MatthewThis was the first Saturday in a while with no new episode of Doctor Who. It was a difficult and confusing time for all of us. But Hex Dimension are here with the perfect antidote for your withdrawal-symptoms: one final episode of The Companion Piece!

In this extra post-series episode, we’ll be looking back on series eight and seeing what we make of it now that we have the whole picture. Naturally that means potential spoilers for every single episode!

I think the obvious place to start is our highlights. What did we particularly like about this series? What were our favourite episodes and favourite moments, and why?

Matt K I guess I most enjoyed seeing the Doctor having some intense confrontations, with Clara and Danny. Wondering if he is a good man.

DavidI liked the fact it took a whole series for the Doctor to come to terms with who he was – with 10 and 11, it was a bit like “I’m a new person now and I’m totally fine with that!” Seeing the Doctor actually questioning who he was for a whole series was a really interesting concept – one that they pulled off very well.

My favourite episode was The Caretaker – a great focus on character and humour which really gave the actors a chance to shine. It reminded me a bit of the 9th Doctor’s glory days (which can only be a good thing).

PaulPeter Capaldi’s performance as a whole I enjoyed. I think he made an interesting doctor, and I am looking forward to seeing him progress.

My standout episode was probably the one where things started to actually get good – Time Heist. I felt some of the episodes before that didn’t work so well, but I didn’t really have a favourite moment. There was some good one-liners and references, but not really one that stuck out for me.

Although saying that, I did like that they kept going back to Matt Smith’s Doctor every now and again. And I quite liked Perkins from the Orient Express.

MatthewFor my part, I thought Listen was easily the best episode this series, and maybe the best episode in several years, but my favourite episode was probably the one I wasn’t here for: Mummy on the Orient Express. It was just so much fun, with such a great tone and a fantastic monster – yet it was also the big turning point for the series, where things started to get dark. I loved every second of it!

I agree that Capaldi’s performance was brilliant, but I’d actually argue Coleman’s was better. Any time she and the Doctor got a scene together were my favourite moments. And the Doctor’s spoon-fight, of course!

On the other hand, which were our least favourite episodes and moments, and why?

Matt KIn the Forest of the Night didn’t seem that great of an episode – there was a bit too much randomness and the Doctor almost didn’t seem to be needed that much, apart from stopping everyone from destroying the trees.

Like this you mean?

DavidI’d have to say Enter the Dalek was my least favourite episode – too much going on and not enough time to do the story justice (plus, they killed Dolorous Ed). Least favourite moments were probably Clara being mean to Danny Pink – I love that guy!

Sorry, that’s Into the Dalek, not Enter the Dalek – although, how good would a Doctor Who martial arts episode be!

MatthewThere’s three episodes I really didn’t like much (which is actually a very low number compared to previous years).

Into the Dalek was a disappointing slog, but at least it had all those great scenes back on Earth with Danny and Clara. Kill the Moon was a tonal mess with a hideous anti-abortion message, but I loved its inspirational space-travel parts and great design work.

The worst episode for me was actually Paul’s favourite – Time Heist – because it had severely underwritten characters and wasted its awesome premise by not actually understanding how heist stories work.

PaulThere was actually quite a bit I didn’t like, though that’s probably the science geek in me screaming. The moon’s extra mass was one such problem. Although as a whole, I think I was expecting more from the stories themselves. Too few of them had stand out moments, and while I’ll continue to watch, it doesn’t make me excited like it used to.
MatthewBack at the beginning of The Companion Piece, we talked talked about our hopes for this new series and all the things that we wanted to see. Now that it’s over, how much of that actually came to pass? Did it deliver?
DavidI was hoping we’d find out something about the Doctor’s face after the tease in the first episode, but we didn’t – maybe next series?

PaulYeah, I was hoping for that too…

I think the only thing that I wanted to see that was delivered was less of a wedging in of the “darker Doctor”.

MatthewGoing in, my only real hope for the series was that they’d fix Clara. She was a cardboard cutout in series seven, and she was my least favourite Companion as a result. But honestly, after this year, I think she’s become my favourite. She was so well written, and Jenna Coleman did such a good job portraying her.
PaulShe was only in half a season before this though, and she was mostly a plot device then.

MatthewExactly – that was the problem!

But they completely turned that around this series, and that was the biggest (and happiest) surprise for me. What surprised you guys this year? And were there any potential surprises that you guessed in advance?

Matt KWell, I knew that the dead were going to be used for something bad so I was more or less right there.

The main thing I saw coming was the fact that Timelords can change gender… oh and that Missy turned out to be the Doctor’s “old friend” the Master. That was interesting.

PaulYeah, the gender swapping was interesting. It really felt like they were testing the waters for how accepting people would be of a female Doctor.
MatthewIt does feel a lot like that was the whole point. I wonder what the result of that water-test was? People seem pretty fond of Missy – I know there’s been some dumb and awful responses on the internet (there always are) but on the whole the response seems really positive. I definitely thought she was amazing!

Still bananas.

PaulIt definitely took me by surprise, in an “I didn’t know Timelords could do that” kind of way.

DavidAs soon as I heard he’d been cast, I predicted that Ben Miller would be amazing! And I predicted Danny Pink was going to get hit by a car about ten second before it was revealed that he had been… do those count?

PaulI still like the idea of Missy driving that car.

There was a few moments in the episodes where I felt I knew what was coming. In Time Heist for example, I knew that it was a teleporter rather than a blast. Though I think I would have preferred my idea for Missy and the capturing of the dead – that they were witnesses in a trial for the Doctor. The Cybermen really didn’t work for me at all.

MatthewI guessed from the start that the Cybermen were involved – although that was admittedly based on the gold in Robot of Sherwood, which was probably just a coincidence since it never came up again. But I did predict Clara-as-the-Doctor before it happened, and that became a running theme!

Completely wrong with every single guess about the Nethersphere, though.

PaulTo be fair, there was a lot of misdirection about that.

Like why the hell were they collecting both biological deaths as well as robot deaths? Never explained.

Matt KUnless they were some sort of retro-Cybermen, it did seem to leave all that out about the machines.

MatthewYeah, we never found out why the clockwork guys or the robots of Sherwood were looking for the Promised Land. What exactly did that have to with them, and how did they know about it? Very weird.

Also never explained: Orson Pink. If Danny’s gone for good, then how the hell…?

PaulYep. Either they rewrote time or Danny will return somehow.

DavidMaybe Clara’s pregnant! Just like Zoe from Firefly! That’s my head-canon and I’m sticking to it…

But seriously, I think what surprised me the most about this series was the Doctor himself. We’d been sold this “darker Doctor” line for so long that I was dreading a Man of Steel-esque emo drama, but Capaldi was anything but that – his performance was layered and heartfelt, scared and scarred, childlike and grumpy old man. He was fantastic (to quote another Doctor) and I think the way the BBC marketed him did him a great disservice. Plus, he was nowhere near as “dark” as Eccleston.

PaulYeah. Grumpier but not necessarily darker.

I did feel like the writers got a memo saying stuff like “darker Doctor” and “no romance” and were kind of left to it. Which is also a big problem with the series – the inconsistency.

MatthewI think that Darker Doctor thing was partly BBC misdirection, but mostly just the press blowing things out of proportion. He was more comfortable with death, certainly, and a bit gruff, but the darker story was actually Clara’s. The Doctor’s still just a madman with a box, thank goodness!

The “no romance” speech in the first episode was definitely weird though.

PaulI actually had a bit of a discussion today about the romance this series, and we came to the realisation that Danny and Clara’s relationship was actually constantly strained.

We didn’t really see them get on that much, but most of the scenes involved them arguing, and they never felt like they had that much chemistry, even when there wasn’t much to argue about. Pity really, but it did seem like the relationship was just creating an ongoing plot device.


Constantly strained.

MatthewI’m not sure I agree. There was tension whenever Clara kept secrets (which was the whole point) but Danny actually seemed pretty accepting of her choices. When she comes clean in Forest of the Night, he’s fine with it, he’s just a bit sad that she felt she had to lie.

They only really argued when Clara was keeping things from him, and I feel like that was Clara lying to herself more than Danny.

DavidI actually really liked their relationship (it’s the best on-screen couple since Rose and Mickey in my opinion), but she did seem to take him for granted a few too many times – and that’s what annoyed me – but she was willing to go to Hell for him, so that made up for it!

After the mess that was Rory and Amy’s relationship, this one was a bit of a relief.

PaulI actually preferred Amy and Rory.

Mess? In what way?

DavidIt was fine (and really sweet) at the start, but by the time they left the show, it really wasn’t doing it for me – especially that bit where they separated and were getting divorced and then the Doctor was like “nah, you guys love each other” and they were like “oh yeah, so we do”, and then everything was fine. It just came across as a blatant attempt to inject some unnecessary drama into a relationship that had been portrayed perfectly up until that point, and it just killed it for me.
PaulAaah, you’ve got a point with that one. Although I think that’s around the time where they thought “hey, why do these episodes all have to be from the same year?” and they seemed to have months go by in a few episodes.

MatthewI wouldn’t call Amy and Rory a mess, but I do think they argued more the new guys!

Sometimes Clara and Danny did feel a little odd together (there’s a sofa scene I remember thinking was weird and uncomfortable) but I found their awkward flirting and disastrous dates kind of charming and sweet.

Matt KI felt like Rose and Mickey made a convincing couple, but Clara and Danny didn’t quite click for me.

I’m actually hoping that the next companion won’t have some love interest and is just in for the fun of adventure. Like Martha and Donna.

PaulI think the other thing that worked with Donna is that she was also not a 20-something.

Do we need an older companion?

MatthewPerhaps, but I feel like Capaldi probably works better contrasted with a younger Companion. On the other hand though, as I’ve said before, Clara is the first and only Companion who has ever felt to me like an actual functioning adult.
PaulShe has her problems, but she doesn’t quite make me yell “adult!”
MatthewIt was more that she’s the only Companion who’s ever had a steady job…
DavidIn a similar vein (and as much as I loved Mickey Smith) I actually really liked the fact that Rose fell in love with the Doctor – because she fell in love with a moody, middle-aged Northerner, rather than a “hot” young man. For me, that makes her the most fully-formed companion yet.

Rusty and the Brig – Coming Soon

Matt KThough I think we’re due a companion of a different time, perhaps?

MatthewYes! Please! For the love of gods – it is time for a non-contemporary and/or non-human Companion already!

Is Rusty the Dalek available?

PaulI’d still love to see a Rusty and Brigadier adventure!

I’d quite like a companion from the future, who looks down their nose at our time. Someone that knows a lot about this time period and questions the doctor on the interruptions in time…

Or how about a companion who was a temporal paradox – someone who could disappear if something doesn’t go right on the adventures.

MatthewThat already happened to Rory, like, fifteen times!
PaulAnd that was awesome – the fact that he was wiped from time. But what about someone in constant flux…
MatthewOoh – what about Orson Pink as the next companion? He’s a ready-made paradox!
Matt KIt would be nice to have a companion that doesn’t turn out to be the problem or the solution, though.

DavidPersonally I’d like multiple companions, like the older series used to have. I kept wanting Danny to go on an adventure with the others, but he never got the chance – he probably would have hated it anyway, but still…

Maybe the Doctor should just get the Time Heist crew back together!

MatthewSo, other than a more diverse selection of Companions, is there anything else we’d like to see as the show goes forward?

Matt KI would like to see the kids from The Sarah Jane Adventures to make an appearance, particularity Luke and Sky with K-9. Also want to see more of those Ice Warriors appear – Zygons and maybe Slitheen as well.

It would be nice to see Captain Jack Harkness come back as well!

PaulI’d love to see that. Especially with Capaldi’s Doctor…

I just wish they would get their time-travel lore sorted. Between this and Torchwood, they have way too varied consequences for messing with time.

MatthewI think, seven-plus series in, it’s probably time to accept that isn’t ever going to happen.

Where’s my closeup?

PaulIt just feels so random when they do timey wimey stuff. I guess I just have higher standards for my sci-fi.

I want to see Strax and Vastra’s origin story at some point, too.

MatthewThey almost deserve their own show.

But, unfortunately, there isn’t time to dwell on that, because it’s time to wrap up this final episode. After all this discussion over the last twelve weeks, what are our final lasting thoughts about Doctor Who series eight?

PaulThis entire season felt quite disappointing for me. I had high hopes for the story and that’s precisely what let it down. I feel like Moffatt stepped away from the series a bit and it lacked a lot of cohesion because of it. It’s a great shame too as the character progression, and the Doctor himself, was played superbly. I really hope that next season will see more influence from Moffatt. I know a lot of people don’t like him but I think he’s what was between making this season ok and making it fantastic. I also think that Mark Gatiss should be involved more and have a decent episode to write, I don’t think Robot of Sherwood was right for him. They can do better – they should do better and they will if they get back on the ball with the next season.

I do get the feeling I’ll probably enjoy this season more on the second time around…

MatthewIt’s weird to hear you say it lacked cohesion for you – I felt the complete opposite. After the nonsensical timey-wimey mystery of River Song, and the tediously aimless mystery of the Impossible Girl, this seemed like a return to the tight, character-driven focus of series five. Clara had a strong and compelling arc, and – aided by two of the best Doctor Who performances ever – it constantly drove both the characters and the plot forward. Every week on The Companion Piece we seemed to mention how well we thought each episode was written, and that’s something I stand by. The ending certainly stumbled a little, but not nearly enough to ruin a series that had several incredible episodes and very few duds. I thought it was great, if not quite amazing.

If they keep up this level of quality, but manage to stick the landing, next series should be an instant classic!

Matt KIt was good, though doesn’t quite top Tennant or Smith’s run. Might be a bit better than Eccleston’s. There was a fair number of things that felt confusing and I think Daleks and Cybermen may have been overused. Nice to see some other monsters make a comeback.
DavidIt started out okay, and then, as Capaldi grew into the role, it just got better and better. All the central performances were top-notch, and a bigger focus on the human element really helped ground this series and made you care about the characters. Yes, there were some dud episodes, but there always are (New Earth, I’m looking at you), and there were some great episodes too. It also benefited from a tighter overarching story, which has let the past few series down. Not the best series of New Who (that honour goes to series one), but it certainly filled the Matt Smith-shaped hole with panache and marked Capaldi out as a Doctor to watch.
PaulIf nothing else – 4 out of 5 Whovians agree, Capaldi’s Doctor is awesome!

MatthewAnd that fifth guy is crazy!

Sadly that’s all from the The Companion Piece for this series, but we’d still love to hear from you – let us know which episodes were your favourite, which moments you hated, and what new companions you’d like to see. Leave us a comment below, on Twitter, Facebook and G+, or by constructing an elaborate paradoxical time-mystery to lead us to your answers.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading our discussions as much as we’ve enjoyed having them. It’s been a blast… or possibly a teleport-effect. Doctor Who will be back at the end of the year with its (as yet untitled) Christmas Special, and maybe The Companion Piece will be back too. We’re not sure yet, but it’s a big universe – anything is possible!