The one where I give you hell. That’s a pun. It’s funny.
Hello there. Have you got a moment for our lord and savior, series 8?
I’m not really joking there, in all honesty. I do genuinely believe that series 8 is the absolute pinnacle of the show, modern or classic. It’s down to a lot of things, really – the fact that the Moffat/Capaldi/Coleman team is almost impossible to top; the fact the whole series is focused around strong themes and arcs, with each and every episode having a genuine, interesting role in the wider scheme of things; … Really, it may just be because it proved Steven Moffat’s writing could really pay off, that his strategy of radically altering the show and its paradigm every series was actually a good idea. As much as I liked the Matt Smith years, and I did, and I’m not alone in this, they were a bit of a dangerous experiment, that sort of spiraled out of control around 2011 and never quite regained their poise – they also marked the rise of the anti-Moffat crowd, and of the onslaught of sometimes relevant, and sometimes asinine criticism that rained on the man’s head. And the 2014 series feels, maybe more than any other, like a direct byproduct of criticism, a reaction against something – not in a bad way, mind you. It still tells its own story, and, I’ll argue, it does so amazingly well. But that story is a dark one, based around constant accusations leveled at the ethos of Smith years, and really, at the show in general – it’s all about deconstruction, about toppling down the tropes and clichés of Who to take a peek at what lies underneath, this fragile, troubled core of wonderful humanity. “Listen” – outside of being, you know, the best Who story of all time, and that’s not just me and Scarves who say it, but also Paul Cornell, so we’re in good company – is all about that: going beyond the story, beyond the tapestry of Moffat mannerisms, to get to the point, the literal center and starting point of the Who narrative, the moment where the Doctor, as a character, is forged; and that moment is an act of pure compassion, an open, beautiful gift of human warmth.
I really really like it. As you may have noticed.
Interestingly enough, though, it does also feature a Dalek episode. A very, very good Dalek episode, actually – not counting Big Finish, I could make a serious case for “Into the Dalek” being the best of them all; with only “Dalek” and “The Parting of Ways” standing as worthy contenders. Which is a bit odd, in a sense. Daleks are ideological creatures, see? In a fundamental way, they embody a message, a text. And that message … Well, it’s not always that interesting, for starters, but more than this – it doesn’t necessarily gel well with what series 8 wants to accomplish. And yet, it works. Let’s talk about it.