GeekPlanetOnline's resident Doctor Who Correspondent Martin Thompson takes a deeper look at the adventures of a mad man in a box, along with his friends, foes and fandom. With over fifty years of rubber monsters, changing faces, dented police boxes, exterminations and pointed goatees to look at, he has more than a few things to say on the subject...
It’s a sign of the times that series eight was available to be pre-ordered on Amazon just before it actually started filming. Come on lads; give them a chance to finish it first, eh? I expect Steven Moffat will be keeping a close eye on it anyway just in case the series seven slip up repeats itself when the box sets were released in the week before the finale, The Name of the Doctor, was broadcast. Despite the BBC, Amazon and others all looking at their watches, the series eight express seem to be chugging along quite nicely now with regular announcements about new writers, directors and guest stars.
This series will at least be a continuous run so no waiting until 2015 for the second half. The first episode will, unsurprisingly, be written by Moffat but the big directing coup (unless they managed to snare Peter Jackson after all) is Ben Wheatley who will be helming the first two episodes. Other recently announced directors are the retuning Douglas Mackinnon and newbies Paul Murphy, Paul Wilmshurst and Rachel Talalay who will take two episodes each.
Over in the writing corner, Moffat’s Sherlock compadres Mark Gatiss and Steve Thompson are returning. Gatiss will be writing two episodes this year, one of which has been provisionally titled Robots of Sherwood and sounds like a lot of fun. Gareth Roberts returns and The Sarah Jane Adventures’ showrunner Phil Ford finally gets a shot at a solo gig on the main show after sharing scribbling duties with Russell T Davies on 2009’s The Waters of Mars. Newbies Peter Harness and Jamie Mathieson are also jumping aboard with the latter having worked on Being Human and the timey wimey 2009 film Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. Neil Cross and Chris Chibnall are both rumoured to be working on new scripts although it’s not known if they will be for this series.
A number of guest stars have been announced and it’s no surprise that Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax will reappear, especially since the first story has been confirmed as being set in Victorian London. Another recurring character will be Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson) who will be a fellow schoolteacher of Clara’s at Coal Hill School. At this point it’s not known if he will be a full companion or just someone who notices Clara behaving strangely with a mysterious older man. I’m sure Ofsted won’t have a problem with that at all. Of course Danny could turn out to be champion of the world (or universe) as most companions seem to be these days, or at least a vital cog of this year’s arc plot. He may even be a love interest for Clara, plus Moffat enjoys having two companions around to talk about the Doctor and the fact that they are both teachers brings a wonderful circular feel to proceedings especially with Twelfth Doctor (because he is the Twelfth or else my headache will return) being the first of this new cycle of regenerations.
Ben Miller and Tom Riley have also been cast as well as Trevor Cooper (who appeared in the classic series as Takis in 1985’s Revelation of the Daleks) and comedian Frank Skinner. Another TV time traveller, Ashes to Ashes’ Keeley Hawes, has been cast as the villainous Ms Delphox who looks set to have the strangest hairstyle of the series. Jenna Coleman will be returning as Clara and despite getting off to a good start the character seems to have stalled. Since the past two specials have been all about the Doctor we really haven’t seen how the events of The Name of the Doctor will affect her. It will be interesting to see how living her many lives alongside the Doctor will affect their relationship and I suppose it will be too much to ask that we get flashbacks of them. Moffat has pulled back the curtain and said “ta-da!” on his big surprise so I fully expect this aspect of Clara to be largely forgotten, except perhaps for the first episode. This is something I would love to see explored at some point though perhaps through books or on audio. Alongside the War Doctor, this was a lovely gift series seven gave us which will hopefully provide fuel for future (or indeed past) adventures. Hopefully Clara will start to find her feet a little more this year as the viewers and writers have now got more of a handle on her. The costume department certainly picked some wonderful and very contemporary clothes for her over the last year, but I’ll return to the subject of Doctor Who fashion in a moment.
Of course, all eyes this year will be on Peter Capaldi and how he’s going to play the Doctor. I know a lot of people are expecting dark storylines with Malcolm Tucker: Time Bastard at the helm of the TARDIS but I doubt Moffat will stray too far from his current vision of the show. With each new showrunner and/or Doctor there is an expectation that the show will go in a different direction. Indeed, the same was thought when Moffat first took over and it will happen again as every fan thinks that their perfect version of Doctor Who will suddenly spring onto the screen. No solid news about potential episodes, arcs or returning villains yet but this series is said to be mostly free of continuity from the Eleventh Doctor’s era. The reaction to Capaldi has been almost universally positive though which is unusual for a new Doctor. He’s a dab hand at building the hype himself too; take for example his Hartnell-like clutching of the lapels when he was first revealed on TV and that photograph of his first day on set in which he stood with Jenna Coleman in a Jon Pertwee type pose which now looks even more fitting given the coat he’ll be wearing.
When Capaldi’s full costume promo picture appeared he commented that “He's woven the future from the cloth of the past. Simple, stark, and back to basics. No frills, no scarf, no messing, just 100 per cent Rebel Time Lord.” That phrase “Rebel Time Lord” has further stoked expectation about how he may play the role and what may be in store for the Doctor. In the closing moments of The Time of the Doctor, he doesn’t seem to have any memory of how to operate the TARDIS so it will be interesting to see how long this amnesia continues. Will Clara, a companion who has known him throughout all his incarnations, have to teach him how to be the Doctor over the course of the series or will it all be wrapped up by the end of the first episode and put down to post-regenerative stress? The Eighth Doctor also went through periods of amnesia in both the novels and Big Finish audios, so could Moffat have borrowed some ideas from these or even be planning another loose adaptation like Spare Parts or Human Nature? He’s also going to explain why the Doctor bears a resemblance to Caecilius from The Fires of Pompeii which is an idea I was initially against since it doesn’t need to be explained. Apparently it’s a theory from Russell T Davies, so hopefully it’s just a bit of fun.
Back to the costume though and although it’s strange to see one Doctor in another’s costume, I must say I would have been happy to see Capaldi carry on in Smith’s and in some ways he has, as the look isn’t overly different. The coat, with its red lining, is reminiscent of Pertwee’s cape. The buttoned up shirt is very fashionable right now and after Tennant and Smith the neckwear seems to have been retired. Perhaps this new Doctor sees it as a frivolity. Another item in style with youthful types these days is the cardigan, however to my generation the faithful cardie is more a symbol of our grandparents so the Doctor is sporting a very universal item. The Doc Martens are a very British piece of footwear and should at least be more hard-wearing and useful for stomping around on alien planets than the Tenth Doctor’s “sand shoes”. It has been said this is a very punky look and that’s certainly in line with Capaldi’s history since the actor started out in a punk band back in the 1980s. Perhaps Jamie’s old kilt will be put to use making a pair of tartan trousers. At first I didn’t like the outfit as there didn’t seem to be anything special about it but it’s growing on me, plus I expect that it will change over time like Matt Smith’s.
Anyway, that’s the latest news so expect the Twelfth Doctor’s brand of anarchy to dematerialise later in the year.