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Following the global success of the 50th anniversary and Matt Smith’s swansong as the 11th Doctor at Christmas, Doctor Who is undergoing something of a regeneration with series eight. Peter Capaldi will be taking over as the 12th Doctor in ‘Deep Breath’ on Saturday August 23, promising a darker Doctor without all the comical apparel – bowties, fezzes, Stetsons and the like – that we have come to love during Matt Smith’s tenure. With the prospect of finding Gallifrey on the horizon and witnessing how Clara will come to terms with the Doctor’s regeneration, it’s clear that series eight is going to be radically different from anything we’ve seen during the New Who era – so what exactly can we expect?
If the snippets that have been released are anything to go by, Capaldi’s Doctor is a world away from the likes of Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith. The vulnerability is still there, for example when he asks Clara ‘am I a good man?’, but equally, we can see a dark humour that is as unnerving as it is funny. During an interview with the BBC, a clip from episode two showed Clara saying that she is the Doctor’s carer, with the Doctor replying that Clara cares so he doesn’t have to. Amusing, certainly – but where is our Doctor who empathises with everyone around him and even tries to understand his enemies?
Indeed, the run-up to the new series has been far from smooth. Episodes and scripts have been leaked online, prompting Whovians everywhere to defend against spoilers using plenty of River Song memes. Steven Moffat, executive producer and writer, has admitted that things were getting a bit stale towards the end of Smith’s time, and of course there have been endless debates over the casting of an older Doctor alongside a young companion. Moffat is taking us back to Classic Who, the 12th Doctor being more of a father figure like William Hartnell. Capaldi himself has described his adamance that the flirting we saw with Matt Smith would not continue with him. Yet with rumours that Smith is doing a cameo in ‘Deep Breath’ to reassure Clara, clearly Moffat is concerned about the potentially difficult introduction of Capaldi’s Doctor, particularly given the current audience’s lack of familiarity with the character dynamics of Classic Who.
All in all, it would seem that we have a lot of worry about. The new series is set to be darker, bigger, and scarier with less relatable characters, less kid-friendly scenes, and fewer fangirls drooling over the Doctor. Having said that, however, I have to applaud Moffat for his boldness in admitting that the series needed a new direction – and on the whole, he is probably right. The show would never have lasted 50 years if the producers didn’t shake things up every now and then, and hopefully a return to Classic Who will mean less of the convoluted storytelling that made some of Smith’s episodes difficult to watch on first viewing.
Doctor Who wouldn’t be Doctor Who if each new Doctor didn’t bring something refreshing to the show. This is not to say that everything will be wildly different, of course. The Daleks are set to make a return, as well as a series finale involving Cybermen, and the reappearance of fan-favourites Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, all in episode one. The list of guest stars include Ben Miller, Keeley Hawes, Frank Skinner and singer Foxes, and we’ll still of course get the tension and adventure that makes Doctor Who so great. Just don’t expect the 12th Doctor to be all that friendly…
The first, feature-length episode of Doctor Who series eight, ‘Deep Breath’, will be broadcast live at the Dukes on Saturday 23rd August, along with a live Q+A from Peter Capaldi. Book your tickets here.