Fred McNamara on Doctor Who Series 8…
Any trip in the TARDIS is bound to be a bumpy one – indeed, it would be an anti-climax if it weren’t, and such was the case for the latest series of Doctor Who, one that seemingly overflowed with cack-handed story-arcs and a lack of focus on the Doctor himself. But once the finale aired, some sense was made out of the previous twelve weeks, and now we can paint a larger picture of Peter Capaldi’s first outing as the Gallifreyan vigilante as a whole.
A key aspect of Doctor Who’s appeal is its liberal use of story-arcs – they reward the viewer who sticks with the show for a prolonged amount of episodes (in theory!) but with the 12th Doctor’s first full length series, had the well run dry? The basic set-up of Missy (aka The Master) using deceased people’s memories and creating a new army of Cybermen isn’t too original on the surface, yet the story-arc was played with plenty of mystery and intrigue.
That mystery wasn’t without some awkwardness though. There were handfuls of episodes where Missy would continue to reveal herself piece by piece, then disappear for a few episodes, then pop up again. That, and the heavy focus on the relationship of Danny and Clara over the Doctor gave the impression that Capaldi was underused. However, the finale did at least add some depth to the couple’s focus, and tied together the themes of life and death that had surrounded the individual episodes, ultimately giving the series a satisfactory conclusion.
So why were there moments in the series that left fans feeling frustrated?
Simply giving “Steven Moffatt” as a possible answer may be too flippant, so let’s try dig a little deeper. A most probable and straightforward answer is that we saw far more of Danny and Clara in action than we did the Doctor. In reality however, that isn’t quite the case. We saw, in balance, the same amount of all three characters. We saw how Clara desperately tried to balance being a girlfriend as well as being a companion, thus giving audiences a rounded view of the trio.
It’s extremely possible to assume that we fans were annoyed because this was Capaldi’s first series, and perhaps we didn’t see enough of him as we’d have liked to. Whenever the Doctor was separated from Clara, he shone brighter than any version of Gallifrey being destroyed. And that’s where the magic of this series’ lay.
Capaldi carved a place for himself in our hearts quicker than any other contemporary Doctor, and any focus on companions was bound to have fans up in arms. No bow ties, no glasses, and no sticks of celery, this Doctor is devoid of schmuck. His weary-eyed complexion gives him a seen-it-all appearance that blends in effortlessly with his bad-tempered get-the-job-done attitude. He almost gives the impression of what would happen if the Ramones gave William Hartnell a makeover.
Not even the quality of episodes detracted from this Doctor’s appeal, which admittedly dipped up and down like a tidal wave, ranging from the clunky, continuity-heavy “Deep Breath” and the bland “Robot of Sherwood” to the genuinely creepy “Listen” and the rather wonderful finale. But regardless of quality, each episode built on the Doctor’s personality seen in each previous episode, piecing together a very real picture of him.
Series 8 as a whole, with its themes of life and death, complimented the birth of a new Doctor, but it’s debatable whether the series’ story was handled well. The coming and going of Missy and apparent over-use of Danny and Clara hasn’t sat well with fans, yet now that the finale has aired, we can look back on the series in a new light, and pick out the points that actually raise the series up in terms of quality. Ah – such is the life of cult fandom.
And of course, there is one train of thought that fans have to be constantly reminded, not just of Doctor Who, but of anything that can attract a savage fandom. We can’t have everything we want all at once. If one removes the frustration of not having the amount of Capaldi they want on their screens, this series was rather decent as a whole. And remember, it’s only the first of the 12th Doctor’s adventures. We’ve got another series on the way with Capaldi returning to the TARDIS – who’s to say what the future may hold?
With something like Doctor Who, the future is something that can rarely be grounded.
After failing to become International Rescue’s latest recruit when he obliterated the prototype Thunderbird 7, Fred McNamara now works as an explorer in the world of pop culture – Follow him on Twitter