I recently caught up with the latest (2020) season of Doctor Who. With a few bumps it looks like show runner Chibnall is getting into the groove.
May contain content, possible spoilers.
I initially watched the opening two-parter when it aired in January. The episode’s cheese content was very high, even by DW standards. I ended up giving up right there and thinking to myself “enough”, and not watching any of the subsequent episodes. 🙈
But now, like everyone else, I’m in isolation, and looking for things to do. I got a hankering for time lords and decided to re-watch the latest season in its entirety. And I am very glad that I did.
The first episodes might have had too much lactose for me with all the spy nonsense, but it levels off in the later episodes, giving a better mix of story, action and occasional fanservice. I recall Chibnall’s first season (S11), felt a lot more like slow-burn BBC drama. There was action, but it seemed to take a step aside for the stories. That wasn’t bad, but I definitely feel that in S12 there is more punch to episodes.
It’s difficult for me to pick a favourite episode in particular. Nikola Tesla‘s episode was a great “past” episode, showing off Tesla and Edison’s interactions, and their inventiveness works well in DW. Praxeus struck a chord, given the pathogen topic, and seeing the solution being an engineered virus was odd. Fugitive of the Judoon was great – with a brief dose of Harkness, returning Judoon, and the story unravelling around the Doctor.
There’s also some pretty serious stuff. The ending of the episode Can you hear me gives some much needed back story to the companions. Graham and Yaz both seem a lot more real in comparison, but I found Ryan’s a bit lacking in comparison. I ended up feeling more for his friend than Ryan himself.
This season makes a big statement by gutting the canon in DW. Rips it out and thrashes it around before stuffing it back in. Every show runner on DW does this to some degree, and it can be a bit hit or miss. But I like what Chibnall has done this time around.
The Doctor’s new “backstory” (I’m not sure of the proper terminology) is very neat. Unexpected, but it has just the right kind of twist that makes it fit really well. It also just raises more questions and makes me want to know more, which is always a plus. Unlike Moffat’s reign, where I ended totally fed up with River Song’s arc by its conclusion. The possibilities introduced by the Doctors apparent memory tampering opens up DW for a lot more story without necessarily having to stick within a specified canon or framework, and should lead to a lot more open storytelling.
The new actors introduced for major characters – Jo Martin (The timeless child) and Sacha Dhawan (The master) are enjoyable to watch. Martin comes across as a more serious doctor, reminding me a bit of what I’ve seen from Colin Baker’s era. Dhawan looks insane when he lets loose in the final episodes, and that’s great. It really gets across his motivation being evil instead of just a cheesy love-hate villain.
I look forward to seeing where Doctor Who goes from here.