Our Vultures peck at new Doctor Who: Exterminate or, er ... carrion?

Peter Capaldi – best Time Lord yet, or worst?

Deep Breath episode Doctor Who

TV review

Brid-Aine says:

Ever since Doctor Who arrived back on Auntie Beeb screens, there has been a great divide in this country.

The Caretaker episode Doctor Who

Who you gonna call? Clara and Doctor Who in The Caretaker

On the one hand, those who knew and loved the old Doctors, their serious and gentlemanly deportment when faced with tin cans on wheels that can’t go up stairs and their total lack of romantic feeling towards female companions. On the other, those that favoured the new Doctors, young, brash, madcap lads that may or may not get off with the latest female companion but are certainly the recipient of some serious romantic inclinations from her side. Peter Capaldi was meant to save all that, to unite Whovians up and down the country with his elderly statesmen appearance married to a Malcolm Tucker-esque mental Scots attitude.

That is not what has happened. Whenever you set out to create a character that’s all about what they aren’t, rather than what they are, you end up with a character like the new Doctor Who, one that lacks depth, warmth and sheer likeability. Showrunner Steven Moffatt works so hard to tell us that the new Doctor is totally serious and not the least bit interested in the winsomely beautiful companion by his side that he ends up making him both ridiculous and a bit dull.

Throughout the first half of Series 8, his repeated comments on the appearance of Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara Oswald to the effect that she’s old or unattractive are utterly absurd. The Doctor is supposed to be uninterested in her romantically, not a blinkered idiot. Coleman is a beautiful woman and neutering the Doctor to the point where he can’t even objectively see that is just bizarre. Apparently, the only way Moffatt can imagine the Doctor wouldn’t be attracted to Clara is if he mistakenly believes she’s physically repulsive.

The new serious, quite angry Doctor has also taken quite a lot of the fun out of the whole time-travelling thing. Only in two episodes of the season so far – Robot of Sherwood and The Caretaker – has Capaldi been allowed to break out any significant portion of his considerable comedic talents. The rest of the time, it’s been doom and gloom and glowering around the Tardis like a petulant Victor Meldrew. Where’s the lust for life? The joy in exploring the Universe? The love of the Tardis and all its attendant adventures?

Robot of Sherwood episode Doctor Who

A bit of banter creeps in. Clara, Robin Hood and the Doctor in Robot of Sherwood

Poor Clara, touring the Universe with an unnecessarily angry idiot in tow – and poor Clara anyway, because her lot has not improved much either. The big problem with the character of Clara, despite Coleman gamely plugging away week after week, is that she’s been given no characteristics. When she was Matt Smith’s Impossible Girl, all that mystery papered over the cracks in her personality. Once that was over, she was revealed as an ordinary and rather uninteresting person, one who seemed to have nothing to offer Doctor Who.

Moffatt quickly spotted the issue – Clara was so mysterious, she had absolutely no back story. No friends, no family, no attendant companion-lite like Mickey or Rory, nothing. So he stuck her with a job at Coal Hill, of all places. Is the girl a figment of Doctor Who’s imagination? She’s like a woman-shaped plot point, for God’s sake.

In the last few episodes, he’s finally gone a little further and given her someone besides the Doctor to interact with, new boyfriend Danny. We can only hope that this gives Coleman something to actually get her teeth into and there were early signs in The Caretaker that the sparks between the Doctor, Danny and Clara could get very interesting indeed.

Played right, this could be the saving grace of the newest Doctor, taking the focus off how very uninterested in Clara he is and moving on to why he’s so angry, with some humorous banter on the side if we’re very lucky. Without it, Capaldi may have the dubious honour of going down in history as the worst modern Doctor yet, an accolade such a talented actor does not deserve.

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