After Image…

TARDISAnd here we are. My last thing published under Tom Spilsbury as DWM‘s editor. ‘End of an Era’ said the cover line, for all sorts of reasons.

Tom is the person who invited me to become the magazine’s ‘new series’ reviewer. I can’t remember why. I can just recall being at a press screening for ‘The Waters of Mars‘ and he asking me if I’d enjoyed it. I think I’d been gently pestering him for a while whenever I saw him at events. Either dropping hints or asking outright if I could do ‘something’. Suddenly, I was through the door, and completely thrilled about it.

I still am.

Along the way, he proved hands off in terms of moderating what I wrote, but a brilliant sounding board whenever I needed it. We spoke a lot about ‘The Caretaker‘ review, for example, and he helped me find a way to say what I wanted to.

Thanks again, Tom – you were my Doctor Who Magazine editor.

This is from DWM #515.

A confession. I had a little trepidation coming into this series. I didn’t tell you at the time, but I was pretty down on The Return of Doctor Mysterio, which after a year’s break, was our only indication of the direction the forthcoming run would take, in which it was promised we’d see the universe “anew”. Christmas 2016 seemed to strain in making Doctor Who broader and more welcoming. Oh dear, I thought. Will this feel like the contractual obligation-year, with everyone marking time until Doctor #13 pops up?

Writing this, I think again: Oh dear. But only in looking back on those sentiments. Ye of little faith – Doctor Who in 2017 has been absolutely superb. Indeed, it has been broader and more welcoming, and hugely successful in those terms. The stories have had a more singular focus than in recent times, and the abstruse ‘season arc’ removed to make way for the far more straightforward, and thus successful, tease of what was in the Vault (although its resolution was a little flat; we were told it was Missy before we saw her there).

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the more challenging storytelling of recent years – I loved the 2015 run too – it’s more I felt invigorated by the contrast. Invigorated, in fact, by the arrival of Pearl Mackie, whose likeable, curious and unpretentious Bill Potts brought out a new array of colours in the Twelfth Doctor. This was the Time Lord as a mentor or a guardian. Still an authoritarian figure, but now with a duty of care. To care.

Where did Nardole fit into this? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, other than to help in the exposition of the Time Lord’s 1,000-year vigil and to provide occasional comedic punctuation. Matt Lucas’ portrayal (something I was worried about) had plenty of charm, so I have no intrinsic problem with the character. Perhaps he was more about the series’ approach, a literal friendly face for audiences, and if that is so, I salute him. Plus, it was a laugh having him around.

Now we’re left with Peter Capaldi, with whom we will be journeying on into the snow. It doesn’t seem right to reflect on his tenure yet, nor Steven Moffat’s. But it does feel that in planning their final flights they decided they weren’t going to be weighed down by that knowledge. Instead, they gave Doctor Who a kick in the arse, and just decided to have some fun. It’s the maxim that brought Bill onto the TARDIS at the end of The Pilot. “It means, what the hell.”

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