Now in its ninth season, with Peter Capaldi filling the shoes of the thirteenth Doctor, some might think that executive producer Steven Moffat is struggling to find new places in time and space to take Doctor Who. After all, nine seasons is a long time to keep a character interesting, even with constant regeneration. So, excluding the classic pre-millennium Doctor Who, when we look at the new series under the microscope, how does it stand up next to the other eight series?
So far, quite well actually.
We are now eagerly awaiting episode eleven of the new series, and something has definitely changed this year. The show has rediscovered that almost perfect balance between giving us something interesting to think about as well as the ideal amount of scares, sniggers and shots of people running away from things. So what exactly is it that Moffat’s doing right? What’s been missing from the series up until now?
First of all, it’s given us relatable realism thanks to noticably better writing. Yes, it’s a sci-fi show, but it has fantastic relevance in the modern world. Moffat’s imagination this season means that the storylines are often complicated, morally ambiguous, and above all, original. In just one example, the series opened to a two-parter about the fascinating relationship between mortal enemies: The Doctor and Davros, the creator of the Daleks. Not only did the episodes find time to further the Doctor’s relationship with Clara, give more depth to the overused villain that is the Daleks, debate the use of compassion over violence, and give Michelle Gomez’s Missy adequate room to shine. But perhaps even more importantly, it contemplated the all-important question: is the Doctor a killer? Since then, viewers found themselves confronted by everything from confusing Beethoven analogies to striking metaphors for global war and racism. Still the most poignant (and relevant) part of the series is when the Doctor counsels the humans and Zygons into peace, saying: “How much blood will spill until everybody does what they were always going have to do in the first place? Sit down and talk”. This is quality drama at its zenith.
As well as this, the quality of the acting has improved. Peter Capaldi has got a much better grip on the character he is playing, where last season he seemed to be failing slightly to find it. His performances now are some of the best exhibited in his whole career, unquestionably his finest work since playing Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. Jenna Coleman, though no longer outshining the Doctor, continues to impress, particularly when playing Bonnie in ‘The Zygon Inversion’, the direct moral opposite of Clara. Together the pair are unstoppable. I would even go so far as to say that the current Doctor-Companion dynamic is the most enjoyable and believable since the David Tenant/Billie Piper arrangement. Maisie Williams must be commended too, succeeding in bringing to life a difficult character that most people would fail to make the viewers sympathise with.
Doctor Who, having lost a certain special something in the last few years, is back on its feet. The spark has returned, and I, along with millions of others, wait in gleeful anticipation for the next instalment.