The 12th Doctor found his voice in Series 10.
It’s not that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor didn’t have a voice in his debut Series 8 and Series 9 that followed, but it was more often spikey in those two series. That, is perhaps, at the request of show runner Stephen Moffat to make Capaldi’s Doctor contrast with Matt Smith’s take on the Doctor across Series 5, 6 and 7.
Something happened behind the scenes on Series 10 that saw Capaldi dial back the spikiness and deliver the cheerleader for humanity that we are used to.
Off screen, I can imagine it was the result of Moffat and Capaldi colluding and giving it their all in their final year on the show. On screen it was everything to do with the Doctor’s thrill of onboarding new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) to the TARDIS. Bill approaches her adventures as you and I might, if we had never seen Doctor Who, with questions about the TARDIS and the Time Lords. Bill’s pluck contrasts nicely with the Doctor’s occasional pomposity. The result is the strongest consistent series of Doctor Who since, perhaps, Smith’s last season in the 50th anniversary year of 2013.
There aren’t any clunkers this series, and there are quite a few stand out episodes. These include Thin Ice and Oxygen, which both did something completely different with the Doctor Who format.
The Pyramid at the End of the World is great for the commentary it delivers on the human need to wage war.
Empress of Mars did something new with the Ice Warriors.
The Eaters of Light brought Rona Munro, a writer of the classic Doctor Who series, back to Doctor Who.
World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls paid more than a substantial homage to the original Mondasian Cybermen in Capaldi’s swansong stories. Plus, we’ve never seen two Masters on screen together before, even if one was Missy.
Special Features in these two DVD sets, which between them deliver Series 10 over four discs, are reasonably light. So, if value added material is your thing you might want to wait for the complete series in one package.
Each story is accompanied by an Inside Look of a couple of minutes containing soundbites on the episode from the Doctor Who production team. For the most part its Moffat and Capaldi, with occasional contribution from Mackie.
I’ve already reviewed each episode of Series 10 in depth on this blog, so what follows is the official BBC intro to each of the Series 10 episodes plus succinct quotes from the special features accompanying them.
Episode 1, The Pilot: Two worlds collide when the Doctor meets Bill, and a chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined. But who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission on Earth?
Moffat: “Series 10 sort of begins the show again. The first episode is called mischievously The Pilot. If you’ve never seen Doctor Who at all this could be your jumping on point.”
Episode 2, Smile: The language of the future is emoji! The Doctor takes Bill to a spectacular city on a distant planet – but where are the colonists? A band of ‘cute’ droids hold the deadly answer.
Capaldi: “I think this year’s very interesting because it boils the show down to the basic elements. A mysterious stranger takes the companions to an exotic and dangerous place.”
Episode 3, Thin Ice: London, 1814. The entire city has turned out for the biggest Frost Fair in decades. But beneath the frozen Thames, revellers are disappearing, snatched through the ice. Pulled into the depths where a terrifying monster lurks. Will the Doctor and Bill stop the slaughter before they too are dragged into the icy waters?
Capaldi: “I think this is a very unusual episode based on a real historical event, which happened a number of times which is that the Thames froze. So, the fact that we’re able to recreate this real event is lovely.”
Episode 4, Knock Knock: Why do floorboards creak? When a sinister landlord shows Bill and her friends the perfect houseshare, they have no idea what lies ahead… knock knock, who’s there?
Moffat: “The memory of real primal fear, the Fear Doctor Who extrapolated and rejoices in is born in the nursery when the house was all a bit bigger and darker and noisier and freakier. The house from the point of view of a child, every house is a haunted house.”
Episode 5, Oxygen: “Space – the final frontier. Final because it wants to kill us.” Trapped on a space station with no oxygen, the Doctor, Bill and Nardole are horrified to discover the automated spacesuits keeping them alive are also trying to kill them!
Moffat: “I think Peter always comes in from the drama angle and finds the comedy and I think Matt [Lucas as Nardole] tends to come in for the comedy angle and finds the drama. They are both hugely inventive actors.”
Episode 6, Extremis: “The Veritas. The truth. Truth so true you can’t live with it. Is that looking into hell . . . or seeing the light?” Everyone who has ever read the Veritas has been found dead. In a forbidden library at the heart of the Vatican, the pope urges the Doctor to read the ancient text – but can he handle the truth?
Capaldi: “It was difficult playing a blind doctor mostly because I didn’t know what it looked like, I knew that there was a special effect going to be added. So. I didn’t know how much to do and not to do.”
Episode 7, The Pyramid at the End of the World: An “ancient” pyramid appears overnight. Every clock in the world begins counting down to the Earth’s destruction. Three opposing armies lie ready to annihilate each other. An alien race stands ready to offer humanity a deal that could save them, but also enslave them. It’s a terrifying race against time to save the world. Will the Doctor be forced to accept their help?
Moffat: “I think what [writer] Peter Harness came up with is a scenario in which you realise how close to destruction we can always be and that sadly will never not be topical.”
Episode 8, The Lie of the Land: Earth has been invaded and Bill is living alone, an isolated figure surviving in occupied Britain. The Doctor is imprisoned and appears to be on the side of the enemy, flooding the airwaves with fake news. Bill and Nardole must embark on a deadly mission to rescue the Doctor and lead the resistance against the new regime, whatever the cost.
Capaldi: “Toby [Whithouse] is a wonderful writer. His scripts were always very tight and funny very dark he’s got a great imagination. Thus, was a very interesting take that he had on a dystopian 1984-style future that was dominated by the mysterious and strange monks.
Episode 9, Empress of Mars: “God save the Queen” has been scrawled on the surface of Mars. What are Victorians doing on the home of the Ice Warriors? And what will they find beneath the Martian soil?
Capaldi: “It was delightful to go to Mars again as the Doctor and not only to deal with Ice Warriors but also to deal with Victorians, to finding them on Mars was great fun.”
Episode 10, The Eaters of Light: A hunt for the lost Ninth Roman Legion leads the Doctor, Bill and Nardole into the middle of an ancient battle that could cast humanity into the dark forever. What is inside the cairn? And how far will they have to go defeat the terrifying alien Eaters of Light?
Pearl Mackie: “I spent a lot of the day hiding in the TARDIS because it was the only thing that shielded you from the wind.”
Episode 11, World Enough and Time: A huge spaceship trapped in the gravity well of a black hole, teeming with impossible lifeforms, harbours one of the Doctor’s most feared enemies… Mondasian Cybermen.
Moffat: “I didn’t immediately have a story for the Master, I struggled with that character, right up until the idea of Michelle Gomez. From the moment I cast her I thought wouldn’t it be hilarious if John Simm turned up as well.”
Episode 12, The Doctor Falls: The Doctor makes a final stand against an army of Cybermen to protect a tiny band of humans from destruction.
Moffat: The fact that it’s Peter’s last series matters to the show. The fact that it’s my last series doesn’t matter at all.”
Buy Doctor Who Series 10 at the BBC Shop.