Though it took us a while to get through, this past week my friends and I completed watching Series 8 of Doctor Who (with the exception of the Christmas Special). With the story wrapped up until Series 9 comes along, I thought I’d share my feelings on the series.
In a previous post I discussed my hopes for the series as it transitioned from Matt Smith as the Doctor to Peter Capaldi. To revisit this, I was excited to see the return to an edgier, more flawed Doctor, similar to what David Tennant brought to the table. To me the Doctor is a character of extraordinary ability and brilliance, but suffers from a disconnection with the people around him and those he encounters.
He wants to be a force for good and peace, but can be one of the most ruthless people to entangle yourself with. Basically, he is his own worst enemy. Matt Smith’s interpretation got away from that a bit with his boyish charm and superhero-esque depiction — which was very compelling in its own way — so I was happy to see it returning to a more introspective look into who the Doctor is as a character.
Unfortunately, I found the series to be a bit of a mixed bag. Much of it provided a lot of what I wanted to see: the Doctor being morally dubious with his absolute hatred of the Daleks, his seeming nonchalance over the deaths of others in “Mummy on the Orient Express,” and Danny’s assertion that he has the attitude of an officer being the reason for his dislike toward soldiers. I especially found the final issue compelling, as Danny did make an interesting point about the Doctor and his treatment of other people. While not entirely true, it wasn’t entirely wrong either, making it a compelling argument against the Doctor’s character.
These issues were brought up in a way that I liked, and looking back at the episodes there were a good number of them that I liked a lot as self-contained stories. A number of the episodes felt more whimsical than they had in quite some time, while still bringing up some great character moments, like in the episode “Listen.” I find that Capaldi does perform very well as the Doctor, bringing a new spin to the character while maintaining familiarity. Despite all this Series 8 as a whole came to very penultimate disappointment for me.
Without giving away what happened — as it is still a recent thing — the set up for the two-part finale felt to me like it was going to explore something new, but instead it retread old ground that didn’t really need to be covered again. Instead of the reveal inspiring an “Oh!” moment, I felt more of an “Oh…it’s just blank.” The ending of the last episode came around to make it a little more interesting again, especially in the conflict between the Doctor and Danny, but was unceremoniously resolved within minutes of slight tension.
I don’t think Doctor Who as a series has gotten worse, but Series 8 does stand as a dip in the writing quality for me when compared to most of what has come before it. I do like Capaldi as the Doctor, however, and with the changes that have come after the ending of the last episode (unless the Christmas Special contradicts it) things will hopefully be shaken up a little more so Capaldi can really come into his own in the role.