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DOCTOR WHO Series 8: What Was It All About?

DOCTOR WHO Series 8: What Was It All About?

It’s been a nice almost two weeks since the airing of the finale of Doctor Who Series 8 and I’ve certainly been thinking a lot about it, what I actually thought of it, what I think Steven Moffat and crew were trying to do and whether or not it was successful. The year that followed the 50th Anniversary and the end of a very popular Doctor’s reign was controversial to say the least, both for the individual stories and for the portrayal of the Doctor, Clara, and new character Danny Pink. Some people loved it, some people hated it, but very few were on the fence truly. But what, like, was it?

Like pretty much everything Steven Moffat does in relation to the program, it’s hard to pass too much judgment until you see the whole thing, and this series especially had Moffat’s fingerprints all over it, much more than any series he’s done since his debut Series 5. But, unlike that series, there wasn’t a ton of things we missed because we all weren’t paying attention or fancy timey-wimey plot devices that play with and change what we’ve seen up to that point; Series 8 was, believe it or not, all about the characters, and each of the three leads having a very definite arc, with internal struggles and not just exterior ones.

Doctor Who (series 8) Episode 5

The Twelfth Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi has been a huge departure from Matt Smith’s take on the role, and with good reason. They needed to shake things up and make what is essentially a new First Doctor following his getting a new bunch of lives from the Time Lords. On the surface, he’s grouchy and mean and dismissive and thinks he’s always right but has no idea about most things. If Smith was a young-looking Doctor who seemed ancient, Capaldi is the opposite, appearing older but being very childish and petty and jealous and everything we would not associate with being a wise learned man. And this man didn’t know who he was, not even knowing if he were a good man or not until the finale when he declared himself an idiot.

A lot of people didn’t like this aspect to the Doctor; to them, the Doctor is always steadfast and true and, though clearly with faults, a hero who always does the right thing. This Doctor wasn’t that. He didn’t always make the right decision, he sometimes let people die and didn’t seem to care, even claiming he needed a carer early on. But he didn’t stay that way, by the end, he displayed a great deal of compassion to those around him, sad at the death of Osgood and aghast that Missy would hurl Kate Stewart out the plane, even if she was ultimately saved. He’s good with kids seemingly right away, even if he’s grumpy about them being there, and often treats them like adults even when he shouldn’t. He’s a complex character who doesn’t quite understand emotion, but is nevertheless bubbling under the surface with it. His eyes contain a lot of inner struggle even if his eyebrows are all furrow and bluster.

Doctor Who Series 8 (episode 9)

Clara also had a crazy-huge arc this year, and we didn’t quite know it at the time, but she was becoming the Doctor, even going to far as to BE the Doctor in a couple of episodes and get her name and visage in the Doctor place in the credits. While Rory accused the Eleventh Doctor of trying to turn him into the Doctor, Clara knows it’s happening and ultimately decides she loves it, lying to her boyfriend in order to do it. Jenna Coleman did an amazing job this year with all of that, solidifying that she’s got to be one of the finest young actresses on TV.

Clara began the season not knowing if she liked the Doctor, flatly saying she doesn’t know what kind of man he is at all, good or not. But in the episode “Listen,” which still might be the best of the year, she sees him as a little scared child, being the soldier without guns who uses fear as a strength. He’s still afraid of everything but pretends he isn’t. I think this allowed Clara to see past the cold exterior to the man underneath, but she wasn’t quite on board with his methods yet. She’d met this man, Danny Pink, and fallen in love with him (very quickly, it has to be said) and she wants the Doctor and he to get along, and they just don’t. Then after the Doctor’s bullshit in “Kill the Moon,” she’s done with him. But is she?

She’s become addicted to that part of her life, to traveling and being awesome and helping people. She’s addicted to being the Doctor, and in the next episode following her deciding to still travel with him, “Flatline,” that’s precisely what she is. He’s trapped in a tiny TARDIS and can’t physically hero, so she has to do it. And she loves it, and she does a good job. All she wants from him is a “Good work,” but all he can muster is making her remember that being the Doctor isn’t all heroics and swashing buckles. In “In the Forest of the Night,” she takes it upon herself to “save” the Doctor when it looks like the Earth was going to burn. Misguided, definitely, but a very Doctorish thing to do. And finally, in “Death in Heaven” she claims to be the Doctor, then goes a step beyond when she’s the one who has to use the sonic screwdriver on Danny. She’s eschewing anything having to do with herself being happy for the benefit of Danny. Above all, the Doctor is lonely.

Doctor Who Series 8 (ep10)

The final scene between the Doctor and Clara in the diner illustrates that she has finally become the Doctor. They both lie to each other to spare the other feeling sad about the other. Clara is alone, or at least without Danny, and would love to keep traveling with the Doctor, and the Doctor is alone and would love for her to keep traveling with him, but they both believe the other has found something better and so neither expresses anything. Rule One: The Doctor lies. She lied to Danny for awhile, but she’s finally lying both to the Doctor and to herself. She succeeded in becoming this lonely Time Lord figure.

And finally, Danny Pink, who many saw as a kind of hindrance or a bad boyfriend or whathaveyou. I maybe don’t disagree, but look at things from his perspective: he loves this woman, and all she does is lie to him and go off on adventures with a guy who is flatly disdainful of him and his very existence. Danny believes, rightly, that the Doctor is like an officer in the military, completely detached from any of the dirty work and able to sleep at night because he’s above it all, while Danny knows what being a grunt on the ground is like and how that can change someone. He’s a man constantly trying to make amends for one mistake, done in the line of duty, and as much as he loves Clara, he’ll never be able not to do that. He, like the Doctor, puts helping someone else above his own happiness. While I can’t say I loved Danny Pink, I think his arc was a very well-rounded one.


One of the themes of Series 8 before it premiered was said to be the idea of “Darkness” and going into it. This was certainly one of the darkest series they’ve done, if not the #1 darkest, but, while going into darkness was certainly on the menu, coming out the other side seems to have been the end game. In the darkness there’s turmoil and uncertainty, but eventually they leave it, even if it’s just for more danger and adventure elsewhere. The Earth is saved, the dead aren’t Cybermen anymore (except the Brig who might still be out there), the Master is gone for now, and things are back to “normal.”

Moffat’s name was on seven of the twelve episodes, and I think most of that was dealing with these three characters. Say what you want about it, but Series 8 was certainly the most consistent series of New Who perhaps ever. Consistent in quality, yes, but in tone and story. With the exception of the crazily out of place “Robot of Sherwood,” every episode, no matter the plot, furthered the character development in a way that RTD at his best only did most of the time. Ultimately, you were either on board with this or you weren’t, but at the very least it can be said that Moffat was reinventing things, actively shaking things up, and making sure the show didn’t get stagnant.


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  1. Jackson Whole says:

    she has nicely shaped tits

  2. Jessica Trevors says:

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  3. Kelli says:

    Great article. You said so many things that I couldn’t figure out how to say. It was a very psychological storyline, wasn’t it? Almost qualified as literary fiction, as it dug so far into the complex psyches of The Doctor and his companion. Speaking of Clara, thank you thank you thank you for acknowledging how incredibly good Jenna Coleman is at this. She was freaking amazing and I can’t wait to see what she does next. This season left me with a lot of questions, but overall I believe it was one of the strongest and most fascinating seasons I’ve ever seen.

  4. richb313 says:

    As a long time fan of Doctor Who, I am 63 and have been a fan since the 60’s, the best thing about this show is that it changes. Sometimes the changes grate a bit but the overall saga continues. Everyone always has their particular favorite Doctor. I prefer to take a longer look. This saga has expanded and continues to expand to Mythic Proportions and yet always continues to comment on the human condition and the times it which it was produced.
    I can understand when some fans are upset but do not kill the Golden Goose. Moffat is doing a fantastic job I am more concerned about who will take charge after him. There are plenty of talented writers but it takes a certain kind of individual to head up this kind of show. 
    Looking forward to the Christmas Special. Will it be a stand alone episode with no impact on the series as a whole or will it be a transitional episode? Either way it is sure to be good fun.

    • Starlifter141 says:

      I agree with everything you have said. I have been watching Doctor Who since the first Jon Pertwee episode. I have all the Classic and New Who series on DVD and/or download. Each writer and showrunner brings something new, but I really like what Moffat and Capaldi are doing. After the Christmas Special I’ll have to hit up the Classics, or maybe some of the audios, to stave off withdrawal. I really liked series 8 and can’t wait for series 9. 

  5. This season is being hailed as one the best of Doctor Who.  “Listen” and “Dark Water” are being called some of the finest Dr Who episodes ever.  I found it an excellent break from Matt Smith and his juvenile approach, and I fucking hate bow ties.

    • Susan Davey says:

      I love both, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor and the new, Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor. What I mean is, I love Moffat’s Doctor. He really is just one.   

  6. I agree with much of the column. I found the Doctor’s struggles with morality welcome and long overdue. This version of the character has much more substance and nuance–due in large part to Capaldi’s skill as an actor. I found the Smith years increasingly juvenile, so for me the additional gravitas and complexity is most welcome.

    I don’t have a lot say say about Clara and Danny. I was less impressed with Clara’s arc, to be honest, and found Danny to be a rather one-dimensional character.

    My biggest complaint about this series is the final episode. It felt both flat and unfinished. Even my 10 year old complained that it was quite disappointing. It seemed confused and directionless.

  7. The 2.5th Doctor says:

    Series 8 had no real ending. It just sort of stopped.

  8. Beth says:

    Also, I didn’t like Danny Pink that much. I wanted to, but he was just so belligerent about the Doctor, far more so than a (jealous?) boyfriend trying to keep his girlfriend safe ought to have been, even taking into account his military issues. I dunno, he rubbed me the wrong way and I was kinda happy when he got hit by a car/Cybermanned/burned up. Again, I blame the writing – the actor did a great job with the material.

  9. Beth says:

    I loved Capaldi as the Doctor, I just wish the writing for him had been better. It felt like they didn’t write the character to Capaldi’s full potential; or maybe it was just too much cranky-old-man. I suppose it’s down to feeling out their concept for this new Doctor and feeling out Capaldi in the roll; hopefully everything will mesh next series because I’d like to see him stick around for a few.

  10. Michael says:

    My quick thoughts: Loved Capaldi as the Doctor; loved how Clara interacted with him, liked the CHARACTER of Danny Pink, I just thought they miscast him (hated the mumbly delivery of lines), and enjoyed most of the episodes except the last two which were ridiculous even for a plot by the Master/Mistress (and when you revive the Master you have to have a better story than that).

  11. Liz Wiley says:

    Great article! I really enjoyed the series (season) myself. I wasn’t a HUGE fan of making the majority of the season about Clara but I have seen this coming for her since she went into his timeline. I keep hearing rumors about her now possible staying for another series which is fine but I hope I see more of the Doctor and more storyline involving Gallifrey. Capaldi kept me laughing all through the series and I look forward to him in the Christmas special and next series. Has anyone heard any rumors about River possible meeting this Doctor or was Matt her finally “sweetie”? I think Alex and Peter would have great chemistry.

    • Shayde says:

      I had thought it was mentioned somewhere that Matt was her Doctor’s face. But I would like to see the chemistry there.

  12. ZZinDC says:

    I am on board – after all – what other TV show could make me question whether I truly do want to be cremated?

  13. Tardonia says:

    Capaldi did an awesome job.  It was a nice departure from the previous doctors….though don’t get me wrong, 10th is still my favorite…..but I enjoyed Capaldi’s version of the Dr., I thought he did a smashing job.  Danny Pink I was on the fence with, but ended up liking the character.   Clara, well, the actress was good, but the character was bit too mean for my liking……WAS she acting like the doctor…or was she acting like a spoiled brat who wanted her own way, that i’m on the fence about still. 

  14. I am not convinced the Master (Mistress) is gone. It is never that easy.

  15. wiredwizard says:

    The way I saw this season was they essentially took the transition from one regeneration of the Doctor to the next which previously took 1 episode & stretched it for all it was worth to last an entire season. Capaldi was great despite the dross he got handed for storylines and I just hope things improve in the upcoming season(s).

  16. fullforce098 says:

    I loved Capaldi, I enjoyed this series (season) well enough with a few gripes that I’ll get over, but the thing that bothers me the most about it is that Moffat has this infuriating way of ignoring continuity, even his OWN continuity, if it distracts from the arch he is currently focused on.
    At the end of the 50th aniversary special, which HE HIMSELF wrote, and even alluded to in Listen, The Doctor saves Galifrey and hides it away. He states clearly his new journey is to find his home again. The VERY NEXT EPISODE, the Christmas special written BY MOFFAT, The Doctor is suddenly back too “nah Galifrey’s gone, man” until Clara reminds him and the Time Lords themselves reach out for help and even save his life and give him 13 more 1ups. He expressed a desire to help them, even.
    Yet, in all of Series 8, The Doctor makes no attempt to find them. It doesn’t even come up till the Master says it’s indeed out there. The Doctor suddenly seems interested again. He completely throws Day of the Doctor out the window and writes the Doctor as a bored traveler again (who oddly spends almost all season on earth).

    • Dan says:

      I think that the regeneration was to blame for the delay in the Doctor’s search for Gallifrey. Peter’s Doctor seemed to be searching for his identity which took longer than we expected and sidetracked his search. From a writing point of view, I would sprinkle clues about Galifrey in the upcoming season and save the find Galifrey arc until the end of Peter Capaldi]s run and  have the Doctor use a regeneration to either prevent or bring back Galifrey.

  17. Jason J says:

    Past*  Clara to see PAST* (sorry.  that has to be said.)

    I agree with you.  It was a TERRIFIC arc.  Capaldi strikes me as a combination Tom Baker and Colin Baker, but with a little Hartnell thrown in.  I know there are a tremendous amount of Clara haters out there, but I really, REALLY liked her this season.  She came into her own.  Sure, she’s not (and never will be) a Sarah Jane or a Donna Noble, but she was still fantastic in her own right.  And while it appeared she fell in love with Pink quickly, we don’t really know that for sure.  Remember:  nearly fifteen years occurred for the Ponds during their stint on the show.  It could easily be said that several years passed for Clara here, too.  So it may not have been as quickly for the character as it was for us, the viewer.

    • Mmmlemon says:

      And between The Bells of Saint John and Deep Breath, Clara had been traveling with the Doctor for three years. I figured that there must have been a substantial amount of time passing, but still, I’d liked to have seen some of it. Those Danny/Clara boyfriend/girlfriend scenes had some great chemistry going on and I wished there was more of it.