DOCTOR WHO: The Series 8 Scoreboard - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DOCTOR WHO: The Series 8 Scoreboard

Tom Pheby ranks the opening episodes from Series 8 of Doctor Who.

Okay, we can all relax now. After a slow start it appears Doctor Who Series 8 has found it's 'A game'. 'Listen 'certainly was the best of the four episodes so far by some distance and was also the most compelling of the new run. Dealing with that age old fear of 'what's under the bed', it also managed to cleverly combine Clara's timeline, explain Danny Pink's relevance and also explore another area of the Doctors past. The story was tight, focused and surprising - certainly more like Moffat at his best. A classy and slick affair, well written and directed, with Capaldi appearing to own the role by offering his most comprehensive performance to date.

We saw flashes of excitable quirkiness and a chaotic, rambling brilliance, all peppered with delightful comic touches. Capaldi has arrived and finally has a script that compliments his considerable and undeniable talents. As I said in a previous article, a new Doctor normally hits his stride about mid run of his first season, so we are actually ahead of schedule.

Some have already made comparisons between Capaldi and past Doctors (such as Hartnell, Troughton and Baker), suggesting that the Scottish actor is already on a par but I have to disagree. It's just far too early to make a judgement at the moment, however it is fair to say that the potential is there, providing the upcoming scripts allow him to flourish.

At this point I feel it's time to confess that after watching 'Robot of Sherwood' I was in the process of writing how disappointing the series had been thus far and that Moffat had sold us all a plum with his many comments about the show becoming darker. Thankfully 'Listen' was a return to form, certainly darker, not deliciously so but vastly improved in just about every way possible from previous episodes.

So in light of this undeniable turning point I thought it might be worth flitting backwards and a putting the episodes in order of personal preference. Having established that 'Listen' will be occupying the number one slot, let's work backwards through our new Doctor's first adventures.

Episode 3, Robot of Sherwood, featuring Robin Hood and a tiresome troop of robots. It just failed to supply comedy or drama in the required doses and at times felt like a confused combination of both. It struggled so hard that it eventually ran out of time and ended with the appalling golden arrow aimed at an absconding spaceship - really!?! Perhaps the reason for this one grinding on me so much was the fact that we had more Robots running around, the same as in episode 1, and so it appeared a bit slap dash in that respect.

I have liked some of the previous Mark Gattis offerings but "Carry on Robin" fell way short of the standard Who fans expect. I lost interest in it reasonably quickly after the Doctor fought the outlaw with an overly large spoon -  a moment that was genuinely amusing but short lived. It was a little like watching outtakes of "Men in Tights", and I couldn't get rid of that mindset for the duration of the show. Some might say it offered an alternative style, which I guess it did, but just not in a succesful way.

Dealing with an Historical legend was always going to be difficult to execute in a credible way, but at times it all felt a bit 'playground'. "I stand here and you stand there. I fire an arrow and it splits yours in two" it was dull and predictable concoction that never really delivered anything approaching original. So I expect you can guess that the awful 'Robot of Sherwood' will be in forth place, but it's a tricky toss up between Into the Dalek and Deep Breath for the second and third positions.

'Into the Dalek" managed to put a new twist on the Doctor's old foes by placing the miniature Time Lord inside his nemesis - 'Inner Space' style. It was certainly refreshing and innovative, but I failed to see how one reprogrammed Dalek dispatched the rest so effortlessly. I was under the illusion that the metal nasties were attacking in mass, surely one itty bitty rogue pepper pot would never be able to get rid of the Doctor's greatest adversary's with such ease? It's only a small gripe in an otherwise entertaining show, but hell, I thought I'd best upset someone out there! Capaldi was warming to the task in this episode, building his Doctor brick by brick and that process is fascinating in itself.

That leaves us with 'Deep Breath'. An opening episode that had flashes of brilliance but never quite lived up to expectation - it may have worked better had it been a two parter. I've mentioned before that opening episodes which deal with regeneration tend to result in the whole thing feeling overly busy and this was certainly the case. Although there were a number of scenes where Capaldi shone very brightly indeed, 'Deep Breath' just left you feeling a bit unsatisfied.

Clara certainly seems to be the hinge to this entire series. More feisty by the episode, she is a force to be reckoned with even remonstrating with the Doctor or openly calling him an idiot. Despite her best efforts in the opener it still proved to be a patchy, uncoordinated affair, and so for these reasons I am inclined to place 'Into the Dalek' in second position and 'Deep Breath' in third - but there isn't much in it.

We'll do it again after episode 8, and see if any of the next four adventures can topple Listen. In the meantime how would you rate Peter Capaldi's opening stories? Let us know in the comments below.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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