Doctor Who Series 8 Sucked – But Why?
Firstly, let it be known that I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. I mean, huge Tardis tattoo on my leg kind of fan. I love it. I’ve enjoyed all the nuWho Doctors, but my favourite is absolutely Matt Smith — but even if you disagree, don’t let that dissuade you. A person’s favourite Doctor is a very personal choice and should be respected!
As almost every Who fan unfortunately discovered, Series 8 left plenty to be desired. It was almost (almost!) bad enough to stop me from watching — that mean’s there was something pretty severely wrong.
Firstly, it seemed almost as though the majority of the episodes were written with previous Doctor, played by Matt Smith, in mind. This was particularly evident in some script choices, especially when Capaldi’s somewhat stoic Doctor is written as particularly loud, fast-paced and flamboyant. There’s also some episode settings which smack of Smith-style episodes, particularly running-the-length-of-a-train episode, Mummy On The Orient Express. This can most often be noticed if one imagines each episode, but replaces Capaldi’s Doctor with Smith’s. In almost every situation, he flawlessly fits into both the setting and script. It’s as though the team are still writing for a Doctor in the vein of Smith or Tennant, as opposed to Capaldi, who’s Doctor is an entirely different barrel of fish.
Peter Capaldi is a great actor. He’s potentially a great Doctor, there’s not a single aspect of his performance that feeds into the disappointment of the series. He’s awesome — but the writers seemingly haven’t a clue what to do with him. He’s the first nuWho Doctor who’s been considerably more ‘serious’, measured and somewhat similar to the early Doctor’s of the original series’. Yet he’s undoubtedly being written by a team used to younger, more energetic and erratic characters. He’s awkwardly forced into a universe that has yet to be adapted for him.
Clara is much the same. She’s an unfortunate case of an ‘in-between companion’. Smith’s companion was Amy Pond, with Clara appearing towards the end of his run, and therefore filtering over into the start of Capaldi’s. It results in a companion who doesn’t really ‘belong’ to any Doctor, and thus has little connection with either of them. Her appearance with Smith, while often endearing, had huge boots to fill after the loss of Amy, and she is forced into the scenario of now being accompanied by Capaldi. It’s awkward, and it results in a lot of hanging story threads. The writers tried to give her some angle of importance, firstly with the strange resolve of the ‘crack in the wall’ storyline, (something started by Amy,) and then later with the ‘running through the Doctor’s time stream’ nonsense. It’s a feeble attempt at forcing importance on a character who fails to connect with a Doctor, and ultimately, the audience. Clara is left giving us a resounding ‘meh’, and it’s unlikely it’ll improve. They attempted to inject some life into her character with Danny Pink in Series 8, which yet again, fell completely flat — we were expected to care for a character whom we had even less connection with than Clara, and someone whom Clara treated questionably at best. His death, and the fact we were supposed to feel something, all fell completely short of being a compelling story because largely, we simply didn’t care.
I’m all for guest writers… Provided they don’t remove us jarringly from the ongoing story arcs. Unfortunately, in the case of Series 8, they did exactly that. Of the twelve episodes, only seven were written (or co-written) by Steven Moffat — the rest were guest writers. Series regular and Sherlock co-writer Mark Gatiss, wrote the incredibly average Robot Of Sherwood, (an episode bloated with unnecessary androids and a Broadway-level of over-acting from Robin Hood.) Peter Harness, (who’ll be returning for a two-parter in Season 9,) wrote the poorly thought out Kill The Moon, an episode rife with heavy-handed abortion metaphors that seemed entirely out of place in an episode of Doctor Who. Jamie Mathieson, (previously known for a handful of Being Human episodes,) wrote Mummy On The Orient Express (as mentioned above, a Matt Smith episode at heart,) and the slightly more promising, although undoubtedly silly, Flatline. However, the award for ‘Worst Doctor Who Episode Of All Time (And Space)’ goes to Frank Cottrell Boyce, for the absolutely abhorrent dross that is In The Forest Of The Night. Packed full of highly irritating children, questionable special effects and a story seemingly written by a six year old, it’s the deepest low point Doctor Who has ever suffered. In fact, suggesting it was written by a six year old seems too complimentary. It’s an intolerable mess of television, an outright assault of the senses and so wildly offensive in its awfulness, that it almost caused me to write off Doctor Who in its entirety. Doctor Who has bad episodes. It has some iffy special effects and some dodgy pseudo-science… But never has an episode been so utterly repulsive to every atom of my being, that I’ve been compelled to empty my bank account, in the hopes of bribing Mr. Boyce to never so much as breathe on a Doctor Who script ever again.
When a series of Doctor Who struggles, eyes undoubtedly turn to current showrunner, Steven Moffat. The fandom appears to be split, with many hailing him as the saviour of Who and a great writer/director. Others are less infatuated, claiming he’s ‘ruining’ the series and running it into the ground. I’m in two minds. Whilst Moffat has been on the show for a remarkably long time, (since 2010’s Series 5,) he’s certainly had his moments. Series 5’s The Pandorica Opens, Series 6’s The Impossible Astronaut and Day Of The Moon, A Good Man Goes To War, Let’s Kill Hitler and Series 7’s Asylum Of The Daleks and The Time Of The Doctor, and the spectacular 50th episode, The Day Of The Doctor. All stand out episodes. He’s also overlooked some brilliant guest writers, particularly Richard Curtis’ incredible Vincent And The Doctor (my favourite episode,) and Tom MacRae’s The Girl Who Waited. Guest writers doing it right! Moffat certainly knows what he’s doing, and has directed and written some great Who moments… Yet we have to consider that perhaps he’s been there for too long? He excelled with Smith, something largely due to Smith’s incredible performances regardless of material, and it’s almost a shame to see Series 9 become so utterly terrible — it threatens to take away some of the affection we do have for Moffat and his choices.
Regardless, we’re not privy to whom remains in charge of Doctor Who. Perhaps there are higher ups at the BBC, pulling strings and allowing Moffat to explore certain things, but not others. Perhaps their marketing team weren’t sure that an ‘older Doctor’ would sell toys like Smith or Tennant did, and thus we’re presented with scripts that don’t play Capaldi’s Doctor as stoic or serious. With Clara, perhaps its a case of miscasting, perhaps its poor scripting (although as mentioned before, even Smith bought light to the dullest of scripts — why does Clara, played by actress Jenna Coleman, seem incapable of doing the same?)
I hope Series 9 is wonderful. I truly hope Capaldi is allowed to come into his own, to explore themes and stories written exclusively for him, for a Doctor different to Smith and Tennant and even Ecclestone. We all know he’s a wonderful actor, and that Moffat (and a select number of guest writers) are capable of writing thought-provoking, fun and moving scripts… So where are they?
Perhaps Capaldi is the Doctor we need, but not the one the BBC deserves right now.
Originally posted on Need To Consume in August 2015