Doctor Who Starts Strong!

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I must say that although we are only three episodes in, I really like what I’ve seen of Doctor Who this season so far. The season began with a dynamic bang with that great moment when the Doctor is saving a little boy’s life and realizes halfway through that it is his future arch-nemesis, Davros, and his decision would impact the lives of billions of innocent beings and the futures of countless worlds. Nothing like starting with a good old fashioned moral dilemma to really get the intellectual juices flowing, and set the tone of the show and season. This paradox of essentially saving a young Hitler’s life is a compelling one, and I think it really set up a nice dialectic throughout the first two episodes. This theme of “mercy” which features so prominently in the second episode is one that most of my own work concerns itself with. The themes that I like to explore in my work is that of mercy, redemption, empathy, and forgiveness. These ideas were brilliantly explored and tested in a really well crafted and superbly written two person scene with Davros and the Doctor, where they go back and forth and round and round in a roller coaster ride of deep emotion and old wounds inflicted upon each other over many millennia. I think this episode really revealed the essence of the Doctor more than any other in Capaldi’s tenure…that of compassion. It is his virtue and his achilles heel, and that’s what we love about the Doctor. Despite his grump curmudgeonly disposition, the Doctor is really a big softy. He’s got too much heart. Two, in fact. I thought this scene was the finest work I’ve seen Capaldi do in the series so far.
 
Sometimes Doctor Who can rely heavily on special effects and bizarre CGI aliens, and often at the expense of thoughtful story. I like my Doctor Who closer to Star Trek than to Star Wars. These episodes set the bar high, and asked more of us in one episode than last season did in twelve. In a refreshing sign, episode three returned to the more sensational and spooky, but was a nice homage to the Alien/ Alien movies. The setting and plot were very familiar tropes — alien/ monster/ghost loose on a remote and claustrophobic ship with a trapped and terrorized crew, and a smart hero must save the day. The tropes were familiar, but still new and original takes on the themes. I think Ridley Scott would be proud. It was engaging and compelling, and I look forward to the sequel airing today.
 
Finally, it has become quite obvious that Clara Oswald is officially more important than the Doctor. She has long outgrown her supporting role status as a companion, and the Doctor has made her the center of his universe. He is literally willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to save her. She features prominently in every episode, and often sets the pace and the tone of the show. She often initiates the action, and the Doctor seems to hopelessly follow along. Clara Oswald has long outstayed her welcome, and no matter how improved the writing seems to be this season, it is still handicapped by having a character that is a soul sucking entity that devours everything in her path. She sucks the air out of the show, and sadly, everything must pass through the prism of Clara. I am far more interested in the complex and engaging Doctor, especially as played by the brilliant Peter Capaldi. She needs to go. The sadist in me wants to see her killed off, but being Doctor Who, I know the show is sentimental and precious with its companions, and very rarely kill off one. Very few beings die in Doctor Who in general, and the show shares this trait in common with Star Trek. Fundamentally family friendly and optimistic. But I still want to see Clara die. At the very least, she’s got to go. It’s time for a new companion. Maybe two. I also feel that we’ve been overloaded with female companions, and I understand the practicality and fairness of that, I would like to see a male companion again. One that perhaps challenges the Doctor, and offers traits that don’t come naturally to the Doctor. Perhaps a rugged and more violent companion. A fighter. That might be a nice Ying to the Doctor’s intellectual Yang. Either way, it’s time for a new companion.
So far, I am very impressed with what I have seen this season. The writing is strong, and the directing and acting are of a high caliber. I hope the season continues to be thoughtful and not just Sci-Fi CGI-sensational. I prefer to be wowed visually and intellectually. That’s what first drew me to Doctor Who, after all.

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