It is a little more than halfway through Series 10 of Doctor Who, and we thought we’d check in with our review team to see what they thought about the last series of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. There are new relationships to explore with new character Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and the returning Nardole (Matt Lucas). How are they working out in Team TARDIS?
So here’s a collection of our opinions, thoughts and ideas. You don’t have to agree with us. We don’t agree with each other all the time either. Send us a note we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Richard Swain – Writer / Reviewer for Blogtor Who
If I were to describe Doctor Who Series 10 so far, it would be “a pleasant surprise”. Which, I must stress, is not to say that I went into it fearing the worst. I have very few major qualms with The Twelfth Doctor, Steven Moffat, or the state the show is currently in. In fact, I am one of the fans who thought Series 9 was a rip-roaring success – the 2015 run easily holds up as one of my favourites since the revival. However, even by those positive standards, Series 10 has left particularly good first impressions.
I think what I’ve enjoyed most this year is the consistency. It’s almost tradition that ever series has one absolute stinker, but we’re seven episodes in and no story yet has objectively been a dud. Even more unusual is that, on paper at least, the remaining five episodes all sound pretty promising too. If anything, I thought Smile was going to be this year’s disappointment. Emojibots, seriously? But in reality, it turned into one of my personal highlights. All hail the magic haddock!
Yet, I’d still hesitate to call this the best Twelfth Doctor series so far. While it’s been consistent, it’s been consistently ‘good’ – not necessarily ‘amazing’. With the possible exception of Extremis, I don’t feel any episode has quite hit the lofty heights of Listen or Heaven Sent. When Series 8 and 9 got good, they really got good. For me, Series 10 is yet to quite do the same, despite its better track record overall.
Maybe what’s left can change that though. (Time) Lord knows there’s still a lot more to come. At the very least we’ve got Ice Warriors, Rona Munro, John Simm, and the Cybermen. There is a very real danger of the multi-Master and Mondasian finale feeling over-bloated, but if they can pull it off in style, it’ll be a memorable finish to a spectacular season. Thankfully the (underwhelming) Vault mystery has already been dealt with, so that’s one big story arc safely out of the way.
Even so, all things considered, Series 10 has definitely gone down well. Going in, I was a little dubious about Bill, and even more so Nardole. Both have exceeded my expectations as new companions. Pearl Mackie is a star find, and Matt Lucas proves he can be more than just light comic relief. Plus Peter Capaldi is on top form as ever, mixing the best of his Series 8 and 9 portrayals. It’s just a shame we’ve only got six episodes of him left, Christmas included. He’s a class act and a phenomenal Doctor that the show will sorely miss when he regenerates. I’m just grateful that, even if everything goes horribly wrong from here on in, he’s had a few more decent stories to see him out.
Knock on wood (ahem), the future’s looking rosy. Let’s just hope that the quality holds up and the current Who team bow out in the blaze of glory that they deserve!
Bedwyr Gullidge – Writer / Reviewer for Blogtor Who
The tenth full series of Doctor Who since it’s return to our screens in 2005 was heavily promoted. It featured a new companion called Bill and was ventured into with the knowledge that it would be Peter Capaldi’s last as the Twelfth Doctor. Capaldi has of course been consistently marvellous throughout, and it is such a shame that this will be his final series. Frankly, this is the second series that he deserved, such is the strength of the storytelling thus far. Although Nardole started as a bit of comic relief and a constant reminder about the Vault, there is much more to him than that. Unfortunately, we only get flashes of that as so far he remains largely inconsistent. Dominating the early half of Series10 was, however, the new companion, Bill Potts.
‘The Pilot’ provided a solid start to Series 10, and the momentum was maintained week after week with strong stories. Bill was a breath of fresh air. It felt so refreshing to have a new companion with no previous connection to The Doctor. No ‘Girl who waited’. No ‘Impossible Girl’. Just a normal human girl discovering The Doctor’s world for the first time. It really was the ideal entry point after no full series of Doctor Who since 2015.
‘Smile’ although a bit dull and generic provided plenty of screen time for the blossoming new Doctor and companion dynamic. The Emojibots, that I had reservations about beforehand, were a strong idea. Although they couldn’t move fast, the classic Doctor Who monster dilemma, killing through a hug was also classic Who. Similarly, the concept that computer software would be incapable of understanding human emotion was smart and different.
My highlight thus far has been ‘Thin Ice’. The mix of a historical environment and excellent set design coupled with the powerful political allegory impressed me greatly. ‘Knock Knock’ was an experimental episode which explored the role which sound can be utilised on a TV episode to unnerve. Although the plot creaked as much as the woodwork, the horror of student accommodation was certainly a unique plot device, and David Suchet stole the show with his performance. ‘Oxygen’ again presented some intriguing concepts, namely that oxygen might become a valuable commodity. Of course, the episode concluded with a dramatic revelation which would leave The Doctor particularly vulnerable in ‘Extremis’.
Unfortunately, things have taken a nosedive with the Monk trilogy presented thus far. Although I enjoyed the simulation concept on first viewing the more I thought about it, the more it unravelled. ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ also left me frustrated. Both episodes proved to be nothing more than a setup for a dystopian Earth story with the Monks in control of Earth, an event I’m very much looking forward to watching. There is still plenty more to get excited by with the latter half of the series to feature the return of John Simm’s Master, Ice Warriors and the original Cybermen from Mondas.
Susan Hewitt – Editor / Owner of Blogtor Who
We’re seven episodes into Peter Capaldi’s last series as the Doctor, and it has been a stellar one. And while my favourite episode of the Twelfth Doctor’s era is still Heaven Sent, Series 10 is rapidly becoming my favourite series for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Quite simply, it has been a strong and solid set of episodes with some brilliant writing and exemplary acting from the three leads.
Nardole, who I must admit I found somewhat irksome in his debut episode The Husbands of River Song, has quickly grown on me. He is much more than the slapstick comic relief that he originally appears as. Instead, he has become the Doctor’s conscience and his keeper. Though you’ll have to admit he is the dogsbody, he has the special role as “the one person with permission to kick the Doctor’s ass.” The result is that Nardole 2.0 is an important character for the Doctor and even more humorous to boot.
Bill Potts, portrayed with impeccable skill by Pearl Mackie, is just what the show needed. Bill is someone that the audience can relate to. She’s not model beautiful (although I would say Pearl Mackie herself is stunning and graceful). She’s like an awkward giraffe. She’s smart but not beyond the reach of the audience. In short, we can see ourselves as Bill.
The relationship between the Doctor and Bill works. They are not equals. The Doctor is definitely the teacher and Bill is the eager-to-learn student. But they both teach each other. Doctor Who succeeds when the Doctor makes people better; when he takes someone who is lost in one way or another and makes them see their own potential. In turn, the companion makes the Doctor see the wonder of everything again.
As I said before, this has been a season of solid hits. The Pilot was a smart, clever and tight introduction to a new companion and all things Doctor Who. It hit all the right notes. Followed quickly by the relationship building Smile and historical Thin Ice, it was one of the best starts to a new season in recent years. Knock, Knock with David Suchet took a simple concept and built a truly creepy horror tale with a human soul. Oxygen returned peril to Doctor Who. There is a price for everything and real consequences.
That just leaves the Monk Trilogy. Doctor Who always has a bit of wobble with two and three parters. The build-up generally leaves a twinge of disappointment at the conclusion. But certainly, we have had a strong start with the first two episodes. Extremis added a new spin on the “this didn’t really happen” scenario, one that left a satisfying comfort for the viewer. Credit goes to the simulate Doctor, who was most definitely the Doctor regardless of how many algorithms when into his pixels. There was a slight dip with The Pyramid at the End of the World mainly because it was completely unbelievable that Bill didn’t realise the Doctor remained blind. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how The Lie of the Land plays out.
My final words of this mid-season summary must be for Peter Capaldi. This is the last series before he moves on. He will be missed. I enjoyed Doctor Who during Matt Smith’s reign, but he just didn’t quite capture my heart as the Doctor. Peter Capaldi has been different. He hit all the right notes and found his own way to the role when he arrived on a tank, in shades playing the Doctor Who theme on an electric guitar. As someone who grew up watching the series in the 70’s, he has quite simply embodied what it means to be the Doctor. The alienness, compassion and the soul of the madman in the blue box. (It doesn’t hurt that he loves David Bowie as well.)
So onward and up through to the last episodes of series 10. There’s still more to come.