Doctor Who has become a huge world-wide success over the last few years, despite some complaints that the quality of the show is deteriorating and that it’s lost it’s way. For me, Doctor Who is still a good show. Peter Capaldi has done astoundingly with what he’s been given and there have been some truly moving and memorable moments: Davros’s betrayal, Clara’s death and the Doctor’s struggle in his confession dial. But what all of these moments have in common is that they are serious and somewhat dark. Doctor Who has had its share of dark themes but they were always handled in a light and fun way, something which has changed in recent years. However, with the introduction of Class to offer young adults some gore and darkness, Doctor Who appears to be turning back time and rediscovering its identity.
The trailer for series ten which was first shown on Christmas Day after the special: The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was chock-full of things, small details at hints of new creatures and monsters, planets that we’ve never seen before and stellar dialogue from the Doctor himself. Of course, the Daleks are back once more, but there are other monsters to fight too and everything aside from the Doctor’s oldest enemies seems fresh and completely different from the last series.
Whilst I enjoyed series nine immensely, it wasn’t a Doctor Who series. It was dark, moody and macabre, focusing far too much on death for what is supposed to be a family show than was necessary. It was more like watching a young adult programme, maybe that was what they were going for, but for me that was never what Doctor Who should be about. It should be something the kids and parents can enjoy together, a real corner stone of British family entertainment. That vibe seems to be back with this series. Nardole, played by Matt Lucas, returns and was a fun and enjoyable character during the Christmas special. Whether he’s a permanent TARDIS fixture remains to be seen, personally I hope he is used like Rory intermittently. Though not because he keeps randomly dying whenever Moffat gets bored.
But Nardole isn’t the only reason that I’m excited. Bill, the new companion, seems to be an equally fun companion who enjoys getting into the thick of the Doctor’s adventures. This suggests, then, that she’ll be more like Rose than Clara. By that I mean Bill won’t be juggling two lives, she’ll be travelling with the Doctor and revealing in his adventures unlike Clara who always wanted to try and live to lives. The comparisons with Rose don’t stop there, Bill is also a character with a normal job ‘I serve chips’ and finds the Doctor on Earth, no doubt stopping some alien plot or other. She seems a lot more grounded than Clara, something which Capaldi himself was asking for this time around. In an interview he gave a few months ago he asked for a working-class companion, well it seems that he got his wish. Bill is certainly that.
The tone of the trailer too harked back to times gone by, the Russel T. Davies era of Doctor Who produced some of its best episodes in modern times, and arguably in the history of the show. It did this by constantly being aware of what it was and who it was appealing to. It was a family show with family values and by having a clear self-identity the episodes had a structure and direction that’s been missing of late. Every Moffat series changes tone, seeven, eight, nine and now ten all appear to have different angles and ways of telling a story meaning that there is more chance for inconsistency. If something changes constantly it’s hard to fall into a rhythm, in series eight, for example, the Doctor was moody and rude and now he seems more affable and engaging. There is no one central theme or identity to the show and whilst this is never going to change in Moffat’s run, as this is his last series, he appears to have returned to his early days of Doctor Who writing and is echoing RTD’s episodes. There is more humour, more ridiculous aliens and a companion that a lot of people can easily relate to. Doctor Who can be hard-hitting and thought provoking, look at the Human Nature two-parter in series three, but it did so in a setting that always felt safe. A lot of that was to do with the Doctor himself, who was always funny and quick-witted as well as having a dark past. Capaldi’s Doctor seems to be moving more towards that and it’s a change that, personally, I welcome with open arms. The Doctor can be prickly and crass, but at his core he should always be warm and loving and that was sometimes missing, particularly in episodes like Kill the Moon.
So, series ten has a new companion, another new energy and tone and seems to be more about adventure and tearing through time and space than before in a Steven Moffat series of Doctor Who. There will be sad moments, there will be twists and turns and hopefully an over-arking plot that can wow us like Bad Wolf or Harold Saxon once again. This is the first time in years that a trailer has gotten me excited for Doctor Who, and not Peter Capaldi’s acting, and hopefully the show can live up to its promise.