What's wrong with series 8
Now I’m looking forward to next week’s episode. But when I realised why, I also realised what’s disappointed me about this series.
See, what I’m eager for is this darker Doctor we were promised. I want to see that.I want to see the Doctor exercising a system of morality that doesn’t gel with that of his companions. I want to see him crossing moral lines that his predecessors wouldn’t. I want to see the dark side to the character when Nine snapped at Rose for not letting him use human cadavers to save gas-creatures, when Ten burned and drowned the Rac’noss, when Seven talked the Dalek Supreme into destroying itself.
Because so far, we really haven’t. There are three great moments that stand out for me: the end of “Deep Breath” where he (maybe) throws a man to his death to save his friends, in “Listen”, wherein he’s become so consumed by his fear and curiosity that he almost gets himself sucked out of an airlock, and in “Time Heist” when he actively refuses to mourn Saibra in order to get the others out alive. That’s what I’ve been wanting to see. A man who’ll always do the right thing, but will go to any lengths to do it.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the Doctor should be like that all the time. I love that Capaldi still has that warmth, even if it’s buried a bit deeper. I love his speech about fear to baby!Danny and taking Courtney on an impromptu TARDIS trip.
But a lot of the time, the Doctor being “darker” and “more alien” basically translates to, well, being a dick. I don’t mean the jabs at little human brains, that’s always been part of his character. Even his insensitive comments to Clara, I can let slide, because at least that seems to be him genuinely not understanding how makeup works (“why’s your face all coloured in?”). But there’s no excuse for his treatment of Danny Pink and Journey Blue, given how much he’s worked with the likes of UNIT in the past. I know this is only one trait, but it’s what’s left a foul taste in my mouth, and it’s blighted the season for me. Or maybe I just found it so insufferable in “The Caretaker” that it’s tainted my recollection of the previous episodes. Because I really, really fucking hate this attitude. I see people getting pissed at Danny for that confrontation in the TARDIS, but honestly, Twelve deserved every word of that. He wasn’t alien or complicated or not-user-friendly. He was an ass.
A lot of this, I pin on the Danny/Clara, Pinkwald, Oswink, whatever we’re using for it. I was optimistic about Danny. Silly me. And he’s not necessarily a bad character. All the seeds are there for him to be something cool. But I wanted him to be something more interesting than just Clara’s new boyfriend. But what’s worse is that their relationship seems utterly empty.
Amy loved Rory because he was dependable, he was loyal, he respected her choices, he was patient and understanding with her issues, and he worked on dealing with his feelings of jealousy and insecurity to be a better boyfriend and husband. Clara loves Danny because he’s in the vicinity and he’s a bit pretty. I mean, yes, Danny respects her choice, he gets over his awkwardness, but all this happens after Clara has given us this big anguished declaration of love. There’s nothing between the two of them that would create this bond they’re supposed to have.
It’s a badly-written, forced mess of a relationship and it’s dragging down the characterisation of everyone involved. Twelve is an insufferable prick. Clara goes all doe-eyed for no discernible reason. We don’t get to delve into Danny’s personality or backstory (which actually sounds interesting) because he’s too busy awkwardly flirting with Clara, and his former soldier career is used as just as just an excuse for Twelve to treat him like shit. It’s like a black hole in the middle of the series, and you can’t get away from it because it keeps cropping up, even if only briefly, in episodes that should have nothing to do with it.
Nowhere is this more apparent than “Listen”, where we suddenly cut away from the far-more-interesting main plot so Clara can go and embarrass herself over dinner. Someone actually thought we’d rather see more of that date than see the Doctor and Clara hunting for invisible monsters.
This is sounding very negative. There’s lots I’m loving about this series. Our two leads are great. Clara is going from strength to strength (ironically, in “The Caretaker”, she was brilliant). We’ve had some great scary, clever, funny, surprising stuff. In particular, the overarching plot this year is much better handled than in series 7b, because unlike the Impossible-Girl plot that basically stalled between the middle of the series and the end, we’re getting progression and build-up and new elements introduced for us to speculate over. I just hope we can have more of that in the coming six weeks. Because if Clara ducks out in the middle of “Mummy on the Orient Express” so she can finish a couple’s shopping trip with Danny, I’m going to fly to Cardiff and punch somebody.