The wait is almost over. On Saturday night Doctor Who (BBC One) will welcome the dawn of a new era as Peter Capaldi’s twelfth Doctor takes control of the Tardis for the first time proper.
There’s a lot to be excited about, not least the chance to see how Capaldi’s incarnation shakes up a series that had underwhelmed with disjointed and confusing plots during Matt Smith’s final season as the eleventh Doctor.
By waving farewell to Smith and his loopy professor style, Moffat has afforded himself the opportunity to give the sci-fi favourite a regeneration of its own, rebuilding the show around the darker mood of Capaldi’s rebel Time Lord.
Here, then, are six reasons why season eight of Doctor Who could be the best one yet.
1) Capaldi will be a much fiercer, madder Doctor.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matt Smith’s boyish Time Lord, with his zippy charisma and tortured old soul, but by the end his silly quips and blood-and-thunder speeches were starting to wear thin. As such, the casting of Capaldi, who, at 56, is the oldest actor to take on the role, should offer a welcome change of pace and tone.
Early indications are that Capaldi’s Doctor will be more alien than he has been in a long while, which must have fans salivating at the prospect of seeing a throwback to an edgier, enigmatic Doctor – particularly those who thought the character had become too close to his human companions (more on that later).
2) The Doctor will have some fun, though.
Doctor Who thrives on its reputation to thrill both adults and children-of-all-ages alike and to edge too far into darker territory would be to risk alienating a sizeable portion of the show’s fanbase.
The Doctor has always been a big kid at heart, filled with joy and curiosity about the universe and its endless possibilities, and more than anything I want to see Capaldi’s Doctor frolicking into danger in search of new adventures with the gleeful freedom of a man who, for the first time in a long while, is not haunted by the thought that he abandoned his entire race to extinction.
3) We’ll see more of Clara’s character.
Jenna Coleman’s first appearance as Clara at the beginning of season seven was well received by critics, only for the writers to fail to build on her enchanting sparkiness.
Instead “the impossible girl” became merely a plot device, a simple MPDG tasked with reawakening the Doctor’s passion for the universe by posing as a mystery to be solved.
With said mystery now finally uncovered – following the revelation that Clara scattered herself throughout the Doctor’s timeline to help him stay alive – season eight presents to perfect opportunity to flesh out her character.
The addition of Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink, Clara’s colleague at Coal Hill School and rumoured love interest, suggests we will be exploring more of Clara’s world away from the Doctor, which can only help Coleman show us that she is more than a bubbly character with snarky quips. Who knows, maybe she’ll even make us care about her involvement in the story.
4) There will be absolutely no flirting.
Capaldi has already insisted that there will be no “Papa-Nicole moments” in season eight, which is immensely pleasing, not least because the sight of a 56-year-old Doctor flirting with a woman half his age would look more than a little lecherous and creepy.
More importantly, while the updated series has in part been defined by sexual tension in the Tardis, hearing Matt Smith spout lustful lines like “impossible girl: a mystery wrapped in an enigma squeezed into a skirt just a little bit too… tight,” always jarred with the character’s traditional asexual aversion to sex.
Besides, both Capaldi and Coleman have spoken about how their characters’ relationship has been thrown up in the air by the Doctor’s regeneration, promising a tense and unpredictable dynamic that sounds far more thrilling than a turgid will-they-won’t-they-please-god-no subplot.
5) It boasts some great guest stars.
Doctor Who has always attracted high-calibre guest stars to appear in front of the camera and season eight is no different with Keeley Hawes, Frank Skinner, Michael Smiley, Ben Miller and a host of other top thespians set to encounter the Doctor on his adventures throughout the season.
But it is behind the camera that the most intriguing guest appearance will be found. While a Peter Jackson-directed episode is as far in the distance as Middle Earth, the first two episodes of season eight will be helmed by Ben Wheatley, the British director behind such weird and violent films as Kill List, Sightseers and A Field in England.
Quite how Wheatley will transpose his dark, woozy style into the pre-watershed world of the Doctor remains to be seen, but if he can pull it off, the first two episodes of the season could be a welcome return to the creepier territory of early Doctor Who.
6) Things will be kept simple this time.
Moffat’s three seasons as showrunner have thus far been defined by the timey-wimey, twisty-turny knots of the long-term story arc, from the cracks in time to the identity of River Song to the fabled planet of Trenzalore.
But while big questions and shock reveals enthralled at first, about halfway through Smith’s time as the Doctor, Moffat’s plots became too confusing and difficult to follow, with last year’s 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor particularly infuriating in the way it befuddled the mind.
Doctor Who has traditionally structured itself around stand-alone stories as the Doctor whisks his companion and the audience away to visit monsters in exciting new worlds before returning us safely to our humdrum homes, and Moffat has hinted at a return to such a format this season with a throughline that’s more emotional than plot driven.
If nothing else, a season of unconnected episodes should allow the guest directors and writers (including a Robin Hood-inspired episode by regular Who and Sherlock scribe, Mark Gatiss) push the boundaries of the Doctor Who style into weird and inventive new directions.
Click here to watch the trailer for season eight of Doctor Who