Doctor Who’s 11th season has seen the series go through a bit of an existential crisis—is the show a character-driven scifi drama, or a big old whizzbang romp with explosive stakes? “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” distilled that debate within itself by trying to present a finale that tackled both of those things at once...except it only really excelled at half of the debate.
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Doctor Who is a surreal show. That’s sort of the point. It makes weird things happening in weird times, and weirder places, with existential crises and battles with bonkers alien beings, about as regular as you and I would breathe. But “It Takes You Away” might have pushed Doctor Who to one of its strangest extrapolations of itself.
This season of Doctor Who has been one of new takes on familiar themes—sometimes pushing the boundaries of what the show can do, sometimes pulling it back to its earliest roots, sometimes just frustratingly proving it’s still Doctor Who. But this week, in among the high camp and the mud-witches, it told a story only this era of the show could.
There’s a moment in “Kerblam!” where Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor does something she’s never done before, but her past selves have. She barges into a scene and demands answers, lest the villain of the week face her wrath. After, she asks her companions if the bombast suited her—and it almost felt like she was asking the audience, too.
Despite being a show about change, there’s always a certain amount of trepidation in Doctor Who when any amount of it happens, whether it’s just a new monster or a whole new Doctor. The latest season has seen more changes than we’ve had in a while—and it still feels like it’s trying assuage that familiar trepidation.
What is Doctor Who about? It has been around for so long, changed into so many things, that sometimes it’s hard to say. Even “It’s about time”—its current tagline—can feel not quite right. But last night’s powerfully forthright episode took the series back to a definition it started with over 50 years ago.
Much of Steven Moffat’s era of Doctor Who was dedicated to solving the mystery of the Doctor — why the name, where’s Gallifrey — and putting answers to that central conceit of who the Doctor is, and what they stand for. Jodie Whittaker’s first trip to an alien world gave us some of that mystery back, for the show and the Doctor.
Doctor Who rarely does big character arcs. By its very nature it's a transitory program: Every week a new adventure, every few years a new Doctor and new companions. That means that a character, especially the Doctor, is established quickly and stays like that till they leave. But this weekend's season 10 finale put a wonderful bookend on an evolution that's been in the works for all of Peter Capaldi's time on the show.
When asked about the scariest Doctor Who villains, fan have all sorts of responses. The Daleks are the go-to, but there's new-era villains like the Weeping Angels, or everything from Autons to Zygons. But this week's Doctor Who was a chilling reminder that there's actually only one true answer: The Cybermen.
This week's Doctor Who delivered a classic, but very familiar tale of two hostile sides coming together to face a greater threat than each other. But while most of it was a story we've seen many times before, it stood out as a huge, satisfying step on Bill Potts' ongoing journey as the Doctor's student.
After the middling Monk trilogy, Doctor Who fell back on a well-trodden house style this weekend for "The Empress of Mars", a Mark Gatiss-penned romp. But even though this is a classic storytelling style for Who, and even though it had some interesting ideas tucked inside it, it never really strived to be anything more than average.
This week's Doctor Who saw the Monk trilogy come to its end, as team TARDIS found themselves battling through a dystopian Britain literally being brainwashed by fake news. It's a timely take on our modern world, but "The Lie of the Land" disappointingly threw out its most interesting premise by committing the exact same sin.
There are a lot of comparisons to be drawn between this weekend's "The Pyramid at the End of the World" and its preceding episode, "Extremis" -- mainly in that they're both setup for a story that's really yet to shift into high gear. But, they're also both examples of how Doctor Who can transform a humdrum episode into something marvellous in its final moments.
"Extremis" was the most unique episode of Doctor Who we've seen so far in season 10 -- but only because, unlike the rest of the season, it felt like an episode we've seen many times before from head writer Steven Moffat. For better or worse, it was a reminder of the style that will be forever linked with his time running the show.
Doctor Who's 10th season is only four episodes in, but I can't remember the last time the show hit the ground running as well it has this season. We've had great chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie, great fun, and now in this weekend's episode, "Knock Knock", we got the rest of the perfect Who formula: A whole load of scares and a lot of heartbreak.
The general arc of a companion's introduction on Doctor Who is pretty much the same each time. They have their "bigger on the inside" moment, they do a bit of space-time travel, and then they learn that running around in a Police Box spaceship can be quite grim. With newcomer Bill, Doctor Who is back in that swing -- but it hasn't done it this well in a very long time.
Doctor Who made its welcome (and long overdue) return this past weekend, and it was all decidedly new: A new companion, new tone, and in some ways, a new sensibility from showrunner Steven Moffat, as compared to his past few seasons on the series. Still, for all its freshness, season 10's opening episode couldn't help but return to explore some emotional drama that Doctor Who is more than familiar with.