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Doctor Who Series 10 Review

Doctor Who Series 10 is an interesting year. It is more laid back compared to the previous series. As a matter of fact, it is more laid back than any series since Series 4 at least. It’s just lighter and more relaxed in its tone, characterisation, settings, relationships and even the colours of the visuals around us, particularly the university. While it might not be as grandiose or as era defining as Series 9, this one is just a lot of fun for the majority of the time, from the perspective of the viewer and even of the Doctor. It’s as if the Doctor himself is on some kind of sabbatical from the heavy workload of saving the world, and he feels like having a few side adventures with some new friends for a while. The results lead to a very likeable and well received series, and an ultimately fitting farewell for Peter Capaldi from his undervalued reign as The Doctor.

Unusual for recent series of Doctor Who, there are not any major questions hanging over from the previous series. Series 9 managed to wrap up all of its plot points quite nicely in the end, and the only major dangling thread of any kind from The Doctor’s previous life with Clara Oswald, or with River, is the fate of Missy, which will be revealed in good time anyway. Essentially, Series 10 has provided us with a rare clean slate. The Doctor doesn’t remember Clara anyway, and here he is laying low, working at St. Mark’s University in Bristol going about his life as normal, apart from a mysterious person/thing that is locked away in an underground vault.

Regarding any further changes and developments from Series 9 as we move into Series 10, it is worth noting that this is the last series for Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, for Steven Moffat as the main writer and showrunner, and for Murray Gold as the composer, who had been so since the show’s revival in 2005. Additionally, Pearl Mackie joins the team for Series 10 as Bill Potts, the first openly gay main character in Doctor Who, and Matt Lucas reprises his role of Nardole from ‘The Husbands of River Song’ for the duration of the series as well. Another addition to proceedings worth noting is St. Mark’s University, which serves as the Doctor’s base for this series. St. Mark’s is a fictional university, supposedly in Bristol, but the exterior at least is the Main Building of Cardiff University in Cathays Park. The facade plays a prominent role across many episodes across the series.

As for production and the airing of the series, the show was aired on BBC on Saturday nights between April and July 2017, with the specials on Christmas Day either side of the series. It is the last series with more than ten standard episodes, the last before the move to Sunday nights, and the last with specials on Christmas Day as well. Previous series had been mostly aired in autumn time, so perhaps the shift to spring had an impact on ratings.

Before we get into the episodes, for those of you reading these reviews for the first time, they are being written in light of our upcoming Doctor Who tour of Cardiff filming locations. The Welsh capital has served as the backdrop to most of the new stories filmed this century, be it in studios in Cardiff Bay or around the city’s streets and buildings, and a tour of those locations will become a reality later this year, once tours are possible again, of course. Series 10 is no exception, especially in, for example, ‘The Pilot’ (Cardiff University), ‘The Lie of the Land’ (The Exchange), and ‘World Enough and Time’ (Bute St). In the meantime, consider these reviews a light introduction into what may or may not feature on those tours in the future, and a fun lookback on the individual series’ as well to get us through lockdown.

With the set up and changes all noted, it’s time to dive into the stories.

The Stories

For the first time in a couple of series now, we start with a special, ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’. This might just be the most standalone Doctor Who special ever made. It could almost be a feature length movie in its own right, unrelated to the rest of the show. Not too subtly catered to an American audience, and as fan service to Superman, among other superheroes, The Doctor turns a dorky little boy into a superhero by accident. By the time the Doctor meets him again as an adult, he has been using his powers for good, which he had said he wouldn’t use at all. Some hi-jinks ensue and the guy gets the girl in the end, good fun as a once-off story.

‘The Pilot’ is where really start, as the double-meaning name suggests. As well as being considered a fresh start by Moffat, the story also involves a mysterious puddle needing a Pilot in which to travel, ultimately Bill's new friend, Heather. This episode has real relaxed, new beginnings vibes, with its new setting, new companion in Bill, a new type of foe, and some rampant space hopping for a newbie including Daleks and Sydney. A good set up for the series ahead, and change of pace from the previous years.