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