Top of the Docs: Series 10 (2017)

Peter Capaldi’s final season saw both characterization and story come together to give us one of my favorite seasons of Doctor Who since the classic era, rising Capaldi to one of my all time favorite Doctors.  It’s not perfect, but it scores some pretty high marks and after the last two fairly dreadful seasons, it felt like a colossal win.  We needed this!

series 10

The Pilot

RP: 7 – Bill is immediately brilliant, and it’s also great to have Nardole back as a regular character. A good story, although perhaps a little too soon to be doing dangerous water again. Amazing visuals for the alien planet.

ML: 10 – A very strong return episode with a fantastic new companion.  Bill is instantly awesome.  There are allusions to the past and hints to the future.  Wow, was this an outstanding return to our screens!  This pilot is on course for greatness.

Smile

RP: 7 – A combination of ideas from The Happiness Patrol and Silence in the Library, but creepily and effectively done. The borrowing from the past is fine because we’re getting back to what makes Doctor Who fun, with a focus on exploration and excitement, and a relationship between Doctor and companion that isn’t twisted in some way. The ending is a mess, though.

ML:  6 – Slightly above a fairly middle-of-the-road episode with a quick resolution that left a bit to be desired.  I still love the “help line” quote and the smiles literally do make me smile. The episode visually a treat too, but after such as strong start, I was frowning because I wanted a stronger story.

Thin Ice

RP: 3 – Visually this was a crushing disappointment for a viewer like myself, hoping to see the amazing spectacle of a frost fair represented on screen. The Doctor standing up for Bill is the standout moment of the episode, but other than that the plot is thin and forgettable.

ML: 8 – I think this episode is carried by the actors.  The monster is a forgettable sea creature and the villain is a racist, neither of which make for memorable Doctor Who.  But the acting, the frost fair, the diving suit and most of all watching the Doctor really stand up to bigotry has to shoot this episode onto solid footing with an above average score.

Knock, Knock

RP: 8 – A really creepy episode that goes full-on horror (until, as always, we have to have the boring explanation, but it wouldn’t be Doctor Who without that). David Suchet is as brilliant as we would expect, and I love the relationship between the Doctor and Bill.

ML: 7 – I love the creepiness of it.  The wooden girl is amazing looking and David Suchet is fantastic.  It works very well though there are gaps in the logic that bring it down a little for me.  Plus the audio was an inspired idea; watch this with surround sound.  To give this less than an above average score would be a joke.

Oxygen

RP: 5 – In the space of four episodes, both of the big scary ideas from Silence in the Library get reused. This time it’s the turn of walking corpses in spacesuits. Frightening, but less memorable the second time round. The one big new concept that Jamie Mathieson comes up with here is oxygen as a limited, valuable commodity, which is frankly a silly idea and a clumsy swipe at capitalism. Style just about wins over substance for this one though.

ML: 5 – This is truly the meaning of middle-of-the-road.  It’s a story about capitalism but there are some really weird ideas in there that just don’t hold up that well.  The reason this episode deserves some recognition is that it’s visually amazing.  And blinding the Doctor may not make sense with his healing abilities, but it was a breath of fresh air.

Extremis

RP: 8 – There are some fundamental problems with the story (most noticeably the random number nonsense), but that doesn’t matter too much in the end because this is such an exciting episode, which challenges the nature of reality, always a brave move and nearly always reaping rewards, as it does here.

ML: 9 – I love when science fiction gets me thinking.  This story is extremely thought provoking and lays the groundwork for the next two parts.  I was a student of ontology and when this episode used that as a focal idea, I couldn’t dislike it.  Plus the Monks were marvelously disquieting.  A very strong episode indeed.  (My pun was already used in the review and it would be extremisly poor form to use it again here…)

The Pyramid at the End of the World/The Lie of the Land

RP: 8 – Apart from one out-of-character moment, Capaldi’s Doctor is at his very best here, brilliant against the odds (blindness) and relying on his intelligence to solve his problems. Amazing performances from both Capaldi and Pearl Mackie in this one. The monks are really creepy and the story has an epic feel to it. Just a few clunky moments let this down a bit.

ML: 7 – I still find this story very strong, thanks largely to Capaldi and Mackie, and really frightening villains, but there are some really bad ideas too. The second half makes up for a lot of those issues but I think it was one iteration from perfection had the writers addressed just a few of them.  It’d be a lie to say this landed higher than a 7.

Empress of Mars

RP: 8 – A joyful celebration of the past of Doctor Who, steeped in traditions from the Troughton and Pertwee eras. Adds a few new things into the mix, but mainly this is a love letter to the Peladon stories, complete with a cameo appearance that is a gift for any classic series fan.

ML: 9 – I love Ice Warriors, but adding a queen to their ranks was delightful.  A silly steampunk adventure perhaps, but when Alpha Centauri spoke at the end, it sent chills.  Felt like a return to the classic series with all the skills of the modern.  A highlight episode for classic series fans.  Impress of Mars, more like!

The Eaters of Light

RP: 2 – What a disappointment. Exploring one of the lesser-known moments in history is a good idea and has been done very effectively before, but Rona Munro does little other than establish the basic mystery and provide a very boring monster-of-the-week explanation for it. Slow, tedious, and in need of a major rewrite to make anything out of the story. Survival it ain’t.

ML: 1 – Kar, pretty low on the totem pole, kar.  The Doctor speaks bird.  The Eaters of Excitement perhaps.  Nothing really worth talking about.

World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls

RP: 10 – At last, everybody realised those original Cybermen costumes that used to be laughed at are actually incredibly scary and a really clever bit of design work. The first of these two episodes shows us the genesis of the Cybermen and plays on their most frightening aspect: conversion of humans. It’s the best episode of Capaldi’s run. The final episode stalls the story just a little, but ends on a breathtaking high, a fitting end to Missy’s story arc.

ML: 10 – Capaldi gets such an incredibly great finale amidst a two Master story and classic Mondasian Cybermen – if an episode deserved to break free of the bonds of a 10-point system, there are only three that I can think of and this is one of them.  Even the science works around the black hole.  The Doctor may have fallen, but the finale was through the roof!

Twice Upon a Time

RP: 9 – How fitting that Steven Moffat’s final episode as showrunner is an exploration of people living on as memories, this from the writer who could never quite bring himself to kill off his companions in a way that didn’t keep them alive somehow as well. The meeting of two Doctors is of course magnificent, slightly marred by writing the First Doctor as far more sexist than he ever really was for the sake of a few cheap laughs, but the episode packs an emotional punch for all sorts of wonderful reasons. Capaldi’s era might have been a struggle at times, but it certainly ended on a high.

ML: 10 – Not content with hitting a jaw-dropping finale, Doctor Who gives us a story of hope, at Christmas.  The pairing of the 1st and 12th Doctor’s is outstanding.  Mark Gatiss is phenomenal and the surprise revelation to who the Captain is just makes for an amazing episode.  I think Capaldi gets the best regeneration speech of any Doctor ever.  Twice upon a season, we can break free of a 10 point scale.  That’s saying something.

It’s interesting that after last season, Roger and I were in much greater agreement with the ratings this time around.  I think the biggest difference comes from an episode that dealt with a history that Roger is far more familiar with than I am, leading him to be more aware of the flaws surrounding it.  That said, for me, my childhood hero was back.  In one fell swoop, Capaldi shot to the top of my Doctor list.  He has two utterly amazing finales and the writers seemed to have nailed both the character and the stories for most of this season.  Capaldi’s first season was a non-Doctor season and his second was a non-story one.  To have a season that really fired on all thrusters and merged great stories with a great Doctor and a great companion and great enemies… one might call this season GREAT!  Ah, the future never looked so bright… ML

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2 Responses to Top of the Docs: Series 10 (2017)

  1. scifimike70 says:

    With 2017 marking Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary and the debut of Blade Runner 2049, Dr. Who had an even tougher task trying to draw in enough positive attention after the drawbacks of S8 and S9. But S10 is thankfully the best for Capaldi, with both Mackie as Bill as Matt as Nardole adding much new popularity to the tradition of Doctor/companions chemistry.

    The Daleks don’t have their usually big impact this season which is interesting. But the Cybermen come back in quite a big way. Along with the Ice Warriors and Alpha Centauri. Also our very first TV story to feature two Masters. Some of my favorite Dr. Who moments are in S10. Especially my vote for the best 1st Doctor’s return since The Three Doctors. David Bradley continued to recreate the 1st Doctor thanks to Big Finish. Michelle Gomez, after Missy’s nice breakthrough for S10, also endures in Big Finish’s The Missy Chronicles. So I was very pleased that Dr. Who could prove that all its magic was still strong. Certainly for Capaldi’s quite iconic passing of the torch to Jodie.

    Thank you both for your Top of the Docs for 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. scifimike70 says:

    Pearl as Bill and Matt as Nardole proved to be the most unique companion team to help the Doctor in a very long time. I adored Pearl for proving how a regular character like Bill, despite the period-piece prejudice against the combination of her race, gender and sexual orientation, could hold her own with just one series in Dr. Who. Matt could also prove that even the simplest forms of comedy relief can still work brilliantly in Dr. Who. The invisible hair idea was pretty cool too.

    As with new actors for the role of the Doctor, newer companions are very challenging. Because Bill and Nardole were quite a leap, thanks to all the fine creativity behind their stories, they will always deserve great praise for their roles in the closure for the 12th Doctor.

    Liked by 1 person

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