“Doctor Who” Season 8: Promising But Imperfect

“Doctor Who” season eight was very promising, bringing in both new and familiar characters. But did they extend the familiarity too far? Warning: spoilers.

One of the best quotes from the Twelfth Doctor's first episode,

Photo Courtesy of BBC One

One of the best quotes from the Twelfth Doctor's first episode, "Deep Breath." It was one of the lines that made me excited for this season.

As of Nov. 8, season eight of the “Doctor Who” revival series has come to a close. This collection was filled with new beginnings, personal conflict, and a jumble of the usual messes the Doctor gets himself into. And with the show introducing Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, who is very different than his predecessor Matt Smith, that jumble of familiarity did the fans some good as they adjusted to the Twelfth Doctor, but it began to become a disadvantage as the season progressed.

The series begins with Deep Breath, when the TARDIS emerges from a dinosaur in Victorian London with the newly regenerated Doctor and Clara Oswald, who don’t know what to do about their situation. The Doctor is still vulnerable due to still being in his regeneration process, and his companion hasn’t quite accepted that this is the same person she’s travelled with for all this time. Meanwhile, there is a clockwork cyborg who wants to use the Doctor and Clara’s body parts to make him human. This man was on the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour, which was explored in season two. With the help of the Paternoster Gang, made up of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax (an eclectic group of different species who help the Doctor from time to time), the Doctor and Clara defeat the cyborg and (due to a cameo from the Eleventh Doctor) find momentary acceptance in each other and themselves, and continue to travel the universe.

Bringing Smith and mentioning Madame de Pompadour into this first episode was effective for wary viewers. They got to see a beloved episode from six seasons ago come into light, as well as a final goodbye from Eleven, but they were also given time to warm up to Capaldi. He was shown to be a loveable, grumpy old man that just made me think, “This is going to be different, but a good different.” And also, a new character was introduced: Missy. She made people wonder throughout the entire season who this “girlfriend” of the Doctor was and what her intentions were. She would show up periodically with people who were recently deceased, but was never given any more insight into why she was there. She was a total mystery, and viewers were intrigued by this ongoing plot behind Missy.

Another character introduced this season was Danny Pink. He was Clara’s boyfriend on Earth who she had to hide from the Doctor. Of course, that didn’t work, and the Doctor and Danny got into fights periodically, but I liked him. He brought out a different side of Clara, which was needed. In season seven, Clara was really more of a plot device. She was scattered through the Doctor’s time stream, but was only given one main quality: loyalty, which most of the Doctor’s companions have. It’s a generic quality and we didn’t really get to know her for anything else. But giving Clara a choice between two people she loved brought out her true colors. It showed how she faced pressure and solved problems, and that helped her self-evaluate, and therefore letting fans reevaluate their feelings about Clara now that she was an actual person and not just a plot device. But it was all Danny’s sensitive, protective personality that drove Clara to expand her own individuality. Kudos to the writers on giving a companion their own personal conflict this time around.

However, I wasn’t a huge fan of how that conflict was resolved. The two-part finale, Dark Water  and Death in Heaven, begins when Danny is hit by a car and killed, and Clara goes to extreme lengths to get him back. Even after being betrayed by his companion, the Doctor still agrees to help Clara get her boyfriend back. Danny does everything in his power to try to reach Clara and succeeds but not without pain. He wants to delete all of his emotions and ends up becoming part cyberman because of it. What we don’t realize until later on is that the cybermen are dead people led by Missy, a regenerated Master (who is also familiar from previous seasons–in the old series and the new one), and that’s where it all goes downhill.

I was disappointed that Missy wasn’t a new character because, by the time it was revealed that she was the Master, the fans should’ve been done with the familiarity. Bringing up old plots is a great way to go when you first want to introduce something (the Twelfth Doctor), but when it has been given time to settle in since the beginning, there really is no need to have another one so far apart. And, there was no correlation between Missy’s plot and her previous plot in season three except wanting to destroy the people of Earth, but how generic is that? In season three, the Master had this whole story with the beat in his head, but that wasn’t even brought up in season eight. Five seasons ago, at least she had a reason for wanting the Earth’s inhabitants destroyed, but this time around, it was merely because she wanted to and was crazy.

Although I kind of knew it was coming, I also didn’t like Clara’s ending. For the past few episodes, Clara had been planning on leaving the Doctor, and when she couldn’t get Danny back, that sent her over the edge. She had to say goodbye to traveling in the TARDIS and even without her lover. I never realized how much I had grown to like Clara this season, as I didn’t want her to go. When she was walking away from the Doctor for the final time, I actually let out a few tears – and I don’t usually cry over TV shows. Clara was undeserving of this lack of happiness. She’d gone through so much emotional trauma that she either had to find peace in traveling with the Doctor or be with Danny – and it ended up going neither way. It was unfulfilling, and hopefully Jenna Coleman’s character isn’t truly gone, because a Christmas special is coming later this year and, as you can see, you never know who is going to reappear on this show.