Sunday, July 16, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10

We've got news about the Doctor's future but before we look to the future, let's look back on the past at Doctor Who Series 10 gone by.

Kudos to the casting of Pearl Mackie as new companion Bill Potts. Bill was a most remarkable creation, filled with wonder and wisdom.  She asked questions that no one ever asked on the TARDIS before. (Like where the bathroom is.)  Bill was a character of curiosity and compassion that made her a nearly perfect companion. 

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about Nardole but as performed by Matt Lucas, Nardole was a most unique contribution to Doctor Who. Nardole balanced comic relief AND competency in a very appealing way. 

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor found a sweet spot between compassion and being a curmudgeon. Yes, his Doctor could be dark but remained alive to a spirit of adventure, exploration and being helpful to people,  

Series 10 was an incredibly consistent quality season. Things did falter a bit with "The Lie of the Land" and the next two episodes but the first half of the season was consistently strong and with the last two, Doctor Who stuck the landing with an outstanding season finale.  

As for how the season shook out, episode to episode, I have ranked the 12 episodes of Series 10 by the scientifically stringent process of "however I felt like doing it". 

So let's get this party started.  

12  "The Lie of the Land"    by Toby Whithouse
This is not 1st time that the 3rd act of a Doctor Who trilogy has been a disappointment. (Looking at you, "Last of the Time Lords" from Series 3.) The Monks, powerful and unique in their first 2 episodes, are basic fascists alien overlords here. The denouement literally ends with no impact: no one on Earth remembers anything and everything is back to the status quo. 

11  "Empress of Mars" by Mark Gatiss
This episode hangs on a clever H G Wells premise with Victorian era British soldiers on Mars. But the premise is all that Empress of Mars has going for it. There's not much for the developing Doctor/Bill dynamic and poor Nardole gets shunted off screen with little to do. The guest characters don't quite gel either. 

10  "The Eaters of Light"  by Rona Munro
Thematically similar to "Empress of Mars", I give "Eaters of Light" the edge over "Empress". I was rooting for Rona
Munro, the first classic era Doctor Who writer to write for the new series. And the story does right by Bill and Nardole as well as the guest cast. The monster of the episode is a bit under-developed.

9 "Knock Knock"  by Mike Bartlett
There's a lot going for this creepy episode. David Suchet as the Landlord, the strange house eating all the college kids, Bill trying to have a life outside the Doctor and the Doctor inserting himself in her life when he senses a mystery and a threat in Bill's new home. 

8 "Smile"    by Frank Cottrell-Boyce
Frank Cottrell-Boyce redeems himself after the Series 8 "In the Forest of the Night" with the Doctor & Bill trapped in an eerily empty colony world with robots that kill if you're not happy. Bill's 2nd adventure establishes her bonafides as a companion by not staying behind when the Doctor tells her to.

7  "Extremis" by Steven Moffat  
Like he did in Series 8 and "Listen", Moffat jumps in with a mid-season entry that questions everything, even the nature of reality itself as the Doctor, Bill and Nardole investigate the secret of the book that causes everyone who reads it to commit suicide. "Extremis" is a tense thriller with a new creepy alien menace at it's core, the Monks. We also have a flashback to the Doctor being summoned to Missy's execution and the background as to who is in the vault.  

6  "The Pyramid at the End of the World"
by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat 

The follow up to "Extremis" finds the Monks making their move to dominate the Earth. The Doctor is blind but is keeping it a secret while he tries to figure out what the real threat is. The Monks plopping a giant and ancient pryramid in the middle of a war zone is a distraction. What is the real threat to the world? And what of the Doctor's hubris that he can save the world while keeping his blindness a secret? It's a tense and fully packed episode that delivers on the promises of "Extremis". Too bad "The Lie of the Land" will not stick the landing.      

5  "The Pilot"  by Steven Moffat 
The opening episode of Series 10 starts off atypically quiet for a Moffat penned season premiere. Most of the episode unfolds the developing relationship between the Doctor and Bill Potts. The alien element, the mysterious puddle that merges with Bil's would be girlfriend Heather, is a late development. Mostly, The Pilot is a quiet meditation on this strange professor and this wonderfully curious young woman who he has taken an interest in. 

4  "Thin Ice" by Sarah Dollard
The third episode with the Doctor & Bill finds our new pair getting into a groove. Bill is challenged by who the Doctor is even as she become more intrigued by what he represents. The mystery of the monster under the Thames in the last great London frost fair is an interesting mystery by itself but speaks to larger themes of racism and divisions by class. 

3  "World Enough and Time" by Steven Moffat    
Our penultimate episode begins on a very light and humorous note, with Missy playing the role of the Doctor (or I should say, "Doctor Who") before events take a very tragic and somber turn. Bill is shot and should be dead but science brings her back to life, the same science that will lead her to a proverbial fate worse than death. The dark and heavy realization that Bill has to endure a separation from the Doctor and the life she knew for a time measured in years is heartbreaking. The Doctor faces the horrible knowledge that he is too late to save Bill Potts and his efforts to lead MIssy to redemption have been undone by her prior incarnation. The weight of this episode is palatable, borne by a dramatic and forceful script and delivered by performers at the top of their game. 

2  "Oxygen"  by Jamie Mathieson
This episode continues the marriage of sci-fi concepts to real world concerns. Are our lives at the mercy of the balance sheet? It is a question addressed in a tense and horror fillled scenario of space zombies. Bit by bit, the Doctor finds avenues to save the day being shut off one by one, leading to the Doctor being left blind, a condition left unresolved by the end of the episode.  

1  "The Doctor Falls"  by Steven Moffat  
There are a lot of promises made by "World Enough and Time".  Amazingly,  "The Doctor Falls" delivers on those promises in impressive fashion. The Master's internal conflicts, his adversarial relationship with the Doctor who was also his boyhood friend, are made manifest between Missy and her earlier incarnation as the Master, the former Prime Minister Harold Saxton. The Master ends up stabbing and shooting himself in the back twice over is absurd but completely inevitable.  Meanwhile, Bill faces an inescapable fate of being a Cyberman until she is saved by a love that has traversed time and space to fin her again. Nardole goes from the Doctor's servant to a leader of people, tasked with taking responsibility for saving lives. And the Doctor himself, determined to fight a fight that he cannot Hope to win or even survive but he's determined to do so because it's right and it is kind. The Doctor faces an ultimate test after a long, long road; it only seems right as we see in the final moment, that he finds his own redemption in the person he used to be, long ago when his journey was still new.  

Now as to the future...

The BBC will reveal the new Doctor replacing Peter Capaldi TODAY after the Wimbledon Men’s Final which should wrap up before 6:30 PM (I presume that’s London time). 

Who are our most frequently listed contenders?  Well, it looks like it might one of these actors. 

Among male contenders, twonames that have come up a lot lately are Luke Treadaway and Sacha Dhawan, both marking a return to a younger male dynamic to recapture some of the David Tennant/Matt Smith audience that may have wandered off during the era of the older Peter Capaldi.  

But there seems to be a lot of buzz around the Doctor being a woman for the first time and one name that has come up a lot is Phoebe Waller Bridge and most recently, Jodie Whitaker has surged in U.K. betting. Both women have been on Broadchurch, the series created by incoming Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall so they do seem to be viable choices.  

Another woman whose name has turned up a lot is Michaela Coel but i can't see the BBC rolling the dice on a Doctor Who is both female AND black.  

And early betting front runner Kris Marshall is still a contender but may be considered too safe a choice. Still, his turn as the eccentric detective in Death In Paradise would indicate he would be a good choice to play the Doctor.  

Tomorrow, I will have a quick post on this announcement.  

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

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