ne of the biggest strengths of Doctor Who, and one of the reasons why I like the show so much, is the ‘monster of the week’ formula that it utilizes. By having a different story every week, with new plots, conflicts, and characters, the show is able to remain fresh, free to explore new ideas and concepts with every episode. Strangely, this can also be a one of the shows biggest drawbacks, as for every good episode, there is one that makes you scratch your head in confusion as to what the writers were thinking. Fortunately, this is largely not the case with series 8, as I highly enjoyed it and found it to be a massive improvement over series 7, with great writing, acting, production quality, and a deeper focus on character than we’ve seen before.
For those who have never seen this series, a quick recap. Doctor Who is a show about a nearly immortal alien time lord called ‘The Doctor’ who, thanks to his Tardis (the blue police box), travels around both space and time, usually with a female companion, finding adventure at every turn. At the end of series 7, the Eleventh Doctor (played by Matt Smith), was forced to regenerate (an “in universe” term the writers came up with to explain the changing of actors between seasons) into a new version of himself, the Twelfth Doctor (played by Peter Capaldi). Despite its serial nature, the show does have an overarching plot, which involves both the afterlife, and one of The Doctor’s oldest nemesis.
CAPALDI IS VERY DIFFERENT THAN THE
PAST FEW DOCTORS WE'VE SEEN
What is by far this series best aspect is its examination of the character of The Doctor. The Doctor is thousands of years old, he’s lived for twelve full lives , he can travel through both space and time and as such has seen just about every wonder and horror that the universe can throw at him, and some say that he is one of the most intelligent beings to have ever existed. Sounds almost god like doesn’t h? This is the series greatest strength, that it examines this aspect of the Doctor’s character. Throughout the series, in almost every episode, you can tell that the Doctor is struggling to care, about humans whose lives are so short that they seem almost insignificant. He saves people yes, but it feels at times like he is simply going through the motions, and this is helped by the fabulous acting of Capaldi. His Doctor is very different then the past few we have seen, he’s angry, and cold, and more arrogant than normal, gone is the boy like, carefree man that was Matt Smith’s Doctor. Capaldi is able to brilliantly capture the subtle, internal struggle that this Doctor faces, delivering performances that are both heartfelt and restrained.
But what good is The Doctor without his companion, who in this series is Clara Oswald (played by Jenna Coleman). Her character arc is tied to The Doctor’s own struggles as, just as he finds it hard to care, so too does Clara begin to realize that The Doctor might not be the shining knight she believed. It’s almost like the show is a deconstruction of itself, showing us through Clara’s eyes, what it would be like to travel the universe with a man who didn’t really care anymore, illustrating to us just how scary and bleak that could be. Coleman, like Capaldi, is able to portray the more subtle aspects of her character quite well, as we are clearly able to see the gradual change from the happy-go-lucky girl she was in the pilot, to the more world worn women she becomes. She and Capaldi also have a great on-screen chemistry, as both work together to show a complex relationship, one of fierce friendship that is gradually, through circumstance, growing apart, and it was nice to see such a well written relationship receive the bittersweet ending it got (though both characters got back together during the Christmas special from what I hear).
The other characters on the show are the usually mixed bag of hit and misses. The character of Missy, the main antagonist of the last two episodes of this series, is a great villain (with a great twist that I won’t spoil here), and Michelle Gomez, does an absolutely wonderful job of portraying this gleefully evil and psychotic character. However, not so great is the character of Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson). He’s an ex-soldier with a genuinely tragic back story and fate, and serves as the love interest to Clara, and somewhat of a foil for The Doctor (who hates soldiers). There’s nothing wrong with him per say, but he feels just a little too perfect, and thus a little too boring. Anderson does a good job playing him for the most part, though some of his more emotional scenes seem a little forced. Most of the one off characters, range from horrible, to boring, to great, as do the performances of the actors that play them.
This is also true for the individual episodes of this series, though I will admit that the overall quality is higher than we saw with series 7. Highlights of the series include ‘Listen’, where The Doctor tries to find the monster that hides under everyone’s bed, and ‘Kill the Moon’, where The Doctor must find out why the moon suddenly gained a billion pounds overnight. ‘Robot of Sherwood’ an episode where The Doctor teams up with Robin Hood, was highly enjoyable and funny, as was ‘Time Heist’ where The Doctor has to rob a bank. ‘Into the Dalek’, ‘Deep Breath’, ‘Flatline’, and ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ are all average, though still enjoyable in their own way and offer some great character moments for both The Doctor and Clara. The last two episodes ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Death in Heaven’ are also average, both having their ups and downs. The only major flubs are the episodes ‘In the Forest of the Night’ and ‘Caretaker’ which both feel weak and boring. One last thing that must be mentioned is the shows production quality; this is by far the best looking season of Doctor Who yet, with great looking sets (especially the Tardis interior), great looking practical affects, and some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen on a show like this (the monsters in ‘Flatline’ were absolutely breathtaking).
Overall, I really enjoyed this series of Doctor Who. By keeping the focus of the plot on the struggles of both The Doctor and Clara, the series was able to weave a darker story that uses character flaws to drive both conflict and plot. Good acting, good writing, and high production value, only enhances this, and keeps the average quality for these episodes high. A marked improvement over series 7, series 8 more than deserves my recommendation, and makes me very interested in where both the writers and actors take the show next.
Image from Google
SYDNEY NEWMAN, C. E. WEBBER
& DONALD WILSON
AUGUST 23, 2014
DOCTOR WHO SERIES 8 REVIEW
By Adam Facey on May 15, 2015