Doctor Who Series 8 Review
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
The beginning of Doctor Who Series 8 felt like a landmark moment. Matt Smith’s Doctor may have become an international phenomenon across the previous three series, and four years, but it felt as though change was necessary by the time he left. The first series without him felt different in tone, atmosphere, appearance, even in structure, and was a welcome change to the relentless madness of the previous two series’ in particular. Peter Capaldi stepped into the shoes of the Doctor seamlessly, and while Series 8 might not be the show’s finest, or even his best, he ultimately gave the character renewed joy and energy.
By the end of Series 7, the Eleventh Doctor had lived a long life, in more ways than one. Smith’s Doctor gave us a very long goodbye, but his character also died from old age protecting the Time Lords from the town of Christmas. The regenerated Twelfth Doctor sets off with a confused Clara on the Tardis and nobody knows what is going to happen next. The new Doctor spends much of the opening of Series 8 unsure of who he even is himself, and that is a common thread across the series. The big themes and threads of the series includes the continued question, “am I a good man?”, and who is the person that wants the Doctor and Clara to be together so badly that Clara was given the phone number of the Tardis in the series opener. Also, there is the concept of the “Promised Land” that comes up throughout the series, and just who is running it? And what is this heaven-like place? Finally, we also have Danny Pink, the boyfriend of Clara who might just play a bigger role than people expected….
Regarding any changes and developments from Series 7 in terms of personnel and scheduling, this does feel like something of a clean sweep of changes even though it’s only really the Doctor that has changed. Jenna Coleman is still Clara Oswald and is the primary companion for a full series for the first time. In the first story, the Paternoster Gang are very much involved, who had sporadically appeared in Series 7. Therefore, overall the transition to the new Doctor is not as transformative as other years, such as Series 5 or Series 10. This series also brings things back to normality in terms of scheduling, with all the episodes taking place in the latter half of 2014, which is a welcome change from the mess of the previous two years. So, there’s no Part A and Part B this time around, for example.
So overall, there may be some normality, but there are some changes, such as the addition of Danny Pink, played by Samuel Anderson (yet another of the original ‘History Boys’ making a major appearance), and Missy, played expertly and mysteriously by Michelle Gomez. Both certainly bring something different and intriguing to the show for this series.
The biggest change though, is of course, Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. What an inspired casting choice. In hindsight it seems so obvious to have almost been inevitable. He embodies what one thinks the Doctor should be, in appearance and in his personality. To many he will always be Malcolm Tucker from ‘The Thick of It’, but to many more now he just is the Doctor, and captures his eccentricities, humour, personality and ability to make powerful speeches more than anyone ever has before. And for the following three series it is he who brings Doctor Who to life and makes it a memorable period in the history of NuWho.
How can we forget also, the change in theme music, opening credits, even in the font used for the title cards as well, and of course, the Tardis, which has a lot more rings again. Like all new opening credits sequences though, it takes a bit of getting used to, but ultimately it ends up being one of the more memorable, and it’s different to others, focusing more on time rather than on space travel.
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. Series 7 is no exception, especially in, for example, ‘Time Heist’ (Roald Dahl Plass), ‘In the Forest of the Night ’ (National Museum), and ‘Death in Heaven’ (Queen 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 look back 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. There’s not even a Christmas Special to distract us from the actual series opener this time...
‘Deep Breath’ is a slow opening for the Twelfth Doctor, as he struggles to adjust to his new, older, more wrinkly, face. It only really gets going when the Doctor and Clara meet in the restaurant half way through the episode, in order to figure out why dinosaurs are spontaneously combusting in the Thames, and why the “Half-Face Man” man is after them. Eventually half-face falls from a hot air balloon and realises he is no longer the same man as he once was, and ends up in the “Promised Land”, but all is not what it seems…
‘Into The Dalek’ is probably the best Dalek story since maybe the Series 2 finale (although Oswin did really enhance ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, even if the ending was a bit silly). The team is shrunk down and goes inside Rusty, a “good Dalek”. Once the Doctor repairs the Dalek he goes back to his old ways, but in an attempt to show Rusty the beauty of the universe, the Doctor connects their minds together. Rusty, however, sees the Doctor's hatred for the Daleks, and decides to exterminate its own race.