*Potential Series 9 Spoilers Ahead*
Daleks & Davros. Zygons & Osgood. The death of Clara & the return of Gallifrey. Series 9 of Doctor Who has been a whirlwind of twelve weeks that seemed to have flown past. Though Series 8 may have been Peter Capaldi’s first as The Doctor, this is where he truly came into his own and truly became The Doctor. This makes Series 9 quite possibly the best since the 2005 revival.
Capaldi’s performance cannot receive enough praise this series. His ability to portray both the light and the dark natures of The Doctor is stunning to watch and means the show can, even within the same episode, be both a time-travelling romp and a dark and terrifying thriller. His monologue on war in ‘The Zygon Inversion’ was a masterclass in acting; tugging at the heartstrings and, with current world conflicts, resonating with the older member of the audience. ‘Heaven Sent’ gave him the opportunity to have an episode in which, for 50 minutes, he is the only character, something he pulled off spectacularly. As a result, this was one of my favourite episodes. Never did I think that David Tennant could be overtaken as my favourite Doctor, but after Capaldi’s incredible performances this series, he has some strong competition.
Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) – The Impossible Girl – spent the last series being an annoying whiner who couldn’t decide between her boyfriend and time-travel. Furthermore, in Series 7 she was a confusing plot device. I was never her biggest fan, but this series has shifted my opinion. With Danny Pink’s demise in the finale of last series, Clara’s role has become similar to how we saw her in the episode ‘Flatline’: a Doctor-esque figure who can lead when needed but is suited just as well working alongside The Doctor. This may have led to criticism from some that the show was becoming “Clara Who”, but the Capaldi/Coleman chemistry was brilliant. The soap opera will they/won’t they relationships that many past companions have shared is long gone. Instead, Clara and The Doctor shine as best mates who travel in time and fight monsters. Coleman may have had a shakey start but she left the show on a high, delivering some of her best performances in her final episodes including evil Clara (the Zygon copy, Bonnie) and her touching last moments in ‘Face The Raven’.
Perhaps the reason that both the main stars of the show have really had the ability to shine in the last 12 episodes is the complete step-up that the show’s writing has undergone. The last few series’ dispensed with double part episodes at the cost of character development and story-telling. Often, writers were forced to throw in a strong dose of ‘sonic screwdriver ex machina’ to get the Doctor out of scrapes. However, in this series, there was arguably only a single episode that was a standalone, which meant that writers have been allowed to come up with more elaborate and exciting plots. Of particular note, ‘The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion’ two-parter and the epic finale trio ‘Face The Raven/Heaven Sent/Hell Bent’ were prime examples of how Doctor Who should be done. The Zygons may be a minor monster of the Doctor Who canon, but this two-parter is a credit to writer Peter Harness. He engaged with much deeper themes of war and immigration than you might expect from a kid’s show, and allowed the Zygons a chance to come to the fore after being sidelined in the 50th anniversary. ‘Heaven Sent’ gives us one of the most terrifying monsters to date – The Veil. Move over, Weeping Angels, the Veil’s never stopping advance in the confined spaces of the mechanical castle was truly scary. Combined with Capaldi’s afore mentioned incredible performance, ‘Heaven Sent’ may be one of the best episodes to date.
With 12 episodes this series, it was very unlikely that all were going to be perfect, and this series’ downfall was ‘Sleep No More’. An experimental piece using the found footage approach which currently dominates the horror genre, ‘Sleep No More’ had perhaps the worst monster of the series (sleep dust – yeah, that gunk in your eye when you wake up – that was the monster). This came along with a confusing plot twist that failed to live up to the rest of an amazing set of episodes. On another note, Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams received a lot of hype for her appearance on the show. Thankfully, appearing in four episodes, she did improve, but her first episode ‘The Girl Who Died’ seemed to go nowhere and her performance was nothing memorable. Once her character was fleshed out, her performance did develop into something noteworthy, but her initial episode was not her strongest. I also feel that I wasn’t the only one who punched the air when a new sonic screwdriver appeared in the final episode. The sonic sunglasses, that have been The Doctor’s device of choice this year, were frankly ridiculous.
Series 9 was truly a showstopper and has set the bar incredibly high. The change in format allowed the stories to become grander and more exciting, especially for an older audience. Though one or two elements did stop it being perfect, it has been far the best series in a number of years. Long may Capaldi continue and, rather surprisingly, I’m going to miss Coleman’s Clara. With River Song’s (Alex Kingston) return at Christmas, it looks like a new regular companion may have to wait until 2016.
The best series in many years, Doctor Who Series 9 showcased Capaldi’s powerful performance and a vast improvement in writing that should be celebrated throughout time and space.