Uncollected Thoughts: Dr Who series 8 finale – part 1

The Impossible (to believe in) Girl

It began so well.

I like Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I liked the opening episode of the series. But I’ve liked each succeeding episode of this series a little less, each week, to the point where, even though I can objectively say that the first half of this year’s finale was excellent, I felt little or nothing during it. No surprise at the revelation that the Cybermen were back, given that that had leaked so much that someone as determined as I am to avoid spoilers was aware of it. Not even surprised that Missy is the Master, picking up on the tease flung out by Neil Gaiman in series 6 about how Timelords can change gender.

Nor moved by the central motivating issue that set this story into motion: Danny’s dead. Dead, knocked down and killed by a car whilst crossing the road, because he was concentrating on what Clara had just told him: that she loved him, and she really meant it.

That raised a hurdle that the show couldn’t clear. No, not a hurdle, but a barrier. Because Clara put it in absolute terms, terms of such devotion and commitment as we all dream of hearing being spoken to us and I didn’t believe a word of it. In fact I didn’t believe a syllable of it. They were words written by someone who has felt that true, unbelievable emotion but I have not seen a single thing this series that but an atom of belief into me that Clara felt like that towards the man she has consistently cheated and lied to, with whom she has shared no even plastic romantic moment, has never confided anything with openness and honesty.

Shot through as many feet as are needed to cripple a centipede, the episode’s driving force didn’t stand an earthly.

In fact, it is Clara and how she has behaved throughout this series that has slowly drained away my enthusiasm. Each week, she has been consistently and increasingly stupid, self-willed, self-important and blazingly ignorant of what the fuck she has gotten herself mixed up with now, until the point when the Doctor takes over and shows up how idiotic she’s been behaving and she doesn’t learn a single thing. I’ve slagged off Moffat before for an underlying misoginy in both Sherlock and Doctor Who at different times, but this has been ridiculous.

And all the while people have been leaping around with joy at these stories and praising Jenna Coleman to high heaven, and I’ve been wondering what for. After all, she had decided that she had found her One, the last man, person, thing, she would ever say ‘I love you’ to, but she had to very specificly tell him this on the phone and not in person, for no easily discernible reason than that it was a supposedly clever way to get him killed.

After that, I was on no sympathy with anything in the episode, which was a shame because, a few seriously unwise stabs at jokes by Chris Addison aside, it was probably excellent, written and played well by all. That final scene, where Danny first tries to convince Clara that he is the real Danny, then tries to keep her from coming after him, into death herself, reached a stunningly good conclusion when Clara exploded and threatened to cut off the connection if he told her he loved her one more time, and Danny, after a pause that felt like a lifetime, brokenly whispered it in a voice, and with a deliberation that convinced even me that he did, truly, feel that deeply for her. But I was a long way from being able to feel that scene as it deserved: had I not been so removed conviction, I am certain there would have been tears.

Next week, the series is all over, and so is Jenna Coleman. I shall miss her chirpy face and the pageboy bob, and the opaque tights when she’s wearing the short skirts, but to be honest, I’ve had enough of her. Moffat’s Doctor has been the only one of the New Who I’ve enjoyed, but in this series we’ve gone back full circle to what I didn’t like about the first series of the revival. I’d rather have Jenna Coleman than Billie Piper any day, but I do not want to watch a Doctor Who that’s all about the bloody assistant and her journey.

I think it’s time for Moffat to move on. I’d like to see another mind at work. If nothing else, it would give me a decent excuse to drop out because my enthusiasm is dying on its feet.

5 thoughts on “Uncollected Thoughts: Dr Who series 8 finale – part 1

  1. Yeah, I get where you’re coming from with this, even if I would push back against some of your points. The problem, I think, is that Danny and Clara’s relationship wasn’t fleshed out in enough detail. So when she confesses her love halfway through the series, it doesn’t quite feel earned. Moffat never had RTD’s deftness with character work, but Amy and Rory’s relationship was extremely well handled. They even had an entire episode dedicated to studying the dynamic between the three (Toby Jones was in it, and it was glorious). Conceptually, after her void of personality in S7, what Moffat wanted to do with Clara here makes sense as well. She has this growing addiction to travelling throughout time and space to the point that it’s damaging her relationship. That’s a pretty solid foundation, and nowhere near ‘Sherlock’ levels of wonkiness when it comes to gender politics. She actually has agency and an arc outside of The Doctor unlike RTD’s companions. It’s just a shame that the actual execution is just a bit weak.

    Still, Capaldi is outstanding, as are some of the episodes. The one with the 2d monsters is one of the most ingenious in the show’s entire history. So it’s not a total loss.

    1. If they’d let Clara just BE the impossible Girl, be the girl who intervened everywhere in the Doctor’s long and convoluted life, she would have been perfect. She would have been exactly who she was and who she was meant to be. But because Moffat fell in love with her as a character, and besides couldn’t let her be more important than the Doctor, she had to be extended into a new unthought out role in which she was just thick as pigshit and unbearably self-centred. I will never watch this period of Doctor Who again, because of her.

      1. She is undoubtedly a terrible girlfriend to Mr. Pink, considering how often she lies to him. Lying is awful. It damages everything in one’s life. But studies suggest that the public lies constantly. It’s not an uncommon flaw. And…well, is it so surprising that being The Impossible Girl would go to someone’s head? She inspired The Doctor to save his home planet in ‘The Day of the Doctor’? I’m not saying the show actually played that card, but I don’t think Moffat was off his rocker or misogynistic with this idea. With better execution, it could’ve worked.

  2. Won’t be going back to reconsider. At this time, the only periodsof Doctor Who I’d consider rewatching are early Smith – i.e., Karen Gillan – or that part of Patrick Troughton (if any of it exists) with Wendy Padbury. Reason identical in both cases.

    1. Just fire up Series 5 again. I have the feeling you’ll instantly be back in. The early Smith stuff holds up incredibly well to this day.

      I really like lots of 60s Who. It’s in some ways aged better than the stuff in color. The horrid production values….well, they really show then! The bubble wrap monsters are a bit obvious, haha.

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