This review contains spoilers from Season 10 of Doctor Who
It’s time for my report on season ten, after waiting until all episodes were out so I could binge like a crazy person. And that includes ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ as well. I still count the special episode as part of the season, and I will begin by saying that it’s the worst part of it. The BBC have shamelessly tried to capitalise on the superhero hype that has taken Hollywood by storm. I can see what they tried to do, but they didn’t need to do it. That said, despite it being the worst of the season, it wasn’t actually bad. The quality of this season was so high, that episodes like the special suffered because they’re not as good, it’s something that I like to call The Coen Brothers Effect.
Season ten might just be the most thought-provoking, most-intellectually stimulating and “most-WOKE” season of a TV show I’ve seen in the last two years. It’s certainly up there with HBO’s Westworld, Legion, Channel Four’s Humans, Netflix’s House of Cards and American Gods on Starz. Almost every episode had something interesting to talk about. To begin with, there are many philosophical discussions about our existence and the value of life, as depicted in ‘Thin Ice’ where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor gives a fantastic monologue about life and how important it is. And how social status and hierarchy do not usher more importance on your life than a homeless child.
Season ten is a return to form after a few mishaps these past few years. The writing and direction is on point with every episode. And Pearl Mackie shines as new travelling companion Bill Potts, along with Matt Lucas (Little Britain) returning as Nardole. Whilst Capaldi has aced playing “grumpy-old-man-Doctor-who-sometimes-has-a-soul”, Bill is a vibrant and energetic university student. Though, energetic and university student are two words that are rarely used together when describing students unless you’re talking about starting essays six hours before the deadline. The trio really gelled together, and I really couldn’t ask for more from their fantastic performances.
Yes, Doctor Who is goofy. It always has been, but this season really makes you think. ‘Smile’ and ‘Oxygen’ really show how much value we put on life, none. Whilst the Doctor spouts inspirational monologues about the importance of such things, reality says that humans are more valuable dead than alive. Well, that’s if we’re allotting numbers to our worth. But when we’re talking spiritually or morally, that’s another debate entirely. The death toll in ‘Oxygen’ was just “business as usual”, and the removal of humanity from the planet was corporations cashing in on suffering. Life means nothing when you’re making money, and you have to ask yourself “is that so science fiction?”
I grew up watching the TV series Goosebumps, based on the books by R.L Stein. And I couldn’t help but feel that ‘Knock Knock’ was a university-take on that. ‘Knock Knock’ was one of the most-Doctor Who episodes since ‘Blink’ or even since ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’ where Ten (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) along with Agatha Christie (Fenella Woolgar) went up against a “flippin’ enormous” alien wasp. David Suchet (TV’s Poirot for over twenty years) co-stars in ‘Knock Knock’.This was very WHO, but what’s more, it was still very creepy, despite it being set in a mansion which has Gothic / supernatural horror clichés stamped on it in big, bold capital letters.
Pearl Mackie is a breath of fresh air, truly a masterclass casting. She is openly gay, but they don’t make a huge deal out of it or make it detrimental to her character. Bill is really well-written, and the whole arc with her mom was really well-done. Her homosexuality was written right, done in a way that showed audiences that she wasn’t out to prove anything, or score political points. So when they decided to kill Bill in the finale, I was really peeved off. That said, it ends in a way that makes one question whether Bill actually died, or died in the traditional sense of what death is in the mortal world. And this ties into ‘The Pilot’, which was an odd ball. In other news, water is wet.
‘Extremis’, ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ and ‘The Lie of the Land’ was a great three-parter. But ‘The Lie of the Land’ takes the cake as my favourite episode of the season and one my favourites ever. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling that allows both casual audiences to enjoy what’s on display but there’s also things for audience members looking for deeper meanings too. Episode eight ‘The Lie of the Land’ with its take on alternative facts and fake news is brilliant. It’s mirrored off the present day political climate, but it also reminded me of Orwell’s dystopian triumph Nineteen Eighty-Four, where Bill stepped into the shoes of lead character Winston Smith for forty minutes.
The Marxist leanings of these episodes include: potent propaganda to put humans into a trance, humanity as slaves to a higher power, corporate rule, and power to the people. All reminded me of Carpenter’s They Live. The brainwashing techniques of The Monks is uncanny to George Orwell’s Big Brother and the 1% in They Live. And after a while, we begin to love our chains, regardless if they are physical chains that jingle, or figments of the imagination. The Ministry of Truth, the defeated population and the dirt-filled streets reminded me all too much of the smell “of boiled cabbage and old rag mats”, as said in the opening lines of Orwell’s novel, and is it really fiction?
Highlights of the season are Don’t Breathe (Oxygen) Goosebumps, the Orwell Trilogy, Angry Reacts Only AKA ‘Smile’ and any scene that Michelle Gomez happened to be in. Even with only starring in five episodes, she still managed to steal the season from the main cast (with her sass). Doctor Who is back to its former glory, and I can’t wait to see what Broadchuch alumni Jodie Whitaker and Chris Chibnall accomplish together in 2018.