The first two things I want to mention are:
1. Peter Capaldi as the Doctor is brilliant. He gets the character. He gets the intensity, the whimsy, the alienness of it. I think he’s the best Doctor of NuWho yet. Yes, even better than David Tennant.
2. Clara finally became a real character. Whether you liked who she became or not is another issue. She stopped being an object, a puzzle, and became a fully realized character. About fucking time.
Now, onto my thoughts about Series 8. How can I sum it up? Oh yeah: Are you freaking kidding me?
Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. There were definitely some truly stand-out episodes this series. Listen, Time Heist, The Caretaker, Mummy on the Orient Express, and Flatline were absolutely wonderful episodes. I truly enjoyed the way they played with the idea of The Doctor questioning his purpose, his goodness as a person. I also liked seeing Clara transform from someone who questioned the Doctor’s motives into someone who understood and eventually employed them herself. Did the Doctor become more human? Did Clara become less human? All great questions.
I did not like the whole Danny/Clara relationship. Mostly because it lacked real emotional resonance. They went from associates to people who dated to something serious far too quickly. I disliked Danny giving Clara ultimatums and putting her in a position where she needed to lie. I didn’t feel like he’d earned that power over her. And ultimately, their resolution felt both forced and emotionless. In fact, Danny’s relationship with the young boy he accidentally killed, and the sacrifice he made for that boy carried more emotional weight than his entire relationship with Clara.
I also didn’t like Danny’s relationship with the Doctor. The whole “the Doctor hates soldiers” bit was awkward. Danny hadn’t earned the right to treat the Doctor that way. Maybe if he’d traveled with the Doctor more it could have worked. But the constant saluting and the Doctor’s incessant need to demean Danny all felt very forced.
I’m of mixed feelings about the way the Doctor spoke to Clara, constantly putting her down. I’ll admit that I laughed, but I also come from a family where that’s how we treat each other. We pick and joke and make fun of each other in good fun. It’s a joke in my family that you’re not one of us until you can dish it out as well as you can take it. That said, I read a particular Tumblr post where a little girl who looked up to Doctor Who heard the things the Doctor said to Clara and it made her feel ashamed about herself. So while I saw the good-natured banter, I can see how others might see the Doctor demeaning Clara, and that’s not good.
I rather enjoyed Missy as The Master, though I know she was a divisive choice. However, that entire two-part episode was one giant, gaping plot hole that made zero sense. And I say this as a veteran of the Russell T. Davies era of nonsensical, plot-hole-laden finales. But the difference between Moffat and RTD is that RTD always nailed the character and emotional character arcs, and Moffat gets so caught up in his plots that he forgets we need to give a shit about the characters for it to mean anything.
I also can’t decide if Moffat was having some good-natured fun with his fans by killing off Osgood (a clear stand-in for Doctor Who fans) and Seb (with his “Squeeee” moment) or was thumbing his nose at Fandom. To be honest, it felt like the latter. He did something similar with his episode of Sherlock The Empty Hearse where he poked fun at fan theories for how Sherlock could have survived his jump off the building in the Season 2 finale. If I’m being honest, it felt mean spirited, but that’s just my personal opinion and may have no basis in reality.
Overall, great acting from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with some standout episodes, couldn’t save the overall arc of the season. If Moffat had spent less time building his absolutely ridiculous plot for Missy to destroy the world and more time focused on building characters, this could have been the best season of DW yet. Unfortunately, as with most seasons of Moffat’s run, I’m left wondering whether I’ll want to tune in next season. Of course I will because I adore Doctor Who, but I’m not sure how much more Moffat I can take. He doesn’t seem to exhibit the same kind of love for the show and characters that RTD did, and is treating it like just another sci-fi property. I hope he gets his act together or moves on.