Well, as quickly as it started, Series 8 has wrapped and “Doctor Who” won’t return until its annual Christmas special. I’ve seen different opinions on the season. Some liked it, some disliked it, and some were in the middle. I personally fall in the latter category, as I felt it had its highs and lows. I won’t go over specific episodes for now, as I may make a list in the future to cover my favorites. However, I will share my general thoughts on the main characters. Be warned, there may be minor spoilers.
Even with some of the weaker episodes, the saving grace for me this season was the 12th Doctor, played Peter Capaldi. While there’s still plenty more to explore with his version of the Doctor, I like the direction of the character being darker than before and questioning himself as a person. Capaldi plays the role in a way that, even when he’s being pretty dickish, still keeps me invested in the Doctor and finds him enjoyable. The small differences such as him not enjoying hugs as much anymore and being more truthful separates him well from his predecessors, especially Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. The only thing I was kinda iffy about was his dislike toward soldiers. I still feel like that was only slightly resolved, and it’s one aspect that I felt didn’t quite click with how he’s acted around them before. Then again, his Doctor, especially in the finale, has shades of the attitudes of the 3rd and 4th Doctors, so maybe this was intentional. Regardless, I’m excited to see more of him in Series 9.
I’ll come back to Clara in a bit and talk about Danny, the not-companion introduced this series. Not gonna lie, I was disappointed for the most part with the handling of his character. I can get if they didn’t want an Amy/Rory dynamic again, but it would’ve been interesting to have him step up as a potential new companion for the Doctor. But instead, he’s relegated to relationship status with Clara and shoved into the background aside from a few episodes. I would’ve loved if he’d stayed merely as a colleague, because I felt no emotional connection for his and Clara’s relationship. It felt too quick and underdeveloped for me to get invested in it, despite the show constantly stressing how much they love each other. They pull powerful punches in the finale that left me feeling only pity for him. Why? Because I felt his character had more potential. Unfortunately, for each moment where Danny felt interesting, he had equal moments of being a little bland/boring. That being said, the moments where I felt he WAS interesting were pretty well done, and I was sorry he didn’t have more of them. Ultimately, Danny deserved better, both in writing and character potential.
And now we come to Clara. For the longest time, I’ve found her a blank slate. This season tried to add more to her character and flesh her out further, giving her characteristics both good and bad. But my problem with Clara is very much the same that my fiance had on his blog. Clara got too much focus this season and practically overshadowed the new Doctor himself. It became less about him and more about her life, her relationship and her darker, Doctor-like side coming out (specifically lying to him and especially Danny). She went from blank slate to an overly bossy, overly important, overly unlikable companion for me, so much so that I put her on par with Rose if not under her, and I HATED Rose. I’ve realized since the finale that I never truly got over Moffat making Clara the “girl who saves the Doctor.” It made her super important, so much so that it drove me crazy. You can have a character who knows the Doctor and still is engaging to watch. Take Missy or even Romana I & II as a couple examples. Granted, both are from his race and know some of his history, but they’re opposite sides of the coin and are STILL interesting. Now, much like with Danny, Clara had the occasional good moment. But I chalk a lot of that less to the writing and more to Jenna Coleman. I refuse to diss her because she’s done the best with what she’s been given and has pretty good range during the emotional moments. But at this point, I just want to see a fresh face or two in the Tardis.
That sums up Series 8 for me in a nutshell: A season of highs and lows, with great moments but plenty of wasted moments as well. The focus on Clara, a few weak episodes, and a potentially amazing but ultimately kinda disappointing finale makes Series 8 a mixed bag for me. I still feel Series 5 is the strongest of the Moffat era, not even including that my favorite Doctor is part of it.
However, for all the bad, there are plenty of good things about Series 8. As I said, Capaldi has given us an interesting take on the Doctor and some awesome moments as a result. When the writing has been good, it’s been REALLY good, and the stories all had interesting premises despite not all of them being winners. My biggest kudos to Moffat, though, is the return of a simple yet fun story arc that I haven’t really seen since Series 5. While Series 6 was convoluted and Series 7 had two radically different stories, Series 8 brought back an intriguing mystery happening behind the scenes. And the reveal of Missy was well done, even if all the answers haven’t been presented yet and probably won’t be anytime soon. All in all, I have high hopes that the show will keep trying to play to Capaldi’s strengths and give us a stronger showing in Series 9.