Spoilers, Sweetie. If you haven’t kept up with the 10th Series of Doctor Who, now is a good time to get back in your Tardis and fly far, far away. Allon-sy!
(I tried to fit a lot of Doctor Who related bits in my disclaimer. Sorry. I know it’s cheesy.)
I don’t want to go yet.
Doctor Who’s 10th Series has now come to an end, and it’s also the beginning of the end for Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. And it’s a damn shame–because what ended up being Capaldi’s last season, also ended up being his best…
Capaldi’s run on Doctor Who has been shoddy, at best. We’ve gotten some delightful episodes (Heaven Sent) to the downright campy (Robot of Sherwood) being among some of the worst. (Time Heist, I’m looking at you.) But that’s not to say that it’s Capaldi’s fault…a lot of blame can be thrown squarely at the writing and the fact that he was stuck with Clara “The Impossible Girl” Oswald. By this time, Clara had really outworn her welcome as a companion, and to top it off, the writers really had no idea what to do with Capaldi. They made him mean and downright unlikable at one point, even hateful, and then all of a sudden they tried to make him sweet. It was a return to the Hartnell years for better or for worse–an older, Crotchety Doctor who had the most dangerous eyebrows in all of time and space.
But to me, this season, he has really redeemed himself as one of the best doctors (yes, I feel like he finally pushed Matt Smith and David Tennant out of the way). His brash Scottishness has finally caught on and Capaldi is finally allowed some breathing room, switching from fearless anger to sweet compassion in a heartbeat with great care. His acting has never been better. Whovians are always it seems, made to suffer the same lot each time we get a new Doctor: We hate him, we begrudgingly accept him, and then just as the going gets good and we adore them–they’re out the door and the cycle starts again.
To top it off, Clara finally departed (thank goodness) and we’ve gotten the biggest bout of fresh air in the series in the form of Pearl Mackie playing Bill Potts. (God damn it Moffat, what is it with you and quirky names?!) From the very first episode–she is a treat to behold. Mackie’s acting skills are impeccable and you get a real sense of humor, vulnerability and charm from her. Bill isn’t smarmy, “clever”, or all knowing like Clara was–but that isn’t to say she isn’t intelligent. She is sharp as a whip but she doesn’t need to throw that fact in your face–she just does it and moves on.
That’s the trouble with hope. It’s hard to resist.
More importantly though, her spirit is just so refreshing….she has a great moral backbone and isn’t afraid to stand her ground and help people. Bill isn’t fearless, either, but fear doesn’t seize her and make her freeze up. She’s a complicated mess and is among one of the best characters that Moffat has ever created. Bill is also the first openly LGBT character on the show, a fact that isn’t paraded about but is simply honest: this is who Bill Potts is. She is not defined by her sexuality but by her humor, her wit, her tenacity. I simply adore Bill and I wholeheartedly support her coming back next series.
Capaldi and Mackie on screen is what really makes this whole series sing–Nardole, played by Matt Lucas, and Missy, played by Michelle Gomez are kind of the backing choir that make everything hum smoother and at a great tempo.
The writing in this series has also gotten an upgrade–more than likely from the extended break that we had between filming of Series 9 and Series 10 (remember, 2016 was a shitty year and we didn’t get a full series of Who at all!). There was very little “bad” episodes this season because Mackie and Capaldi make it work so well. Some notable exceptions–“The Pyramid at the End of the World” (which was this weird second part of a Trilogy of episodes this season) and Knock Knock were just some weird, off beat episodes. However, Extremis, and Thin Ice were both pretty solid pieces of writing–Thin Ice being my favorite of the two because Peter Capaldi got to punch a racist in the face and it dealt with issues of color in a no nonsense way. It could have easily gone off the rails–but didn’t.
Everything in this series felt kind of like a large goodbye to Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat, who after 8 years is departing as showrunner–and in essence it was. This is extremely evident in the two part finale “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. It’s got all of the signature “Timey-wimey” elements that Moffat loves so much, and for some reason, he just adores tying up loose ends for Whovians….
World Enough and Time was my favorite episode of the season as you just have this creeping dread the entire Episode. You know something bad is going to happen to Bill–well, something worse than having a giant hole blasted into her chest at the very beginning of the episode–and it does. She becomes a Mondaran Cyberman–the very first race of Cyberman.
I am not “a” doctor. I’m THE Doctor. The original, you might say…
Seeing that original design back in play–slightly updated–was, I’ll admit, a bit weird. The last time we saw that design was in “The Tenth Planet”, over 50 years ago in a Hartnell episode! The design itself is kind of hokey because they had a very limited budget back then but they updated it fairly well I think, while keeping the spirit of it intact. Definitely a nice throwback to “old Who”. Mackie did a great job of acting in this episode as you begin to realize the Doctor may not be able to pull Bill out of this one–and when the Doctor finally meets her after all of this “Time” (They’re stuck on two opposite ends of a ship that’s being sucked into a black hole–time moves vastly faster at Bill’s end then at the Doctor’s), it’s heart wrenching seeing the pain etched on the 12th Doctor’s face. Then throw John Simm’s the master being brought back in a twist ending–holy shit. What an episode!
The Doctor Falls, is unfortunately, a weaker episode. You do get to see the pain Bill is going through realizing what’s happened to her in a very clever way–but not a lot happens in this episode. Loads of new and old Cybermen come in and try to murder civilians but Nardole seems to handle them quiet well (and cheekily). Matt Lucas really gets to shine in this episode as he handles the defense of a farmhouse housing children being abducted by Cybermen to be “upgraded”. The most tragic bit of this episode is just how John Simm and Michelle Gomez are used.
See this face? Take a good long look. Because this is the face that didn’t listen to a word you just said.
They’re basically thrown on the sidelines, not doing much at all except stoking each others (Their own? God damn it Moffat, way to make this confusing) of just how much they love themselves and how EVIL they are. It seems Simm is really there at the end to show how Missy came to be from his regeneration to and to really serve to show Missy’s “redemption” arc, such as it is–just as she decides to “stand with the Doctor”, Simm kills Gomez in the back–but not before she stabs him in a fatal blow just as he leaves for his Tardis. Missy’s redemption arc has been built up all season and is just swept aside in a few moments which is kind of sad, really. There was such a huge oppurtunity to put these two titans of personality together and do something and they just became a very small subplot.
Memories are so much worse in the dark.
All in all though, there’s a slightly happy ending, if not ambiguous in nature, that happens as the Doctor is mortally wounded. Bill is rescued from her hell as a Cybermen by Heather, her crush from the Pilot episode. They leave this universe to go travelling because love conquerors all, don’t you know. The Doctor is left dying in his Tardis, rather fittingly as it would be the only place he would be put to rest.
However, this is where things get really interesting–we all knew Capaldi was going to regenerate. It’s his last series. But he begins to stop his regeneration after shouting that he doesn’t want to change anymore! And then he meets the 1st Doctor! (Some would say, the original!) Damn it, Moffat! Bending the rules again!
It’s a helluva cliffhanger and sets up which is sure to be a fantastic Christmas Special. David Bradley portrayed the 1st Doctor in Adventures in Time and Space, a dramatized version of how the first years of Doctor Who began. He was simply fabulous in that and I cannot wait for the special.
The series as a whole–how did it stand? While I feel like there was stumbles and a bit of awkward fumbling, the series as a whole was great. It was much better than series 9–and I firmly attribute that to Bill Potts and the fantastic Pearl Mackie who, if not coming back next year under the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, then I will god damn riot. Capaldi really shined this season and it’s making me bitter to see him go, I feel like he finally just got into the groove of things with some serious writing to back his wonderful acting.
And now, as series 11 rolls in…with a fresh slate for everything..what can we expect? A new doctor–always an exciting prospect, and a soft reboot of the show! Will we finally get a Time Lady? Or even a person of color? It’s hard to say with the BBC….
Only time will tell.