“This isn’t you.”
– Clara Oswald
Throughout his tenure as showrunner of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat has implemented a high risk/high reward style of writing. His stories are bombastic and full of energy, which makes the series’ highs feel especially high. The lows, however, can give you pause to start questioning what you’ve been watching and to start poking holes in a narrative that usually moves too fast to offer much reflection.
Last season, as a whole, felt like a bit of a low. It took the writers and Peter Capaladi longer than it should have to find his footing as the new Doctor and the season overall felt forgettable and bland (even with a premiere that featured a dinosaur loose in Victorian England). People began turning on Clara. Others began wondering if the show wouldn’t be better served with someone new at the top.
But amazingly, all of that seems like a distant memory after a confident, fun season premiere. Whatever struggles Moffat and Capaldi had last season seem to be ironed out, at least for one episode. The premiere was full of life and wonderful twists and turns and Capaldi seemed very much at home in the role of the madman in the box. I especially loved his shtick inside the arena, playing an electric guitar, riding a tank and making jokes that no one there could possibly understand. He was, without question, the Doctor.
It was a wise move to bring back Missy, as well. Problems with last season aside, Michelle Gomez’s portrayal of the classic Who villain is truly wonderful and I was pleasantly surprised that they wasted no time bringing her back. (Of course, in true Moffat style, very little explanation was offered about how she came back, though I suppose I can hold out hope that is revealed in future episodes.) Missy’s sitdown with Clara hit all of the right notes (and I hope even Clara defectors will admit that Jenna Coleman did a great job going toe-to-toe with Gomez in that scene) and I like her uneasy alliance with the Doctor, which we all know is destined to end badly.
I am a bit concerned about the way the episode ended. We saw Missy and Clara gunned down and the TARDIS destroyed, then a final shot of the Doctor aiming a gun at little Davros, ready to pull the trigger. (That final scene raises the question: if the TARDIS was destroyed, how did the Doctor travel back to that moment?) Obviously, no part of me believes Missy and Clara are actually dead (even with the news that Coleman is leaving the show), so Moffat gave himself a big, complicated mess to sort out next week. It can’t be as simple as him gunning down child Davros and I seriously doubt he will do anything that prevents the Daleks from ever being created (since the show won’t ever abandon them completely), so somehow the Doctor has to alter things just enough to save his friends without ever undoing the show’s previously-established mythology.
Whatever happens next, I was just happy to have a season premiere I could be really excited about. Moffat seems back to form and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
And another thing …
- Colony Sarff is a great new character; one that instantly seemed menacing and creepy. I hope we seem a lot more of the colony in the future.
- Also delightfully disturbing were the hand mines. Sometimes it’s hard to believe this is a kid’s show.
- Missy claiming that she’s been friends with the Doctor “since he was a little girl” seemed like a playful little nod to all of the people who want to see a female Doctor. Moffat certainly seems open to the idea, though who knows whether it will ever actually happen or not. (My vote still goes to Haley Atwell.)
- The Daleks blowing up the TARDIS so easily really seemed to break continuity to me. Moffat tried to dismiss it with a glib joke from Missy about men lying about vehicles, but it seems pretty well established that the TARDIS is impenetrable. Otherwise, why wouldn’t the Daleks have blown it up with the Doctor inside long ago?
- I also wonder about Davros having the Sonic Screwdriver this whole time. He’s never tried to use it? It seems like it would give him the upper hand in all of his previous encounters with the Doctor.
Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org