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Just What the Doctor Ordered


Bethany Baker gets in her TARDIS and looks back over the last series of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who is, and always has been, a lot of fun to watch. It’s in the show’s job description: whose inner child could possibly resist the intergalactic time-traveling meanderings of a 2,000 year-old alien with a blue police box and a screwdriver? Beats The X Factor any day.

Image Credit: Wales Online
Image Credit: Wales Online

The new series of Doctor Who was met with a great deal of anticipation, not least because we’ve had a regeneration. Joining and heading the cast as the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi brings a fresh maturity and seriousness to the role. A cooling balm to the often overly-feverish enthusiasm of Matt Smith’s Doctor, Capaldi’s performance perfectly captures the character’s complexity. His new Doctor is blunt, oblivious and classically eccentric – ‘don’t look in that mirror. It’s absolutely furious!’ – yet carries a solemn gravitas reminiscent of the interpretations of Christopher Eccleston and (understandably, since Capaldi’s a self-confessed Doctor Who fanboy) the first Doctor, William Hartnell. There’s no doubt Capaldi’s a keeper. But more than ever it feels like the legendary show around him is unable to keep up with its own global expectations.

Series Eight showcases a wide range of episodes, in both senses. On the monster front there’s something for everyone: the invisible 2D foes from ‘Flatline’, newly-christened ‘the Boneless’, strike a particularly creepy chord, whilst a journey ‘Into the Dalek’ offers an alternative view of a classic.

Image Credit: The Guardian
Image Credit: The Guardian

However, the series is a mixed bag in terms of story-telling quality. A number of the grand, ambitious plot lines fail to satisfy by simply running out of time to explain themselves, causing corners to be cut, detail smoothed over and far more questions raised than answered. Although it’s full of witty one-liners (‘You have iPads in the afterlife?’) and fantastic conceptual work, the eye-candy of Doctor Who’s hyperbolically cinematic promo material is worryingly representative of the series itself; too much glossy promise, too little fulfillment.

That said, watching Doctor Who is still very entertaining, when viewed with a certain willingness to suspend your disbelief – in this it does its job, and does it well.

But for a dedicated fifty-year fanbase, all prepped with magnifying glasses, fine-toothed combs and nostalgia for the ‘old times’, Doctor Who’s increasingly shiny veneer seems unlikely to satisfy.

Bethany Baker

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