M It’s been a long time coming, but this Saturday finally marks the date that Peter Capaldi takes his place in the annals of geek history. Because this is the week Doctor Who comes back.
To celebrate the imminent return of everyone’s favourite Time Lord (albeit in a newer, older body) Hex Dimension is starting a new weekly feature looking at all things Who . We’ve gathered together a crack team of the site’s writers, and each week we’ll be taking a look at the latest episode and offering our thoughts and theories.
Welcome to The Companion Piece !
Although Series 8 hasn’t actually started yet, we thought we’d get you in the mood for the new Doctor’s debut with a pre-series discussion. I think the best way to kick things off is if everyone introduces themselves and says a few words about what this crazy sci-fi programme means to them. Who wants to go first?
C Hi. Cookie here, aka Paul. The Doctor has been a part of my life – since I can remember. One of my first memories, sad as it may seem. Was sitting on a chair with dippy eggs, whilst seeing the Cybermen chasing some guy on the telly.
It grew from there, even playing games in the schoolyard with my friends making up our own adventures. I’ve followed it ever since, cried when Survival finished. Read the new adventures, listened to Big Finish audio plays and whooped with joy when the reboot was finally announced!
E Emily here. I didn’t start paying attention to anything to do with Doctor Who until the time of the Davies-Eccelston soft reboot. No one on my family had been interested in the show when I was a kid, but as an adult I had begun to be far more interested in science fiction, so I was just intrigued when I started watching Eccleston Who on BBC1 .
I suppose that because I’ve never had some nostalgic image of, or feelings towards, the Doctor to draw upon – and the fact that when I started watching it coincided with the beginning of my interest in media production, especially in scriptwriting – that I’ve always been very unforgiving of the series. I find it messy and infrequently brilliant, so I’m not a fan of Doctor Who , as it’s been handled in the past ten years.
P Paul here. I only got into the rebooted series when it was first broadcast, and aren’t really interested in that much of the past. My dad likes the old series, as he grew up with it but perhaps it’s just that I’ve grown up with media productions having greater production values. I prefer the new setup, especially with the hour long episodes (or basically just longer than what it used to be).
Likewise, having a keen interest in science fiction and especially as a Trekkie I find my interest in the series often drawn towards the more science-y aspects of the show – especially when they’re ideas (however unlikely) are based upon concepts in science. I would like to say that I think the series has been getting better and better for me – especially with Moffat at the helm.
M As for me, I’m Matthew, and I don’t know when I was first exposed to Doctor Who . It’s such a huge cultural thing in the UK that, even though it wasn’t on telly any more, I just always sort of knew about it. It feels like I knew what a Dalek was before I could walk! The sad truth is that I’d never actually watched it – I just picked stuff up through osmosis – but when it came back in 2005 I was, for whatever reason, super hyped for it. And when it actually lived up to that hype (with that amazing first series) I was hooked, and I’ve watched it religiously ever since.
It’s been a rocky relationship at times, with a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Last year alone gave us a series I thought was truly awful, but also two of the best specials we’ve ever had. Despite the bumpy ride, it’s probably my absolute favourite programme – even if, criminally, I’ve still not watched any of the old stuff.
Now that we’ve introduced ourselves, I have to ask the obvious question that I’m sure everyone’s wondering: who are our favourite Doctors? My answer, from the three that I’m familiar with (four if you count John Hurt) is Matt Smith. He seemed like a perfect combination of the other two, mixing Eccleston’s intensity with Tennant’s silliness (but without all his bloody moping). And my top companion is hands-down Catherine Tate’s Donna, just for bringing such a fun new dynamic to the TARDIS. What about you guys?
C Ah my favourite Doctor, such a difficult choice. I’ve always had a special place for three in particular. Yet that just seems greedy. So I’ll have to go with my Doctor, the incarnation that appeared on the telly whilst I was growing up.
I’m sure if you’ve read my audio reviews, you won’t be surprised by my choice. He’s the seventh incarnation – step forward Sylvestor McCoy. A wonderful incarnation and at points for me, the darkest! He acted like a clown at times, playing the spoons and adding a little light humour. Yet as the stories progressed we got to see a darker side, a more cunning devious Doctor that held his cards close to his chest. Never really truly, trusting anyone.
As for companions it has to be Ace. Wonderfully portrayed by Sophie Aldred. She was a strong character that helped the seventh Doctor from crossing the line. She was street wise and mischievous, always looking for adventure. She also had a habit of blowing shit up!
E I don’t have a favourite Doctor. All the recent ones have equally brought me joy, frustration and WTF? What I do enjoy is how they’re all characterised differently. It’s nice that the changes between them are more than aesthetic.
When it comes to the companions, I am less forgiving. While there will be episodes where they do outshine the Doctor, I feel like most are given a raw deal by the writers. Far too often they are but children in the ways they react to things.
P My favourite Doctor is also probably Matt Smith. While there have been really good ones, few have embodied quite the same level of eccentricism, bravado and sense that even though he’s a one-man Deus Ex Machina, there are times when even he gets scared. Most of the other doctors have almost seemed to know exactly what they’re doing and how to get out of any situation, whereas Matt Smith’s is far more vulnerable. Heck, one might even use the term more human…
For the companion, I think I’ve got to go with Amy Pond. Though it was close. She seemed to have more going on than anyone else – she wasn’t overshadowed by The Doctor’s brilliance, she was smart in ways a lot of people took for granted (such as the blinking with alternating eyes when dealing with the statues). She was also not afraid to push the Doctor when necessary – but not in a Catherine Tate way. Out of all the tragedies of the end of the companion’s run – she’s the only one who actually chose hers (Donna had to have her memory erased due to what happened to her and Rose was swept into the alternate universe). Amy could have left Rory in Manhattan, but chose Rory over the Doctor.
M I agree that Amy seemed to have a little more going on than a lot of the other more recent companions. And I like that you call the Doctor a “one-man Deus Ex Machina”, because he really does feel that way sometimes – just waving his magic science-wand and making everything better. The show sometimes gets flack for this, but it sounds like you find it a positive thing, Paul?
P I can handle it when it’s the Doctor because, well, he’s the Doctor. There’s a certain sense of “well, with all of his abilities, he could always pull out a victory”. Though I do like it on the odd occasion where he loses something or someone in the process, as it makes him seem more fallible – and that’s something I hope Capaldi’s Doctor does as well.
What I don’t like is when the Deus Ex Machina doesn’t actually make sense (such as the end of season 3). Then it comes off as – well, not in the spirit of Doctor Who to be honest. Keeping information hidden, having backup plans, even the overuse of the Sonic Screwdriver, all valid things in the way Doctor Who works. Anything else though, not so much.
C True, I would definitely hope to see Capaldi be more fallible. It’s one of the main reasons the Doctor works for me. Although he can travel through space and time, he can never change certain things – especially those that affect his companions. Tough choices have to be made and sometimes it means affecting his very core.
I also love the fact that he always tries to resolve things as peacefully as possible. Violence is always a last resort, he prefers to solve things with his intelligence – something very rare nowadays in a hero.
The Sonic Screwdriver has become rather overused, especially when you consider how many doctors never even used it!
M I didn’t realise there were Doctors who never used it. It’s so ever-present now that I never even considered it. It’d definitely be interesting to see the Doctor lose the Sonic, and have to cope without it for a couple of series. I always think he’s at his best when he’s getting out of situations with his wits alone.
C Yeah and to be fair the Doctors who did use it, I can only remember seeing them use it a couple of times! In fact it got destroyed in a fifth Doctor story and was not seen again until the Doctor Who movie starring Paul McGann.
Agreed it’s his wits that save the day. Yet even those decisions can have ramifications, which he never really thought about.
M Both Pauls have said you enjoy seeing the Doctor dealing with tough decisions and the consequences of those decisions. By the sounds of things, Capaldi’s new Doctor may be headed even more in that direction. We’ve already heard that they’re cutting down the amount of silliness, and putting an end to the Doctor’s flirting. Everything seems to suggest a darker, heavier series this time.
Does anyone else find that a bit odd? In the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor , we saw him undo the greatest wrong he’d ever committed, and it finally lifted the weight of the Time War from his shoulders. Is “darker” really the best direction to go from there, when he’s only just overcome his darkest hour?
E I don’t mind if the series goes darker. I’m more worried about being offered sufficient opportunities to suspend my disbelief. And that too can be affected by how dark everything gets, like if there’s not sufficient build-up to moping (now that the Time War has been dealt with) then, forget the Doctor, I will be frowning.
I’m fine with the flirting. There are enough emotionless male protagonists out there. It’d be interesting if it weren’t a companion he fell in with.
C I quite like the idea of undoing the Time War. For me it opens up a lot of potential, it gives the Doctor a new focus. Plus the Time Lords were never really fond of the Doctor, he was an outcast – a hindrance to them.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, I’m excited to see a darker Doctor. Thank the Lord for no more flirting! You never really saw this in the original series so maybe I’m old fashioned but the Doctor does not flirt!
P For me, I kind of like the Doctor actually flirting with his companions. Though it was more Amy that flirted with him. He seemed mostly oblivious.
Unless you’re meaning River Song. I think there were times where she did travel with them a bit, so I guess she could be considered a companion. Obviously not one of the main companions, but more akin to Jack Harkness. I hope she turns up in the series again.
M Jack Harkness, who the Doctor also flirted with, let’s not forget!
To me, less flirting seemed like a pretty obvious move, just because of Capaldi’s age. I’m not sure why it was such big news anyway – I’ve barely noticed it since the Tennant era. The Doctor wasn’t remotely interested in Amy, and I’m not sure River really counts (they are married, after all).
So, other than Cookie, none of us seem particularly affected by this change. But what changes would affect us? What is it that we hope to see this series?
P While the Doctor is bound to have a darker side, I hope it’s also darkly humorous as well. I also hope they expand on some of the back story with Gallifrey and the Time War.
Overall though, I hope the show keeps things intelligent and sci-fi like. I don’t really like the episodes that are too “monster in x-time period” ones personally.
Oh, and also more Vastra, Jenny and Strax!
E I’d like to see some historical periods portrayed a bit more that aren’t in the Tudor or Victorian periods of history. And I’d rather it was people that were the problem more than aliens, something to really make the Doctor doubt his love for our species.
M I just hope they can figure out what to do with Clara. The Doctor’s new companion felt like such a non-character last series, with an inconsistent personality and not much to do. The show kept asking “Who is this mysterious girl?” every week, but I still don’t feel like we got an answer. Hopefully this year we will.
And finally, what about our classic Who fan – are there any things that you’d like to see return?
C Where do I even begin! I’m looking forward to the darker doctor and I’d love to see Clara develop more as her own character.
Villains I really don’t want to see the return of are the Daleks or Cybermen. I think Paul’s quite right, they’ve been done to death now. Although I think we can safely say they will be back!
I’d rather see the return of two exiled Time Lords: the Rani and the Meddling Monk. Also the return of the Yetis would be rather awesome!
M So that’s what we’re all hoping for and looking forward to over the next thirteen weeks. Hopefully Doctor Who can keep offering something unusual and exciting, and maybe even make some changes for the better. Maybe it’ll be darker, maybe it’ll be smarter, maybe there will even be Yetis. But whatever happens, one thing’s for sure – it’ll be worth talking about!
Hopefully you’ll stick with us through the new series but, until then, we’d love to hear what you want to see from Capaldi and Moffat this year. You can join the discussion in the comments below, on social media, or via psychic paper. Let us know your favourite Doctor, your favourite companion, and how you feel about their constant flirting.
That’s all from the team for now, but The Companion Piece will be back next week. Join us as we take a look and share our thoughts on the Twelfth Doctor’s first episode, the creepily-titled Deep Breath .