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Reviewed: Doctor Who Series 8 – The Man That Stops The Monsters

You are the Doctor. You are over 2000 years old. But you should be dead. You’d reached the end of your natural life-cycle and if not for the grace (?) of the Time Lords giving you a literal brand new lease on lives, you’d be dust.

You’re now in virgin territory. There was a certain pattern to the old life-cycle, a certain rhythm. That’s changed. Your perceptions are different; your priorities, shifted slightly. You see Clara and wonder what exactly happened to her, poor thing. Thanks to your new heightened senses, you notice the obvious flaws in the old girl’s appearance but you still think the world of her, even when those eyes start inflating.

Things are confusing and disorienting when you’re being chased by the T-Rex and don’t get much better after you see your old comrades in Victorian England again. The slim one, the green one, and the one who looks startlingly like Clara, poor old girl. After some rest, you stumble upon a body parts theft scheme by machines attempting to reassemble themselves as human. This all rings some sort of bell but it eludes you. After vanquishing the leader of the machines, or more technically, cyborgs, you actually have to convince Clara to see you for who you are. It takes two incarnations to convince the poor blobby control freak, bless her heart, but she finally sees the light.

Peter Capaldi is brilliant here in Deep Breath, as is Jenna Coleman. The chemistry is infinitely better than what she had with Matt Smith. It’s a far more honest relationship with some bite. Coleman delivers a tour de force when being interrogated by both the Half-Face Man as well as Vastra. Wonderful direction as well. We meet Missy at the end – and was there anyone who didn’t suspect her true identity? Or at the very least, think it was a misdirection tied to the Master?

Being the new generous you, you get coffee for Clara but stop en route to save lives and stumble into a unique situation. You collect Clara and agree to be shrunk down and injected into an injured Dalek who seems to be dedicated to destroying other Daleks. It doesn’t seem to register to anyone that this new outlook is precisely because of the injury and certain highlighted memories as a result. You manage to fix the damage and keep the Dalek as a frenemy, while at the same time, facing doubts about just how good a man you really are, if at all.

Into the Dalek is an interesting take on Fantastic Voyage, the main purpose of which isn’t really about the Dalek at all but more about delving into who the Doctor really is now. Clara is once again established as a teacher at Coal Hill School, as the Doctor’s carer (so he doesn’t have to care) and she meets the pleasant, hapless, tragic, and severely damaged Danny Pink. And we get a bit more Missy.

You decide to give Clara a treat and let her decide where to go next. She decides to choose fantasy over reality, suggesting they meet Robin Hood. You indulge her and are astonished that he was real! Every bit as real as you! He and his merry men and their ridiculous banter.

Yes, you make some bad assumptions and might even get a bit competitive with the bantering idiot but together, mostly with Clara’s direction, thwart an alien race who needs gold to get off world. They almost muck up the take off but again, you mostly save the day, with some expert archery help.

Robot of Sherwood is a Mark Gatiss joint and while there are a few laughs, and Coleman has never looked more lovely in her Maid Marion type gown, they don’t really stick the landing on an otherwise somewhat interesting story. There is a fun little Troughton Easter Egg in there though.

Sometimes, you have a bit too much time on your hands. When you are alone, you start to think. A lot. Some might say too much. For instance, Clara’s gone for 20 minutes and you start speculating that maybe there exists a race that, as a defense mechanism, has evolved into beings who can’t be seen but are often around. Listening. That movement out of the corner of your eye, the sense that something’s hiding under your bed, ready to grab you when you put your feet on the ground. You change gears and decide to let Clara steer the TARDIS via the psychic circuits. You tell her to just mentally drift; the idea is to go back to her childhood but instead, you find a young lad named Rupert, who you inspire with a cracking good speech about fear and even do him a favor by unintentionally mentally preparing him for the army. And you possibly encounter the very species you’re seeking. Possibly.

Moving on, you eventually arrive at the end of time with some lonely fella named Orson Pink, who seems to make Clara’s freakishly large eyes even larger for some reason. You never do quite figure out what Clara’s connection to these places are. Every step of the way, you keep seeking to find or maybe establish contact with these aliens who may or may not exist. The events remind you of something that happened one night when you were just a boy but it’s a fleeting memory. You never really do get the answers you’re looking for but thankfully, other adventures keep you busy enough to put this on the back burner for now.

Listen is classic Steven Moffat. This one takes us on so many nervous detours and off ramps of discomfort – you’re constantly on the edge of your seat. Speaking of discomfort, we see two beautiful people on a horrible, horrible date. Clara and Danny have absolutely no business being in a relationship with each other. None. This relationship is based solely on looks and a shared vocation. You see the iceberg in the distance and watch as they steer toward it. They are totally incompatible. He’s suffering from major PTSD and has severe trust and abandonment issues. She’s an adrenaline junkie – a true addict, a narcissist and a control freak. So… yeah.

You’re going to pull off a Time Heist at the bank of Karabraxos with the help of a shape-changer, a cyborg, and Clara, all at the behest of a shadowy figure. Memory worms, mind emptying aliens, and a stunning villain who would later have regrets about her actions. Enter, you.

Time Heist was a well constructed story with an appropriate mixing of Doctor Who and Ocean’s 11. Keeley Hawes exudes villainy. Nice twists and time travel. They pulled it off nicely.

You truly are a master of disguise, Doctor. It’s a shame that Clara can’t fathom it. I mean, YOU CHANGED YOUR COAT! But her perceptions are questionable. After all, she’s only human. There’s an alien threat called the Skovox Blitzer in the vicinity. Visually, not much more threatening than a Roomba but in reality, a world destroyer. Best not to concern Clara, her adorable bow-tied boyfriend, or even the delusion P.E. teacher about the coming danger. Just carry out your simple plan to lure it in and chuck it away to the end of time and no one need be the wiser. [Side note: at this point, you vow to integrate the Invisibility Watch into every adventure as it can be incredibly useful, like the sonic and the psychic paper. Just don’t lose it.] Anyway, turns out, P.E. is a compulsive busybody, plan saboteur, and Clara’s actual boyfriend. And he’s a soldier. Although you get along well with everyone, Doctor, even your winning ways and endless patience find an uphill battle with Danny Pink; he doesn’t like your kind or the effect you have on Clara. You eventually are able to do a workaround and with Clara and P.E.’s help, the Blitzer is disarmed. An understanding of sorts is reached with P.E..

The Caretaker is brilliantly funny and the rubbish Blitzer is really only an excuse to examine what happens when an irresistible force (the Doctor) meets an immovable object (Danny), with Clara in the middle. This episode of “Guess who’s coming to the TARDIS for dinner” further highlights the dysfunction in these relationships, no matter how much actual care exists between them. Capaldi’s Doctor is at his most delightful with every incorrect and goofy assumption he makes about virtually everything.

You’ve had many adventures on Earth’s moon and not once did you think to check if it was in actuality an egg with a baby bat-dragon inside. The humans never checked because they never had the luxury of being able to bring excavation equipment with them. Weight’s always been on those launches. The poor crew of Bowie Base One couldn’t even manage a bike.

But here you have a situation where representatives of Earth have to make the decision on whether this creature lives or dies and the possible consequences either way. Clara and the others want to put the decision on your shoulders but they don’t seem to comprehend that it’s not your planet in danger – it’s theirs. Earth chooses to kill the infant. Clara overrules the other 8 billion and eventually turns on you for leaving the decision to them. Meanwhile, the baby flies free and leaves another egg in its place. The circle of life. And you’ve lost Clara.

Kill the Moon is easily the most divisive story of Series 8 but one I find more intriguing than most. The morality debate is similar to what we saw in Torchwood, Children of Earth, as well as Series 10’s Thin Ice. It’s an episode that puts the viewer in an uncomfortable position and is as bold and imaginative as Doctor Who should be.

It’s one last hurrah with Clara before you part company, so you decide on an intergalactic (but period-faithful reimagining of the) Orient Express. You are aware of the possibility that something horrible like the Foretold is going to come to pass but you just can’t help yourself, sadly. And Clara’s leaving anyway, so…

But once the killings continue, the 66-second pattern is in place, no one’s really helping you out with any information as they die at the mummy’s hands. So, you put yourself on the firing line in order to figure out and disarm the deadly phasing mummy. As you do. Afterward, Clara talks to Danny and miraculously, he seemingly has no problem with her staying on to travel with you and she’s evidently forgiven you. How about that!

Jamie Mathieson hits a home run with Mummy on the Orient Express. This is next level Doctor Who and I seriously thought for a moment that Mathieson was a pen name for Moffat, this story was so good. The mechanics of the storyline, the interplay between the Doctor and pretty much everyone else is fantastic. Once again this season, we’re led to believe that the Doctor is not that good a man, until, of course, he is. At least, to a certain extent. And once again, Jenna Coleman ends up looking almost impossibly beautiful.

Some outside force is actually stealing dimensional power from your TARDIS. Thanks to this predicament, the Old Girl’s exterior has shrunk and you’re trapped inside. Thankfully, Clara’s on the outside doing a disturbingly good Doctor impersonation while she investigates other disturbing events with another pudding brain, this time a graffiti artist (Local Knowledge). A two-dimensional race of beings is killing humans, when they turn them into 2-D forms. You give them the benefit of the doubt, that maybe it’s a communication mistake, but it’s rarely that simple. Things are so bad, the TARDIS’ power so low, that you’re forced to put the Old Girl into Siege Mode to survive. Thankfully, Clara really does do a great Doctor and manages to turn the aliens’ powers to your advantage and you emerge to banish the Boneless back to their own dimension. Meanwhile, Clara’s behavior grows a bit more concerning.

Once again, Jamie Mathieson knocks it out of the park with Flatline, one of the most imaginative stories ever in the history of Doctor Who. The graphic ways in which the Boneless attacks and kills are chilling to say the least. Clara really is a good Doctor. More’s the pity for her sake. Her lies to Danny just keep stacking up and it’s sad.

Sometimes, Earth really surprises you. Growing a worldwide, protective forest overnight in response to what would otherwise be a solar flare extinction event… No one saw that coming. Except that one wavy kid. It said a lot that Clara would rather stay with Danny than desert the Earth.

In the Forest of the Night is an intriguing premise but seemingly chock full of holes. And I’m still not sure why that lost girl was hiding in the bush at the end. For a moment though, Clara and Danny’s relationship was moving along smoothly. Mm.

Clara Oswald can be very dangerous. She illustrated in no uncertain terms how far she’d go when she wants something, no matter how destructive. It’s a good thing you care about her a great deal. That’s really the only reason you’d consent to take her to the afterlife to save the now deceased Danny Pink. Although when you actually find the afterlife – well, it bears a bit of scrutiny. The underwater skeletons, the overly affectionate service droid, the “communication with the dead” raised about every red flag imaginable. When Time Lord tech, Cybermen, and a very different version of the Master all show up, it’s a regular semaphore spectacular.

Dark Water provides a really chilling set up in the first of this series’ ending two-part story. The whole angle of hearing the supposed dead saying “don’t cremate me!” is so massively disturbing, I’m surprised there wasn’t a lot more push back on this one. Even Danny’s death was a real shocker, especially the way they played it out. And the mere fact that all these thousands (millions?) of dead people weren’t actually dead but uploaded to a bargain basement version of the Time Lord’s Matrix? That’s some Dark, Dark Water. Next to all that, the revelation that the Master was now a woman? Not that shocking. And we would come to find out that Michelle Gomez can carry out an insane Master better than John Simm. We also find the exact reason why Danny is so messed up, having killed a child during wartime. The fact that he then meets said child in this afterlife is also very sad. Danny’s dead and he’s a mess and he loves Clara but will do anything to protect her, even though all she’s ever done is lie to him. Is it any wonder he wants to delete his emotions? And even after these revelations – why do we still dislike Danny?

Turns out that ruling the Earth isn’t that hard, can fall right into your lap, and you get the satisfaction of rubbing it in your arch nemesis’ latest face. Ha. But it’s all downhill from there, as the Cybermen are staging the most successful invasion ever, simply by taking over the dead. Things are at their darkest when a Cyber-Danny Pink’s love for Clara helps him to overcome his programming and turn the Cybermen around, thwarting Missy’s notion of giving you a wrong footed army for a birthday present.

In the end, in order to save what was left of Clara’s soul, you were about to kill your oldest friend until another one did it for you. You get together with Clara afterward and you lie to her about finding Gallifrey so you can take off and she can live her life with a resurrected Danny, thanks to a device she can use once to bring one person back from the dead. You leave for good so Clara can be happy. Then it’s all lies, tragedy, smashing of equipment – and Santa.

Death in Heaven is not as successful a landing as the set up of Dark Water was. A lot of it deals with a very uncomfortable scenario involving a reanimated Danny Pink corpse: his pain, his love of Clara, his distrust of the Doctor, his wanting to make his emotions go away. As much as I liked the character of Clara, she’s at her most unlikable here. The use of UNIT, the exchanges between Osgood and Missy, the Doctor and Missy, pretty much everyone and Missy are handled well here. The Doctor flying through the air toward his plummeting TARDIS, key in hand was pretty awesome. In the end, even with Danny saving the day and putting himself out of his misery, there’s not much “winning” here at all, though. There’s no happy ending whatsoever. The Brig is a Cyberman. That’s a nightmare. At least he saves the day, I guess. A bit. Kinda. Clara loses Danny for good. The Doctor doesn’t find Gallifrey after all. All in all, a sad, miserable ending to a series. But in this one instance, a showrunner does at least let a regular cast member die for good. Danny’s not coming back in some cheat. There should be some joy as Danny won the day against Missy, even if it was his last last living act, and letting the boy live as his last dying act. But for some reason, this time, there was absolutely no joy in Whoville. Even Santa didn’t help.

NEXT: What do you want for Christmas?

Rick Lundeen

Reviewed: Doctor Who Series 8 – The Man That Stops The Monsters

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 12 min
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