While Doctor Who is a sci-fi show that evolved out of something that was originally intended to be a science and history show, it’s always been at its strongest when it’s a character study. Just look at the difference between last week’s episode and this week’s. The Girl Who Died was largely a comedy episode. The Woman Who Lived was a study of Ashilder and the downside of immortality.
The Doctor Who and Game of Thrones crossover game was strong this week. We always have that connection between the two series because Jenna Coleman is dating Richard Madsen (Robb Stark). This week, we’re going back to medieval times and adding Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) as a Viking girl. Okay, it’s not quite a proper Doctor Who / GoT crossover but it’s probably as close as we’re going to get until Littlefinger shoves Clara out the Moon Door.
For the second story in a row, Doctor Who is a two-part episode. As much as I like the vintage style of a multi-part Doctor Who story, after the Dalek two-parter and this ghost story, I’m not sure that they’ve quite figured out the pacing yet.
If there’s one way to describe Steven Moffat’s run as showrunner, it’s to call it a throwback to classic Doctor Who. He’s mixed in little bits of action, horror, morality, and dry humour to make a fun show just like it was when it first started. Moffat also seems to be bringing back the multi-part stories to Doctor Who. For the second story in a row, we have a two-parter. While the last one was meant to tug at your heartstrings, this one is meant to send chills up your spine.
As someone who watched old Doctor Who reruns growing up, I’m quite fond of the multi-episode arc that Doctor Who traditionally used to tell stories. It’s something we rarely see from modern Doctor Who, at least not to the extent that it used to be used as a story telling device. In fact, this is only the second two-part season premiere of Doctor Who since the revival.
The problem with a multi-episode story arc is that you really need to have a good payoff to the individual episodes and the story as a whole. I’m not convinced that The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar two-parter really fulfilled either side of that.
Nine months on from Christmas, Doctor Who Christmas is upon us. Okay, I’m not sure what a Doctor Who fan would consider to be the biggest event of the year but it’s my review so I’m going to say it’s the season premiere. With no new characters to introduce, we instead get reacquainted with a couple of The Doctor’s old nemeses. What good is a hero without an equally strong villain, after all.
Like the last couple of Doctor Who Christmas specials, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special come with some intrigue for the series going forward. Last year’s saw the denouement of the Eleventh Doctor and the introduction of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor.
This year, the intrigue was all about Clara. Lead actors and actresses on Doctor Who haven’t been particularly long-lived on the show with Amy and Rory being the longest tenured at two-and-a-half season. So while we were all hoping for a happy Christmas story, the whole episode would be about the mystery contract status of Jenna Coleman.