A while ago I posted a list of things that I wanted to see in Doctor Who before we were introduced to the 13th Doctor. Now, with the season behind us, we have only one episode–the Christmas special–still before us. How did I go? And now that those 12 episodes are behind us, what is on my new wishlist of things I want to see before Peter Capaldi bows out this December?
First, the review of my previous list:
1. A companion who lives on the TARDIS
Nope! But at least we got something different then just a “home” situation. Instead, there’s Bill, working on a university and regularly going on adventures with her tutor, the Doctor.
2. The Day of the Doctor revisited
Nope. We didn’t even really deal with Gallifrey or the Time Lords at all.
3. Sontarans…in Space!
Nope. Neither a jot nor a tittle of the Sontarans.
4. Who was pulling Gus’ strings?
No, not as far as we know, anyway.
5. A new recurring villain
Nope. I wondered about this one for a while, until the occupant of the Vault was revealed.
6. Taking the opportunity before it’s too late
This was referring especially to getting William Russell back as Ian Chesterton while it was still possible, but there was no sign of this. Neither was there any sign of Claudia Grant as Susan, although it turns out she is going to be playing the role soon (more on that later).
7. Missy & the Daleks, with neither of them looking like buffoons
The Daleks were just a cameo, really, while Missy was a major player. Neither looked like buffoons, but they didn’t appear together and there was no dealing with where we last saw them in Season Nine.
8. No Zygons, Kate Stewart, Madame Vastra, Davros, Lady Me or Clara
Yes! (Aside from a brief Clara flashback toward the end).
9. Mix up the story lengths
Yes, sort of. There was a one three-parter in the middle (although it could be argued it was really a two-parter with a one episode prologue) and a two-parter at the climax.
10. Ice Warrior Politics
Kind of. We got a prologue of sorts of the Ice Warriors role in The Curse of Peladon, including a cameo from Alpha Centauri! That was fun.
11. A solid story arc
Umm, kind of. The story of Missy’s “redemption” didn’t really start until nearly halfway through, but it was dealt with pretty well by the end. Even if her story never really elevated above “sub-plot”, I love the way Missy and her predecessor “killed” each other.
The season was also book-ended by a bit with Bill and her romantic life, and that was quite weak and kind of shallow.
12. The return of the Mondasian Cybermen to have massive implications
Maybe–with the sudden reappearance of the First Doctor in the final moments of the last episode, they might still tie these things in together. But I doubt it. Still, they used the reappearance of the Mondasian Cybermen to “canonize” all sorts of extended universe Cybermen origin stories, so that was pretty significant.
13. The regeneration to surprise us somehow
Yes, so far, anyway. Interestingly, the Doctor begins to regenerate in the midst of crisis, which is not something we normally see. And the Doctor “holds back” his regeneration, which is also unusual. But I’m really talking about the final moment, when the regeneration actually happens. That’s still to be seen.
So with all of that in mind, what is on my new wish-list? What are Thirteen things that I want to see on Doctor Who before we see the 13th Doctor?
1. A more satisfying conclusion to Bill’s story
As I mentioned, I found Bill’s resolution to be one of the poorest parts of an otherwise good season closer. I didn’t mind her being turned into a Cyberman, though that was heart-breaking. I thought the connection with the first episode with Bill crying someone else’s tears to be a bit clever. But the idea of her running off at the end with a pool of sentient oil that looked like someone she used to like (whom it had actually killed) was dumb. After Clara and Ashildr last year, do we really need another former companion with their own companion traveling around having her own adventures? No, we don’t. Word is that Pearl Mackie will appear in the Christmas special–I don’t want to spend a lot of time on her, but let’s get her back on earth and into her ordinary life. Or failing that, something just a bit..better.
2. No more Missy
I’ve never been the biggest fan of the endless reappearances of the Master, though I have to admit that Michelle Gomez has brought something fresh to the part that I’ve enjoyed. I even liked John Simms in this last season, after hating him in all his previous appearances as the character. But after so much time was spent on them in World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls, it’s time to shelve the character(s), for the immediate future.
She was on my list of characters to not appear in the above list, but now as Peter Capaldi’s tenure as the Doctor draws to a close, I’d really like to see her again. Although I don’t necessarily care if it’s “moment before death” Clara that we last saw–I guess I’m more interested in dealing with the issue of the Doctor having forgotten her. He did have a brief flashback with her in the last episode, but that’s not quite the emotionally satisfying resolution that I’m hoping for. And if we get have a bit of Jenna Coleman back for a bit in the process, I’m okay with that. Indeed, I’d rather have that then spend a lot of time on Bill.
4. Not that much time on the “Captain”
Actor Mark Gatiss features prominently in the promotional material for the episode as a mysterious “Captain”, apparently a World War I soldier who is somehow important to the story’s plot. Gatiss is a fine actor and has been an important part of the series since it relaunched in 2005 (though usually as a writer, not an actor) so it’s sort of fitting that he’s making an appearance during this important transition story. But I’m hoping that not too much of the screentime is taken up by the character when we want as much as we can get from the two Doctors, as well as the other familiar friends I’m mentioning on this list. Unless of course the character is fantastically interesting, and then sure, fine, do whatever you want.
5. One last continuity patch
For better or for worse (in my opinion, it’s generally been for better), Steven Moffat has taken the opportunity of being showrunner of Doctor Who a number of times to put his stamp on the show’s backstory. We’ve discovered a never-before-seen incarnation of the Doctor, learned the hidden role a particular companion has played throughout his many lives, gotten glimpses oft the Doctor’s childhood, filled in all of the Doctor’s regenerations, and so on. Now, the current Doctor is meeting the first, which sounds exactly like Moffat’s opportunity to explain various things from the beginning of the show that proved not quite consistent with what came later. Maybe we’ll hear why the Doctor’s attitude about interfering with history changed, or how the first Doctor seemingly forgot about the Daleks when he was carrying the Hand of Omega, or something like that.
Or maybe the Captain will turn out to really be the Valeyard in disguise or something like that.
6. Ben and Polly to be deeper but still consistent
This is not the first time the series has re-cast some companions, but it’s pretty much the first time it’s been done without internal explanation. If we’re going to go to all that bother, it’d be nice to give the characters a bit more depth than they got in the 1960’s version of Doctor Who, while still feeling like we’re watching the same people.
7. The Doctor to go back!
This one was mentioned before, and it sort of fits into the above listing, but I’d love to see the Doctor make good on his promise to Susan from her departing story, part 6 of The Dalek Invasion of the Earth. There, as he said goodbye to his granddaughter, he delivered one of the show’s most iconic speeches:
One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.
If David Bradley, who played William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, is returning as the Doctor, than why can’t Claudia Grant, who played Carole Ann Ford, appear as Susan?
Now, as it turns out, Bradley, Grant and their co-stars are returning to these parts again in upcoming Big Finish audios, but I doubt they’ll resolve that long-standing story thread. I want to see it on TV!
8. Not too much “rompiness”
There’s something about Christmas episodes which seem to inspire a lot of silliness. Usually, it takes the form of a big action set piece near the beginning of the story, like the chase in The Runaway Bride, or the killer Christmas tree in The Christmas Invasion, or giant shark in A Christmas Carol or just about the entirety of The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. Usually these are not the best or most memorable parts of the stories. Let’s make this a good episode, not just a good Christmas episode.
9. Not just a “best of” album
When previous showrunner Russell T. Davies left back in 2010, his last story became a tribute of sorts to his entire tenure as head writer for the show, featuring cameos by every companion to have featured in his era, as well as many other major characters. I appreciated it at the time, but I don’t necessarily want a repeat of that this time around. I don’t need cameos by the Weeping Angels, the Silence, Madame Vastra, Strax, River Song, Osgood, Nardole and Canton Everett Delaware III in order to feel like I’m reaching the close of a chapter in the series’ history…
10. The End of an Era
…but at the same time, I’d still like to find some fitting way to conclude Moffat’s tenure as showrunner. I’m not sure what it would be, but ideally it’d be like Moffat’s best work and be utterly surprising. Indeed, perhaps the best tribute to one of the series’ most significant creators would be if the Christmas episode manages to hit the following point:
11. Moffat’s best script ever
Is it possible? Could we actually get a stronger character piece than The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances? A cleverer time travel story than Blink? A more satisfying plot than Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead? A scarier menace than The Impossible Astronaut? A more engaging multi-Doctor story than Day of the Doctor? A more rousing finale than Heaven Sent?
I say yes! Why not?
12. Peter Capaldi’s best performance
I was like Clara when Matt Smith left the show–wary about whether I could get behind this new Doctor (even though I’ve always embraced the notion that change is intrinsic to the program.) But it didn’t take me long; Capaldi is a powerful presence and he was able to take the Doctor into new places that fit his particular strengths as an actor. Let’s see this last story take him even further, and make Jodie Whittaker really have to work at it to keep us from getting stuck in the past.
13. The Unexpected
I want to not be able to guess what’s happening next. I want the the denouement of the 12th Doctor’s time on our screens to blow me away with its emotional power and surprising story direction. And like I mentioned before, I want the actual moment of change in the Doctor to re-invoke the magic that regenerations used to have: basically with a different type of special effect to depict the process that we’ve grown accustomed to. Back in the old days, they were all different. They weren’t all spectacular, but you never were sure what it was going to look like. In the new show, the special effects improved vastly, but the design of the regeneration process became more standardized. Let’s have the absolute final moment of the series for both Moffat and Capaldi be one that takes us someplace new, and not just to reveal of the 13th Doctor.
And that’s it! How will we do for this little wishlist? Just over a month to find out…