Doctor Who: A Series in Retrospect

Something I have noticed at university is that being a Doctor Who fan is strikingly more niche than I had imagined. For me, Doctor Who is a source of our collective mythology. Its characters and tropes are embedded in the national psyche and for all its escapism, it remains relevant and necessary for the world of today.

The series opened with a caper starring the latest female incarnation of the Master. Some intensity of the John Simm/David Tennant portrayal has been lost during the Moffat years. The ideological clash of chaos versus compassion is replaced by bickering and banter. Whilst entertaining on a superficial level, we fail to become invested in either side. Capaldi and Gomez feed off each other, but their disagreements seem incidental and lack confrontational punch, which Tennant/Simm were able to capture so well.

We visit Skaro next, where the Doctor is faced with the moral conundrum of the opportunity to save a young and yet uncorrupted Davros, long before the Time War breaks out. Meanwhile an aged Davros is dying and wants to speak with the Doctor one last time. Capaldi and the evil genius have great banter and there is a particularly touching moment when the creator of the Daleks requests to see the sunrise with his real eyes versus his third, bionic ocular. It is later revealed that this conversation was doubly disingenuous, with both parties using the situation to manipulate each other. Nevertheless, this was a series highlight.

Ashildr, the immortal daughter of a Viking village invaded by a Napoleon Complex sufferer and his robot army, plays a big role in this series. Masie Williams is a superb actress, holding her own against the experienced Capaldi. Recurring favourite Captain Jack was also given immortality accidently when Rose revived him after he was exterminated by Daleks; yet can we really accept that the Doctor would be so careless? The Doctor knows what it is like to be immortal, therefore, is the least likely to bestow it upon humans arbitrarily.

Zygons were brought back after their reintroduction in the 50th-anniversary special. UNIT, the legacy of an austere BBC budget during the seventies, also made a return. In John Pertwee’s era, the Doctor was conveniently banished to present day Earth by the Time Lord council, allowing the production to save on location and set design. A rather snazzy car was added to his terrestrial arsenal, but he was also burdened with the anti-alien institution known as UNIT. The first episode was marred by some abysmal acting, but the not-so-subtle allusions to the current political situation with Isis and prejudice towards refugees were significant. Osgood, here somewhat convolutedly resurrected, is also a great tribute to the faithful Doctor Who fan.

The three-part finale began with ‘Face the Raven’. Poor writing never quite made Clara as loveable as previous companions; perhaps because we had her death dangled before us so many times that when it actually happened my genuine reaction was  ‘so what?’ Apparently the Doctor felt otherwise, as he appeared to swear vengeance on the whole universe for allowing this event to occur. He is then teleported off to his own personal hell for the high-concept ‘Hell Bent’.

In the last episode, the Doctor reaches Galifrey, which he then teleports out of the time-locked location in space-time using the power of 13 TARDISes. This was something of an anti-climax. Clara was predictably resurrected, but the Doctor had to be mind-wiped for some reason because her death was a ‘fixed point in time and space’.

We learnt that Time Lords are not a species, but a rank – there seem to be ‘Time Peasants’ in this hyper-advanced feudal society. We also found out that, contrary to the evidence to be found in Captain Jack/the Face of Boe, immortals appear not to age at all – even after a hundred trillion years when we meet Ashildr again at the ‘end of time’.

Thankfully, the series ended on a cheerful note when the Doctor ditched his controversial ‘sonic glasses’ for a new sonic screwdriver.

Image: JD Hancock

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