Doctor Who’s Season 8: A Lesson in Being Careful What You Wish For

farewell

This time last year, I complained that death in the world of Moffat’s Doctor Who didn’t seem to stick and that there were no consequences. So what do we get for pretty much all of Season 8? Death and consequences.

No female Doctor? Have a female Master.

Afraid that the female companion is just going to settle down with her (arguably controlling) boyfriend? Nope — he’s dead and she’s alone.

So it puts me in a tricky position, because I can’t complain that this season was “Moffat as usual.” In fact, I feel like Steven Moffat often fucks with fans by giving them what they ask for; He’s like a squat Scottish genie that way. Because the finale was a bloodbath by Moffat standards — poor asthmatic Osgood bit it early on, along with the two hapless security guards who were supposed to be watching Missy; Danny (who seemed prime for a resurrection) remains dead; as do all of the recently-deceased Cyberhive inhabitants. And even though Danny’s final curtain call came off as a cheap deus ex machina ploy, the end result is that he’s still gone for good.

So why do I still feel unsatisfied? The truth is that even with the surface “corrections,” there’s a basic problem that will likely always be true about Moffat’s writing: it never quite comes together, and it never quite makes sense.

I’ve broken up the finale’s biggest offenders below:

The Lame Twist We Didn’t Care Enough to See Coming

Missy was the woman in the shop who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number? Yeah, we probably pieced that one together by now. Just a couple of episodes earlier, Missy was pawing at a picture of Clara and calling her “hers’.” Plus, at this point, it was the only reveal that would make sense.

But because the mystery shop lady was dangled so obviously over our heads, it wasn’t like it was a massive face-melting twist. Partly because it was obviously Missy, and partly because Missy’s reasoning was delightfully stupid.

Oh, she hooked him up with Clara because she’s uptight and bossy? That’s it? Clara’s not some sleeper agent or spy. She has no greater purpose or identity. She’s just a bossy little nanny-turned-school teacher and the Master thought it would be funny if the Doctor had to deal with her?

Jesus.

On that point, is Clara even that much of a challenge for the Doctor? Compared to Amy, maybe. And let’s be honest, Moffat has spent pretty much all of the last 4 years pretending that Davies’ seasons never happened, so there’s no point in even trying to compare Clara to previous companions.

The Cyber Rain Made No Sense

Sorry, explain this to me again: literal brainstorms came down and turned corpses into metal Cybermen?

This is where people love to cry, “It’s a kids’ show!” Which is fine. It doesn’t have to make serious technical sense in that I don’t need to know why or how the corpses help to “fuel” the cybermen or how the cybermen function on a mechanical level. But I do think it’s a step too far to claim that magical rain gave everyone giant metal-and-wire outer casings.

Oh, and the fact that all corpses are now coming back to life because Missy has been soaring through time converting them all on her own TARDIS for… ever? Where’s that TARDIS again? How did the Doctor not notice her doing this for thousands of years?

Missy’s Plan Made No Sense

I know, I know. The Master is “crazy.” And lonely. So I sort of understand the attempt to get the Doctor back on her side. But if she really did spend what had to be thousands of years going back through time to convert all corpses into potential cybermen, surely her execution could’ve been a little better than that.

And maybe she could have spent a little time actually trying to convert the Doctor instead of just showing up at the end, yelling ta-da and handing him the figurative keys to the universe.

It’s Still Lacking a Heart

This is a harder one to “prove,” in some sense. One of the main take-aways that people seemed to get from my grief article was that I was just talking about death. I wasn’t. It’s not that I’m angry that people don’t die often enough in Moffat’s Who, but rather that everything lacks an emotional wallop.

I want to care that Danny Pink is dead, but the character was flat and empty. Vague references to his life as a soldier, and the brief scene of him as a child, weren’t quite enough to compel me to like him — especially when he turned into a bit of a control freak by demanding that Clara stop spending time with the Doctor.

They didn’t show us why Clara loved him, or why he loved her. Instead, Clara professes her love to Danny moments before he dies, because it’s just important that we know that she loves him and vice-versa in order for their scenes to work in the finale. But we still have to feel it — and I definitely didn’t feel it.

Where are Clara and Danny’s parents? Do they have siblings? Who are their friends?

These are the same issues we had with Amy and Rory: they only had friends and families when it worked for the plot but were empty vessels the rest of the time.

If you want us to care about characters, we have to know who they are.

Nothing’s Connected

Probably most frustrating about Moffat’s Who is that it’s like a brand-new show. Davies’ era was littered with references to the classic series and cameos from old stars. N0w and then stories and entire arcs would lead back to old plot lines.

But Moffat’s show is coldly independent from the series’ past. Sure, there are still comments made here and there about past events, or little winks, like having Clara work at the same school that Ian and Barbara taught at — but it’s nothing substantial or more important than that.

Oh, what about the Brigadier in the finale? It could be an exception to the rule, but in a sense it’s also just a larger wink. The Brigadier showed up to save his daughter (a new character, invented by Moffat) and then be killed off again. And to kill the Master, so the Doctor didn’t have to (which felt incredibly cheap).

The larger mythos or history of the show has been erased or very literally re-written by Moffat. And the only characters who seem to show back up are ones that he invented. One appearance by an old companion would have been nice by now. Not desperately important or necessary, but nice.

Instead, it feels like Moffat needs to assert that this is his show and nobody elses. As a result, it doesn’t feel like Doctor Who anymore.

 

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5 thoughts on “Doctor Who’s Season 8: A Lesson in Being Careful What You Wish For

    • Seriously? Have you not worked out by now that people who put in as much effort as this are generally people who are disappointed by problems in a show that they *love*? “If you don’t like it don’t watch it” is probably the laziest form of response to criticism because it puts zero effort into addressing the points of contention.

      I love Doctor Who. It’s a great show that’s like nothing else on television. That doesn’t mean there aren’t valid criticisms to be made about it and legitimate concerns about the direction it’s heading.

      Personally I thought Season 8 was fairly weak overall mostly for the reasons this article says (the complete lack of on-screen chemistry between Danny and Clara really didn’t help matters since their relationship was the core of the season arc). But Season 8 also contained one of my favourite episodes ever (Flatline), some other pretty good episodes and some episodes that didn’t really work but still had some brilliant ideas (dark water, creatures with perfect hiding, Gallifreyan mind hard drives). And I thought the actress playing Missy was brilliant in the role even if the plot featuring her didn’t really hold together.

      In short, I recognise that there are both aspects to enjoy about the show *and* aspects that deserve criticism and that it’s hardly as simple as “love everything about it or don’t watch it”.

  1. I totally agree that the lack of chemistry between Clara and Danny seriously hurt this season. We kept being TOLD how deeply in love they were but we never really SAW it. All those little bonding moments where a relationship forms and grows stronger happened off camera, so all we ever got to see was their relationship under strain (usually whenever Danny’s soldier past came up or Clara dashed off with the Doctor). It didn’t help that the whole relationship started with Clara hitting on Danny for no comprehensible reason (read: “‘cos the script says so”). It ALSO didn’t help that Danny didn’t seem to actually have a personality beyond “ex-soldier” and “likes Clara but is awkward about it”.

    It says a lot that Osgood’s death hit a lot harder than Danny’s. :/

    BTW, I don’t recall Danny ever actually telling Clara she shouldn’t travel with the Doctor. He was concerned for her, and told her to tell him if the Doctor crossed the line. When she did (in “Kill the Moon”), he empathised and left the decision up to her. Next thing you know she’s lying to him about travelling with the Doctor. (Recurring theme for the season: Clara becomes a big lying liarpants).

    In my opinion, Missy was probably right that her plan had to be presented to the Doctor as a fait accompli – convincing him was never going to work. “Here’s YOUR army – think of all the good you could do with it!” was the only approach that had an (albeit small) chance. And yes, she did a terrible job of selling the Doctor on it but that seemed in character to me.

    BTW, I assume she didn’t *personally* collect every soul throughout time. It’s probably an automated process and she just checked in from time-to-time on individuals close to the Doctor.

    The Cyber-rain could’ve been explained better but, honestly, I’m inclined to let it slide. We saw them utilise ‘bigger on the inside’ technology in the episode. It’s not a big stretch that their ‘cyber-pollen’ utilises the same technology to store enough components necessary to convert a corpse into a cyberman. (I’m assuming the ‘rainwater’ was nanotech in nature). They almost certainly don’t need human bodies at all but I figure that’s part of their core programming. Both varieties of Cyberman exist in order to ‘improve’ humanity.

    Re: Nothing’s connected: That has some truth, though Moffatt is a Doctor Who fan and there are a LOT of callbacks (the appearance of the 4th Doctor’s yo-yo in “Kill the Moon”, the “The Invasion” era cyberhead in Death in Heaven, the cigarette case full of Jelly Babies from “The Face of Evil” etc.). And don’t forget that Moffett brought us the first episodes in decades to feature the Zygons and the Ice Warriors. In practice I suspect he mostly just finds that it’s more challenging and fun to invent something new. And IMO, Moffatt is at his best when he’s being inventive. The creatures from “Flatline” were some of Doctor Who’s creepiest ever and the concept behind “Mummy on the Orient Express” was great too. Some more balance between old and new would be great, but some of the old villains ARE overplayed. In Eight Seasons of Doctor Who, SEVEN of the season finales featured either the Daleks, the Cybermen, The Master or some combination thereof (Season 6 featured The Silence).

    It might be nice to see an old companion again, but most of them are problematic. Most of the pre-2005 companions are VERY old by now (Sophie Aldred who played Ace is probably the youngest at 52!). Rose? Trapped in a Parallel Dimension? Mickey, Jacqui? Ditto. Donna? Mentally locked. Wilfred Noble? Kinda awkward. >_> Amy and Rory? Blocked off by wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey (and not pre-Moffett anyway). Which pretty much just leaves Martha – who was arguably the most forgettable companion and didn’t leave on the best terms anyway. There’s not much capacity for it, IMO.

  2. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Who, and of Moffat. In addition I was really looking forward to Capaldi’s run as the Doctor. I was disappointed with the whole season…er, Series. It just felt lame. It seemed like a baker’s dozen of “Dump on the Doctor” episodes. I couldn’t wait for Clara to leave, though I’m usually a sucker for a pretty face. The whole thing just never got off the ground for me. The finale was just one more lame story. I did find Missy entertaining–a little.

  3. Nitpick… Kate wasn’t invented by Moffat. She comes from two direct-to-video (and unofficial BBC) stories Downtime and Daemos Rising. Downtime featured the Brig, and Sarah Jane and Victoria. Certainly, she has been developed by Moffat via the new series but he has never been shy about including references to the countless books and audios, especially when he acknowledged McGann’s Big Finish stories during “Night of the Doctor.”

    Additionally, Clara professed her love for Danny in “The Caretaker.”

    That said, I have to agree with you on your concerns. Danny Blank… erm, Pink, never clicked with me precisely for what you say. This isn’t a knock against the actor since he really didn’t have much to work for.

    I had high hopes for the return of the Master but she wasn’t so much evil as just… not nice. It was no better than Simm’s portrayal (and I couldn’t stand that one…). Give my Master some good ol’ Delgado menace or Ainley’s cold calculation (hamfisted though they were but, again, that’s on the writers, not the actor).

    Cyber Rain vs. The Master Race from “End of Time.” Or the Reality Bomb. In terms of the sheer ludicrousness that the New Series reaches for, this isn’t the first time we’ve been sold the sizzle but not the steak.

    Cyber Brig… no. No no no no no no. No. Absolutely not.

    I feel let down some by the finale but that’s only after one viewing. I’m not sure I want a second one. It’s a pity because I really think this season was one of the best.

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