Yesterday, the season finale for the tenth season (or series) of BBC’s Doctor Who ended, and I think now’s a good time to share my thoughts on Steven Moffat’s final acts as showrunner.
The nicest, most optimistic way I can say this is, I loved it.
The more blunt way I can say it is, after Series Eight and Series Nine, a sight for sore eyes. I had very low expectations, and this season surpassed them splendidly.
The first episode, “The Pilot,” hooked me right in, and it’s a great starting point for new Whovians, too. We were also introduced to Bill Potts, a companion who is, honestly, all the things we loved about past companions recycled into a new, distinct character. She’s a sci-fi geek. She’s spunky and funny and really quite an everyman. A lot of different people can relate to her on different levels. She’s also a queer character who is shown to be more than just her queerness. A+ for positive representation and a loveable character.
The Doctor stopped being random and wacky for the sake of being as such – it actually had a place. I’m sad this is Peter Capaldi’s final season because it seemed like he finally set into the Doctor’s skin, and that the character was finally getting some good writing. He’s still ridiculously pacifistic, but that’s okay because Steven Moffat loves killing characters anyway, so it’s easier to make the Doctor stand to the side and let it happen. In the finale, the Doctor went on about how he doesn’t like guns, but was happy to use his sonic screwdriver (and exploding apples) to accomplish the same result. So the social commentary aspect of the Doctor’s character was particularly hypocritical.
Missy was actually tolerable, too. I particularly like how she was used as a nod to the debate of whether our favorite Time Lord is called both “the Doctor” and “Doctor Who” (as he was credited in many classic episodes).
Usually, Steven Moffat can’t go a season without trying to do a major, season-wide story arc, but he managed to confine it to a three-parter. I’m grateful for that. One of the things I so enjoyed about early reboot episodes is that they could stand on their own. I can still share select episodes with my friends without getting them too confused. My personal favorite is “Knock Knock,” which in some ways recycled elements from “The Empty Child” and “Hide” while being original and mysteriously creepy. It’s these kinds of episodes, like “Empty Child” and “Blink” that I show to new or prospective Whovians to gauge their scare tolerance and wow them to the ends of the universe.
Steven Moffat did something a bit subversive with Bill, who is a woman of color. Frequently, it was Bill calling attention to aliens with unusually colored skin and getting called a racist for it. She also exclaimed, “I didn’t vote for Donald Trump; he’s orange.” (How could she, anyway? She’s ruddy British!) Steven Moffat has apparently tried (and I think he finally succeeded) to repent for writing gay jokes throughout the years, but I think he was trying to make an interesting, ironic, slightly humorous point about how everyone, even the discriminated, is capable of being discriminatory themselves.
Another interesting thing is they went out of their way to cast extras of all ethnicities for historical settings. That was new, and they had an important point to make. Bill learns that society, at least in England (and in the show), wasn’t as polarized as one would think from reading our modern history textbooks, and that people of all “colors” coexisted peacefully. When asked to explain this marvelous phenomenon, it was interesting to see our progressive Doctor accusing modern, progressive history book writers of whitewashing our culturally rich past. Great food for thought.
One thing that really annoyed me in this season is how many times they had to namedrop Donald Trump. I get it, it’s “in,” it’s en vogue, to bash him right now, and for the next four years, until someone (hopefully) votes him out in the next election. But this is British television, coming from and primarily written for people who are not directly affected by the American president’s shenanigans.* The man lives on press covfefe, negative or positive – going on and on and on about him, especially in a foreign show, only gives him more power to scare and bully the entire world. Do you really want that?
I started watching Doctor Who in about 2014, and I started with the 2005 series starring Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, and John Barrowman. The rebooted series was close to ten years old at that time. And yet, the material didn’t seem overly dated. I could show that season to my kids in another ten years, and they might laugh at the corny special effects, but I think the stories will still resonate with them.
I expect Donald Trump to be a has-been ten years from now. All the hysteria will have been for naught, because he’ll just fade away into history like all the other presidents have. References to the Trump presidency will likely be lost on future viewers. And please tell me I’m not the only one who’d rather not have to field questions from my offspring (if they make it past Series Eight) about this random old dude that nobody’s heard about!
Anyway, it wasn’t a terrible season. There was good writing, better writing. I think everyone was trying to put on their best face, as this series has such an air of finality to it. It’s the end of an era of Moffat-Who.
I can’t wait to see what Chris Chibnall, the new showrunner, has in store for us. I’ve heard another young, Tennant-like Doctor is in the works, which I’m not sure I like. (One of the reasons I wanted to like Capaldi is that he’s an old man – he’s not paraded around as the handsome young doctor to woo young female fans.) Either way, I’m going to try to be open-minded about it.
This season had its flaws, but either I’m quite numb to the bad writing now, or it truly was….
*I didn’t say anything when, in a prior season of Doctor Who, the Master casually disintegrated an analogue of President Bush, or the time he took over the Obama administration. But in general, with the exception of Matt Smith telling President Nixon to start wiretapping to monitor the Silence’s activities, the digs they make at American politics really aren’t very funny.