the lack thereof were present right from the 1st episode of Deep Breath.
- The Half Face Man is a mishmash of deception, a clockwork droid trying to be human and being neither.
- Rusty cannot be made a good Dalek. He must be true to his nature, a being of war and hate. The only thing that can be changed is the target of his aggression.
- The Doctor is determined that Robin Hood is indeed a fiction; no one can be that daring and heroic yet still be real. The Doctor is most comfortable with the idea that Sherwood Forest is a deception.
- The Doctor deceives even himself in Time Heist. He really hates himself for that.
- Clara is keeping her activities with the Doctor a secret from Danny Pink. And she also seems to be keeping Danny a secret from the Doctor as well. She's determined the two parts of her life will not cross. Even with an alien terminating machine right in front of them, Clara still tries to convince Danny it was part of a school play. No, it's not going to work but she tries anyway. And then continues to lie to him in subsequent episodes.
Truth and lies thread throughout all 12 episodes of Series 8. And the lies don't stop even at the end when the Doctor and Clara say their final farewells to each other. It is a mutual deception that will only serve to keep them apart when they need each other more than ever. Perhaps Santa Claus will set them straight during the Christmas special.
Overall I enjoyed the latest series of Doctor Who. Not all of the episodes were stellar; I would single out The Caretaker and In the Forest of the Night as a pair of episodes that could've used a bit more tightening up to put in charitably. Other episodes may have not been classics but they were still solid entertainment; to that end, I would cite Robot of Sherwood, Time Heist and Flatline.
But others ascended to higher plateau. Newcomer Jamie Mathieson provided two great back to back scripts with Mummy on the Orient Express being particularly stellar work. And the main man himself, Steven Moffat, delivered a cracking good script for Death Breath and provided us with a most unique and thought provoking episode in the form of Listen. And then he wraps a bow on the whole season with an amazing two part series finale.
Jenna Coleman was a revelation this year as Clara Oswald. I enjoyed Jenna's work paired off with Matt Smith and I was rather worried about how she would work with an older Doctor with a darker edge. The answer to that was "very well". I would even go so far as to say that Coleman's chemistry with Capaldi is stronger than it was with Smith.
And there's the idiot with a screwdriver and a box, the Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Capaldi has delivered a darker, edgier Doctor as promised but the fun is not gone, no far from it. Capaldi is a lifelong Doctor Who fan who is having the time of his life in this role and it shows. Whether in action or angrily snarking off at someone, Peter Capaldi's Doctor is a complex, nuanced and fully realized persona. No, you will not sucker me into the question of "How does Peter Capaldi compare to Matt Smith or David Tennant?" I still remain a fan of the men who have been here before but for this moment in time, there is no doubt in mind: Peter Capaldi IS the Doctor!
I can't wait to see what happens next. Bring on the Christmas special!
While Steven Moffat, Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and the real Doctor Who gang take a rest, it is I, Dave-El, who will guide the Doctor in a new adventure.
When I last left the Doctor in my little fan fiction world, this happened:
Next week kicks off my new fan fiction arc that explains the mystery of the Master's head in a jar and the sinister secret of the man we call...
The Son of the Master
It begins here next Sunday.
Until then, be good to one another.
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You