-Major Spoilers for the entire series-
Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Toisin Cole, Bradley Walsh
Genre: Time Travel
After a year’s break, Doctor Who returned to our screens earlier this year with a season that was even more controversial than the last. Before dive in to the finale that split viewers, let’s have a run through the entire season
Spyfall (parts 1&2): A star-studded season opener balancing the usual shenanigans with a James Bond aesthetic. This was a strong start to the season, with both comedy and drama in equal measure. By far the best part though was the introduction of Sacha Dhawan as the latest Master, who may just be the best Master this side of Derek Jacobi.
Orphan 55: Another strong episode, but this time one that falls apart at the end. A fun cast, some great monster design and a neat little twist all work, but the final act goes from moralistic to preachy.
Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror: My favourite episode of the series, this historical romp is a classic of the new Who era. It’s easy to see this episode coming from the Russell T Davies era, but done with the production values of 2020. Further elevated by some great guest stars, including a welcome return for Anjli Mohindra, though sadly not as Rani Chandra.
Prisoner of the Judoon: An episode with a lot of potential, but fails in the execution. On the one hand it’s a parade of welcome faces, from the titular Judoon to a surprise cameo from none less than Captain Jack Harkness himself. The big reveal of Jo Martin as a new (to us) incarnation of the Doctor was completely unexpected, but ultimately this episode was more about setting up storylines than being a story in its own right.
Praxeusi: If Orphan 55 took a preachy turn at the end, then this grabbed that thread and ran with it. There were some good ideas here, but really there’s only so many times we can be told that there’s plastic in the oceans before the audience gets annoyed. Definitely the weakest of the series.
Can You Hear Me?: A genuinely creepy episode that, a little surprisingly, balances an important message about mental health with a good story. With possibly the best original villain of the series and a stunning animated segment, this is one that will be remembered for some time yet.
The Haunting of Villa Diodati: A second creepy story in a row, this one was always going to be hampered by its being a direct lead-in to the final episodes of the series. In spite of some wonderfully spooky moments and stellar performances, it can’t quite stick the landing.
Ascension of the Cybermen: Easily the best cyberman story in years, this set up a lot of promise for the finale while also being a decent adventure by itself. Some of the best traditional sci-fi Doctor Who has done in recent years. the only weak point were the visions scattered throughout, which lacked the context to make them as interesting as probably intended.
The Timeless Children: This was the one. The big old, divisive finale. Some say its the best thing in years, others declare that Doctor Who’s canon has been destroyed forever. I, as usual, take a more neutral approach. I think the origin of the Time Lords was fascinating. they’ve never been a great bunch of people, so it makes perfect sense that they’d exploit a child for immortality. Where I think the show missteps is having that child be the Doctor. Tying the central character into such an epic story from its foundation takes away from the wandering charm of the character. Saying these revelations violates canon is an absurd statement given Doctor Who’s history of reinvention, but I do think it takes away from the central premise of the show.
All in all, this series was an improvement on the last. Jodie Whittaker has one me over as the doctor and, even if the TARDIS does seem overly crowded, I can’t think which companion I’d get rid of. There’s already a series scheduled for next year, plus the obligatory Christmas/New Year special, and hopefully these will put more of a focus on weekly adventures rather than any overarching storyline or moral messages.