Here at the beginning I want to assure you that there are no spoilers of any kind in this article. I hate spoilers as much as the next person, and my goal in writing this is to give you an idea of how the first handful of episodes of the new season of Doctor Who feel more than review what happened in them. I will have a full season review up when it’s over. But for now we are at a changing of the guards, and I felt this was the best way to explain my feelings on the show without spoiling it for anyone.
I started watching Doctor Who on the recommendation of a close friend who’s taste in film and television I trust. David Tennnant was finishing his run as I played catch-up, and after watching all of his work as the Doctor, I was supremely sad to see him leave the roll. I was convinced that no one on earth could make me care about the show the way he did. As his final episode drew to a close and we saw the first glimpses of Matt Smith’s version of the iconic time traveler, I was not happy. I felt that Steven Moffat had grossly misjudged the casting and that I would no longer enjoy the show. I’ve probably never been more wrong about anything in my life. In between seasons I went back and watched my favorite David Tennant episodes, and as I did, I noticed a pattern. I would pick an episode to watch that I remembered loving, and every time the name getting the writing credit for that episode was Moffat. I was starting to think that maybe I should trust the new show runner a little more.
It was right around this time when I accidentally discovered the BBC show “Sherlock”, which is a modern day twist on the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I grew up reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories and immediately fell in love with this show and hoped and prayed that it would catch on and become a long running series. Thankfully it has and continues to get better every season. I mention this because when I discovered the show no one I knew had even heard of it and I had to do some research to learn more about the show and its origins. I discovered that the minds behind this new marvel of a show were Steven Moffit and Mark Gattis. It was at that point that I decided that I should just trust that Moffit knew what he was doing with Doctor Who and believe that he, and Matt Smith, would take us where we wanted and needed to go. So I gave Matt Smith a chance and ended up loving his portrayal of The Doctor.
With the beginning of season 8 of Doctor Who with find Matt Smith’s time having come to an end and Peter Capaldi taking the reigns. This is a huge shift, most markedly in age. From Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant to Matt Smith, we saw the Doctor become younger in appearance, nearly a decade at a time. Now we find ourselves riding along in the TARDIS with an actor who is twenty four years older than his predecessor.
This means that overnight, the young woman who is traveling with the Doctor goes from playing opposite a man young enough to be her love interest to tagging along with a man who looks (and in reality is) old enough to be her father. This shift is made even more jarring because of the relationship that has existed between Clara and the Doctor up to this point. During Clara’s time in the TARDIS, there have been some flirtatious moments between these two and it is a relationship that cannot really continue at this point. Clara is instantly uncomfortable with the Doctor, not only because of his appearance, but because of his shift in mood and demeanor. Every actor who has played the Doctor has been able to put his own spin on the character, and Capaldi is no exception. The Doctor is moodier, grumpier, and generally darker than we’ve seen him before.
Personally, I don’t think that I’ll end up loving Capaldi the way that I loved Matt Smith, but as I’ve already mentioned, I felt the same way when David Tennant left the show. As the saying goes, “You never forget your first Doctor.”
At the time of this writing, the first four episodes of season 8 have aired and I’ve been able to watch them all. I have to say that I am a huge fan of everything that Moffit writes, and these new episodes still feel very much like Doctor Who, but I think it will take some time to adjust to the new Doctor and where the show is headed in general. Where Matt Smith’s Doctor traveled around helping others in an almost haphazard galavant, Capaldi seems to know that he has a plan that needs to be executed, he’s just not sure yet what that plan is. In the first episode of the new season he wonders aloud, “Why did I choose this face?” He knows that he had a plan, but seems to be working out what it was while we ride along on his adventures.
All this being said, the show still feels like Doctor Who, and if you are a fan of previous seasons much of what people loved lives on. The writing is excellent, the acting is enjoyable, and the adventures wonderful. My advice, which goes for me as much as for you, is to watch with an open mind and an open heart. Steven Moffit has turned this show into an international phenomenon and I believe he can be trusted to take us where we want and need to go.