A complex hybrid of the old and new...
UK Broadcast BBC One, finished
US Broadcast BBC America, finished
Episodes Reviewed 9.01-9.12
Divisive. That’s the word that best sums up Peter Capaldi’s second year of TARDIS travel. Depending on your taste this was either the season that returned the show to its must-see glory, or the moment that Doctor Who turned in on itself.
With its focus on two-part tales, numerous nods to the past and repeat visitations from Maisie Williams’ Ashildr, it was certainly a year that rewarded long-term viewers over casual channel-surfers. Realistically, the much-worried-over drop in overnight ratings is no disaster, but the season’s first half felt strangely lacking in buzz. Perhaps that was down to the late start times or the lack of new cast members, but it probably wasn’t helped by “The Magician’s Apprentice” – the least newbie-friendly opener the show has ever had.
The episodes that followed were strong, but perhaps a little too familiar, while the Hybrid arc was tenuously threaded throughout and resolved with a shrug. And while Capaldi has fully grown into the character, bringing warmth and humour to his spikiness, Clara was oddly sidelined.
And then the Zygons invaded and everything changed. Peter Harness and Moffat’s two-parter was an instant classic, with action, a powerful metaphor and a central speech that felt almost painfully relevant. It set the tone for a more adventurous second half of the season where even the old-school “Sleep No More” ended with the Doctor losing and you, the viewer, killed by the monsters. And then, a week later, Clara died...
“Face The Raven” was a real blow. And although she came back, Clara’s death feels significant. That’s partly down to “Heaven Sent”, which put the Doctor through billions of years of torment, but also because her resurrection came with another price: the Doctor’s memories. It’s a melancholy twist, but it ensures that Clara’s resurrection doesn’t feel cheap. And given that she’s spent so long trying to be the Doctor, giving her a TARDIS to run off in was an appropriate fate and an uplifting end to a complex, occasionally awkward, but rewarding season. Will Salmon
Just make sure you keep your TARDIS this clean and neat, Clara.