Look Back in Anger – OR – My Thoughts on Series 8


Fuckin’ “Kill the Moon”, man. That was the episode that did it to me. In over 800 episodes, hundreds of audio stories and dozens of novels, that one, and that one alone, was such an insult to my intelligence that it nearly destroyed an entire season.

But let’s back up.

We all had such high hopes for Peter Capaldi. A darker Doctor is what we expected, and someone who could shake up our expectations for what the Doctor is. And boy, from the start, he delivered. Not only did we get the “Independent State of Eyebrows” speech, but we also got him maybe pushing a bad guy off a tower. The best case scenario is that he talked the bad guy into suicide.

But despite those scenes, “Deep Breath” just felt bloated and frankly not great. It was a decent 45 minute concept stretched into 75 minutes, and it showed. Plus, frankly, I never feel the need to see the Paternoster Gang ever again.

Then something fascinating happened, and we got that rarest of things: a good Dalek story. Previously, I could count those on one hand (“The Daleks”, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, “Genesis of the Daleks”, “Remembrance of the Daleks” and “Dalek”). Now I’ll have to grow an extra finger, because this one really was quite excellent.

From there we moved on to the surprisingly decent “Robots of Sherwood”, which really was far better than I had expected it to be. But then came “Listen”, which…I dunno. I got what they were going for, but it really just failed for me, and became the second stumble of the season.

But “Time Heist” was very good, and canonized Abslom Daak, Dalek-killer. It was a great little romp! Then we moved on to “The Caretaker”, which was flawed, but still very enjoyable.

But then…fuck. “Kill the Fucking Goddam Moon”…The one and only good thing about this story is that it gave Clara some much needed characterization in that it gave her some as opposed to her usual levels of none. But…Jesus. The science was terrible, and the ethical conundrum non-existent.

Still, we went on from there to “Mummy on the Orient Express”, which shouldn’t have worked, but did, and did a wonderful job of showing just how unpleasant Capaldi’s Doctor could be when he had to be. Sure, it was for a good reason, but yikes!

This was followed by “Flatline”, and I began to believe again. It felt like an older Moffat story, and I began to really hope he was back on track.

Then came the second-worst episode of the season, and one of the worst of the new series. Yes, kids, “Forest of the Night”, where somehow a global forest springs up overnight (even at the poles, the oceans and the desert), and then disappears quickly after protecting us from some sort of solar flare. We get hit by those periodically, by the way, and aside from some “fun with technology” antics, they don’t actually do much to our planet. Also, I fail to see how a global forest pumping highly-flammable oxygen into the atmosphere provides any real protection. Also, it smacks of Gaia Theory, and that concept can go suck a bag of dicks.

We wound up the season with the two-part Cybermen/Master (Mistress) stories. The first part was very excellent, and the second part existed! Oh, it wasn’t bad, but much of it didn’t make much sense (how did the Mistress get an army of Cybermen? If Danny Pink is did, wither Orson Pink?), and the bit with the Brig was more than a little twee. On the other hand, Danny’s revelation about his past, while a bit predictable, was still heart-wrenching, as I’m sure it’s a nightmare shared by every soldier and every cop. The eventual sacrifice Danny made at the end of the second part worked and worked well. The story also bid farewell, we hope, to Clara, who finally started to emerge as a character, but it was too late, too late.

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And so we look toward the future. We know Santa Claus will be paying a visit this Christmas (shades of “Iris Wildthyme and the Claws of Santa“, though probably with slightly less gin), and we know that a man named Frost is playing Santa, which is kind of magnificent.

Beyond that…series nine comes out sometime next year. We haven’t had any confirmation, to my knowledge, about who the showrunner will be, but I suspect Moffat. That’s a shame. He’s generally an excellent writer, and he’s done a lot of good for the show, but I think he’s burned-out, and it’s time to pass the reins off to someone else.

As for what I want to see in series nine…a series without Daleks would be nice. I’d like the Ice Warriors to come back, but only if they can keep their armor on. It would also be nice to see a return from an old companion, say Jo Grant, or perhaps the Doctor could visit Scotland and hang out with the Laird McCrimmon. And of course I want to see the Mistress again. She’s still a bit more over-the-top than I’d like (I really miss Delgado), but she’s quite entertaining.

And of course, I very much want to see Gallifrey come back. It’s been set up and teased. Now we need it to happen.

What do I not want to see? No more Clara. No more “dark fairy tales”. No more “Doctor Emo” type stories, where emotions rule the day, and the world is saved through the power of love. Less new series “flavor” and more old series.

But new-style or old, I’ll still watch it. Even if they don’t get Gallifrey back, even if Clara returns and brings Rose with her, even if the Master now regenerates into a penguin and changes his name to Frobisher, I’ll still watch it. Because I love Doctor Who, despite the problems, and there are many worse things than that.

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