After a season of new challenges being faced and old faces leaving, Series 9 emerged as a decidedly strong one for Doctor Who, despite some fairly major wobbles.
Frankly, we don’t believe that anyone had any lingering doubts about Peter Capaldi’s suitability as the Time Lord after his brilliant work in Series 8, but this year sees him really come into his own. Watching his relationship with Jenna Coleman’s Clara develop is one of the series’ real pleasures, helping to propel the show through some of the ropier episodes. The inevitable result of their partnership becoming so strong is the fact that Clara’s much-hyped departure was genuinely moving, and Coleman will definitely be missed.
Helping Series 9 to stand apart from the pack was the decision to tell the bulk of the season as two-parters. Although it does mean that some stories that didn’t really work stuck around for longer than they should have (Toby Whithouse’s ‘Under The Lake’/’Before The Flood’ got off to a cracking start before losing its way in the second half, as did ‘The Girl Who Died’/‘The Woman Who Lived’), it also meant that stories got room to breathe.
The Zygon two-parter is some of the most compelling Who we’ve seen in years, culminating in an incredible Capaldi monologue and allowing the Doctor to deliver the kind of humanitarian message that recalled the best of the Jon Pertwee era. Although series opener ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ isn’t great, the double act of Clara and Michelle Gomez’s Missy in ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ is absolutely wonderful, and it’s important to single out Maisie Williams’ Ashildr/Me for praise, who becomes more and more impressive as the series goes on.
Some episodes may have divided audiences (Mark Gatiss’ ‘Sleep No More’ seemingly split everyone down the middle, although we love the ending), but when you’ve got brilliant hours of television like ‘Heaven Sent’ (which stranded the Doctor alone and under attack, with superb direction from Rachel Talaly, who’s increasingly becoming the show’s MVP director) it’s tough to quibble.
It has a rocky start, but Series 9 rewards your patience, leaving the Doctor in an interesting place.