Series 10 In Review

Series 10 in Review

Christmas may be a painfully long way off, but when we think about it, we’ve actually been handed twelve days of gifts, courtesy of the BBC. (Sorry we didn’t get you kids anything in return…unless you count merchandising profits, in which case, you’re welcome.) Series 10 of Doctor Who was arguably a triumph, particularly for those who have been stalwart in Stephen Moffat’s defense, been overwhelmed by Peter Capaldi’s fanboy-earns-title-role portrayal of the Doctor, and the highly praiseworthy performances by Matt Lucas, Michelle Gomez, and the incomparable Pearl Mackie.

We may be in complete denial of the fact that the end of an era is nigh, and there may be those rabble-rousing few who grumble “good riddance” in troll-scented tones across cyberspace, but we here at the Citadel studios consider ourselves fortunate that we have a dozen entertaining, thought-provoking, sometimes amusing, and very often emotionally stirring episodes to add to the Whovian pantheon. It has been a stellar season, and we are the better for having experienced it.

This week, we look back at the breadth of Series 10, and reflect on its entertainment and emotional effectiveness. Joined by friend of the cast Kathleen Schowalter, we unpack the themes, tones, and conveyed message of the season as a whole, wherever applicable. Friendly disagreements ensue, and differing opinions are acknowledged and respected, but very little blood is shed, honestly.

BONUS: We run through the obligatory superlatives among the episodes, selecting our highs, lows, cheers and jeers among the twelve.

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The Doctor Falls

The Doctor Falls

How many times have we known that we were witnessing the waning moments of the current Doctor’s term, regeneration was nigh, and that heartache was imminent, yet we were riveted to the screen? And in those moments, how much time was spent in the episode where the Doctor himself knew that time was at hand? With few exceptions, these exercises in loss (for both character and audience) have been graciously brief, relatively speaking. The quick-pull of the bandage, if you will.

When your showrunner is also a showman, however, and knows that the fiercest arrows in his quiver are named “drama”, “emotion”, “witness”, and “time”. Moffat will ensure that hearts are laid bare by the events to come, the reactions will be profound and cathartic, they will seek to shake the core of all who take part, and — as we now see — they will not be brief. We will linger.

This week, we draw the incredible tenth series of the renewed Doctor Who to a close (if you will) with “The Doctor Falls”. We scream for respite from the pain of Bill’s predicament, and get a most unexpected response. We beg for the resolution of a millennia-old struggle between Doctor and Master, and are handed an outcome that leaves us agape. We hope for a closure to the Twelfth Doctor’s struggle to rediscover himself, a ‘good man’, renewed as the champion of those who cry out for help, anywhere and at any time, and find the most unlikely guide steps forward to aid in that last journey. Christmas of 2017 is going to be one very melancholy holiday, indeed.

BONUS: We step through the many and various responses to our tweeted question about Capaldi possibly emerging as some listeners’ ‘official’ Doctor after Series 10.

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Extremis

Extremis

When we learned just before the start of Series 10 that Steven Moffat opted to begin and end the season with his own penned episodes, it came as no surprise. After all, it was becoming the expected fashion for the showrunner, and none would have expected anything less in his final tenured season. Upon hearing that he would check in mid-series with the start of a three-part arc, however, our collective ears stood up. Something complex and fascinating was in the works, and the maestro himself wanted to be the hand that set the gears in motion. Now here we are, at the very midpoint, with a Doctor in distress, a companion unaware, a revelation in a vault…and the head of the Catholic Church in the bedroom.

It must be Saturday, because things have just waterski-ed past “isn’t that odd?” and propelled headlong into “what in the heck does this all mean?”.

We hit the fulcrum of Series 10 with Moffat’s organized-religion-and-virtual-reality mindbender, “Extremis”. With the expected tilted ratio of questions raised to questions answered, we grapple with the newly discovered but highly formidable Monks of Veritas, Bill’s increasing exasperation with the inability to balance adventure with a stable life, Nardole’s apparent (albeit limited) bad-assery, and another fascinating wrinkle in the greatest frenemy relationship to ever emerge from the Prydonian chapter. No fewer than three rewatches were necessary to try and feel we were in any way prepared to unpack this complicated episode — and darned if it’s not just the start to a three-part story.

(And yes, we end up at some point merging “monks” and “mummies” to refer to them as “mum-keys”, and we’re not sorry.)

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Oxygen

Doctor Who: Oxygen

When you’ve run from all the bogey-men, the ghosts and ghouls, the shadows within the shadows, the killer robots, and the bug-eyed aliens bent on your demise, it’s a reasonable assumption that the next threat to terrify and terrorize us is…rampant galactic capitalism. CURSE YOU, EMPTY SUITS. *fist shake*

This week, we rub furiously at our eyes after a viewing of “Oxygen”, the fifth episode of Series 10. Discussions are had over the respiratory systems of Time Lords, Moffat’s new-found ability to kill at will, Bill going blue, and what Nardole’s organic-to-bionic ratio really is.

Bonus Segment:

“Say Something Nice” — we have to find at least three positive things to say about a randomly chosen episode that comes from the bottom 10% of major Whovian ranking polls. Pollyanna-ism, away!

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Knock Knock

Knock Knock

The iconic ghost story: possibly one of the most popular forms of storytelling for centuries, from elaborate Dickensian novels, to childhood campfire tales. Our beloved Doctor Who program is no stranger to the paranormal yarn, yet we viewers never tire of seeing how the characters will grapple with what appears to be a spectral event but is clearly, surely, undoubtedly something more alien, technological, or just whizzo-science-y than Casper or that lovely couple from Beetlejuice. If we’re so certain of the outcome, then why do we keep coming back to see one explanation after another? Perhaps it’s because the scare is what sells us, not the solution.

As we’ve discussed before regarding stories like Hide and Death in Heaven, through fifty-plus years of the series, if the writers and producers actually broached the topic of life after death with some canonical certainty, having avoided it (and much of theological subject matter in general) to this point, wouldn’t the program be forever changed? Perhaps there’s something to be said for preserving that mystery, above all.

That peculiar scratching sound from upstairs, though? That’s one mystery that needs to get sorted, sharpish. Probably just a squirrel in the eaves again. Obnoxious little tree rats…

This week, we creep slowly up the stairs to find out what’s really going on in “Knock Knock”. We discuss the somewhat narrow-sighted behavior of nearly every character in the episode to one degree or another, the interesting role (and behavioral) reversal that David Suchet has to give his character in the final moments, and a little hypothesizing about how much time has to pass in the Doctor and Bill’s relationship before the TARDIS can be loaned out as a lorry service.

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