Contains complete spoilers for the episodes, and for the season.
It’s genuinely hard to know what to say about the two-part season finale that concluded series 8 of Doctor Who this week. It was the most extraordinary, compelling and unique 75 minutes of television I think I have ever seen. But if you ask me whether I enjoyed it, I’d have to say: ‘I’m not sure. Was I actually supposed to?’
“Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” were not enjoyable in the sense that, say, 2008’s “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” had been. That David Tennant story was practically a celebration of all that the modern rebooted series had been up to that point, and it was intoxicatingly uplifting and rousing. By contrast, the final two episodes of Peter Capaldi’s first season in the Tardis could scarcely have been more different: a dark and sombre meditation on some of the most difficult and profound issues pertaining to the human condition, there were no happy endings here and the ultimate feelings it engendered were bleakness and melancholia. The abyss hadn’t just looked back into you, it felt like it had signed a long term lease, moved in and redecorated the walls in the blackest of black for good measure.
I said a few weeks ago that “Kill The Moon”‘s foray into full-blown Alien-esque horror refuted the argument that Doctor Who was just a kids’s programme any more, but the season finale took the show so far out of its children’s/family background that it was more akin to a classical and/or religious epic quest story such as Homer’s “Odyssey” or Dante’s “Inferno” or even Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. (I’m joking with the comparison: obviously, Moffat is by far the better writer of the quartet!) It gave us a deep examination of death and loss, of love and hate, of grief and despair, of the nature of true friendship, of truth and lies, and ultimately the question of good and evil as the show finally answered the question that the Doctor had asked three months ago in “Deep Breath” when the Time Lord had wanted Clara to tell him whether or not he was a good man. Read the rest of this entry »
I have a confession to make this week: I was up to my ears in work over the weekend, and was in a distracted mood for everything else that evening, which means that this week’s episode of Doctor Who wasn’t able to really grip me or even sink in properly (and also explains why it’s taken longer to write this post than usual.) I suspect this is mainly my own problem/fault, although if I were being harsh I could suggest that the very fact that the episode ‘happened’ without actually demanding my attention suggests that it wasn’t all that it had been hoped it would be.
In many ways, this was the episode we should have expected from Neil Gaiman when we originally heard that the fantasy author was going to write for the series. Instead we first got the brilliant “The Doctor’s Wife,” which set such high standards for any follow-up story that it was almost impossible to meet even with appropriately lowered expectations set firmly to ‘realistic’ in advance. It’s still full of recognisably authentic Gaiman-esque touches, being set in the richly textured and slightly off-kilter landscape of a derelict amusement planet populated by memorably quirky characters none of whom are or end up being what they initially seem to be – of which the same could be said about the Doctor and Clara themselves. Read the rest of this entry »