Sunday’s episode of Doctor Who feels very light on the central character of the show.
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is very much like a background character in the latest episode of Series 8 to air on Prime.
Nearly every series of the show, since it relaunched in 2005, has had one “Doctor lite” episode and this one feels like it for Capaldi’s first series in the TARDIS.
The Doctor is physically crowded out by the trees that have grown overnight, turning central London into a dense forest, and very much feels crowded out by Coal Hill School teachers Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson).
Their relationship with each other, and a group of Coal Hill pupils on a field trip, is central to this story by writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Theirs is the A Story and nd while he is in many scenes the Doctor’s solving the mystery of the trees’ sudden growth spurt feels like the B Story.
If this story had to be told it’s a bit of a shame it couldn’t have waited until next series when Capaldi’s Doctor is better defined. We are only 10 episodes into the 12th Doctor’s regeneration and it still feels like we’re getting to know him.
I suspect, however, that it had to be told now because the Doctor is slowly losing Clara to her beau. While Coleman has refused to confirm or deny she is in the next series I suspect she’ll make way for a new companion come the 2014 Christmas special.
Capaldi gets full marks for his screen time in this one and, his portrayal is about as alien a Doctor we’ve seen for a long time, perhaps as far back as his fourth incarnation (Tom Baker) and certainly his sixth (Colin Baker). As always he gets the best lines. Listen for the one about cola early on.
In The Forest of the Night turned out to be a clever science fiction story, its’ ending impossibly satisfying, but I’m sure the internet will be abuzz with people discussing whether it felt like a proper Doctor Who story or a soap opera.
One aspect, the tacking on of a scene or two of the mysterious Missy who is seemingly awaiting the Doctor’s arrival in paradise, was about as Doctor Who as it gets. From the Next Week trailer it looks like we finally might start to get some answers in the first of a delicious looking Cyberman two-parter.