It’s the end of an era! Peter Capaldi is officially leaving the show and we at Blogtor Who are all in mourning about it.
Okay, so he’s still got the entirety of Series 10 and a Christmas special yet to go. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad and reminisce a little! If only to get yourself psyched up for his return on April 15th, join us as we count down our Top 5 favourite Twelfth Doctor stories so far…
5. Mummy on the Orient Express
Flatline very very nearly took this spot. Heck, by all accounts, it’s probably the better episode of the two. But the reason it just fell shy of making the list is because The Doctor doesn’t really do a whole lot in it. Sure, Peter Capaldi is great as the desperate Time Lord trapped in his shrinking TARDIS. But Flatline is much more a Clara episode, and this is a Twelfth Doctor list after all.
So, the spoils go to Jamie Mathieson’s other Series 8 episode instead! Mummy is a story with an awful lot to love. An exciting and scary new monster? Check. An intriguing mystery that cleverly unravels as the episode goes on? Check. Plenty of knowing winks to the past? Check. And, even better, it’s all set on the Orient Express… in space!
The Doctor and Clara’s “last hurrah” (snort) is a great character piece with an incredibly nifty gimmick. Once you see The Foretold, you have 66 seconds left to live. The editing is so confident in pulling this off, it even sticks a countdown on the screen. Now that’s impressive. It works wonders for developing Twelve’s character, too. Systematically, he has to let victims meet their maker so he can learn a little more about the monster from each death. Cruel, certainly – but it’s a necessary sacrifice. Sometimes, the only choices are bad ones… but you still have to choose.
Plus, this episode boasts guest appearances from Frank Skinner and Foxes! Don’t stop us now, we’re having such a good time…
4. The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar
Talk about a bold way to open a new series! 40 years on from Genesis of the Daleks, The Doctor faces his greatest dilemma. Does he kill the evil Davros as a child, or show him mercy?
The Series 9 premiere is a tale of two halves. Part one: a fast-paced whistle-stop tour of the universe. Everyone’s on the hunt for The Doctor, but he’s gone AWOL. From the Shadow Proclamation to Karn, to Earth, to… earlier Earth… it’s a jam-packed return for the show. By part two, we’re trapped in Davros’ menacing grasp. The Doctor is stuck on Skaro and his friends have apparently been exterminated. Cue some of the best Doctor/Davros scenes ever, with standout performances from both Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach.
Meanwhile, Jenna Coleman and Michelle Gomez also get their chance to shine. The story gives everyone something to do, and it all wraps up nicely by the end. “Your sewers are revolting!” indeed. It’s a riveting rollercoaster with some powerful messages. Are friend and foe really so different?
3. The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
Alternatively known as “that one with the war speech”. Picking up where The Day of the Doctor left off, this two-parter shares a lot in common with the Series 9 opener. The first half is a globe-trotting romp as Zygons go rogue and threaten to wreak havoc. The second, meanwhile, is a slower and smaller affair, offering more poignancy over scale. It’s a very contemporary and relevant plot, with unmistakable parallels to ISIS and terrorism. It also helps to flesh out and (ahem) humanise the Zygons. Most of them are peaceful folk, but a few bad eggs are ruining it for them all. The nightmare scenario is in full swing… call in Doctor Disco!
As well as the exciting return of Osgood and UNIT, there’s some genuinely clever stuff going on here. Particularly in Inversion, Clara’s ‘dream’ scenes are wonderfully unnerving. In fact, Jenna Coleman is just generally one of the highlights here. She totally owns her double role as Bonnie, and it’s a shame we don’t get to see her play evil more often. And the cliffhanger! Shooting down the Doctor’s plane with a bazooka, now that’s ballsy.
Of course, the bit everyone will remember from this is the speech at the end. In short, The Doctor’s lengthy monologue is incredible stuff. Kudos to Peter Harness and Steven Moffat for writing such a hard-hitting script. And even more kudos to Peter Capaldi for pulling it off with aplomb.
Question: what happens when you write a story about The Doctor in his down time? Conjecture: the best episode of Series 8, that’s what! While Listen often feels like a greatest hits of Steven Moffat tropes, it’s done so well that it hardly makes a difference. The premise is simple and intriguing: The Doctor, purely for the sake of it, is looking for perfect hiders. Is it possible to ever witness something that can never be seen? The answer, it seems, isn’t so straightforward.
The script is timey-wimey, but beautifully so. Clara and Danny’s first date interweaves with The Doctor’s search in impossible ways. Moffat manages to write both a funny yet terrifying series of events. Everything in the restaurant is comedy gold, but the rest? Chilling to the bone. If you’ve ever had a nightmare about what’s under your bed, prepare to jump behind the sofa. The journey takes us right to the very end of the universe. But, even then, closure isn’t very forthcoming – and all the better for it.
Some will argue that the ending with Clara on Gallifrey is far too much. Love it or loathe it, though, it’s hard to deny that the scene itself is lovingly shot. Clara’s “fear makes companions of us all” speech is moving, tying up the story perfectly. As a 45 minute standalone piece to showcase The Twelfth Doctor in Series 8, Listen is about as good as it gets.
Oh, and was that thing under the covers a monster, or just a child? We may never know…
1. Heaven Sent
The Twelfth Doctor in Series 9 though? Well, this is definitely as good as it gets. Heaven Sent is a tour-de-force in writing, acting, and directing. This is Doctor Who at its most experimental, its most brave, and its absolute best. Considering it’s essentially just 55 minutes of one man alone in a castle, that’s pretty good going.
Still reeling from Clara’s death, The Doctor is well and truly put through the wringer. Somebody wants information about the Hybrid and they’ll do anything to get it. The Doctor is locked in a puzzle-box of his own nightmares, stalked by the sinister Veil. He’s only got his body and his mind to figure out a way to escape. Which, eventually, he does. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it’s going to take him quite a while.
The build-up is great, but this is an episode that completely triumphs on its ending. In fact, it gets even better on rewatch when you can make sense of everything in reverse. The final montage of The Doctor harrowingly pounding away at the azbantium wall is pure artistic brilliance. Four and a half billion years fly by in just a few minutes, and you feel the weight of every single moment. Around and around The Doctor goes, dying again and again, just to painstakingly chisel away at that tunnel. Poor guy.
At last, he smashes through and steps onto the harsh sands of a familiar planet. The Doctor is finally back on Gallifrey, and this time he’s got a score to settle. Opinions on Hell Bent are divisive to say the least, but surely everyone can agree that this story is certainly a worthy way for him to get there… quite literally “the long way round”!