Now that we are halfway through Peter Capaldi’s first series as the 12th Doctor, let’s take a quick look at the six episodes that have aired.

Deep Breath – Deep sigh.  Deep wince.  Deep groan.  This was an overly bloated and amazingly boring series opener.  Easily the worst new Doctor episode since Time And The Rani.  Actually let me think about that for a moment … the TV movie, Rose, The Christmas Invasion, The Eleventh Hour … yep, I’d much rather watch any of those than have to watch this again.  It felt like this was 42 minutes of piss-poor story stretched like Cassandra into a 75 minute time slot.  And these Paternoster idiots have long outlived their entertainment value.  Much like The Walking Dead – when I start rooting for the robots to kill the protagonists, there’s a very fundamental problem in the production of the programme.  And this whole “Promised Land” bullshit is already tiring, just one episode into its so-called arc.

Into The Dalek – When I read the synopsis for this episode, I literally groaned.  Out loud.  It sounded horrible.  “Fantastic idea for a movie, terrible idea for a proctologist.”  Imagine how surprised I was by how much I enjoyed it.  Except for the moment when the one chickadee sacrifices herself and pops into the wince-inducing Promised Land.  That one small piece of garbage totally screwed over the pacing of that part of the episode, very much like any of BBC America’s commercial breaks do.  Capaldi’s dialog in this episode, especially in the precredits sequence, sold me on his interpretation of the Doctor.  But why couldn’t he have taken Journey Blue with him?  I think she would’ve been a great companion.

Robot Of Sherwood – Another one whose synopsis made me groan at first.  I’m tired of the ship-fell-backwards-through-time-and-is-stuck-in-the-past-trying-desperately-to-repair-itself plot (didn’t we just do that two weeks ago?).  The actors playing Robin and the Sheriff were spot on, and this ended up entertaining me far more than I wanted it to.  My only complaint is with the BBC’s stoopid decision to edit the climactic confrontation between Robin and the Sheriff.  There was absolutely no need to trim that bit, and to tell you the truth, I thought cutting it seriously harmed the episode.  (Yes, I’ve seen the original complete sequence and that moment plus the corresponding dialog added a few additional levels to the story that are now missing from the broadcast version.)  Hopefully BBC Worldwide will have the sense to restore that full sequence when they release it on disc.

Listen – This is an odd one, because I downright hated it when I first saw it, to the extent that I was actively trying to figure out various ways of suppressing my forthcoming groaning as I sat down to watch it with my family.  But it turned out – watching it with an audience – I ended up liking it after all.  I think that it helped for all of us to watch it immediately after Robot Of Sherwood, because it’s a nice contrast to the Robin Hood episode.  Capaldi’s pre-credits monologue is wonderful, and the controversial barn sequence wasn’t anywhere nearly as cringeworthy as I first thought it was.  This episode does play to me more like several linked stories rather than one complete story.  In other words, it comes across to me as rather disjointed.  Perhaps one more pass back through the script polisher would’ve cleaned it up a bit?

Time Heist – What a fun episode.  Fun, fun, fun.  This is the first episode of the new series that I had absolutely no problems with.  None whatsoever.  And it still seemed to hold up well on a second viewing.

The Caretaker – I enjoyed this one far far more than I expected to … except for the last few minutes.  I honestly do not give a damn about this Promised Land/Afterlife/Nethersphere arc.  At least they learned their lesson from Into The Dalek and moved this bit to the end of the episode instead of immediately after that character’s death.  That was one of the few problems I had with Into The Dalek and I think it’s the only problem I have with The Caretaker.  The Doctor’s confrontational interactions with Danny Pink were particularly well done, and whistling Pink Floyd was a very nice touch.

Do I like Capaldi’s Doctor?  Yes.  I like the fact that he’s playing the character as more reserved/removed/callous than the previous new Who stars.  I like his snarkiness.  I like his Scottishness.  I’m glad that in The Caretaker we finally get to see him balls out angry; that’s the aspect of the 12th Doctor that I’ve been waiting to see.  “You … are a Time Lord?”  “YES!  And at the moment a RATHER ANGRY ONE!”

Do I like where this series is going?  I’m not sure.  I’ve been pretty impressed with four of the six episodes, but I don’t think I can fully answer this question until I see how the stoopid arc plays out.  So I’m liking most of the footsteps but I don’t know if I like the path they’re walking down.  Which brings me to the next question:

Why do we even NEED a series-long arc in modern Doctor Who?  I don’t believe we do.  The original series only did it twice; once as a lark since they had never done it before and once as commentary on how the BBC was treating the show.

At least Russell T. Davies knew how to do series-long arcs.  Look at “Bad Wolf” in the first series and “Torchwood” in the second – they worked because they were subtle enough to not interfere in the storytelling process for individual episodes.  “Mr Saxon” didn’t quite work out as well (I blame how they wrote John Simm’s characterization of the Master for that – he was panto when he should have been petrifying), but the disappearing planets did.  Three out of four ain’t bad.

What sort of arc did Moffat present us with when he took over?  Cracks and “Silence will fall,” neither of which are satisfactorily resolved by the end of the fifth series.  So the sixth series uses Mrs. Eyepatch to try to clean things up a bit, but they’re still left somewhat hanging until the mad expositionary scramble to tie up loose ends in Matt Smith’s final story.  The seventh series gives us “Impossible Girl.”  Meh.  The only good thing that came out of that was the Zelig-like shoehorning of Jenna-Louise Coleman into scenes of prior Doctors.  Now we’re being slapped in the face with this stoopid Nethersphere bullshit, which almost guarantees that I will end up despising this series’ two-part finale.

When the arc starts to interfere with the process of telling the individual episode stories, it’s time to shitcan the arc.

So, what is my personal order of preference for these six episodes?  Rating them based upon which ones entertained me the most:

1) Time Heist
2) The Caretaker
3) Robot Of Sherwood
4) Into The Dalek
5) Listen
12) Deep Breath

It will be interesting to look back on this post six weeks from now, after the finale airs.

 

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