Discussing Doctor Who: Season 10 Review

Doctor Who Season 10

Doctor Who season 10 is over, so Kevin and I are here to discuss the highs and lows. We’ll be back in December after the Christmas episode.

Kevin Harvey is the author of All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture and a fellow Whovian who enjoys watching and breaking down the latest adventures of the Doctor. You can follow him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.

Previously this season, we stumbled through “The Doctor Falls,” handled “World Enough and Time,” devoured “The Eaters of Light,” rebelled against “The Empress of Mars” rebuffed “The Lie of the Land,” felt fine at “The Pyramids at the End of the World,” went to the extreme in “Extremis,” breathed in “Oxygen,” opened the door of “Knock Knock,” stepped out on “Thin Ice,” emoted about “Smile,” and navigated “The Pilot.”

What is your overall impression of season 10?

Kevin: I got into this last week a little, but I’ll just continue my thoughts here. At the beginning of the season, we picked out some similarities between Bill and Donna Noble.

And now, it would appear they have some commonalities at the end of the season too, specifically they only lasted one season. And both seasons led to the Doctor’s regeneration as well.

But my main point in comparing the two companions as well as their seasons is that though there are some strong stories in both of them, with epic finales in each of the two seasons, overall the two seasons were just average in my opinion.

And I feel that in a couple of years, I’ll treat reruns of season 10 like I do season 4—I’ll tend to skip over them so as to enjoy the stronger seasons of Doctor Who.

By far the best parts of season 10 were the moments with Missy. I will miss Michelle Gomez greatly and will never forget the opening scene of “World Enough and Time” where she is pretending to be “Doctor Who.”

Gomez and Capaldi worked as well together as Matt Smith and Alex Kingston. I suppose it’s only fitting that we are saying goodbye to both of them at the same time. I hope the next Doctor is also given a counterpart to play off of as well as these two did.

But the weakest part of the season for me was the writing in general. I think so many of the episodes can be summed up by “great idea, weak carryout.”

It’s almost as though the writers weren’t always certain how they wanted the stories to end when they started them, so they just rushed it at the end when they realized they were nearing the 40-minute mark.

There were many opening scenes during the season that held me in suspense, only to be disappointed by the weak conclusions.

In the end, I’d give the season a B-, which would’ve been much worse had it not been saved some by Capaldi and Gomez.

Aaron: A B- seems generous after so much criticism you (and I) leveled against the show most weeks, but I think it speaks to our love of the show. It’s better than most everything else on TV, but we want it to be as good as it can possible be.

And I may be there with you. I could see a B- or anything from a C- to a B+, depending on how heavily you rate the performances of the actors versus the strength of the writing and stories.

As you said, the acting was phenomenal from top to bottom, particularly the leads—the Doctor, Bill, Nardole and Missy. The writing was so-so, with some interesting creative ideas with not enough weight to carry them much farther.

How would you sum up Peter Capaldi’s run as the Doctor with only his impending regeneration remaining?

Aaron: I’m not sure Capaldi was the best Doctor since the reboot of the series in 2005, but he has probably been the best actor portraying the Doctor in that time.

He was an interesting choice to begin with for numerous reasons: he had been on the show before, he was older than the previous three actors, he seemed angrier when the story seemed to move toward a Doctor with less weighing them down.

He came on to the show immediately following the revelation that Gallifrey had been saved and the Time Lords were not all wiped out. The Doctor suddenly did not have the weight of genocide on his shoulders, yet Capaldi’s Doctor seemed to more brusque than any previous version.

But, as I wrote about last week, we saw a transition of his character during his three seasons. More than any previous Doctor, he grew into the role and grew as a character. He seemed driven by the question of whether he was a good man and then determined to prove in fact he was.

The thing I will remember most about the Twelfth Doctor are his iconic speeches. Without an actor of Capaldi’s caliber they could have come across as cheesy, but he gave them such serious weight. I will miss those speeches.

Kevin: Let me first say that I completely agree with you about Capaldi being the best actor to portray the Doctor. Now let me make fun of you, me, and every other Whovian who may agree.

It has become almost sacrilegious to suggest anything other than David Tennant not being the best Doctor of the relaunch. But if Capaldi is “the best actor” to portray the Doctor, plus I’ve heard many agree with me that the Matt Smith seasons were overall the best, then why are we being so careful not to take Tennant down just a notch?

I don’t know, that’s a discussion for another day. Let’s just say that all three were magnificent, including Capaldi.

As I said above, Capaldi saved what could’ve been a much worse season with his incredible acting chops. I will never forget some of his conversations throughout the years, including in “Kill the Moon,” “The Zygon Inversion,” and “Dark Water.”

At first glance you might look at the older Capaldi and think that humor would be his weak point, but in fact his ability to deliver the zingers written for him were probably one of his biggest strengths.

Based on what we saw from him in his roles on Torchwood and in his previous Doctor Who stint, I would not have guessed he could’ve handled humor so perfectly. But perhaps he was actually the perfect actor to handle the scripts and character arc given him.

We only had one season of Bill and slightly more from Nardole. What do make of these companions despite the (apparently?) short time we had with them?

Kevin: To put it succinctly, I’ll miss Nardole, but not Bill. I actually thought Pearl Mackie was great in the role, much more so than I initially thought she’d be after “The Pilot.” But it was her character that I just never cared for as much as I have previous companions.

Like I said last week, I think so much of this season could’ve been made better had the storyline included Clara’s final season as well, and not a first, only, and last season of an all-new companion.

It’s almost as though Moffat wanted to finally do one season with a homosexual companion before he left, so he just threw together this Bill character, preached to us a little, and then sent her on her marry way. I wonder if that is actually more of a disservice to the agenda than a way to help it.

When “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” aired last Christmas, however, I was completely surprised to find Nardole traveling with the Doctor and then thrilled once again to find him still around come “The Pilot.” In a season with a weaker companion (at least in my opinion), Nardole was a great bonus companion to have along for the ride.

Though Missy referred to him as “Comic Relief,” he actually ended up being much more than that. I loved the way he stood opposed to the Doctor whenever he tried leaving the vault or relaxing a bit with Missy.

And his role in saving everyone, at least for a little while, was a great way to end his story. I would not be opposed in the least if the Doctor ever crosses paths with Nardole again.

Aaron: You’re right in what we said earlier about this season will probably one that many skip over when they’re rewatching Doctor Who. When I’ve thought about updating my post on 30 episodes of Doctor Who to watch, I’ve wondered how many from this season I’d add—probably not many.

I say all that to say, I’m disappointed with that situation because I believe both Nardole and Bill were fantastic companions. They both served their role extraordinarily well.

Nardole was the comic relief who became so much more. Bill was the bright eyed college student begging to fly on the TARDIS who became a girl strong enough to resist mind-control, shoot the Doctor, and leave him for her own adventure.

Both accomplished a lot with a limited run, so I hope it’s not lost.

Which episode was your favorite this season?

Aaron: This may play into the next question about the most disappointing episode, but my favorite episode would probably be “Extremis.” That was such a tremendous storyline with a great swerve that opened the door for so many possibilities.

Obviously, the last two episodes were great, especially “World Enough and Time.” Out of the other standalone episodes, I really enjoyed “Thin Ice” and “The Eaters of Light,” and even “The Pilot.”

Kevin: I’ll have to go with “Extremis” as well. Every now and then there is a random non-premiere, non-finale episode that really surprises you with how great it is.

“Blink” and “Listen” are two others that come to mind. (Hmmm… maybe there’s something about the one-word titles.)

Extremis” was one of those for me, except as we’ve mentioned previously, it fell a bit from its greatness after the disappointing conclusion to the Monks storyline. But the episode alone was as good as it gets.

Most of the other episodes were merely average for me, with the exception of the two-part conclusion of course. I would probably hold “Oxygen” up a little better than others, because it went back to the old formula of a scrambling-around Doctor trying to figure out a plan to save everyone.

The only disappointment was that the space zombies weren’t the villains in the end; rather it was the humans back home controlling their suits.

What was the most disappointing episode for you?

Kevin: Undoubtedly, it’s “Empress of Mars.” It was clearly the worst episode of recent memory, but to the question, it was also extremely disappointing.

What a cool opening scene at NASA, ended with a classic look of intrigue and surprise on the Doctor’s face when the message “God Save the Queen” is found written on the ground of Mars. But then…. I don’t want to get into it again. It was just terrible.

Aaron: Your burning passion against “Empress of Mars” is similar to how much you hated “Sleep No More” last year. At this point, I wonder which you hate more.

While I agree with you that “Empress” was a bad episode, I don’t think it was the most disappointing.

For me, because of how great “Extremis” was and to some extent “The Pyramid at the End of the World,” “The Lie of the Land” was the most disappointing because it had promise and even was enjoyable on my initial viewing, but it didn’t hold up. At all.

So much of that should’ve been great, but it ended so flat. Because of the promise, it disappointed me the most.

What are you looking forward to most next season?

Aaron: I know Steven Moffat can be controversial among some Whovians, but I have appreciated his run on the show. Moffat brought us Weeping Angels, Rory and Amy Pond, Clara, and Missy. He has left the show in a great place.

That being said, I think it is time for a new person at the helm and a new approach. Just like it has served the show well to replace the lead actor, I think it has been just as beneficial to bring in new showrunners with new ideas and fresh approaches.

For both you and I, this season disappointed. We expected more from Moffat’s last run, but maybe instead of a sprint across the finish line, it was an exhausted stumble. I imagine leading Doctor Who (along with all of his other projects) is a consuming task and we all have a limit on how much creativity we can do.

Oncoming Chris Chibnall is the perfect one to take the baton on the next leg of the Doctor Who Race. He has written several episodes already, as Moffat had done. He was the head writer and co-producer of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. Needless to say, he is a fan and knows the world of the Doctor.

Also, his most recent television project Broadchurch (starring former Doctor David Tennant) is my absolute favorite show on television. There is such crisp writing, attention to detail, intense storylines and phenomenal character development—all of which will serve him well as he takes over Doctor Who.

So, I’m looking forward to what Chibnall is going to do with the show and the new things he is going to try.

Kevin: I’m right there with you on Broadchurch. I was the biggest Lost geek of all time, even writing a chapter on it in my pop culture book. But assuming this third and final season of Broadchurch doesn’t disappoint, I think it is my new all-time favorite show. So having Chibnall running Doctor Who can only mean great things in my opinion.

With a new showrunner, I’m sure there will be tons of new introductions given to us, obviously a new Doctor and companion to start it off. And I definitely want to see what he has to add to the universe.

I only hope that he doesn’t forget about many of the fan favorites and that we’re allowed to revisit some oldies but goodies. Such as Weeping Angels, Ashildr, even Captain Jack Harkness.

We know we’ll always get some Daleks and Cybermen thrown in every now and then, but Moffat did such a great job giving us many other memorable villains and side characters; I’d love to see some of them again.

What are your favorite quotes from this year?

Kevin:

“I am that mysterious adventurer of all time and space known only as Doctor Who, and these are my disposables, Exposition and Comic Relief.” – Missy

“The universe shows its true face when it asks for help. We show ours by how we respond.” — The Doctor

“Without our help, planet Earth is doomed.” — Monk
“Yes, well, it’s been doomed before. Guess what happened? Me.” — the Doctor

“Can you hack them?” — the Doctor
“Of course I can. I’m not just sexy.” — Nardole

Aaron: Note, I let you go first in choosing your favorites.

“The universe shows its true face when it asks for help. We show ours by how we respond.” — The Doctor

“Regency England … a bit more black than they show in the movies.” — Bill
“So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.” — the Doctor

“Where there’s tears, there’s hope.” — both the Doctor and Bill

“It’s called charm.” — Nardole
“Yeah, I’m against charm.” — Doctor
“We all know that.” — Nardole

“Only Time Lords can be friends. The rest is cradle-robbing.” — Missy

What was your most important spiritual takeaway from the season as a whole?

Aaron: I would say this season speaks toward the hope of redemption—not only its hope, but also its reality. We can get bogged down in so much of the negative swirling around us that we miss the beauty of redemption.

Watching Doctor Who, you can become lost in a sea of villains and trips through time and space and miss the larger story of the Doctor becoming a good man who would die for his friends.

You might not catch Missy leaving behind the version of herself that tried to tempt the Doctor into taking over the world with a group of Cybermen and becoming someone who would try to stand with the Doctor fighting the Cybermen simply because it was the right thing to do.

The story of redemption cannot help but appear in our stories. Creation cannot stop proclaiming the greatness of its Creator.

Kevin: For the season as a whole, and the character arcs as a whole of the Doctor and Missy, I’d have to agree with the redemption stories. So I’ll just touch on another one from a specific episode, “Lie of the Land.”

The lies from the Monks that they told in order to force submission from everyone in the world were huge, to the point of rewriting historic moments that are ingrained in our minds. How could so many believe them?

Because we are just that weak-minded of a people, willing to believe almost anything if it helps us sleep better at night. And Satan, the Father of Lies, knows that and uses it to his advantage every day of our lives.

He lies to us about our unworthiness. He lies to us about how unloved and unwanted we are. He lies to us about how he can provide every joy we could possibly want. He lies to us about how there is no hope for redemption.

All he does is lie, lie, lie. And if we don’t repeatedly seek the Truth, the Word, we will believe him, even the lies we may have once considered ridiculous.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.