Doctor Who: Season 10 part 1
Except for soap operas, it is unheard of for a television series to extend its run beyond a handful of seasons before cancellation. A couple of live action, prime time shows have reached the twenty-year mark, but only one series has remained popular for over fifty years, ‘Doctor Who,' that has been a staple for the BBC becoming deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness of several generations. The main problem with any television series with ambitions of great longevity is maintaining the precarious between giving the audience something new while retaining the aspects that contributed to its popularity in the first place. Through the decades the various head writers and show runners had a device built into the fundamental methods that ensure a seamless transition between seasons and, more importantly, between significant changes in the principle cast of decisions altering the basic nature of the series. When it becomes necessary for an incarnation of the current version of ‘The Doctor,' individuals of his extraterrestrial species can regenerate into a new body. The memories of his past incarnations remain, but his essence remains ‘The Doctor.' This is the ideal basis for major changes in the cast and while keeping the nuances of the story intact. The crafting of the plot devices exhibited such incredibly tight writing that when the number of regenerations became used the Time Lords, devised a way around the established canonical limit. An excuse was contrived to reset his carnation odometer back to the start. The time Lords leadership bestowed on him a fresh set of transformations, capable of greatly extending the series.
The tenth series, or season for us Yanks, is the third and final set of adventures featuring Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor as the maverick Time Lord. It has no secret that Mr. Capaldi has announced that this season will be his final excursion with the middle age Scotsman persona for this highly coveted role. For many years the Doctor has been going through his dozen incarnations at a rapid pace. It is once again time to see new face, body, and personality. A new interpretation will assume control of the only enemy truly feared by overwhelming adversaries, immensely powerful foes as Cybermen, Daleks, Weeping Angels and innumerable forms of nasty beasties out to control, destroy or devour, the universe. This is arguably one on the most coveted roles in entertainment, and it is always a special event among the sizable legion of fans around the world. The problem with keeping an actor especially suited to donning the mantle of The Doctor is the role is so sought after, such a guarantee of global recognition and, most importantly, a rare opportunity to wield the artistic freedom to reinvent this iconic role and place their indelible stamp upon it. By attracting such an elite and rarefied upper echelon of the noble craft of acting that it is not feasible to consider holding such a talent to any form of long term commitment. These men, so far, are in incredible demand and what has driven them to the pinnacle of their craft drives them to seek new horizons and new artistic challenges to surpass understandably.
This last season of Mr. Capaldi at center stage coincides with a change in guard as Steven Moffat steps aside as show runner handing the reigns over to several directors and writers to add their spin on this venerable show. As a result, veteran fans will recognize several familiar tropes as they are repeated. Most evident is a return to the childlike wonder and naiveté that so frequently was present in the earliest Companions typically as a means of providing requisite exposition to a new series that was becoming increasingly rich in details. Recent companions, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and most recently Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) took to life in the TARDIS going to the point of developing a personal relationship with the famous Blue Police Box. At the start of this tenth (new) season the new Companion, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) was able to reinvigorate the function of a Companion restoring the sense of wonder. She was working as an assistant in the canteen of St Luke's University, the hallowed hall of academia that has been selected by The Doctor as his home base during his self-imposed confinement to Sol-3, Earth. While he is keeping something or someone confined to a special vault in the basement of a less utilized building, The Doctor has a long-standing relationship with this university including the fact that his recently self-sacrificed Companion, Clara, worked there as a teacher between her adventures in time and space. Bill, unofficially audited his free-form classes where the topic of each course was entirely up to the whim of the current incarnation of the Doctor. He stretched Bill’s intellect, but she preserved approaching the Doctor for individual tutorials. Not easily rebuffed by the ancient scion on Gallifrey. The Doctor took the loss of Clara especially personally having formed an especially strong personal bond with her. In what had become a regular circumstance with recent Companions, Clara had a deep rooted history with the Doctor beyond the usual tenure in the TARDIS. Bill is a fresh start, a blank slate for such ingrained aspects of Whovian lore as regeneration cycles, the linear age of the Doctor and, one of the most ambiguous aspects of the Doctor is just how old he is at this moment. He states 2,000 years. This is a result of some lengthy side adventures in between season adventures.
What Bill does manifest in full measure is the intrinsic qualities of curiosity and need to help others in peril. Initially, Bill views the TARDIS. The magical box is bigger on the inside than outside, like a golden ticket to unfettered adventure jaunting through time and space as a fantastic ride in a celestial roller coaster. The Doctor feels something long forgotten, a sense of a fresh perspective seeing the universe through a set of new eyes instead of the two-thousand-year-old vantage point of a tired traveler forced, to become a warrior and responsible for a double genocide. This weighty responsibility controlled the ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), carrying through to the next couple of regenerations that had the physical appearance closer to a college student than a mentor possessing millennia of personal experience. The relationship between Doctor-12 and Bill is a throwback to the first few incarnations of the characters especially Doctor-1 (William Hartnell). The other Companion, Nardone (Matt Lucas), a reassemble artificial life form formerly employed by the Doctor’s wife, Professor River Song (Alex Kingston), charged with keeping the Doctor true to his promise of guarding whatever or whoever is within the mysterious vault. He is constantly reminding the Doctor of his vow to remain on Earth only to have the Doctor whisk Bill away on an adventure in time. Technically, they have not left Earth, just moved through time. Much to the chagrin of Nardone, it is exceptionally difficult to outwit or outmaneuver someone that has been circumventing authority for two thousand years or so. Thanks to having a time machine the Doctor and Bill were back before the tea kettle Nardone put on came to a boil.
Superficially, the adventures follow the format that has been in use for decades, the main mystery unfolding over a substantial portion of the season. This is punctuated by episodic forays saving some group of people, or entities, from a death they are woefully unprepared to oppose. These episodes frequently provide a platform for character development. Many years ago, when the show began the transition from a light-hearted children’s show to one of the most successful examples of dramatic science fiction, was a shift to focusing on deep character development. With a return to a naive companion such as Bill, her questions afforded the Doctor to greater, emotional openness, reflecting on his long and varied life and the many regenerations that lie ahead. The Doctor is caught a dilemma, after losing Clara under such tragic circumstances, he is cautious of repeating this degree of vulnerability, which frequently contradicts his need to share his life with others helping them to appreciate the vast wonders of the entirety of time space.
This season has once again been split into two parts, which is primarily for financial reasons allowing the network a way around mandatory salary increases that accompany a new season, in any case, The Doctor still has what it took to retain the ardor of a still-growing legion of fans.