Halfway Into Darkness
Capaldi then… he’s pretty fantastic isn’t he? From episode one, Peter made the role his own and has continued to shine throughout the series; now at the halfway mark, it’s safe to say that Peter Capaldi is safely the Doctor.
Deep Breath saw the introduction of the Twelfth Doctor to our screens and what a treat that was; darker, less tolerant, and all round… sassier, the new Doctor was certainly a change from the lovable Matt Smith. This Doctor created an air of uncertainty; was he really the same man and could we still trust him? Of course we could, because by the end of that episode (thanks again to the Eleventh Doctor for clearing things up) we were left with no doubt that the Doctor has returned. No sooner had we got our breath back (I’m not even sorry), we were thrown back in at the deep end with Capaldi’s first Dalek episode. Into the Dalek saw the Doctor fight his most feared enemy, but with a twist. The Doctor was lured into believing that little Rusty had changed, and was a ‘good Dalek’, if such a thing could ever be, and he was ultimately left disappointed, which perhaps explains why he is just so untrusting of most species. From Rusty to Robots, and in the third instalment of Series Eight, the Doctor comes across the ‘mythical’ Robin Hood in Robots of Sherwood. Here, we were treated to the joyous interactions between Robin (played by the fantastic Tom Reilly) and the Doctor; the prison scene where the pair were arguing so much they didn’t realise that Clara had left them to bicker while she saves the day is one of my favourite sequences of Doctor Who to date. By the end of this episode, we see that the Doctor does have a heart (or two) and manages to reunite Robin with his love, Marion. Robots of Sherwood was not only a spectacular spectacle with a budget bigger than Robin’s beard, but this episode allowed Capaldi’s comedic value to shine through.
Now if ‘Robots’ was happy and joyful, the episode that followed was very, very different. In one of the strongest episodes many have us have ever seen, Listen was a rollercoaster. By deciding to focus on something being under the bed, Listen certainly delivered on the fear-factor. The sequence with a young Danny Pink, the Doctor and Clara all stood looking at the window while some kind of being wandered around behind them harked back to the kind of fear created in episodes such as Blink. Listen showed us that it’s okay to be afraid of the monster under the bed. It’s okay to keep coming back to our fears; if the Doctor is scared, we could be scared. After the heart-breaking realisation that Clara was the one who created the Doctor’s fear, we were transported to the slick, ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ style episode, Time Heist. This was a switch from anything we’ve seen before; slicker, faster and all round more stylish, this episode was a pure blockbuster. Capaldi proved that he was an action hero as well as a caring rescuer.
Throughout the series so far, we’ve been treat to the blossoming relationship between Clara and Danny. The painfully awkward interactions between the pair only made me more endeared to both characters and it made me more invested in their relationship, and revealed another side to Clara’s personality; one that is shy and bumbley, just like Danny around Clara’s interactions. Despite how cute their relationship was, we were all waiting for that moment when the Doctor would have the chance to assess Danny…
So that brings us to the most recent episode, The Caretaker. The ‘domestic’ episodes are my personal favourite as they allow for more character development in a way that actiony-spacey episodes don’t; The Lodger is still one of my favourite episodes ever because placing the Doctor in a human situation only serves to show how alien he actually is. The Caretaker was no exception to this rule: set in a London school that Clara coincidentally works at, the Doctor, under the guise of a caretaker sets to work on catching a deadly alien living in the surrounding area; who knows whether the Skovox Blitzer (kudos to whoever thought of that name) intended to kill everything in sight, or whether he was simply defending his position in the catchment area for Coal Hill. More important than the monster in this episode, the Doctor meets Danny Pink for the first time, and it’s safe to say that it didn’t go according to Clara’s plan… We all spotted him in the trailer for the episode after Time Heist: the Matt Smith lookalike. Who was he? Was it a coincidence? Well, as we know well enough by now, never take anything in Doctor Who to be a coincidence (unless that the school the alien is at is also the school that Clara teaches at). Let’s be honest here, who didn’t get a teeny bit emotional at the thought of the Doctor truly believing that Clara would and could only fall for someone who was the spitting double of a previous regeneration? This episode did three things, to three characters:
1. We saw how protective the Doctor is of Clara and how much he really cares for her.
2. Clara’s choice of Danny instead of the Matt Smith double only goes to show that maybe the Doctor doesn’t know her as well as he thought and that she isn’t as dependent on him as he maybe thinks.
3. Danny Pink has some serious attitude. The way he stands up to the Doctor and then saves the day is commendable. I like him.
So as you can probably tell from my mini review of the series, I like Capaldi a lot. Series Eight is so, so, so strong, I haven’t had any real issues with any of the episodes. After every week, I find myself saying ‘okay, that was my favourite’ only to find myself saying the same thing the following week. I can’t wait for next week already (although those spiders do look VERY scary to someone with arachnophobia) and I must applaud Capaldi and the team for changing the direction of the show so boldly and bravely. It worked.