Doc­tor Who

In­cred­i­bly di­vi­sive – and it’s been good for the show

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - View Screen - Richard Ed­wards

Has there ever been a more po­lar­is­ing se­ries of Doc­tor Who than Peter Ca­paldi’s first? De­pend­ing on who you talked to, he was the best/ worst Doc­tor in years, the sto­ries were won­der­ful/ a dis­as­ter, Clara was an amaz­ing com­pan­ion/ a pain in the bum, and her re­la­tion­ship with Danny Pink was a tri­umph/ waste of time. Some peo­ple liked Ca­paldi and not the sto­ries. Some peo­ple liked the sto­ries and not Ca­paldi. Even in the SFX of­fice it’s been near- im­pos­si­ble to find a con­sen­sus on any of the episodes.

For my money it’s been com­fort­ably the best se­ries since the David Ten­nant era. Ca­paldi has been an in­trigu­ing Time Lord, an am­bigu­ous enigma whose next move is al­ways a mys­tery; there have been some gen­uinely mem­o­rable and orig­i­nal sto­ries, not least the won­der­ful “Lis­ten” and “Flat­line”; and Jenna Cole­man has been a rev­e­la­tion, an en­gag­ing heart for the show in those mo­ments when the Twelfth Doc­tor has been dif­fi­cult to like. For the first time in ages, it’s been a show I’ve been ex­cited about watch­ing ev­ery week, rather than tun­ing in in the hope it’ll wow me. I’ve there­fore found it hard to un­der­stand the vit­riol pointed to­wards se­ries eight in some quarters of the in­ter­net.

Yet per­versely, I think it’s a good thing that some peo­ple haven’t been quite so keen. For starters, the BBC should prob­a­bly be wor­ried when fans stop moan­ing about the show. Sure, some com­plaints have been way over the top ( sadly that’s the way of the in­ter­net), but the fact that peo­ple are get­ting worked up about the show does at least prove they’re pas­sion­ate – and will tune in what­ever.

More im­por­tantly, how­ever, the fact that au­di­ences have been so split about this year’s of­fer­ing shows that Steven Mof­fat and his team are do­ing some­thing right. Doc­tor Who

should be con­tin­u­ally evolv­ing and rein­vent­ing it­self – if we’re see­ing the same thing ev­ery year, the pro­duc­tion team aren’t mak­ing proper use of the most ver­sa­tile TV drama for­mat in his­tory. If the show had never moved with the times, it would still be filmed on static, stagey sets, in black- and- white, with an ac­tor in his mid- fifties in the ti­tle role… Er, okay, we’ll give you that one, but in 2014 even an older Doc­tor is a rein­ven­tion. And a much needed one too – there was only so long we could watch cool skinny guys run­ning around time and space with a woman they may or may not want to have it off with. It was fun while it lasted, but that style of Who has had its time.

This year’s edgier tone was ex­actly what the show needed. It’s good when TV drama keeps you on your toes, when you don’t know what the lead­ing man will do next and he op­er­ates in a world of shades-of-grey moral­ity. And top marks to Mof­fat and co for mak­ing Clara as key to the se­ries as the Doc­tor him­self – we should be ap­plaud­ing the fact that the Doc­tor has an in­tel­li­gent foil ev­ery bit his equal.

Of course, if you don’t like Doc­tor Who’s cur­rent in­car­na­tion, there’s no need to worry. Ca­paldi’s time will end, he’ll re­gen­er­ate, and the show will be new once more. Maybe, with the way for a gen­der swap cleared by the Master’s lat­est ap­pear­ance, the Doc­tor will be a woman. That would be the big­gest change in the show’s his­tory, and I look for­ward to see­ing what it does to Doc­tor Who. If the re­sults are as good as this se­ries, we’ll be in for a treat.

Missy’s smart­phone con­tained some faintly disturbing self­ies.

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