Welcome to the Doctor Who Roundup! This overview will focus on the latest episodes of the show and will be an update on how this season’s been coming along. It will contain small reviews and summaries of episodes 2, 3, and 4 of season 8, as well as character analysis on the Twelfth Doctor and a look into the dynamic between him and Clara. Expect to see a full review of episode 5 uploaded this week, as that aired on Saturday! So, let’s get started.
Episode 2 of the season, titled “Into The Dalek”, was a nice follow-up to the premiere. It seems as if they’re really going to stick with this dark arc for Twelve, though there were some parts of the episode that I felt were a bit TOO dark, which I’ll get to in a moment. However, the overall tone of the episode was great, as it maintained a mostly serious feel while still keeping some comedic elements.
The very first scene was interesting; I immediately liked the character of Journey, as I felt she was very realistic and acted in a very truthful manner. The way the Doctor treated her, however, was extremely terrible in my opinion. He acted very teasing and light-hearted, having her thank him for saving her and making her ask politely to take her back. This wasn’t appropriate for the situation and didn’t seem true to his character; she was obviously emotionally traumatized at having just witnessed her brother dying, something the Doctor would usually be sympathetic to. This was then expanded upon when he let one of the soldiers die, and felt absolutely no remorse for doing so, saying he was dead already. Even Clara noticed how callous that was, and she called him out on it, which I completely supported.
However, it was justified when we came to the climax of the episode, and the Doctor really and truly believing that Rusty could be good, that this was the one Dalek that defied the odds. He didn’t want to at first, didn’t want to get his hopes up, but he ended up doing so anyway. It revealed a deep part of the Doctor, one that desperately wanted to have faith again, to always and truly believe that all living things had good in them; it was how his previous incarnations thought, and it’s what I was used to (which was why his darkness this season has caught me off guard). The Twelfth Doctor is older, more mature, and more pessimistic than ever before, but deep down he still has the same desires and emotions he’s always had. This was highlighted when Clara told him that he tries to be a good man, though he doesn’t always succeed.
In my opinion, the third episode, titled “Robot of Sherwood” and penned by Mark Gatiss, didn’t quite live up to its predecessors in terms of character development. Though fun and entertaining, I felt it lacked the emotional depth that the first two episodes provided in terms of understanding the characterization of the Doctor. It WAS, however, nice to have a break from all the dramatics going on. The dialogue was extremely hilarious, what with all the ‘rival’ banter between the Doctor and Robin Hood, and the plot was heartfelt and classic Who.
I greatly enjoyed the mythology of the episode; adding in the Robin Hood storyline made it so much more enjoyable than if it had just been a run-of-the-mill Past episode with a medieval-esque setting. It was also exciting, written in a way that made the audience invested in what would happen next and curious about the mystery surrounding Robin Hood. The only real problems I felt were the blatant lack of female characters, something that was doubly noticeable considering how well the last two episodes portrayed women (this episode didn’t even pass the Bechdel test, which greatly disappointed me), and – along the same lines – the objectification of Clara by the king. Though I know it was meant to paint him in a bad light, it felt unnecessary to me, especially since she was considered the leader of the group. Even though it was ‘historically accurate’, I didn’t think she needed to be treated that way, and they should have just had a regular interrogation scene.
All in all, though, I felt the episode was strong; maybe not one of the series’ best, and definitely not as emotionally profound as the previous two, but definitely able to hold its own.
Finally, we come to episode 4: “Listen”. Now, a lot of people had mixed feelings over this episode; some were furious with Moffat for ‘messing with the Doctor’s timeline’, while others were just generally confused with the episode as a whole. My opinion? I thought it was brilliant. I don’t really care for Moffat as a person, but boy, can he WRITE. One thing I’ve always loved that he does is he really incorporates the usage of time travel into the plot of the show, and he takes full advantage of it. There are so many amazing twists and turns that may seem complicated to someone at first, but once you think about it and sort it out, it blows your mind with its sheer genius.
Firstly, the episode was just plain written well. It was very genuine, something that I feel there was a lack of in season 7; the emotion was very simple and very raw. It wasn’t trying to BE anything, it just WAS something. This was extremely evident when Clara was talking to young Danny about his toy soldiers, and when she was later (or earlier, depending on how you look at it) talking to the young Doctor. It was in part due to Jenna Coleman’s incredibly beautiful acting skills – she’s really brought Clara to life this season (though I adored her last season as well), truly focusing on Clara as a person and not just as a companion or a mystery for the Doctor to solve.
This episode was also insanely frightening. There’s something very scary about not seeing what the monster is (this was also true for the episode “Midnight” in season 4), and it showed in the scene with the monster under the blanket. I was terrified as it slowly crept up behind them, and I truly felt the fear emanating off of the three. I nearly shrieked when the blanket slipped off; but it was a smart choice keeping the camera off of whatever was there (if there WAS anything there at all…). Doctor Who can really be scary when it wants to.
Clara’s scenes with adult Danny were sheer perfection; they were just the right amount of realistic awkwardness to get us to believe in the couple, while also showcasing them feeling comfortable around each other, which makes us root for them. I loved that Clara apologized for offending him. It was the mature thing to do, rather than just sulking off even when she knew she was in the wrong. I really hope we see more of them being a simple couple throughout the whole season.
All in all, again, I think the episode was fantastic. It didn’t really mess with the timeline at all – we’ve never seen the Doctor that young before, so it can make sense. Even if it didn’t, that scene with Clara speaking to him would have been worth it, regardless. I’m looking forward to seeing the mystery surrounding Danny and Clara be revealed over the course of the season; though we can slowly get an idea of what’s going on from this episode alone, we’re obviously missing a few pieces. This episode also really got the ball moving in terms of a season-long arc (and not just a character one), so I’m really glad about that.
Let’s take a look at Twelve now. We’ve been around him for a few weeks, so we’ve got a basic idea of how he acts, and I for one am not disappointed. At first, I was definitely a bit taken aback; he was so different from his previous incarnations that it threw me for a loop, but now that I understand how they will be addressing it throughout the season, I’m very excited for it. He’s very old now, older than he’s ever been, and he’s really questioning who he is, why he feels so much darkness, whether or not he still has the same core values (which I believe he does). What’s great about his characterization is that it’s entirely internal, while the other Doctors’ turmoil stemmed from the destruction of Gallifrey. They (especially Ten and Eleven) were very dark from their own hatred at themselves, but it was all from an outside force. Now that Twelve is aware that Gallifrey was saved, he’s going through a huge identity crisis; was he really always this dark, this callous, this cold? He doesn’t have the excuse of being traumatized from Gallifrey anymore (not that it was ever an excuse). It’s all about him examining himself from his very core and seeing if he likes what he finds.
The relationship he has this season with Clara is excellent. I’m so glad they didn’t creepify it by having him flirt with her, or something disgusting like that (which they addressed in the premiere brilliantly). Their relationship isn’t quite father-daughter; its a bit too judgmental for that. She truly is his companion, and vice versa. They listen to each other, give advice, and help each other out, while also sharing a very deep bond. Their dynamic currently also gives Clara the freedom to be her own person. She’s not living with the Doctor, so she can be stationed at home and have her own life, which is infinitely more healthy than the arrangements he’s had in the past. I really hope they continue with this trend of having the companion not be living with the Doctor, but still traveling with him regularly.
Reviews will happen in full every week from now on, so stay tuned for an analysis of the 5th episode, to be uploaded soon! Comment down below what you think of this season, and what you hope will happen!