Channel: BBC One
Recurring Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Louise Coleman
Doctor Who’s biggest problem is that it is one of the most inconsistent shows out there. There is no predicting how good each episode will actually be, until you are about ten minutes in. I found that this went doubly for Season Nine. Some episodes were truly spectacular, the penultimate episode featuring only Peter Capaldi and an empty castle, allowing the actor to dive into some brilliant writing and give the performance of his lifetime. The twist was incredible, but the true genius of the episode was how well-directed the whole affair was. It was a confident display of TV magnificence. Other episodes weren’t so great. One episode featured the sleep dust in your eyes turning into a carnivorous criminal mastermind and pretty much every episode starring Maisie Williams had no idea if it was supposed to played for laughs or drama. Even the good episodes usually had something that irked the viewer on the side-lines. Season Nine opens solidly with the return of Davros (the Daleks are unlocked terrifically to the point, where you actually end up pitying them), but the episode is weighed down by the persistently irritating Missy and a twist too far at the tail-end of the story. The Zygon Invasion episodes also had one too many plot-holes lurking in the back of your mind. Doctor Who is a show that seems to build itself up to impossible heights (the diehard fans should be blamed a lot for this too), and constantly shoots itself in the foot, letting itself down.
Mind you, when it is good, it is usually bloody great. This season had some good fun, revelling in a twist spoilt by the media (once again!) It was made abundantly clear that someone major would be leaving the show (this review won’t spoil who, in case a newcomer to the show stumbles across this article), so the writers toy with our emotions. Mock scenarios featuring certain characters’ deaths cropped up a lot and it has to be said that a few of them would have been decent ways for that person to bow out of the series. They tie nicely into the finale that pulls out all of the stops to deliver an emotional thrill-ride. Sure, as I said above, the finale is not devoid of the rule that there are usually elements to the story that drags the whole affair down. The end episode is a bit of a mess, bringing back some old faces to the Doctor Who canon, but being so fast-paced, I imagine little stands up to scrutiny. However, the important thing to note is that the core emotion is handled perfectly, so when the episode hits its closing notes, you are in the palm of their hand. It will be one of the more stinging blows to the Doctor Who shows in quite some time. However, for me, the stand-out moment of Season Nine is easily the ending to the two-part story about the Zygons launching an assault on the humans. It is impossible to ignore the message badly hidden in the world’s least subtle subtext in quite some time. Two races are living in peace on planet Earth, until a rag-tag group of Zygons declare war on the humans. The humans have a weapon that can wipe out all the Zygons, putting everyone on a hair’s breadth of all-out war. The power of the story was accidentally intensified by the Paris bombings. Suddenly, the Muslim angle of the Zygon invasion was on the forefronts of everyone’s minds. And that ending – Peter Capaldi sits down the Zygon insurgents and UNIT’s blood-thirsty commanders in the same room and pleads with them to forgive each other. It is one of the most powerful monologues I have seen in Doctor Who and the kind of performance from Capaldi that deserves a standing ovation. It is relevant, touching and one of the highlights of British TV in 2015. This is what Doctor Who should be – using pop culture and media attention to imprint good morals on the younger audience.
And this is also why Doctor Who gets away with being so inconsistent. When Season Nine bows to a close – no, when each episode bowed to a close – we only ever talk about the good. OMG, did you see Episode Four’s chillingly amazing scene where a deaf girl is stalked by an axe-wielding spectre? How incredible was Jenna Coleman in the finale? That twist with Ashildr!!! The second the episode ends, we are somehow blind-sided to everything the season did wrong. There was far too much of a reliance to the two-part episodes this year, slowing the season down and keeping the audience trapped into certain plotlines they didn’t care about. Maisie Williams’ character needed to be more spread out, so her development was more gradual, than thrown at us. Great performances hide an uneven tone and unsure writing. It seems petty criticising such a good season, but there were far too many cracks in the foundations this time around. Yes, it was good, but it should have been better (Davros, I am looking at you!).
Final Verdict: Season Nine has some memorable and heart-breaking moments, but the inconsistency of Doctor Who is starting to weigh down the overall quality of the show.