After Image…

Series 9

Last one from DWM #494, and a happy place to end, I guess, reflecting on series as great as any the show had brought us…

DWM #494Last year I used this spot to admit I hadn’t enjoyed Doctor Who as much as normal. This year, I’ll make it very clear – I’ve absolutely loved the last 12 weeks of adventures. What a series!

The overriding triumph of the run is throughout it’s displayed a fresh dynamism. This sense of a reboot is not just good fortune, it’s been specifically manufactured. Steven Moffat recently stated that in planning this series there was an impetus to “do lots of two-parters, because we’re out of the habit, and that will be difficult. And by making it difficult, it has that series one rawness to it… It’s anything you can do that doesn’t make it feel like business as usual.”

Challenging Doctor Who, bending it, seems to lend it that tensile strength and the potential it may still twist into other new shapes. Alongside those two-parters, we’ve had ‘unofficial’ two-parters, an overtly political thriller, a found footage episode, that one-hander. And bigger ideas than ever, like giving the Doctor the chance to kill Davros when he was a child, or the broader concepts of Vikings vs aliens or ghosts from the future… in an underwater base. Plus, how about new information relating to the reason our hero originally went on the run?

The Hybrid has been this year’s unifying thread, and the most successful for some time. It’s a concept that didn’t require the contrivance of additional scenes welded onto extant stories, and in its final unveiling, stood up to its promise. Is it up for debate, perhaps, what it ultimately pertained to? Ashildr prodding the Doctor about the possibility of him being “half-human, half-Time Lord” was delightfully naughty, but the explanation I bought into was that it referred to the Doctor and Clara. Their union proving to be destructive. The myths whispered on Gallifrey had said the Hybrid would destroy “a billion, billion hearts to heal its own”. Which is what so nearly happened.

Nonetheless, a few million hearts have taken a battering over the last few Saturdays. It’s now that she’s gone we can start truly appreciating what Clara Oswald – and Jenna Coleman – brought to Doctor Who. Trying to conceive of it without her seems wrong. There’s a gap. Something that fitted just so. It’s a word horribly overused, particularly by the BBC press office, but the Doctor and Clara has become an iconic visual. She was a character who, against dramatic convention, began with convolutions that were gradually straightened out over her years, to leave her on a linear, unimpeded course to becoming her own hero. Coleman’s already secured her next big TV gig, and that’s no surprise. She’s surely bound for a career that will prove as stratospheric as Clara’s next adventures.

As for the Doctor, I believe this year has really been Peter Capaldi’s. In 2014, he brought us the Twelfth incarnation, with all his particular hang-ups and (un)pleasantries. But in 2015, at last, we had the Doctor again. Just the Doctor in all his glory. Same old same old, but never business as usual.

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