DOCTOR WHO: The Series 8 Scoreboard (part 3)

Tom Pheby ranks episodes eight to ten from Series 8 of Doctor Who.

Over the course of series 8 I've been taking a look at each episode and awarding marks out of 10. I've checked out the opening four episodes of series 8 and followed this with episodes five to seven, so it seems only right to complete the scoreboard now the series is over. Today I'll take a look at episodes eight to ten and tomorrow the closing two part finale. But before we get underway here is how my scoreboard looked last time...

Without further ado let's kick things off with Mummy on the Orient Express.

This episode covered a lot of ground, it put a new twist on Agatha Christie's tale of the Orient Express by having the train hurtle through space, although one thing remained the same - the murders. It also appeared to be the swan song for the Doctor and Clara, she being a tad miffed after he abandoned her during Kill the Moon, and although she appears to have let that slide to a degree, Clara clearly still doubts about his intentions and whether "he is a good man "

In fact as an audience, the jury is still out as the Doctor continues to display very un-Doctor like elements. He certainly doesn't have a soft centre. He gives off an air of arrogance, selfishness and self absorption, but it's intriguing and a side we haven't seen since the grouchy Hartnell days. I for one embrace it.

The tension between the two was short lived, and that was a genuine pity because there was more that could have been done and said. But it all kind of fizzled out and the episode became almost business as usual. I can't help feeling a trick was missed at the hands of the marauding bandaged man.

People are dying on this intergalactic space train, within 66 seconds of seeing an apparition of a Mummy, an ancient legend known as the Foretold. So it's far from being the jolly goodbye jaunt that Clara had hoped for. One last 'hurrah' becomes one last murder mystery with a touch of horror to it.

Start the clock...Tick tock. The victims are the only ones who can see it, and the Doctor has no idea what it wants or how to stop it killing everyone aboard. The Doctor almost takes a macabre glee in setting the clock and watching each victim meet their end as he asks repeatedly what they see and is dismissive of their plight. The Mummy appears to select the weakest first, those with a medical condition, hidden mental trauma or frailty. The bodies stack up fast to add to the feeling of intensity and the train setting itself makes the whole thing feel slightly claustrophobic. There are shades of Tom Bakers 1977 Robots of Death as the Doctor turns detective to halt the carnage (but it has to be noted that its nowhere near as good as that particular classic).

Clara's character continues to develop as never before, at odds with the Time Lords actions and decision making. This is an element that make the pair considerably more watchable. Out is the adoring, unquestioned respect. In is the fear that the Doctor is out of control, using everyone to showcase his own brilliance or to gain more knowledge at the expense of others.

Capaldi continues to add layer after layer to the iconic figure, with the ease of someone who has been in the role for years. At times he looks awkward and gangly, his posture is almost 'Ministry of Silly Walks', his facial expressions are like that of an excitable child that has opened up a box of unparalleled delights, all part of this excellent vision of the Doctor.

The portrayal of the Mummy itself is excellent, hands outstretched, raggedy bandages and even a dicky foot which is as independent as a wheel on a Tesco shopping trolley. Of course the Doctor works it all out, even if it is by accident to some degree, but it's an enjoyable romp. One which seems a little out of touch within the context of the series and its recurring themes, but Jamie Mathieson's script keeps it trundling along.

It's not a resounding success, more an acceptable one

If, as expected, this series of Doctor Who turns out to be Jenna Coleman's last then it will certainly set the bench mark for any companion that follows. She has featured heavily in the majority of the run so far. She's not only frequently had parity with the Time Lord, but on occasion has been the main focus. It's probably the most honest and interesting combination of Doctor/companion in the shows history, and has certainly been a plus point in this years run. Clara is not content to play the obedient silent partner anymore and more likely to question, scold and admonish the Galifreyan as each set of circumstances unfolds. She's become a treasure and a treat (as well as being easy on the eyes). She will be missed.

In Flatline the Doctor tries to return Clara to make good on an impending date with Danny Pink, but they end up in a drab part of Bristol where community service is in full swing. Graffiti artist Rigsy (Jovian Wade) is making amends for tarnishing a portion of undesirable brick work with a spot of compulsory whitewashing. I doubt Banksy would receive the same treatment.

The TARDIS has often missed its destination but here we have another small problem. Literally. The dimensions of the TARDIS have altered significantly due to an anomaly, and it now resembles a child's play house. It goes on to become even smaller and resembles a toy money box version of the original - well Christmas is around the corner folks, and we know how much the BBC hate product placements.

The Doctor remains full size, trapped within his tiny TARDIS. Understandingly he's a little more prickly than usual, but it's quite comical seeing the craggy face of Capaldi sneaking a peak through the two miniature doors. It facilitates a number of surreal comic moments, especially when Clara pops the blue box into her bag.

Flatline then presents us with another type of alien Agatha Christie detedtive yarn. People are disappearing only to replaced by life size etchings on a subway wall, and it's up to Clara to solve the case. She is instructed to enter the homes of those that have disappeared and search for clues. Not exactly a straight forward matter when you don't quite know what you're looking for, but Ms Oswald isn't about to let such trifling details dent her opportunity to play both Doctor and Detective.

In a deliciously macabre moment the Doctor announces "They're in the walls." The aliens (the Boneless) are from another dimension, once their initial curiosity with humans was satisfied their needs became more sinister. On one wall is a giant patch of skin, on another an illustration of the central nervous system. With the Doctor reduced to the meager role of bystander, he can only advise or criticize, which this version tends to do with equal measure as Capaldi goes effortlessly through the grouch gears.

Make no mistake, Clara is in charge here. “I am the one chance you’ve got for staying alive,” she says, “That’s who I am.” The Doctor grudgingly forces out a limp "Well done.”

My only gripe is that the Boneless, who were superb CG configurations, are easily dispatched. It was a bit disappointing after an impressive build up. This is a theme that has played out several times this series alone. But I enjoyed Flatline, the fun highlight has to be when the TARDIS ended up on the train track and the Doctor pays homage to Thing from The Addams Family to drag it away from danger.

Series 8 of Doctor Who has arguably given us the most varied and diverse episodes of any in the history of the show, and although some have been better than others, the majority have been exceptionally strong.

But having said that, it feels distinctly like the Doctor is on the edges of the story on occasions. This is true of In the Forest of the Night.

It's a decent enough yarn with a very thickly spread eco message. One which is clearly meant to make you reflect of the importance of nature, but in execution it was a tad dull. To stick to the nature theme, it was like watching grass grow, possibly even trees!

Coal hill School's gifted and talented had a sleep over at a museum, when they awoke London was overgrown. Trafalgar Square was consumed by foliage and Green Park tube certainly lived up to its name. Of course Capaldi's Doctor has to find out why this has happened, but there was no sense of urgency in the plot, no drama as such. It felt like we merely looking through the shrubs in a 'Where's Wally' mode. Trying to spot the odd Bus, lamp post or such, just to relieve the monotony.

The story would probably have been better suited as a novel. In that respect it may have been easy to gauge the immensity of the situation. In print it could have been a descriptive delight that was absorbing and meticulous, but sadly it was wasted on television and lacked visual impact.

The runaway success of this episode was Abigail Eames as Maebh. she genuinely sparkled by finding the delicate balance between her characters sorrow, insecurities and sense of wonder.

It was a well thought out idea, the Earths natural defenses protecting itself against solar flares, but it was a drawn out, lack luster affair. One that even saw my Wife's nephews looking to me for assurances that there was more to the episode than this. Sadly, I left them in no doubt that things weren't going to change drastically anytime soon. They stared at me as if I'd eaten their last Rollo and handed them the wrapper. They were disappointed, and damn it so was I.

In the Forest of the Night was not the most disappointing episode this series so far, but it wasn't far off. So if we add the marks for this and the previous two episodes to the scoreboard, it now looks something like this...

I'll complete the series 8 scoreboard tomorrow, but in the meantime how would you rate the episodes discussed above? 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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