Time is up once again for Doctor Who, but was it well spent?
With many secrets revealed, and journeys ended and begun anew, it is time to consider the end of Peter Capaldi’s first series as the Doctor. While Capaldi is a fine actor, and Jenna Coleman has had some decent moments too, they have had to deal with some rather dreadful scripts, and some better ones, it must be said, in order to get to this point in time. Compared to Matt Smith’s series, there has been a greater fluctuation in terms of quality, which I still blame Stephen Moffat’s untempered creativity for, yet we have seen some fine writing talent in Flatline, Mummy on the Orient Express, and some from Moffat himself in Listen. What remains now is to examine the finale, which was a less than satisfying end to the series, despite a good enemy for the Doctor to face, and a promising first part in Dark Water.
Warning – Spoilers Ahead
So the salient point of these final episodes is that Missy turned out to be The Master, whose new female form makes sense considering Stephen Moffat’s comments earlier this year about the potential for Time Lords regenerating into different genders. Michelle Gomez acted well, although she never seemed as unhinged as John Simm’s Master, never really advancing past uncomfortably quirky into scary territory. Her plan, if you can call trying to corrupt the most honest man in the universe, which has failed every time before, by gifting him an army made of the dead members of his favourite species a plan, was certainly of a scale worthy of a finale, but was bizarre in what it was trying to achieve.
It would have made more sense to give the Doctor a Vader style deal of ruling together, but instead Missy posed a choice that the Doctor could never accept, and he didn’t have to do anything, since he passed the responsibility of the cyber army to Danny. It is good to see that Moffat understands the Master’s close relationship with the Doctor, though I don’t recall the two of them ever really being friends, but without giving the Doctor a chance to make the decision, we lost a lot of potential drama, and once again, we fail to explore anything meaningful. It looked like we were going to get some interesting exploration of life and death with the 3W element last week, and moreso given that Danny was our main viewpoint into it, but all of this was tossed aside to make way for a much simpler story.
By the very end, despite having an extra fifteen minutes to play with, the answers to all problems came at a ridiculously fast pace. Burning the clouds was perhaps expected, since we had the same solution in The Sontaran Strategem/ The Poison Sky a few series ago, but then the life restoring properties of Missy’s bracelet were suddenly thrown at us thirty seconds before it was used. We did see Missy moving between dimensions of course, but was there really no space for Missy to boast for ten seconds about this ability? And even then how could the dead Danny then use it? And I am not entirely sure what exactly Clara is meant to do with the revived Iraqi boy. It sure was thoughtful of Danny to give up his chance at life, but going to find his parents would be an enormous task without any information at all.
What seems strange to me is how many professional critics have enjoyed the series in its entirety whereas I seem to be a dissenting opinion in disliking the majority of episodes. I can only assume that my ideas of what makes or what would make Doctor Who is different from everyone else. There is a definite focus towards making it a family oriented programme, seen in the frequent inclusion of children and lighter stories, and the results of this I very actively dislike, since I would prefer something that can be watched by people of all ages, but still has enough substance to stand up without the support of a young fanbase, as I feel it was when Russell T. Davis was still the producer. I wouldn’t call either approach wrong, the show is still popular, but I have to wonder what the main consensus on this is.
To summarise for one final time, the finale of Doctor Who series 8 was full of good ideas, but executed and then resolved in an unsatisfying way, due to plot elements that didn’t make sense, or wild deus ex machinas, like Cyber Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, whose appearance I am sure will rile up fans of the classic series. I still see the Davis series as far superior to the past few years of episodes, and I dislike the changes that have come from the handover to this day, but perhaps I am being too resistant to change. The positive things to take from this year is that our main duo are played by two strong actors, and that there are still plenty of ideas left to write about. It’s enough to keep me watching, and hoping that some day Doctor Who will get its unique semi-serious nature back.
Oh, and also apparently Father Christmas is in the Christmas special. Good grief Moffat…