I’ve reached the final step in coming to post-regeneration terms with a new Doctor: acceptance of their new title sequence. (Iâ€™ve been really stuck on this point; mainly because the last half of series 7 had a bloody brilliant one that we only got to see barely a half dozen times.)
Iâ€™m glad Iâ€™m over that hump, because, really, this may be my favorite season of Doctor Who since Matt Smithâ€™s premiere season. Iâ€™d probably rank it as my third favorite ever, just based on what Iâ€™ve seen so far. (Itâ€™s probably be even higher except I suspect, along lines Philip Sandifer has commented, that this new season benefits from the Smith era that preceded it. Iâ€™m pretty sure itâ€™d be great in a vacuum, but Iâ€™m not positive HOW great.)
Iâ€™ve not been the biggest fan of Steven Moffat in the last few years. The promise of great Who episodes like “Blink” and “The Empty Child,” so appealing as little treats sprinkled in our diet, curdled on the tongue a bit once they became the main course de rigueur. And series 7, titles aside, suffered from an arrested first half that seemed to be just punching the clock until the Ponds left, and a second half that dealt with Clara’s “mystery” arc (which was better, but mainly failed to answer â€śwhat do you do with a companion with no personality?â€ť).
Which is why this season, after the 50th Anniversary hoopla and the whole â€śend of Matt Smithâ€™s Doctorâ€ť kerfluffle, emerged as a wonderful surprise like a TARDS escaping the gullet of a giant beast from the ancient past threatening to swallow it wholeâ€¦ not too on the nose for a show looking to prove that its 51st year can still be interesting. And, oh gods, it is!
Moffatt and company have done a great job of using Capaldiâ€™s introduction to fundamentally shake up the idea of who the Doctor is. (Ditto with Clara, although thatâ€™s just by making her SOMEbody.) So many episodes in series 8 have been referendums on the character of the Doctor (who is still distinctly the Doctor, but very different from Matt Smithâ€™s version), or questioning what a â€śgoodâ€ť person is and if he qualifies. Itâ€™s been bracing and intelligent and interesting in a way that I did not expect from Moffatâ€™s forth go-around with the character.
Favorite reviews roundup:
Philip Sandifer (This review was brought to you by 163 backers on Patreon, who would love for you to join them.)
â€śThe trick to a Doctor Who story about relationships is that everybody has to solve their interpersonal problems by blowing up aliens. Roberts is more than capable of setting that up. Ultimately, the second half of this story is about Danny figuring out what itâ€™s like to live in a Doctor Who story. Pointedly, he never does that badly. His initial guess that the Doctor is Claraâ€™s space-dad was, notably, more or less the exact right guess the last time this sort of thing happened in Coal Hill School. His plan that the authorities should probably be contacted is sensible, if wrong-headed in this instance. He does well throughout, in other words – itâ€™s just that he and the Doctor donâ€™t get on.â€ť
â€śWith this conflict moving to the foreground, I think this season of Doctor Who is becoming more explicitly politically provocative than it has been in some time. Not at the intensity of the Cartmel era just yet, but we might be on that road.”
â€śIf Clara takes care of the Doctor, who takes care of Clara?
â€śYou notice it in the way the Doctor suddenly sees Courtney Wood as real when she proudly touts that sheâ€™s a â€śDisruptive Influence.â€ť You know it in the way Clara and the Doctor now casually joke about how sheâ€™s his conscience. And once Danny Pink meets the Doctor and discovers the other half of Claraâ€™s life, you see it in the choice he has to make.â€ť
â€śIt’s kind of a surprise, and electrifying to watch, when Danny gets the Doctor’s number: he’s a Time Lord, emphasis on Lord, and even with his Scottish accent he’s still aristocratic.â€ť
â€śWhenever â€śThe Caretakerâ€ť is serious, this episode belongs to Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink.â€ť
Man, I kinda hate the AV Clubâ€™s TV reviewerâ€¦
â€śThey push you and make you stronger until you’re doing things you never thought you could. I saw you tonight, you did exactly what he told you. You weren’t even scared, and you should have been.”