Am I a good doctor? Doctor Who in review

A good doctor? Peter Capaldi has risen to the challenge as the twelfth incarnation of the venerable Time Lord. Image copyright BBC.
A good doctor? Peter Capaldi has risen to the challenge as the twelfth incarnation of the venerable Time Lord. Image copyright BBC.

When Peter Capaldi was announced as the new Doctor I was told by many that they ‘didn’t think he’d make a good Doctor’. Let’s be honest, this was on the back of Matt Smith. Now don’t get me wrong – Matt Smith’s first season was brilliant, absolutely fantastic (as the Ninth Doctor might say) – but what about the other two? Yes, there were some highlights, but myself and other people I spoke to seemed to think the show needed a rethink. Matt Smith – brilliant actor, seemed to be let down by what was perceived as poor writing; and I’d have an argument with anyone, any day about the space-opera-esque River Song & Amy Pond arc. Given the uphill battle some thought Capaldi might have in light of this – have things changed? In short, yes.

Steven Moffat told fans before the start of the season, when Capaldi was handed the keys to the TARDIS that now was the time to see the ‘old beast snarl’. Reading between the lines, I was starting to think did this mean an ill advised trip back to the Colin Baker era of the 1980s (before Big Finish rehabilitated Sixie’s reputation)? Thankfully it has not. This has been a superb season – possibly the best since David Tennant’s season with Catherine Tate in 2008. It has been twelve episodes of Hinchcliffe and Letts (1970s producers) mashed up with the best aspects of Russell T Davies. A ‘big bad’ has sparked our ‘Miss-tery’, and there hasn’t been a reliance on established figures from the shows past throughout, but an emphasis on mystery and suspense that has made the show so good in the past.

The new direction and new Doctor has been a joy to watch. Capaldi is now, for me, up there with Tennant and Baker. There has been some superb chemistry between the Doctor and Clara (Jenna Coleman) and in light of my sadness at the fact we’ve got another six and a half weeks until we see the good Doctor again (with Santa!! Yes, Santa!!!!) on Christmas Day, let’s take a look at my favourite five episodes from the latest series.

5. Flatline

The obvious choice here, maybe even the customary choice, when picking favourites out of a season might be to give Capaldi’s opening adventure the token first position. However, I think Flatline deserves its position here firmly for showing off how far the relationship between the Doctor and Clara had come in such a short space of time. Clara here is essentially adopting the role of ‘The Doctor’, whilst ‘The’ Doctor remains incapacitated in his shrunken TARDIS (an excellent riff on the idea first premiered in Planet of the Giants in 1964). There hasn’t been a ‘Doctor-lite’ episode quite like it, and Jenna Coleman is truly excellent as she proves why she is head and shoulders above Amy Pond.

4. Robots of Sherwood

Some people I know disliked this. I thought this was hilarious. A mistake made with some new Doctors is to hammer home the same personality traits over and over again in similar types of adventures. This adventure, screened third in the series, shows off Capaldi’s versatility in the role and rocks the humour to the max. The Doctor and Robin Hood – in battle together. It’s like a fantasy a little boy would come up with. Brilliant.

3. Time Heist

From the funny to the clever, one of the highlights of the latest season for me has been the mystery that has been put back into the episodes. This was not a straightforward episode. The answer was simple, but did we really know the question until the dying moments of the episode? Featuring the amazing alien ‘The Teller’, this was a true highlight for me.

2. Dark Water

I love Doctor Who episodes where you can go – oh my god that’s so clever! Not so clever you have to go back and watch it over and over again to get the point, but just genuinely clever. I’m not adverse to the occasional spoiler or three, I knew the Cybermen were due back before the end of the season – I knew they were due back in the finale. The question was how? Dark Water was so clever, hiding the Cybermen in plain sight for so long – arguably the best penultimate episode since season one’s ‘Bad Wolf’. Obviously then came the revelation – that revelation. Though was it that much of a ‘Miss-tery’ all along?

1. Mummy on the Orient Express

Riffing on Agatha Christie, with sets to die for, and a monster that you genuinely thought would give anyone nightmares – this was the standout episode for me this year. How terrifying to have sixty-six seconds to live, with a monster only you can see. The concept was brilliant and words do not necessarily do it justice – never fear it’s still on iPlayer… for now!

Doctor Who (Season 8) was originally broadcast on BBC1 between August 23rd and November 8th 2014. All episodes from the current series are available on BBC iPlayer until Saturday November 15th, and the DVD boxset is released on November 24th, rated 12.