I know I don’t usually stray from the reading/writing focus of this blog, but I just got back from San Diego Comic Con and I’m high on geekiness, so I thought I’d leave the beaten path and talk (fangirl) about the latest season of Doctor Who.
Yes, I am aware that this isn’t exactly recent news. The season finale aired in November of last year. But I decided to honor SDCC with a review of season 8 anyway.
Too much backstory, let’s get to the fangirling:
(all pictures are from BBC America)
The Fangirling (spoiler free for now)
Season eight started off shaky for me, but built and built into full Doctor Who awesomeness by the season finale. Peter Capaldi is undeniably a new doctor–in the beginning, I had trouble recognizing the iconic character in the new mannerisms and harsher personality. As the season progressed, and as Capaldi’s character developed, I fell in love with the twelfth doctor. I understood him, and I recognized him as the Doctor–battle-hardened, jealous, and insensitive around humans, but still the character I loved. By the season finale, Capaldi goes down as one of my favorite Doctors (though that is hardly fair, because I can’t say I have a non-favorite Doctor).
The Doctor’s companion, still Clara (played by Jenna Coleman), finally developed a personality in this season. Honestly, Clara had been my least favorite companion, simply because in season seven, she felt flat and boring. Her character relied too much on being “impossible.” However, in this season, her chemistry and banter with Twelve exposed her stubborn and sometimes reckless personality, and I officially accepted her as a companion.
In terms of the episodes and their plots, this season succeeds at avoiding the pitfalls of other recent Doctor Who seasons. The episodes’ plots are largely autonomous from each other (instead of all blurred together, as previous seasons had bored on becoming), but none of the episodes are too weird or random. The season has an overall dark and creepy mood, but each episode can stand on its own as a strong and intriguing story.
Here’s a quick (spoiler free) review for each episode.
- Deep Breath — This episode was rocky for me. It started off confusing, and I didn’t feel like I knew (or liked) the Twelfth Doctor. In the end, the plot of the episode was interesting and complex enough to remind me why I love this show.
- Into the Dalek — A unique and interesting premise that was executed fairly well. Parts of the episode were confusing, but the insight into the Dalek mind made this be an excellent addition to the series of Dalek-based DW episodes.
- Robot of Sherwood — Definitely one of the funniest episodes in the season, Robot of Sherwood exposed the egotistical side of Twelve while exploring the Robin Hood legend. I loved the legend vs reality struggle, but I found the “real” plot of the episode to be mediocre in terms of other DW episodes.
- Listen — An amazing premise which could have ended up with one of the coolest DW monsters ever, but didn’t. I liked the sentimental angle the episode went with instead, but I still felt cheated out of an incredible (and creepy) new monster. This episode posed a ton of questions, and really, it will only be validated if they are answered (and answered WELL) in a later season.
- Time Heist — I liked the characters in this episode. The heist itself was a fairly straight forward DW premise, with just enough surprise to keep me watching, but the characters the writers created ensured that the episode was unique.
- The Caretaker — This episode drew most of its plot not from the monsters, but from the triangle of awkward miscommunication between the Doctor, Clara, and Danny. This lead to it being pretty amusing, but the sci-fi portion of the show was a little lost.
- Kill the Moon — I loved this episode! The truth about the moon (can’t say more– spoilers *River Song voice*) was the perfect brand of DW crazy–it made just enough sense, and presented just the right moral conflicts for the characters to deal with. I’ll definitely rewatch this episode.
- Mummy on the Orient Express — The season was starting to pick up here, because this was another great episode. An intriguing premise that combined vintage and sci-fi and mummy legends. It showed a less flattering side of the Doctor and exposed the weaknesses in Clara and his relationship. And the fact that Twelve asked “Are you my mummy?” killed me. Fangirling forever.
- Flatline — The TARDIS SHRUNK. And we explored two dimensions. And Clara became interesting. YAY!
- In the Forest of the Night — I loved the idea of this episode (the world becomes a forest overnight) and the set design was great. The actual plot was fine, and we got to see more Danny-Clara-Doctor humor.
- (and 12) Dark Water and Death in Heaven (two part season finale) — LOVED THIS. Everything was perfect. They brought back so many great DW classics and combined it with a crazy and unique death/rebirth premise.
The Fangirling (with spoilers from now on)
Danny was a great addition to the season. His romance with Clara helped resolve lingering issues with Clara’s flirty relationship with Eleven (that clearly could not continue with Twelve’s new age). They made a cute couple, and their relationship helped put the craziness of Clara’s traveling with the Doctor in perspective.
Danny’s conflicted relationship with the Doctor was definitely one of the best subplots of the season. His whole soldiers-vs-generals issue was fascinating because it put the Doctor in an unfavorable light that we had never specifically seen him in before–and Danny wasn’t really wrong.
And I am so happy that they brought the Master back. The subtle references to her plan that ran throughout the season added just enough suspense without dominating it. Having the Master be a woman was pretty great–the awkward flirty-evil chemistry she had with the Doctor was a fun extension of the relationship the male Master had with the Tenth Doctor. LOVE.
My one issue with this season is simple: WHY DIDN’T HE GET A NEW SONIC SCREWDRIVER???