It’s been over a week since Doctor Who’s season 8 wrapped up in an emotional flurry. You are probably feeling a little lost, with no new episodes to look forward to, so we shall instead recap and savor the last few episodes!
If you are anything like some of us at MOARGeek (guilty), perhaps you fell into that mid-season slump, maybe some seasonal occupational busyness came up, maybe a vacation on top of that, and maybe you just fell behind in keeping up with Doctor Who after diligently watching the first half of the season. Maybe then you ended up binge watching the last five episodes (Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline, In the Forest of the Night, Dark Water, and Death in Heaven) and it was probably fantastic! Personally, as a spoiled television viewer, the binge watching was by far a much more pleasant experience, especially given the emotionally tumultuous season ending. Taking in the entire end of the season really kept the storyline flowing and the impact consistent across the board. There was no time to nitpick each episode individually, you took it all in and rather than feel like individual stars in a constellation, the episodes were strokes on the canvas of the beautiful picture being painted by the actors and writers of the stories.
Mummy on the Orient Express set things up nicely, even though the plot storyline felt disconnected from the happenings between the characters. For Clara and the Doctor’s last hurrah, the tension was palpable but there was a certain awkwardness that drew away from the episode more than it helped. The monster was a great twist on a classic murder mystery tale, even with Twelve’s ego showing so blatantly.
The best monster of the whole season, at least the best new monster, comes in the next episode, Flatline. Two dimensional beings perhaps just trying to understand a three dimensional world? Think again, these creatures were brutal monsters that took a whole dimension out of people, learned what they could, and then sent the assimilated victims out to hunt down more victims! Definitely a (somewhat) welcome new face to the growing list of enemies for the Doctor, Flatline was a great straight Doctor and companion vs. monster show. Unfortunately, due to the monsters massive energy seeping from nearby things, it was really Clara’s episode to shine and be everything the Doctor had taught her how to be. While she pulled it off, the whole backstory of Clara keeping her adventures with the Doctor a secret from Danny was somewhat over-dramatized.
Naturally, this over-dramatization gets even further put into the spotlight in the next episode – In the Forestof the Night. As Danny and Clara are ending a school sleep over at the local museum, they exit the building only to discover London has been taken over by trees! Dun, dun, DUN! The magic doesn’t begin until the Doctor shows up and Danny puts the clues together – he and Clara have been out adventuring without Danny’s knowledge and he’s understandably hurt by it all. The trees end up being the good guys in the episode, protecting the ungrateful and oblivious human race from a horrible solar storm that could wipe out the planet, but due to the build up of oxygen and fire-resistant foliage, the trees take the brunt of the damage and continue to keep the planet intact while the Doctor’s character development and Clara’s commitment to Danny were really the notable key points of the show.
Clara and Danny’s relationship is what brings the next episode, the first part of the season finale, Dark Water about. Truly one of the most (if not the most) powerful episode of the season, Danny Pink is struck by a car and dies while Clara is about to confess everything she’s been holding back from Danny, including her unconditional love. Her buried bitterness and rage shows through her apathetic guise when she threatens the Doctor with destroying all of the TARDIS keys in order to make him go back in time to save Danny. While almost committing one of the cheapest and worst writing tricks ever, after Clara throws all the keys into the lava it’s revealed that the whole scene was just a figment of her imagination while she was under the influence of the sleeping drug she tried to use on the Doctor. Knowing how dedicated she was to her convictions, the Doctor dismisses her betrayal as if it doesn’t matter and takes her to the afterlife, or wherever the TARDIS detects that Danny is through his and Clara’s telepathic link.
While the Doctor and Clara are on the hunt for Danny, we come to find that he’s in Heaven and being processed by one of Missy’s cronies. As the Doctor and Clara get close, Missy’s mysterious part in everything is revealed – she’s been uploading people’s conscious just before they die and turning their bodies into Cybermen, quietly growing an army to one day rise and create a whole world of Cybermen, and ultimately eliminate, or upgrade, mankind entirely.
Clara finds Danny but he’s sadly already been transformed into a Cyberman in Death in Heaven. The only problem is that his emotion circuit hasn’t been disabled so he still has feelings, and a lot of sad ones at that. Clara struggles with trying to help Danny but not lose the love of her life as the Doctor reveals the true Missy – a regeneration of The Master. Missy’s plans go better than she could expect, until Danny throws a wrench into everything and through his true love for Clara, destroys both Missy’s plans and the Cyberarmy that took centuries for Missy to create.
Dark Water was by far and away the more powerful of the season finale episodes, bringing out the devotion between Clara and Danny that had been underlying their relationship all along. The Doctor and Clara’s relationship also went to the next level as his care for her overrode her sudden but inevitable betrayal. Heart-string-pulling in ways only the Doctor could, the series 8 finale episodes brought closure to Missy’s story and an opening in the Doctor’s story, to potentially get fully out of Eleven’s shadow if Clara is truly not continuing on with him. However, all of that potential remains to be seen.
Throughout these five episodes, Peter Capaldi continued to shine and show his grit as the Doctor developed from a bitter, cruel, old man that needed a “carer” to care for people because he couldn’t be bothered, to a slightly less bitter, old man with a much more hidden compassionate side than his previous regenerations had been. Without losing his street cred for being darker and more practical than his predecessors, he was able to bring just the right amount of levity and emotion into situations as they called for it, exposing the Twelfth Doctor’s sensitive side in an expert fashion.
Clara went from being Eleven’s great mystery and very childlike companion to a complex woman that connected a very bitter Doctor to humanity and also loved a war-torn soldier. She very much grew into herself and matured throughout her time in Twelve’s stories, and it could even be argued that the entire season was almost more focused around her than the Doctor. Many times it was up to Clara to make connections and do the dirty work while the Doctor ran off to suddenly come up with a brilliant idea he cooked up because of something Clara said or found or did.
Danny Pink, a tragedy all around, was unfortunately too removed from the story throughout the season to really be a huge impact to viewers. We were sad for Danny but far from feeling the devastation of a companion’s loss. But, Danny was never really a true companion. In fact, he was the opposite of a Doctor’s companion, he actively chose to not go with the Doctor and Clara on adventures throughout time and space. His traveling days were over and he was more than happy to be a home-body on Earth, during the time he was supposed to, to make good on the life he had left and try to repay back the terrible things he had done in his past life as a soldier.
More than anything, I think Osgood’s death (asthma girl with the bowtie and the long scarf) was far more brutal than Danny’s. The thought-to-be-death of Kate Stewart was another surprise and heart wrencher, until we found out she was actually saved by her father, as a Cyberman. The salute between he and the Doctor said so much more than any amount of words could convey, the writing of the characters was hauntingly on point and a testament to Moffat’s dedication as his role in crafting those scenes.
There are many questions left unanswered – if Danny is gone, how does Orson Pink from the Listen episode play into the grand scheme of things now? We left the Doctor and Clara at an awkward goodbye scene, both lying to each other about happy lives that were not waiting for them, will the writers continue down that path or will we end up seeing Clara again? The Christmas special promises to bring her back, but how long will she stay, if she does?
Regardless, season 8 was far from a blemish in the Whoverse and has very nicely set up Capaldi to continue his masterful portrayal of the Twelfth Doctor. The writing, while much ediger and darker as was promised, did not disappoint as a whole and will hopefully bring more opportunities for Capaldi (and whoever his future companions end up being) to shine.
What did you think of Season 8? Are you ready to see Clara go or do you want her to stay?