In 2016, it was announced that there was going to be a change in showrunner for Doctor Who. Steven Moffat will be leaving the show after 2017, being involved in the set-up since the series was revived back in 2005. Soon after series 10 was announced, Peter Capaldi also announced that he would be leaving the show in this years Christmas special to. With a complete overhaul impending, this season presented the opportunity for Capaldi and Moffat to both go out on a high after their years of service.
Season 10 starts off with The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) working at university, guarding a secret vault he hides in the basement. In the first few seconds we are introduced to the new companion, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), a student at the university. Straight away you can tell she is younger and more “in with the times” than any of the previous companions. The way she talks, walks and acts all resemble the youth of today. This works so well with Capaldi’s older version of The Doctor, seeing him react and respond to Bill is just great to watch.
They inevitably form a bond which sets them off on their series of adventures. Now like season 9, there wasn’t really any season long plots which every other season has had. While doing this can assist with the build up to the finale, helping the pay-off, not doing it can allow the episodes to become their own thing and serve up a genuine surprise at the end of the season. Both methods have proven to work but I think with the return of The Master (John Simm) being announced, this was the best choice as it gave the finale the attention it needed.
Something that really impressed me about this season, was the quality and consistency of episodes. Usually I will come out of a season of Doctor Who and think to myself, “there were two or three crap episodes there”. However this season, while some episodes were stronger than others, there weren’t any bad episodes, the weakest episode (The Eaters Of Light) was still fairly entertaining. The best episodes for me, came in the form of the Monk trilogy and the brilliant two part finale.
Doctor Who has really aced the storytelling and drama aspect this season, using Bill for a lot of the heart of the story. This was perfectly on show in the two part season finale. Bill gets turned into a Cyberman and you feel her pain and distraught when she finds out. When The Doctor tells there’s nothing that can be done, your heart drops, she is undeniably likeable and very easy to form a connection with, which is what makes this so devastating.
With that overhaul I mentioned taking place soon and the new showrunner wanting a clean slate, the season finale gave most of our characters their endings. We finally find out how The Master turns into Missy when she stabs him (herself, I know it’s weird) only to be killed by him (herself. Yes, I know) in return. This wraps everything up for the character as a whole perfectly, The Master even says it himself, “we stab ourselves in the back”. Nardole is given a fitting ending, taking on from The Doctor by continuing to help people, summing up the effect The Doctors had on him brilliantly. Bill is saved by Heather from the first episode which slots in perfectly with this as that was the moment we all fell in love with Bill. She goes off with Heather to see the universe but not before giving a heartfelt goodbye to the Doctor. This gave me that surreal feeling that there was no going back, that everything was coming to an end.
All that was left was for The Doctor to regenerate to seal everything off. That surreal feeling only became stronger as I watched The Doctor try so hard not to regenerate; harder than ever before. The final moments are intense as you don’t know whether it’s going to happen or not. The Doctor manages to put it off for a bit longer only to be surprised by the first Doctor! This sets up the Christmas special where Capaldi will actually say goodbye to the show.
Even with great drama and storytelling, Doctor Who needs great performances. Without this, the show will fall flat instantly due to it being character driven rather than story. This is why more attention is placed on the casting of this show than most. Fortunately the cast shines in this season. Capaldi has come such a long way since he first started out. I found it hard to get behind him in season 8, he just didn’t feel like the Doctor. Season 9 marked a new chapter though, his development all the way through season 8 helped him to reach that point where he finally became The Doctor, his own Doctor. Pearl Mackie shines as the new companion, bringing realism to the show like never before. Someone who I was worried about for season 10 was Matt Lucas. I didn’t think he was going to fit the style of the show and I thought that he was going to be near insufferable, when in fact he was actually brilliant. He added a new type of comedy into the show while still going with the grain of it. Michelle Gomez and (the returning) John Simm were both brilliant as their respective versions of The Master, showing great chemistry while being complete opposites of each other.
It’s undoubtedly sad to see all these characters go but this has happened plenty of times before and it’s always turned out just fine. It’s always bittersweet when it comes to Doctor Who, I’m excited for the big change but I don’t want to see Capaldi go. Nonetheless, it’s been a joy to watch Capaldi as the Doctor and see him go out with a great final season.