Warning: Spoilers Ahead!!
Season 8 has been pivotal for fans of DOCTOR WHO, as we’ve said hello to a new Doctor and goodbye to another companion, as such, the season felt like a bit of a dance, with the Doctor trying to learn the steps without stepping on everyone’s toes too much. In season 8, the repercussions of the last couple of seasons are clearly weighing on the Doctor’s mind, as he is constantly struggling to come to grips with what kind of man he is. After all, he has done some horrendous things, but he did them in pursuit of nobler goals, not hard to see why he is so conflicted. Despite this heavy emotional burden, the Doctor is still the Doctor, and his adventures through time and space this season have been truly revealing as to what kind of Doctor is now piloting the Tardis.
The last couple years of Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor were an absolute roller coaster, with huge, universe shaking events gluing us to our screens, and while that kind of excitement is fun, it’s not conducive to introducing a new Doctor, so it’s no surprise the series has slowed its pace a bit this season. While things have slowed down and returned to a somewhat more normal Doctor/Companion routine, that doesn’t mean this season was any less fun, in fact, besides getting to see appearances from favorite baddies the Daleks, Cybermen, and the Master, we also get to have fun in Sherwood forest, solve a murder mystery on the Orient Express, and face a dark dilemma on the moon. While the show continues to be packed full of wonderful adventures, what really made this season phenomenal was the continuous discovery of the new Doctor’s character.
Throughout the franchise, every incarnation of the Doctor has had its own particular style and attitude, and while it is not uncommon to have a surly Doctor, we haven’t seen one since the series relaunched in 2005, so it’s not surprising that this new Doctor will be a major change for what the Doctor has come to represent for many viewers. However, I believe this is the perfect time for a more guarded, hard nosed Doctor because the events of the last few seasons have forced him to become that way, but just because his attitude isn’t as fun and bubbly as the last couple Doctors, doesn’t mean he isn’t fun in his own way. What I love about the new Doctor is that he is wildly pragmatic, case in point: if something happens that causes a person to die, he doesn’t agonize over not being able to save them, rather he observes and learns like a scientist in order to try and prevent another death from happening. Additionally, this Doctor seems much more concerned with solving the problems in front of him than with the concerns of the random people he is encountering along the way, and while this may seem cold at first glance, it merely reinforces the true nature of the Doctor: he does good but that does not mean he is good. Watching this new Doctor come to grips with this simple truth that the audience has always known and then thrive on it has been extremely fun, and while you may have to be a bit of cynic to embrace this point of view, I think it’s plain to see that the core traits of the Doctor are still very much alive, which should be deeply satisfying for any diehard fan.
Unlike last season which had a plethora of supporting characters showing up on a regular basis, this season only had a few regularly appearing actors. Peter Capaldi (WORLD WAR Z) has stepped into the role of the Doctor, and he is doing a wonderful job with the part. Capaldi was a perfect cast for this incarnation of the Doctor, he easily brings to life this Doctor’s gruff demeanor, but he is also skilled at letting the tenderness underneath peak through at times. If this first season is any indication, I think he has some amazing performances in store for us as this Doctor comes into his own. Returning for her last season as Clara Oswald is Jenna Coleman (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER) and while I got a little tired of her character this season, there is no doubt she did a great job portraying her. Clara has a hard time adjusting to this new Doctor and his colder demeanor, as such, she is constantly butting heads with him over a myriad of issues to the point where it starts to feel like she almost has an attitude of entitlement when it comes to being his companion. While this attitude began to grind on me after a time, Coleman was fantastic in bringing out Clara’s inner emotions and boldly displaying them for all to see. While I am not sorry to see the character go, I will miss Coleman as her performances added an interesting flare to the show. Samuel Anderson (TV’s CASUALTY) came aboard this season to portray Danny Pink, a war veteran turned teacher and Clara’s love interest. I really like the subdued, calm in any situation way Anderson portrayed Danny, whether facing death, heartbreak, crazy trees, or deadly aliens, he keeps himself composed, but allows his face to display the turmoil within. Anderson’s acting talent has clearly been underutilized and I hope to see him in more substantial roles in the future. Lastly, Michelle Gomez (TV’s BAD EDUCATION) played Missy, the latest incarnation of the Master. Gomez was great as the crazed Time Lord, blending sophistication, malice, and iron will into a delightfully fresh portrayal of the old villain, giving us one of the most memorable characters to show up this season.
While the Doctor may have regenerated yet again, DOCTOR WHO is still chock full of the same science fiction adventure fans have come to love. Season 8 has wonderful stories, an engrossing cast, and some of the best character development I’ve seen on TV in a very long time. If you are new to the series and looking for a jumping on point, this is a great place to start, and if you are tried and true fan there are plenty of the hallmarks of Doctor Who to keep you enthralled.
Final Score: 8 out of 10