TV Review: (Nu) Doctor Who Series 8 (Spoilers)

The eighth series of Nu Who was definitely the beginning of brand new chapter in the history of “Doctor Who”, as fans and viewers not only saw the return of Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), but also welcomed in the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi). Going into this, many were hesitant, as some were still getting over the loss of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), while others were worried as to what both Capaldi and Steven Moffat would bring to the table this time around. However, needless to say, Series 8 was more focused than Series 7; and although Capaldi was still feeling his way around, he proved that he was more than capable of taking on the role of the Doctor.

As I mentioned earlier, Series 8 was definitely more cohesive than Series 7; and wasn’t as heavily serialized as Series 6 was. The main story  arc was teased in the form of Easter Eggs, or as particular scenes either within the episodes, and more often than not, at the end of the episode, with the mysterious lady popping up now and then, and the mention of something called “The Promised Land”. The writing was also more focused as compared to before, and it not only allowed them to explore who Capaldi’s Doctor is, but also touched on Clara’s actual life, her relationship with the Doctor and vice versa, and the recurring themes that were prevalent during the season. These included themes such as the nature of lying, and trust.

This series also allowed both Clara and the Doctor to have their own particular story arcs. For the Doctor, his character journey was all about discovering who he is now; while Clara’s story arc focused more on living a double life, trust, and lies; and her slowly showing that part of her that makes more Doctor-like, especially as she often times took charge of situations, especially as the pair of them seemed more like they were more on equal footing as compared to him and his previous companions.

The acting in this series was great, especially from Coleman and Capaldi. Michelle Gomez was a delight to watch as Missy at every moment. We also saw the return of UNIT, which also meant the return of Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), and Kate  Stewart (Jemma Redgrave).  The Paternoster gang, comprised of Commander Strax (Dan Starkey), Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) also returned, making just one appearance in the series.

Murray Gold’s score was gorgeous in this series as well, and I loved how he made sure that each episode and story had their own particular “brand” of music, to the point that while listening to the soundtrack, I can really tell which track belonged to which episode.

My only gripe about this series is that it seemed as if somebody had given the sound team a brand new sound board with comedy sound effects, which they sometimes used, and actually took us out of the episode as it was a little bit out of place.

This series, Moffat wrote four episodes, and was credited as a co-writer for two episodes. “Doctor Who” staple Mark Gatiss wrote one episode for this series, which was a fun and light  hearted romp. Both Phil Ford and Gareth Roberts had episodes that were co-written by Moffat, but it made sense, as it also delved into the main characters and their relationships with each other. Jamie Mathieson wrote two episodes, while Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Stephen Thompson, and Peter Harness wrote one episode apiece.

Paul Murphy, Rachel Talalay, Ben Wheatley, and Paul Wilmhurst directed two episodes each; while Dogulas Mackinnon did three;and Sheree  Folkson directed one.

Generally speaking, Series 8 was a strong one to start off  Capaldi’s run as the Twelfth Doctor, and the episodes were all enjoyable, with around two episodes being a little bit more controversial than others.

Now,  you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!

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To be honest, when I first watched Series 8, I was also full of hesitation and trepidation. When I started watching “Doctor Who”, Matt Smith was the Doctor, and although I had become quite attached to David Tennant at the time, I had already heard about what the Eleventh Doctor was like. However, with the Twelfth Doctor, I didn’t really know what to expect.

I loved “Deep Breath” on first watch, and loved it even more in my second watch of the episode. However, I do remember that I still didn’t really have much to go on about the Twelfth Doctor, but by the end of the episode, on first watch, I was ready to accept him as the new Doctor, and felt bad that Clara didn’t really accept him at first. However, I also understand that Clara needed time that she really didn’t have to process and digest everything, which was why that awesome and very meta dressing down scene with Vastra had to happen, and that phone call from Smith (although it did feel very shoe horned in), was necessary. By all accounts, in Nu Who, Clara, aside from Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), were the only companions to witness a regeneration and travel with the regenerated version. I also love the fact that even though Clara doesn’t trust him yet as much as he does her, he, as the Doctor, will always still have her back.

“Into the Dalek” is when I really started liking this Doctor, and it would only go uphill from here until Series 9, where he actually became my second favorite Doctor.

This was another great episode that allowed us to actually go inside a Dalek, and see a little bit more about this new Doctor. Here, we see that he’s able to make the hard call in order to be able to save those he can save, and also, more than the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), he really doesn’t like soldiers.  I also found the whole premise of an actual good Dalek very interesting.  Interestingly enough, Moffat co-wrote this with Phil Ford, who previously co-wrote “Waters of Mars” with Russell T. Davies. Also, that space battle at the beginning of the episode was visually stunning.

Gatiss’ “Robot of Sherwood” was a fun and lighthearted romp, and tackled the theme of heroism, legends and myths, as both Robin Hood and the Doctor fall in this particular category. However, this was also part of his journey into discovering who he truly is this time around. Also, we can see here that the Doctor is pretty hyperactive, and easily suspicious of everything.

Moffat’s “Listen” harkened back to the days when he penned episodes such as “Blink”, “Girl in the Fireplace”, and “The Doctor Dances/The Empty Child”. This time around, he decided to delve into fear of the dark, nightmares, and of things in the night that we cannot truly explain. Douglas Mackinnon directed this entire episode well, from the scary bits of that thing on the kid’s bed that we still don’t know what it is, to the Doctor’s fear speech, all the way to Clara meeting the Doctor as a child and giving him a speech akin to what the Doctor said earlier about fear. This episode also saw Clara and Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), whom we met in “Into the Dalek”, starting a relationship with each other.

“Time Heist” was a great heist episode, with a lot of action (corridor running), interesting characters, a practical effects creature, and a score that was reminiscent of “Ocean’s Eleven” or “The Italian Job”.

As I love anything that has to do with heists, the blend of all of this, plus, seeing the Doctor doing what he does best, figuring things out and giving others chances to redeem himself, made this episode enjoyable.

“The Caretaker” was a wonderful episode, because it began to show how Clara’s double life was begin to catch up to her, and because it was here in which her two worlds collided quite explosively. I also loved the fact that the Doctor was getting so many things wrong about Clara’s choice in boyfriend, and that the main reason why he was upset with Danny is because he cared a lot about Clara to the point that he had to be good enough for her.

Now, “Kill the Moon” was a very controversial episode, just like the penultimate episode (before the two part finale) of the season, “In the Forest of the Night”.

For “Kill the Moon”, I did like the spider germs, and the overall horror feel that it had, and the moral dilemma that humanity and Clara had to face here. It was intense, and the acting was great. My only problem, honestly, is that they had to show the bat like creature inside the egg-moon, and that right after it hatched, it laid an egg so that the Earth would still have a moon. However, it was at this point that the Doctor had pushed Clara too far.

Mathieson’s episodes, “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” were just gems of episodes.

I loved how they recreated the Orient Express, and the fact that the main bad guy, the train’s computer, Gus, was actually first mentioned in the Series 5 finale, “The Big Bang”. The ambience was great, and, yet again, the score was spectacular.

It was here that you could see that the Doctor is quite scientific in how he figures out stuff so that he could save others, and that he is more than willing to put himself in the line of danger in order to save others. It was also here that Clara realized that she still likes travelling with the Doctor, realizes that his lifestyle is an addiction she can’t be without, and the start of her beginning to lie to both Danny and the Doctor, something that the Doctor picks up upon right away in “Flatline”.

“Flatline” saw Clara acting as the Doctor, and she made a very excellent Doctor. It  is here, however, that the lies are beginning to build up, and I honestly feel that this was already the beginning of the end for Clara, especially as the Doctor started to realize that maybe his influence on her might not be healthy for her after all.

“In the Forest of the Night”  was controversial because of the fact that it turned out that there was really no problem at all, because the plants had already intervened to protect the Earth, as it does, time and time again. Also, because of the fact that I still don’t get how the main little girl’s sister was in the bushes the entire time.

“Dark Water/Death in Heaven” was just awesome, not only because we had the return of UNIT and the Cybermen, and the fact that the Doctor is the appointed President of the World, but that we discover that the mysterious woman who had been popping up the entire season, and who had orchestrated things so that the Doctor and Clara would meet is no other than the female version of the Master, or Mistress, or Missy, for short.

Here, the Doctor really pushed Clara to see how far she would go to save Danny, after his unexpected death, and we see how devoted the Doctor is to Clara as well. I love how, in the end, Danny sacrificed himself twice- once for Clara, and as he gave up his opportunity to go back to Earth to bring back the boy he accidentally killed when he was still a soldier. I also like that they did feature the Brigadier here, although, like the other dead, he was a Cyberman, one that would never hurt his daughter. The biggest shock though, is that Missy outright just killed Osgood, and even though we know that she has another version of herself out there, it came just after the Doctor invited her to travel with him.

Gomez was just delightfully bonkers and evil throughout the entire series, and it is such a joy to watch her just do what she does. I also love the fact that now that she is female, she can show more affection to her longtime friend and rival. And I love the fact that she tried to put him on her side by gifting him with an army so that he can save worlds as he pleases, which pushes him to his realization that he’s really just an idiot with a box, and a screwdriver, just passing through, helping when needed, and always learning.

However, in the end, both Clara and the Doctor are still  lying to each other as Clara lied that Danny was alive so that the Doctor could find Gallifrey; and the Doctor lied about finding Gallifrey so that Clara can be happy with Danny.

This series, for the Doctor, was truly figuring out who he was, and I love that he came to the conclusion that he was just an idiot in a box. It was here in this series that we see that he’s the same man that we’ve all come to love, it’s just that now, he takes more action than before, is more scientific in his approach, hates soldiers, and will make the hard call in order to save those he can save. I also like that he added stuff to Smith’s TARDIS, adding chalk boards, desks, and bookshelves around it.

On the other hand, we saw Clara becoming more and more less of a companion, and becoming more and more like the Doctor.  Something that will probably be a factor to how Clara eventually departs the series altogether.

So, all in all, this series, not only was a strong series to begin Capaldi’s run, but it also planted the seeds for what was to come next, especially in the character journeys of Clara and the Doctor.

Did you like Series 8? What episodes did you like, and what episodes did you not like in this series?  Did you like Danny  and Missy? What did you think of the Twelfth Doctor, and his and Clara’s individual character journeys? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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