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Doctor Who Series 9 Review

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Series 9 of Doctor Who is one of its finest. It is ambitious in its scale, has some terrific stories, and the Twelfth Doctor is both in his element and at his peak. Additionally, the Doctor-Companion relationship hasn’t been this consistently good since Series 4, the big questions asked are answered, and characters grow and evolve naturally across the series. There is just so much to take in, and a lot to enjoy, starting on a massive high and finishing with a satisfying twist as well. We’re going to dissect the series and try to get across why it was so exceptional and memorable, but before that we need the set up.

By the end of Series 8, a lot of the dangling questions had been answered. Missy was outed as the Master, the Nethersphere mystery had come to a conclusion, and the Danny Pink plot had come to an end also. A definitive answer to the question, “Am I a good man?” was never reached, but by the end of the season, or at the very latest by early in Series 8, we know him to be good. So with all of that in mind, we have something of a clean slate for Series 9, as the Doctor is coming to an end of his age of darkness, and Clara is back on board and ready to travel. Missy, however, is still out there...

Doctor Who Series 9 BBC

Regarding any changes and developments from Series 8 as we move into Series 9, personnel at least remain the same. There are guest stars across the series that add to its significance, but it very much centres on the Doctor-Clara team, as they come to rely on each other more and more. Perhaps having an established duo at the heart of the show from the start of a series, and seemingly for the whole series, lends itself to giving us a strong collection of episodes.

The big changes really come in the structure of the stories, as the season is dominated with two-part stories. The days of double episodes appeared to be over from about Series 6 onward, but they make a big comeback here. The first eight episodes are four double-stories, and arguably the series finishes with a loosely linked three-parter. Before we dive into the stories, Series 9 like all others features a story arc and some common threads. For this year, the primary concept is The Hybrid. It is alluded to with subtlety throughout, coming to a climax in the series finale.

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 9 is no exception, especially in, for example, ‘The Woman Who Lived’ (St. Fagans Museum), ‘Canal Park’ ('The Zygon Invasion and Inversion'), and ‘Face the Raven’ (Basically all of Cardiff city centre). 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. With ‘Last Christmas’ more of a Series 8 conclusion than a Series 9 opening, we can just dive straight into the double-headers...

The Stories

The Doctor in the Series 9 episode The Magician's Apprentice, filmed in Caerphilly Castle.
The Doctor, an electric guitar and sonic sunglasses

‘The Magician's Apprentice’ gets the series off to a flying start. Things feel a little bit different already as the Doctor encounters a young Davros in a war zone, Missy is involved immediately, and Clara quotes Dylan Thomas to her in a Spanish plaza. Even UNIT are involved in the action from the start. As Missy has the last will and testament of the Doctor, she and Clara search for him and find the Doctor in an Essex castle in 1138 playing electric guitar. Once Clara and Missy find the Doctor, an agent of Davros takes the three of them to a hospital space station. The space station is really Skaro. Clara and Missy are captured by the Daleks, who ‘kill’ them both and The Doctor returns to the battlefield to do something to Davros...