Monday, November 3, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8 … The Best of The New with a Good Dose of The Old

When I was 10 years old, my idea of fun was running around the house with my nephews while wearing a hat, a trench coat, and a few scarfs, pretending to be Tom Baker. I have had a love affair with The Doctor since then which has not died down in the least, over the years. So, it´s no surprise that when the rebooted Doctor Who came on TV, I was very pleased, but like most fans of the classic show, I also felt like something was missing. The three actors who have played The Doctor up to this current season, have been great, (one can´t deny) but they never really felt like THE DOCTOR! They were either too goofy or too friendly, and to counter balance it they were often times downright cruel.

Now this can be explained away with the rebooted storyline about the destruction of Gallifrey and The Doctor´s, “only living son” issues. Fortunately for us older fans, the angst was (in theory) done away with after the marvelous 50th Anniversary special. “Gallifrey Falls No More”, became a symbol of new directions for a show that got a little too Timey Whiny, if not just plain Whiny, for my taste. With the later news that the older and “slightly grumpy” Peter Capaldi would be taking over the role, an even brighter light began to shine in the darkness. Could The Doctor finally let go of all the baggage and finally be THE DOCTOR again?

The answer came as a resounding, “YES!” Though the plotting for the first few episodes, until Listen, were a bit weak, one thing stood out: Capaldi was awesome. He didn´t need hugs, emotional cuddliness, or even a companion – it felt like at times. He was once again relegated back to what he had always been, a renegade: often lying, morally suspicious, know-it-all, arrogant, fun and funny character. “Geronimo!” was replaced with “SHUT UP!” and kissing was replaced with “Don´t touch anything!”.

So why is all this mean-spirited mess such good news? Because as much as the new direction that Who took was wonderful to keep the show current and fresh, there was a certain gravitas and darkness from the original series that was missing. The original Doctor Who was presented as a kid´s show that never really was. In fact, a lot of the reason why it got canceled in the late 80s was due to how silly it had eventually gotten.

Think about it. William Hartnell´s version of the character kidnapped his first companions and barely trusted them through most of the first season. Even the ever-lovable Fourth Doctor had moments where one wasn´t quite sure if he was going to leave everything to fate, without much regard for the consequences. Mistrust was part of the game because in fact The Doctor was a conniver from the start, a thief – he stole The TARDIS and The Time Lords were not very happy about it! As much as the destruction of Gallifrey was a great plot twist, it also left us with a pointless Doctor, just wandering aimlessly through space. His subsequent romance with Rose, and later, with his geek-boy heartthrob image also did a lot to wipe out his essential character traits. As I said, these version of The Doctor weren´t unwatchable, in fact they were often enjoyable, but they were certainly not The Doctor.

Season 8 has proven that Moffat has his ears tuned into the ALL the fans requests for less cutesy and more “Doctorey”. He has stripped the show down to the essentials – the characters: they move the story and not the power of the TARDIS to move backwards and forwards in time at will. Even Clara, a character I really never loved, has matured and been allowed to be more her own person, and not an overzealous fan girl. Although, I won´t be complaining if she leaves and perhaps an alien companion joins The Doctor´s party: time to move away from London for a while.

Season 8 and Capaldi has brought The Doctor back to his roots without disrespecting the good that the rebooted series has also brought to the table. To top if off, part one of the mid-season finale proved that he has met a nemesis worthy of his elevated ground. Someone who is not, “Jim Carreyish” off the wall bonkers, but simply insanely mad without needing to shout every word of dialogue. Ahh, thank you season 8, where shouting has been prohibited on set! 

With this more serious and cynical tone, I believe Doctor Who is in safe hands for some years to come. Here´s hoping Capaldi sticks around to prove his worth as a great mix of the “Classic” and “New Generation” of Doctors. This is an old school WHO fan saying, thank you!

Post by Phillhp Ray 

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