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Doctor Who Series 8 Review – Peter Capaldi, the Master, and Clara Oswald

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Doctor Who Series 8 Review

Rather than write weekly reviews, I decided to hold off until after Series 8 came to a close so I could look at the complete picture. Admittedly, I wasn’t the hugest fan of Matt Smith’s farewell episode (just see my scathing review), so I definitely had misgivings coming into the 8th season. One thing I knew I would like, however, was Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor (or is the Doctor at number 13 now???).

Peter Capaldi

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The first episode, “Deep Breath,” started out with a slight whimper thanks to the pointless dinosaur entrance, Clara’s hesitation about the Doctor’s old face (weird considering she helped all the different Doctors throughout time), the return of the Paternoster gang (despise them if I’m being honest), and the Weeping Angels repeat with “don’t breathe rather than don’t blink.” Nevertheless, Capaldi shone through with his intense charisma and acting skills (I loved him in The Hour). I believed he was the Doctor almost right away (probably around episode 2 sometime in the “Dalek” rehash “Into the Dalek”).

Throughout the season, Capaldi as the Doctor really reminded me of an even darker 10th Doctor. He lost a lot of the flailing arms and silliness of Eleven (though nothing wrong with that either). This was a man who meant business. One of the most interesting aspects of the Doctor’s journey this season goes back to why the Doctor has a familiar face. This is one answer still unanswered. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out (and it better be good).

Furthermore, I liked that the Doctor put a lid on the Doctor/Clara romance, one aspect of series 7 that I wholeheartedly loathed with an extreme passion. I didn’t buy it at all, so I’m glad that it came to an end. Nevertheless, I wish the writers didn’t have the Doctor act jealous at times that made his feelings for Clara ambiguous. I thought these few moments were a disservice to the character because it started to feel inconsistent. Overall though, I love what Capaldi brings to the role. It feels fresh, which is something this show needs.

The Clara Problem

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One of my biggest problems with series 7 went back to the very, very poor characterization of Clara Oswald. I didn’t know who she was aside from “the impossible girl” (and on that note, can we lose these catchphrases in future companions?). I didn’t know her family (though they showed up for dinner once), her interests in life, etc. I didn’t understand why she wanted to travel with the Doctor. Thankfully, a lot of Clara’s problems were remedied this season. Sure, we still don’t know her family, but we at least get to see her personal life as well as understand why she travels with the Doctor: She’s kind of a narcissist and likes to feel special (yay for flaws!). It’s also an addiction for Clara.

What I really loved about Clara’s journey this season was her connection to Danny Pink. Right away, I loved Danny. I loved him even more when he stood up to the Doctor. The Doctor really does have too many “yes” men; gone are the days of Donna Noble, Rose Tyler, and Martha Jones telling the Doctor what’s what…Most of all, I adored Clara and Danny’s relationship, lies and all, because for the first time in a while I felt human emotion. I felt love and that was beautiful. But more on that later…

The Middle Episodes

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From Episode 2 to Episode 10, I enjoyed all the episodes to a degree. I have to admit though that I didn’t really find any of the middle episodes to be anything special. None of them stand out as personal favorites.  And yet “Robot of Sherwood” made one of my least favorites of all time (sorry but the immature humor and hideous interpretation of Robin Hood was not for me – but then again I am a huge fan of the BBC Robin Hood’s interpretation). Several were entertaining: “Time Heist,” “Mummy on the Orient Express,” and “The Caretaker.” While some I liked better than the majority of fans: “Kill the Moon” (loved Hermione Norris in it) and “In the Forest of the Night” (I am a children’s literature graduate after all and found this episode to actually be spot on).

Overall, there was nothing particularly extraordinary in the middle, or middling episodes, almost like Moffat wanted to play it safe until his 2 part finale. Even “Listen,” which got more hype than I think it deserves, didn’t really impress me as much as I hoped it would. Again, the episode played out a lot like “Blink,” mixed in with placing Clara even further into the Doctor’s history when she enters his time-stream (though “how” she could is still beyond me as Gallifrey should be time-locked or else the Doctor could travel back in time and visit his beloved home planet as often as he chooses).

Dark Water and Death in Heaven

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A mediocre season but with a fantastic new Doctor in hand, “Dark Water” opened with a fantastic bang. Sprinkled throughout the season, Moffat threw in a mystery he called “heaven,” regarding the mysterious Missy. Who was she and where was heaven exactly? “Dark Water” is where the truth begins to unravel, but in order for it to unravel something drastic needed to happen: someone had to die.

In one of the most mundane and depressing deaths of the show, “Dark Water,” opens with Clara talking with Danny on the phone. She tells him that she loves him. Then, silence. Nothing; the silence on Danny’s end of the phone more ominous than any monster of the week. Soon, someone else comes on the phone and Clara realizes why Danny disappeared from their conversation: he had been hit by a car. Danny Pink was dead.

Many fans of the show hated what happened next because Clara’s reaction to Danny’s death was shocking and a drastic move on Clara’s part. Me, however? I loved it. Most of the time, I’ve had a very difficult time warming to a character without depth. Here, Clara became more than “the impossible girl,” and more than just another companion with sass. She became a flawed human being, willing to do whatever it took to get the man she loved back.

In order to manipulate the Doctor into traveling back in time to save Danny, she stole all the Tardis keys and threatened to throw them into lava on the side of a volcano. And she does, one by one until there is nothing left. Thankfully, the Doctor had induced a dream scenario so that nothing of this actually happened. He wanted to see how far Clara would be willing to go. She was willing to go all the way, to betray the Doctor fully in order to save Danny. But the Doctor cared for Clara anyway and said that together, they would go into hell. These 15 minutes is some of the best work Moffat has ever done with the show.

The Doctor and Clara, rather than going to “hell,” arrive inside a mysterious company called 3W, a company that allows Clara to talk to the dead. Clara gets to talk to Danny. It seems that the dead feel everything that happens to them. A very dark choice for a family show… While Clara talks to Danny, who seems to be in some kind of Nethersphere, the Doctor uncovers just exactly who Missy is.

Missy

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She taunts that the Doctor knows her…It turns out he knows her extremely well because Missy is in fact the Master regenerated into a Time Lady (the Master is “old-fashioned” it seems).  It’s not a shocking revelation. Indeed, Moffat definitely went with the most obvious answer. The reveal was a little disappointing in comparison to more interesting theories online. The choice almost seems like Moffat’s reaction to so much feminist backlash online, proving to them that he could make a real feminist choice by offering up the female “Master” rather than Doctor (though I think this criticism could have been remedied with stronger female characterization and depth).

Nevertheless, in spite of the obviousness of the “twist,” Missy was one of the highlights for me in these last two episodes because the actress Michelle Gomez is so freakin’ entertaining in the role. And I mean hilarious. She serves up camp like few people can, her witty one- liners a true delight. While I adore her in this role, I do kind of wish her whole cybermen army plan didn’t connect to the Master’s romantic (???) feelings for the Doctor, being that her villainy was all for him. It kind of feels like a familiar trope for Moffat, Missy’s characterization echoing back to other characters like River Song, Irene Adler, and Mary (from Sherlock). Still, like I said, I was entertained and that’s a good thing. No one wants to be bored when watching a show they love.

One of Missy’s most entertaining bits was also the most shocking: when she murders the Doctor fangirl Osgood, who had just been promised to become a future companion for the Doctor. When she tells Osgood she’s going to kill her, Missy was funny and frightening at the same time.  After she ‘kills’ Osgood (I hold out hope she was just transported elsewhere), she even crushes this adorable and loved characters’ glasses. Harsh.

The Cybermen Plot

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At the end of “Dark Water,” and the entirety of “Death in Heaven,” Missy’s plot regarding an army of the dead is revealed. Her plan all along was to create an army of cybermen by returning the dead people she had uploaded into her created Netherspehere (similar to River Song being uploaded into a computer), and then downloading them back into their “upgraded,” cybermen bodies. The idea was entertaining to watch; still, something about it rubbed me the wrong way after the fact.

When you really stop and think about it, you begin to realize just how many of past and beloved characters turned into these cybermen and then burnt up in the sky when Danny ordered them to (in order to save the universe). Amy Pond, Rory Williams, Pete Tyler, Ianto Jones (Torchwood), Tosh (Torchwood), Clara’s Mom, Donna’s Dad, Vincent Van Gogh, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Queen Elizabeth, Madame de Pompadour, Joan Redfern (“Family of Blood”), etc. These are just some New Who characters…Is this the ending I really want for these characters? Not really.

Furthermore, who exactly overcame being deleted? Danny’s love for Clara was strong enough to overcome the programming as was the Brigadier’s, but what about everyone else in the world? Is their love not equal to the Brigadier’s and Danny’s? While I admittedly liked the Danny/Clara parts of this twist (and found it rather romantic), I do wish that the show didn’t involve the dead, that it didn’t imply some characters are better than others. It feels too elitist or something.

After Danny and the rest of the ‘dead’ cybermen burn, Danny returns with a whisper of Clara’s name just like the Tenth Doctor did in “Doomsday” for Rose. “Doomsday” is one of my favorite episodes of all time, so I thought the exactness a little off putting. Furthermore, unlike “Doomsday,” I’m not sure Danny’s return made any sense. It was similar to the burning of the sun, but instead the bracelet the Doctor gave Danny to control the cybermen allowed one dead person to return back from…somewhere? In the place of Danny’s return, Danny gives the bracelet to the young boy he accidentally killed in war. So, Danny’s dead for good. Supposedly. I would have liked a happy ending for Clara and Danny.

The Promise of Gallifrey

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While I’m not the hugest fan of returning all the Time Lords (as in I LOVE the whole Last of the Timelords schtick), I get it to a degree. So, I really felt the emotion when the Doctor and Clara lie to each other about their lives at the end of “Death in Heaven.” Clara has something to tell the Doctor, but instead she lies about Danny being dead. Something tells me she was about to tell the Doctor she’s pregnant (otherwise we have a major plot hole in hand when it comes to Clara’s future descendant that is the Danny lookalike).

As for the Doctor, he claims he found Gallifrey, but really the coordinates Missy gave him (before the Brigadier zapped her) of its location was bogus. The performance by Capaldi here is heart-wrenching; the way he acts out the Doctor’s rage and disappointment that his beloved home had not indeed been found. The two friends part ways, each believing the other to be happy. Where it goes from there, should prove interesting.

The Woman in the Shop

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In one of the lamest reveals in New Who history (so I of course must bring it up), Missy confesses to the Doctor that she, the Master, is actually the woman in the shop (which I’m sure Moffat found hilarious that the mysterious she used to be a he, so he figured no one would figure out his genius plan). This was one of the open mysteries left from the seventh season, and I was truly hoping for something good, intriguing, and mind blowing. What we got on the other hand? An afterthought thrown into the mix in order to sound cleverer than it actually was.

When Missy revealed that it was she that gave Clara the number to the Doctor, I thought, “Okay, Moffat went with the obvious again.” I waited for ‘why’ she gave Clara the number. Well, the why is about as stupid as it gets. Basically, Missy (no longer the Master and a woman) needed Clara’s OCD to get the Doctor (no matter what) to find her “Nethersphere.” Say what? I’m sorry, but Missy had easier ways to go about bringing the Doctor to her business. The cybermen alone would have lured the Doctor back. Also, does this reveal also imply that Missy had Danny killed? Unclear. Overall, this was a HUGE disappointment to what could have been a great twist. Either Rose Tyler/Bad Wolf (who used to work in a shop), Donna Noble, or even Sarah Jane (in order to honor the actress that still hasn’t been honored on the show since she died) as a way to save the Doctor once more.

Overall – Doctor Who Series 8

Overall, while I do have some criticisms, I enjoyed Doctor Who Series 8 and I finally even warmed to Clara! Hopefully, next season will answer more questions (and please let the reveals not be lame) such as why the Doctor has a familiar face and where Gallifrey is…See you all at Christmas!

What did you think of Doctor Who Series 8? Sound off in the comments…

Overall Rating

Three Star Rating border

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce

me. Aren’t you?”

Romance

four heart border

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

RELATED:

Check out my other articles in Doctor Who Diaries

My Theory on Peter Capaldi’s familiar face

Our Romantic Moment of the Week all about Danny and Clara


Photo Credit: BBC/BBC America

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By on November 23rd, 2014

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely blog and works as a YA Librarian.

More posts by this author.

3 thoughts on “Doctor Who Series 8 Review – Peter Capaldi, the Master, and Clara Oswald”

  1. I LOVED Michelle Gomez’s character! I just really, really hated her being “The Master.” Time Lords regenerating into the other gender just poses too many problems.

    For example, what if the Time Lord is married? What then? It appears that upon regeneration, the Time Lord/Lady then switches which sex they are attracted to (Missy being attracted to the Doctor). Or was the Master always attracted to men? It doesn’t appear so; he was even married (Prime Minister Saxon).

    If the Doctor ever regenerated into a woman, would he (or should I say, she? confusing…) continue to be attracted to women? We know he is (ie, Rose), so then what?

    I think the idea is just stupid. I really like Michelle Gomez’s performance, and I just don’t want to think of her as the Master. I’m still hoping that it was a big lie. 🙁

    Reply
  2. Thinking back on the Season finale I was wondering the whole time: if Missy was the woman in the shop, how come Clara didn’t recognise her?
    Also, I was really disappointed about the reasoning behind choosing Clara. When Missy said “I chose you well Clara Oswald”, I thought that there would be something more interesting behind this…and not only that Clara is a control freak…
    Was a bit disappointed, to be honest…

    Reply
  3. There were certainly some strong hints in the 2-part finale that Clara was pregnant. A lot of pregnancy related clues have been mentioned on posts elsewhere, so I thought I would draw attention to a couple that I haven’t seen mentioned yet. One of the strongest hints was from Missy. Her wording when Clara phones the Doctor on the tardis phone is quite suggestive:

    “[TARDIS PHONE RINGS] Oh, and now it begins. Doctor, I do believe you’re on call. Miss Oswald expects.”

    That is very strange wording unless Missy is aware that Clara is pregnant. And if I’m not mistaken, the Doctor gasps at this point, i.e. before Missy goes on to mention that it was her that gave Clara the Doctor’s number in the shop. The Doctor seems to be reacting to Missy knowing that Clara is pregnant. I think the timing of the gasp is quite significant. There is nothing out of the ordinary in the fact that Clara would know the Doctor’s phone number after having been travelling with him for quite some time now. So I don’t believe the Doctor is gasping at the fact that Missy has guessed it is Clara calling. Instead it seems to be the”you’re on call” Doctor, “Miss Oswald expects” that has got him rattled.

    But nothing comes of this. If knowledge of the pregnancy is part of Missy’s longer term plan, then nothing was revealed in the finale.

    Now on to the next clue. When Clara and the Doctor meet at the end of the finale, the Doctor looks down at her wrist and points in that general direction and says “Ah, I see you’ve got news for me”. It is conceivable that, judging by her reaction, Clara thought that the Doctor was pointing at her tummy, when in fact he was actually pointing at the bracelet. Once again, it is her reaction that is interesting. Why react like that if she thought he was pointing at the bracelet? And then her reaction to realising he meant the bracelet appears to be one of relief, as if she is pleased that he didn’t mean what she thought he meant.

    Then later in the same scene, the Doctor says, “…I thought with you and Danny” and Clara says “Yeah, me and Danny”, then she pauses for a while and smiles, then looks back up at the Doctor and says, “Me and Danny, we are going to be fine”. In that pause, could she have been thinking about the baby and suddenly decided that she would call the baby Danny, and therefore when she said “Me and Danny, we are going to be fine”, she wasn’t actually lying this time. Maybe she was thinking about her and the baby. – It has been suggested many times elsewhere that Clara must be pregnant if her and Danny have descendants in the future, so either she is pregnant or Danny comes back.

    [SPOILERS IN RELATION TO LAST CHRISTMAS FOLLOW]

    Obviously all of the above appears to be undone by the recent Last Christmas episode. Clara doesn’t appear to be pregnant, even though Moffat has apparently stated that Last Christmas was set six months later. So why mention a possible pregnancy again?

    Well, due to the fact that a lot of people are suggesting that, not only did most of Last Christmas happen within dreams, but perhaps all of it did, and that maybe they are still dreaming. That is one interpretation of the tangerine at the end of the episode. If that is the case, then we have no idea what Clara might be looking like right now in the waking world. – But having said all this, and despite what I thought were some fairly strong pregnancy hints, certainly combined with what others have mentioned elsewhere, I have my doubts now that they will follow through with this story line if in fact they did have it in mind. The back-and-forth on Jenna Coleman staying on for series 9 might have altered plans a bit. Obviously we know she is staying on now, but whether they’ll use a pregnancy storyline now is something we’ll have to wait and find out. If most of series 9 is set within the dream world, then it would be a cunning way of hiding Clara’s pregnancy, along the lines of how the Amy doppelgänger hid Amy’s pregnancy.

    I can’t take credit for this next theory since my 12-year old daughter announced it as soon as she saw the ending of Last Christmas. She immediately jumped to the conclusion that when the Doctor visited the co-ordinates and did not see Gallifrey there, that he must have been dreaming at that point, since Santa Claus entered through the door a short time later. So if he was dreaming, Gallifrey could still be at those co-ordinates and perhaps Missy wasn’t lying. It does raise the question of at what point the dream crab attacked the Doctor. I’d like to think it was after Missy’s apparent death but before he visited the co-ordinates. It is the only thing that makes sense, that is unless the Santa we see enter the tardis is the real Santa.

    My daughter actually takes things one step further and suggests that he actually did visit Gallifrey but was attacked by the dream crab immediately on opening the doors, and that the planet whose ground he wakes up on is none other than Gallifrey, and that perhaps in his haste to run back in to the tardis to find Clara so that he can safe her from the dream crab, he failed to look around and notice that it was indeed Gallifrey. I like her thinking. I’d like to think that this is correct.

    I found it interesting that Moffat stated, around the time that the series 8 finale aired, that he already had an idea for what would happen in the series 9 finale. It suggested a connection between the finales, so I’m hoping Missy will be back, hopefully in connection with discovering Gallifrey.

    But I’m in two minds about the suggestion that part of series 9 being set within the dream world. I’m a big fan of dreams, but the stories would have to be done in such a way that we wouldn’t care so much if they turned out to be dreams. We’d need them still to be genuinely dangerous for the Doctor and Clara, even if they are dreams. Perhaps if they reveal them to the viewer to be dreams from episode one but not to the Doctor and Clara then it would make it interesting. The tension would be around whether they would discover they are dreaming before the dream crabs have caused irreversible damage. The more I think about that, the more I think that it could work, particularly if they periodically flash back to show there bodies slowly dying. Hmmm. Maybe that is how Clara will exit the show, perhaps at the end of series 9. But there is a bit of risk in having so many dream related episodes. I doubt they’ll go down this route.

    The main reason I’m in two minds about it is that I rather like the idea of the dreams in Last Christmas hiding the Doctor’s discovery of Gallifrey. It wouldn’t work so well if he was still dreaming. I like the funny side of him being so close, in fact standing on its very soil, and then running away being none the wiser. It is the kind of thing I could see this Doctor doing, and the kind of thing Moffat might write. So for that to be the case, he’d need to be awake when running across its soil.

    Reply

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