The 8th of November marks the day that Peter Capaldi’s first series as The Doctor came to a close. Being a Brit and a confessed huge fan of New-Who I had to take a quick look at how all parties involved faired.
Peter Capaldi/The Doctor
Whilst I ventured into series 8 with the belief that Matt Smith will always be my Doctor, I am gracious enough to admit that Peter Capaldi, like every actor before him, has inhibited the role so perfectly and seamlessly that he is now The Doctor in my eyes.
Whilst his first episode was hindered by meta and in truth poor writing on Steven Moffat’s part, subsequent episodes have moulded him as the heartless Doctor who cares, an irony that comes to haunt him in the finale.
Having terrorised minsters as the hilarious yet ruthless Malcolm Tucker in ‘The Thick of It’, Capaldi was not short of a steamrolling reputation. Unlike Matt Smith he came into the show known and respected and he continued to build on that reputation.
He revels in comedy. He revels in drama but most importantly he revels as The Doctor. Growing up in the shadow of the first 7 Doctors clearly brushed off on the Doctor Who fanatic as nuances and aspects of each doctor are seen through his work.
Like most seasons of New Who, the lead is the major positive point. He saves lacklustre episodes and companions from boring the audience and one hopes that next season will focus closely on Capaldi’s obvious talents to emote and draw us in, rather than rotating numerous episodes on the boring Danny Pink and Clara Oswald.
Jenna Coleman/Clara Oswald
I must preface this evaluation with the notice that I have no problem with Jenna Coleman. She seems to be playing the character written extremely well and does so with vigour and emphasis. I just wish she had a better character to do it with.
When Jenna made her second appearance on Doctor Who as the Victorian Barmaid/Governess, audiences were blown away. We finally had another female companion with balls, smarts and an attitude. Gone was the objectification and in was the respectability. The choice to switch to another Clara, born an raised in the 1980s and 1990s was a poor one.
We were left with a stupid and whiny companion who only cared for herself and turned the fans against her. It didn’t help that her relationship with Danny was poorly structured and written to a point where it annoyed many viewers and me.
It was even sillier that they rested the entire climax of the season on said relationship when no one really gave a damn about it.
Rumours are circulating that Jenna Coleman and Clara Oswald will leave the show this Christmas following ‘the perfect Christmas story’ – if this is the case then BBC and Moffat have made the right choice. The series needs a new injection of character and emotion. Perhaps a male companion or group that could blend well and play off of the fantastic Peter Capaldi.
Samuel Anderson/Danny Pink
Danny Pink is the worst character of the season. I can only think of one episode in which his character was appreciated and of any use – Listen. Other than that all his roles and motives are forced and contrived to a point where I assume Moffat had the conclusion of the season and worked his way back haphazardly.
There are two problems here. The first is the character of Danny Pink, whilst the writers nearly got us on his side through an emotional war background, he remained the clingy and spiteful soldier that hated The Doctor like an ex.
I don’t see the thinking in creating a character for us to like that continuously opposes and criticises The Doctor. The writers must know that whatever the case, the audience will always side with The Doctor, leaving Danny Pink at the side of the road.
The second problem is that of Samuel Anderson. He wasn’t anything special. And it really pains me to say that. I wanted to like him, I really did. But the acting was mediocre. And another peeve of mine, probably contained to myself, is Samuel Anderson’s voice and delivery – it just doesn’t seem right. And believe me I know I have a terribly monotone voice. Every word seemed like an effort for him and I struggled to understand him more than I did Capaldi in his clear Scottish accent.
The writers hinged the season on the relationship and characters of Clara and Danny but sadly for them it failed. They could not live up the emotion and care we had for Rory and Amy nor the despair we felt for Donna and Wilf.
Steven Moffat/Lead Writer/Showrunner
The end of series 8 marks the 4th full season for Steven Moffat as lead writer and showrunner. This now means his tenure is as long as Russell T. Davies’ was (Davies served as showrunner during the tenure of David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston) – and it has been one hell of a bumpy ride.
He’s had his ups, mainly series 5, parts of series 6 and 8 as well as the 50th anniversary special. And he’s had his downs, the majority of series 7 and the failure to create coherent series spanning stories like he did in series 5.
Many are calling for Moffat to step down as showrunner, claiming that he has ruined the series and hit a brick wall in his creativity. I beg to differ. I think the creativity is there, what he now lacks are big picture ideas.
It is time for him to step down as lead writer but he must remain as a writer of single contained episodes here and there. Listen, the fourth episode penned by Moffat, was the best episode of the series. For the first time I was scared, had my mind blown and fully satisfied. That’s what Moffat does so well, he blows our mind in 45 minutes, it seems he struggles to do the same over 12 episodes.
Best Guest Writer: Jamie Mathieson
Jamie Mathieson wrote two episodes of series 8. He wrote ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ and the next episode ‘Flatline’, both of which were great. Whilst ‘Mummy’ was offered to him, ‘Flatline’ was of his own conception. ‘Mummy’ was slower, filled with more emotion and very smart towards its conclusion.
‘Flatline’ was the only episode in which Clara was bearable and that is down to Mathieson. Armed with a terrific threat in the brilliantly animated ‘Boneless’, Mathieson wrote an episode with characters we love and characters we love to hate. The visual comedy and ideas explored were great, mythos changing and needed more throughout the season.
Hopefully, the BBC realise how great his episodes were and bring him back in favour of other terrible one-off writers.
Worst Guest Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cottrell Boyce was responsible for the utter rubbish that was ‘In the Forest of the Night’. The set up arrived with promise but the episode was laughable, the ending was clueless and the writing was ham fisted and terrible.
All these complaints are difficult for me to admit because ‘Forest’ was an episode I was looking towards because of Boyce. He is an award-winning writer that has written amazing books like ‘Framed’ and ‘Millions’ but it seems he can’t write sci-fi or Doctor Who.
I was optimistic when Moffat said that Boyce had written a classic episode. I didn’t even think to consider Moffat might be lying or telling the truth by calling it classic in the forgettable sense.
Whilst Steven Moffat and Jamie Mathieson can leave me mind blown and happy after and episode, Boyce left me jaw dropped and angry that I wasted 45 minutes.
Lets just hope that trees don’t invade Earth again.
Overall Grade: B
It wasn’t the best series of New Who but it isn’t by any means the worst. Capaldi was amazing. ‘Listen’, ‘Mummy’ and ‘Flatline’ were standouts. Clara needs to go and the BBC needs to rethink he calls the big shots. But here’s looking to Nick Frost as Santa in the Doctor Who Christmas Special.