TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12

Series 12 of Doctor Who goes hard on what we think we know about the Time Lord and finishes in a blaze of glory

“You can be a pacifist tomorrow. Today you just need to survive”

I don’t think I have ever minded anything that happened in Doctor Who so much that I have declared it cancelled, even at the point where all the magnificent character development by Catherine Tate’s Donna was undone in a plot point of real cruelty. So it is hard to take so-called fans of the show seriously when torrents of complaints are unleashed about the sanctity of a world of science fiction that has long enjoyed challenging and expanding what we know about characters we love. (See my Episode 1 review here.)

So it should come as little surprise that I really rather enjoyed series 12 of Doctor Who. Across the season as a whole, I felt that Jodie Whittaker has settled more into the role, especially as the writers feel more confident in finding her voice. And the balancing act of having three companions in the TARDIS has been more assured now that the business of introducing them is over, allowing the group to splinter off for large chunks of episodes has allowed much more of their characters to shine through, particularly for Mandip Gill’s Yaz (who I am mightily glad survived that final episode – I thought she was doomed after her chat with Graham).

And as for those revelations…Jo Martin is also the Doctor, the Doctor isn’t actually from Gallifrey, the Master is now uncomfortably too good looking and plenty more besides…well, it’s all just fun and games isn’t it. I’d love to see much more of Martin’s Doctor though I think it is probably unlikely but in the face of all this nominal change, the reality is that it is almost all additions, so much has been left fundamentally unchanged. So getting yourself tied up in knots is just a waste of (artron) energy.

I particularly enjoyed Patrick O’Kane’s take on the Lone Cyberman, redefining the silver enemies as a real threat by, again, changing what we’d seen them be before. And the historically tinged episodes all really did it for me – ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ (written by Nina Metivier), ‘Can You Hear Me?’ (Charlene James and Chris Chibnall) and ‘The Haunting of Villa Deodati’ (Maxine Alderton) – demonstrating the effectiveness of opening out the pool of writers and embracing a wider mode of storytelling. And then there’s Sacha Dhawan’s delicious new version of the Master, a melancholic take on the megalomaniac laced with a new sense of danger. 

Main photos: Ben Blackall/BBC
Other photos: James Pardon/BBC


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