I recently wrote a review of episodes 7 and 8 of the latest series of Doctor Who for Forge Fuse. Read it here:
We’ve now seen episodes 9 and 10, and with two episodes remaining, we can be confident of a classic Doctor Who finale. After Peter Capaldi’s first series in the role of the Doctor received mixed reviews, he appears to have discovered the characteristics that suits his incarnation of the Time Lord.
I have to admit that when the Doctor entered series nine playing electric guitar to medieval peasants in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice‘, I was sceptical – even more so when he swapped his trusty sonic screwdriver for sonic sunglasses. But Capaldi has incorporated these props into a new, ‘cool-Grandad’ character. And he’s great.
Capaldi has been helped by improved script-writing from what was on offer in Series 8. Aside from ‘Listen‘, ‘Flatline‘ and perhaps ‘Deep Breath‘, last series was pretty poor story-wise. The season finale was shocking, while ‘In The Forest Of The Night‘ was cheesy, and ‘Robot of Sherwood‘ was embarrassing. But the decision to make Series 9 into a 2-parter structure has allowed the scriptwriters to tell better stories and develop more dynamic characters. Also, the monsters have finally been actual threats – from a dying and desperate Davros, to the towering Fisher King, and militant Zygons.
A recurring theme has seen multiple conversations between the Doctor and Clara about the risks of travelling in the TARDIS, and his duty of care over her. Ultimately, this led to a heartbreaking departure for Clara in ‘Face the Raven‘, after she ‘did what the Doctor would do’. No companion farewell scene will ever be as emotional as Rose and the Doctor on the beach of Bad Wolf Bay, but Jenna Coleman and Capaldi had developed a real relationship over their two series which will be hard to replace.
There have been some moments that have let the series down, but they’ve been in the minority. ‘The Girl Who Died‘ was clearly an episode to set up the character of Ashildr/Me/Mayor, but it’s story was cheesy and the method of cyber-bullying the fake Vikings to leave was disappointing. The following episode, ‘The Woman Who Lived‘ also featured a pretty pathetic human-lion as the so-called monster, and Maisie Williams was effectively the same character as her portrayal of Arya Stark in Game of Thrones – not to mention the fact that she’s in episode 10 with a raven, a bird that features heavily in GoT. However, both of her first two episodes were redeemed by a flashback of David Tennant to explain why Capaldi was previously seen in series 4 in the former, and some quality writing for her bitter highwaywoman Me in the latter. Elsewhere, Capaldi’s speech in ‘The Zygon Inversion’ was brilliant, as was the opening reveal of the series of Davros as the young boy needing help.
All in all, barring a disastrous final two episodes, Series 9 has been exactly what Doctor Who has needed for a few years. It had become complicated, and complacent however Capaldi, Coleman, and showrunner Steven Moffat have managed to make the show surprising, dramatic and scary again. And that’s when Doctor Who is at it’s best.
Here’s to a fitting ending to the series that has rejuvenated Doctor Who.