8 Potential Pitfalls for Series 8
Mark McCullough examines some things Series 8 needs to avoid.
As Series Eight draws ever closer, the anticipation within the fandom has reached new heights. With good reason too, as the information we have received so far gives the impression that this series will be the best so far. Being too optimistic about what’s to come is dangerous however as it sets you up to be disappointed. Given that history has a habit of repeating itself, I am going to highlight a few areas which will be key to Series Eight’s success, or areas where it may disappoint.
Is Peter Capaldi the Doctor?
What a silly question, of course he is. Despite being cast in the role, it remains to be seen whether his take on the character will be able to reach out and grab the bigger audience. Will he have that moment where you think to yourself “Yes, this man is the Doctor!” For Smith this moment was widely regarded as the rooftop scene in The Eleventh Hour. What is important is that Capaldi’s identifying scene happens early, because nothing would ruin a series more than being unconvinced by the Doctor. Given Capaldi’s exceptional acting ability, I would stake my house that he will be able to pull it off with ease. That said, being a great actor doesn’t necessarily equate to being ‘the Doctor’.
A darker tone and an alien(ating )Doctor.
Much has been promised about the direction in which the show is heading. Buzzwords such as ‘dark’, ‘alien’, and ‘adult’ have filled comment threads. As I have stressed before this presents a potential risk in that it could ruin the appeal of the show to children. Given that the show is a family-orientated one, this would appear to be a big no no. However I can see justification for doing so given that it seems to be the desirable tone for TV entertainment in this day and age. Striking a balance by including the child-friendly moments will determine how well the series will be received. Couple this with the fact that the Doctor has been promised to be more alien and another problem arises. The Doctor is the hero of the show, and from what he have heard, it sounds as if he will be hard to like. This gamble means that the Doctor-Companion relationship will become more important than ever as it means we need Clara to bring his good side out.
Speaking of Miss. Oswald
Where to start on Clara’s character… Had you asked me my thoughts on her immediately after the conclusion of Series Seven, I would have answered that I thought she was rather bland and disjointed. Then came The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor which shed a whole new light upon the character who had now been resolved of any ties to the ‘Impossible girl’ story arc. Now I consider Clara to be one of my favourite companions, for no other reason other than that she is a real and complex character who is easy to relate with. So what went wrong in Series Seven then? Upon reflection it appears that the character was only at her best in the hands of Steven Moffat. Why this was, is anyone’s guess, perhaps the communication between writers was the cause of the lack of character development. What is important for Series Eight is that all writers have a clear idea of where the character is going and that she undergoes significant development throughout the course of the season’s narrative.
A Pink Problem
Since the announcement that Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink would become part of the regular cast I have a nagging worry at the back of my mind. I am aware that Coleman has recently spoken about the relationship between Danny and Clara. However I have not read these quotes as I am still trying to stay as ‘blind’ as possible, so this worry may be a little unfounded. I would suggest that it is a fair bet that relationship between the pair will be a romantic one, and that forms the basis of my doubts. There is no arguing that another relationship would add an interesting new layer to Clara’s character. However a companion who travels alone with the Doctor for half a series before being joined by their significant other, where have I seen that before? It may not necessarily be the case, but it’s hard not to draw similarities to the Ponds. Given that Moffat has only had Amy and Clara as main female companions so far, it is important that he does something new to differentiate. The dynamics of the Clara-Danny relationship needs to be vastly different to make Series Eight feel fresh.
Getting the pacing right.
The most important aspect of telling a good story is to deliver it over an appropriate timescale. This is something that Series Eight’s predecessor struggled with. Almost every episode felt like it could have done with some extra time to expand on what had been built during the narrative. If you need an example, look no further than The Power of Three, an episode which was shaping up to be a belter only to have its potential ruined by a horribly rushed ending. The most likely root of this problem was the idea of the ‘blockbuster of the week’ approach. With this seemingly dropped, I have high hopes that Series Eight will be able to deliver the goods, especially given Deep Breath’s extended run time and the fact we are getting a two part finale. Hopefully the show can learn from its past mistakes.
The arc, the whole arc, and nothing but the arc.
Steven Moffat’s mind must be filled with the most amazing ideas. To pull off an arc which spanned three series, led to the Doctor’s death, brought back the Time Lords and rebooted the universe, took a lot of skill. However I must confess that the long arc did get a little tedious and must have been extremely difficult for casual viewers to follow. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the three year arc, just that I feel a series would benefit from its own confined story arc. Again this does not guarantee success, Series Six is often criticised for being too ‘arc heavy’. My hope for Series Eight is that it contains its own arc which is teased throughout the series, but doesn’t dominate it and comes second to any individual narrative until the final. My worry is that Moffat will attempt something whose scale will detract from the other episode within the series.
Please save me from the (underdeveloped) Monsters
The monster line-up of a series is particularly important. It is usually nice to see a sprinkling of returning monsters along with some new fresh memorable creations. Choosing the correct monsters is not an easy feat, there are some who I feel need a hiatus before making a return. These include: The Weeping Angels, The Silence and the Daleks. The latter two, due to their prominence towards the end of the Smith era, means an appearance would be too soon. That is unless something unique is brought to the fore. Monsters that could be due for a return are the Vashta Nerada, the Krillitanes, whilst the Cybermen are in dire need of a strong story which re-establishes their threat within reasonable margins. Creating a new monster is a fine art in itself, something Series Seven fell rather short in doing. Monsters like the Whispermen, the Vigil, and the Mummy were hopelessly underutilised significantly denting the enjoyment of the respective episodes. From what I have seen in the Series Eight trailer it looks like there are going to be lots of new creations, so it is imperative for the series as whole that they are handled well.
As I’m sure we are all aware there have been massive leaks already with regards to Series Eight. This led to the #keepmespoilerfree campaign which proved to unite the majority of the Doctor Who fan base. Whilst this pitfall does not directly pertain to the series itself it does present a major risk to how the series is received. The inevitable plot twists and answers to the story arc will have their impact lessened if they are spoiled in advance, nothing quite lives up to the magic of witnessing something that is unexpected for the first time. This is why another major leak (or even a single person trying to spoil it for others) could have a destabilising effect on the success of the series.
I had better stop writing before I have a band of excited Whovians calling for my head. I did not write this article with the intention of being negative, but to assess what Series Eight needs to do in order to achieve its maximum potential. From what we have heard thus far, I am relatively confident that it will overcome these hurdles. With excitement levels at an all-time high, I really hope I haven’t put a dampener on spirits. I won’t apologise as I find it better to experience the joy for something to exceed your expectations than the disappointment when it comes up short. Here’s to a fantastic series (hopefully).