The Doctor Who Project: Ranking Series 8

Hello again, Whovians! We have a lot of new stuff happening right now. A new Doctor, a new series, and a new companion! Well, the companion in this case is the one who is joining Justin and I here at the Doctor Who Project for this new series of reviews. Say hello to fellow Whovian, Tiffany Kelly! She's not only a great person and a big fan of the show, but she's also an amazing chalk artist. Be sure to check out her page!

Chalk N' Awe, baby!
For those who haven't been with us before, I'll give you a quick rundown. First, be sure to check out the other reviews from the previous seven series here. That page is jam-packed with fun info on how we've ranked episodes, series, companions, Christmas specials, etc. You can vote on some of your favorites/least favorites. As of right now, series 3 is winning with an average of 7.1 Sonics. We rank from each episode between 1 and 10 Sonics, and then I average all the episodes together to come up with an overall ranking.

As an added bonus, at the bottom you will find two reviews from Justin for animated specials featuring David Tennant.

Will series 8 beat out series 3? Let's find out!

When Peter Capaldi was introduced as the new Doctor, I was ecstatic. He's a stellar actor, he's older, and so we're pretty much inured against the Pretty Boy Puppy Love (PBPL) thing that has more or less plagued the show since its reboot. After Smith's arc, it was time to wipe the slate clean and give the world a Doctor who was a bit more lean and mean and openly Scottish.

Mission Accomplished
I have truly enjoyed watching Capaldi come to his own over the course of this series. His expressive face manages to reveal about ten different emotions at once. He doesn't hold back his feelings, no matter how much they might hurt, and there were several moments throughout these episodes where I winced out of empathy for Clara, or whoever else had to share company with this cantankerous new Doctor. In many ways, he's like an amalgamation of all the previous Doctors before him, and judging by the trailer for series 9, it looks like his evolution has continued by leaps and bounds. But let's start at the beginning, shall we?

(A quick note: all series synopses are courtesy of IMDB).

Episode 1: Deep Breath

When the newly-regenerated doctor arrives in Victorian London, he finds a dinosaur rampant in the Thames and a spate of deadly spontaneous combustions.

Justin: The title alone tells you what to do to prepare for the newest Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. An interesting question raised is the face. Peter played Caecilius in the Fires of Pompeii, and the Doctor comments that he's seen the face prior. Does this mean all the Doctor's looks are based on someone else? The Doctor's grit in this episode makes me believe he could kick every other Doctor's asses. My one complaint about the episode would be the Paternoster Gang (Vastra, Jenny & Strax), who worked so well with Matt Smith's Doctor, but not so much with Peter's. Maybe that was the point: you can't go home again. An overall good start for the Doctor.  6 Sonics

Tiffany: I wasn't sure how I would do with this change of doctors. I'm a late to the party Whovian, and I didn't really take kindly to Matt when he showed up after David's exit. It took me several episodes to warm up to him. Luckily I liked Peter right away, and fell in with his crotchety old man shtick. Plus him sniffing out a piece of chalk under the radiator did him loads of good in my book. As for this episode, I really loved it. The banter between 12 and Clara was great, and reminded me of my favorite interactions between 10 and Donna. I loved Strax and Vastra. And, come on, who didn't bawl like a baby when 11 called Clara?! Overall, I thought this was a good episode, and a great intro to 12. 9 Sonics 

Allison: Post-regeneration episodes have been hit and miss with me so far (though admittedly, in this reboot run, we've only had three). I didn't like Tennant's debut episode, because he slept through most of it. I loved Matt Smith's debut and the clever way in which it played with time and the way it introduced the Doctor's connection to Amy Pond as a little girl. It was a delightful palate cleanser after Tennant's gut-wrenching departure. How would "Deep Breath" stack up? Well, for me, somewhere in between. I loved Capaldi right off the bat. In particular his line when he notices his changed accent: "I'm Scottish! I can complain about things." The story surrounding this new Doctor, however, was a bit wobbly at times (I second Justin's line about the Paternoster Gang just feeling out of place with this new guy) but I loved how it introduced a darker side to this regeneration right off the bat, as well as the interplay between him and Clara. It made me want to jump immediately into the next episode. 7 Sonics

Average Sonics: 

x 7.3

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

The Doctor and Clara find themselves inside of a supposedly good Dalek.

Justin: The Doctor is a jerk, and I love it. I think it's a great contrast to Smith's take. I like to say the Doctor will kick your teeth in to fix your smile. This episode had the always great villain: The Doctor...err...I mean the Dalek. I'm a fan of miniaturizing stories, and this delivered with the insightful insides of the infamous exterminating androids (that's what they really are). The introduction of Danny Pink was okay, but the Doctor's reaction to Clara's good mood was better. 8 Sonics

Tiffany: I didn't love this one. I don't do well with the super sci-fi, industrial, outer spacey episodes. 3 Sonics

Allison: I must say, this is a pretty heavy episode. The writers don't hesitate to delve right in to what makes this new Doctor tick. He's really not a nice guy, and he's carrying a lot of deep-seated anger inside him. This episode in many ways mirrors the "Dalek" episode way back in the Chris Eccleston run, where we not only see the Doctor confront his age-old enemy, but where we also learn how similar they are in fundamental ways, and how scary it can be to confront your own darkness in someone you claim to hate. This was all mastered by a creative plot device that shrunk down our heroes and put them inside a Dalek, allowing them to become subject to all the obstacles (antibodies, anyone?) within. We also get introduced to Danny Pink, who made a good first impression on me, at least. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 6.3

Episode 3: Robot of Sherwood

In Sherwood forest, the Doctor finds an evil plan from outer space and makes an alliance with Robin Hood. With Nottingham at stake, the Doctor must decide who is real and who is fake.

Justin: Rrrrrobin Hood (I tend to hear the Disney version of Prince John in my head when I say that name) and his Merry Men are the focus of this hysterical episode. My biggest complaint (as you've hopefully read in the past reviews) is the show's way to take a classic fictional character (vampires, werewolves etc...) and turn them into robots or aliens or something that it wasn't. "Why can't they just commit?" I would continue to ask. A time-traveling two-hearted human looking alien can exist, but the Loch Ness can't? Well, this episode finally committed to what I wanted to happen, and explained why Robin doesn't exist as well. Oh, and it ties back into the Promise Land. 7 Sonics

Tiffany: In complete contrast of Into The Dalek, I loved loved loved this episode. It was one of my favorites. I thought it was smart, funny, and visually beautiful. 8.5 Sonics

Allison: Sorry to be the bummer here, but this episode may have started out strong, but it ended on a complete dud note for me as so many Mark Gatiss episodes do. That being said, it had some glorious moments. The spoon. Clara looking absolutely gorgeous. And Capaldi's middle finger. I also liked the actor who played Robin Hood, as well as the creepy introduction to the Promised Land bit that will be carried throughout the season. 4 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x  6.5

Episode 4: Listen

When ghosts of past and future crowd into their lives, The Doctor and Clara are thrown into an adventure that takes them to the very end of the universe.

Justin: When I saw the trailer for this episode all I could think of was Blink. Maybe it was a companion to the episode? I had no idea going in, but I loved watching it. I was nervous, because I've had a similar nightmare, and kept hoping they would show who was in the room. Another great part was the connection with the War Doctor, and how he finally became a soldier of sorts. I'm continually interested Danny Pink, and I wonder how long it will be before he joins the TARDIS crew. 10 Sonics

Tiffany: This was another one I really enjoyed. I loved how this one opened up so many questions about how all of the people and situations in the Whoverse are intertwined. 7.5 Sonics

Allison: Ah man, the first shot of this episode, with the Doctor meditating on top of the Tardis was worth all the Sonics alone. But I just adored this episode. Delightfully creepy and twisty-turny in a way that only a Stephen Moffat-penned episode can be. I loved the bit about the toy soldiers, and I also got the sense that much of what we saw in this episode will be referred to not only in future episodes this season, but throughout Capaldi's run. So it's an important episode too. Not only one of the best of this season, but probably one of my favorites overall. 10 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 9.2

Episode 5: Time Heist

The Doctor and Clara must break into the most secure bank in the universe.

Justin: I love movies like Ocean's Eleven, the Heist and the Score. I also thought this episode looked a little blah from the trailers. I figured it was the down to Listen's up, but it was a loop instead. The episode kicks right off, and jumps into an intense and fun filled episode that continues to tie into the overall arc for this season. I was also cracking up by the jokes our Doctor made. Capaldi's grit continues to shine, yet you can clearly see he cares about the companion he keeps at arm's length. 9 Sonics

Tiffany: Meh, pass on this one for me. 2 Sonics

Allison: I'm a sucker for a good heist, and this one has some interesting twists and turns that I didn't expect along the way. It also has classic suspense thriller staging, with the climactic event almost happening at the very beginning, and the episode reeling out to reveal everything that came before. Another thing I liked about this episode was the supporting cast. It isn't always strong or terribly memorable, but in this one we had some great heist members on the team with some cool tech, and I also enjoyed Keeley Hawes as the deliciously evil bank administrator. 7 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 6 Sonics

Episode 6: The Caretaker

The terrifying Skovox Blitzer is ready to destroy all humanity - but worse, and any second now, Danny Pink and the Doctor are going to meet.

Justin: Doctor New continues to bring us another wonderful episode. This time he goes undercover as a caretaker for Coal Hill (the school Clara works at, and the place his granddaughter attended in the first Doctor Who episode.) to uncover an alien threat. What I really enjoyed was the duality of Clara (her personal life vs her adventurous one), and how the writers let you finish their slightly shown adventures. Oh, and the Doctor's inability to understand they Danny Pink isn't a P.E. teacher was hysterical. Plus the idea that the Doctor didn't just take on the role of caretaker for the school, but the fact that he's there to take care of Clara. 8 Sonics

Tiffany: This was a fun episode. I liked Twelve's reaction when he thought Clara's beau was his doppelgänger, and his reaction to Danny when he realized that was Clara's boyfriend. It shows that the old Doctor is still in there. You can change the face, but you can't change the man. 8 Sonics

Allison: Some great humor in this one as we start to see Clara's two separate lives colliding. One where she's the Doctor's companion, and one where she's a basic school teacher carrying on a romance with her colleague Danny. We knew the moment would come when the Doctor and Danny would have to meet, and of course we could expect the two would grate against each other like sandpaper a baby rash. One thing I appreciate is how this whole setup could have become mired in sentimental schmaltz, and yet it remained above all that. This new Doctor doesn't have time for any of that syrupy nonsense. Also, we're getting more of Missy here. The big mystery of the Promised Land continues to build. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 8

Episode 7: Kill the Moon

In the near future, the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a space shuttle making a suicide mission to the Moon. Crash-landing on the lunar surface they find the most terrible things.

Justin: This episode was about to kill my spirits for this current season, and then everything flipped around with the reveal about the moon, and followed by the Doctor's amazing spin on who can really save the Earth. It can be looked at that we the viewer are the companion. We travel with the Doctor as he takes us on wild adventures. Ten and even more so with Eleven were for beginners (sorry, Nine) or the teenager inside us all. Twelve is telling us it's time to take off our training wheels and grow up with the show. 7 Sonics

Tiffany: This was a pretty good episode. Intense. I don't like spiders, so that was creepy. 5 Sonics

Allison: This Doctor definitely seems to be struggling a lot with caring for people, which I think is a logical offshoot given the previous Doctor's arc, where he struggled with feeling too god-like. This introduces a lot of tension into the mix with Clara and him, and the whole mixture kind of bubbles over as he forces her to make a decision that could affect all of humankind. The ending of this will make most scientists scream in indignation, but unlike the goofy golden arrow in the Robin Hood episode, this one works in a fun and whimsical sort of way. 6 Sonics

Average Sonics

x 6

Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

On the most beautiful train in history, speeding amongst the stars of the future, a deadly and immortal creature is stalking the passengers.

Justin: I was really excited about this Clara free episode, and then I discovered she was in it. There were many good things in this episode (from the jelly babies to the "are you my mummy" line), but in the end it wasn't the greatest of the newest season. I really liked the monster of this episode, and expected him to be tied into the villain from Deep Breath. Again, I would have liked this more if it didn't have Clara (which was how it was promoted). 6 Sonics

Tiffany: I think I'm partial to period stories. I liked the setting, I liked the story line, I liked the delivery. I thought the part when 12 discharges the soldier was very well done and touching. 8 Sonics

Allison: I'm with Tiffany on this one. The "period" episodes of Doctor Who always manage to be my favorite, but I like how this one had a twist, because while it looked like an old timey episode, it managed to employ far future tech (space trains, holla!) and an interesting device that preys on passengers who are the most medically vulnerable. I've enjoyed how a lot of these episodes this season have added interesting twists to standard sci-fi tropes. I also like how this episode seems to have a theme of how the Doctor deals with his view of soldiers and combat. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 7.3

Episode 9: Flatline

A problem happens with the Tardis, trapping the Doctor inside and leaving Clara to fend for herself against a two dimensional enemy.

Justin: I should note I've rewritten this review several times since watching it, and this review (unlike the rest) was typed after the season--yet prior to the Christmas episode. I finally figured out why I like Clara this season. She is the Matt Smith Doctor. She's the bridge from going from Smith to Capaldi of this season to the next season--where I think Capaldi will really shine. This episode was funny and terrifying. An interesting one that made the Doctor feel small. Clara shined even more in this companion focused episode, and I had no idea how she was going to make it out alive. 8 Sonics

Tiffany: My favorite part of this episode is the tiny TARDIS. This was an okay episode for me. Not a top, but not one that I got bored with. It's also interesting to watch the Doctor's internal struggle with his relationship with Clara. I can tell that he is fond of her, but he's trying so hard to keep his feelings "professional". 5.5 Sonics

Allison: Man I loved this episode. The shrinking TARDIS was such an original idea and gave a lot of opportunity for comic relief, which was needed because of the creepy concept of people being absorbed into 2-dimensional surfaces by alien creatures who are attempting to observe or possibly take over a three-dimensional world. You'll never look at murals the same way again. Clara has really grown so much in this season, becoming an equal in her own right, as well, something I've enjoyed quite a bit. The idea of "companion" suggesting a submissive role seems to be evaporating, and I'm completely okay with that. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 7.2

Episode 10: In the Forest of the Night

One morning in London, and every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to the most surprising invasion yet: the trees have moved back in. Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown and taken back the Earth.

Justin: A day or so prior I was about how originally the Doctor had his granddaughter Susan and two Coal Hill teachers tagging along, and then later younger companions. I'm guessing this had to do with attracting kids to watch the show (originally it was meant to be an educational show, but use time travel to rope children into watching). I started to wonder how this would work with the current Doctor, and this episode played on that idea. I didn't think it was a great episode (compared to the prior episodes), but I believe this was a breather episode to let you rest before the the final two. I really enjoyed the fish eye camera to show the inside of the TARDIS. I'm going to give it a slightly higher sonic rating than it deserves, because I think it was a good kid's show. 5 Sonics

Tiffany: I liked this episode. The forest covering all of London made a bizarre, creepy backdrop for this story. While I know it could never happen, being a mom watching this made me feel helpless for the parents who's kids were with Clara and Danny. 7.5 Sonics

Allison: I go back and forth on this episode a lot. On the one hand, I can see how it has had mixed reception. Of all the episodes this season, this one feels the most juvenile, which is really not a bad thing. It is, after all, a show intended for kids. I think the beginning and the middle are strong, and the resolution doesn't quite live up to it. It feels way too "neat" and a bit corny for my taste. But overall not a bad one. Moffat says it was the most underrated episode of the season, but I think I'll have to disagree with that. 6 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 6.2

Episode 11: Dark Water

In the mysterious world of the Nethersphere, plans have been drawn. Old friends and old enemies manoeuvre around The Doctor, and an impossible choice is looming over him.

Justin: What an exciting and very sad episode this was. There are things you wait to see upon seeing a trailer for the next episode (an advantage to watching a show on Netflix), and you start to make a mental check off of those things as the time clicks down. This episode kept making me forget that list because of the journey of Danny Pink. Clara has some horrendous moments as well, and the Doctor's many emotions through the show are brilliant. Then there's Missy (and the big reveal): her character continued to pop up through the season, and has been referenced to be around prior to the Bells of St. John. 9 Sonics

Tiffany: This one was so sad. While I'm kinda ready for Clara's companion time to come to an end, I thought she did such a great job here. And then, to have Missy reveal her identity!! What???!!! 7 Sonics

Allison: This episode had so many pinnacle moments, and it started off with a major surprise and heartbreak. The high emotions continued pretty much all the way through, with Jenna Coleman giving her best performance on the show yet (the showdown between her and the Doctor with the key had me forgetting to breathe). Then we continue on to the very creepy setting of the Nethersphere, and decent use of the Cybermen, who seem to be getting more entertaining as the show evolves. We also find out who this Missy woman is, and honestly, it's as I'd suspected from the beginning, but it was still a great reveal to watch. 9 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 8.3

Episode 12: Death in Heaven

With Cybermen on the streets of London, old friends unite against old enemies and the Doctor takes to the air in a startling new role. As the Doctor faces his greatest challenge, sacrifices must be made before the day is won.

Justin: The final episode of the official season wrapped almost (the pregnancy) everything up not so nicely. Missy is a wonderful nemesis to the current Doctor. The previous Master played Ten's opposite rather well, and Missy (played by) was every bit as dark as Capaldi. Makes me wonder what Smith's Master would have been like? I was really excited to think Osgood could be the Doctor's next companion, but quickly realized that Miss Bananas wouldn't let that happen. I felt bad for Clara and Danny, but I didn't want her to turn Danny into a Cyberman. Danny's point about the Doctor was very nicely made as the Doctor knew he had to turn Danny off. The ending scene in the diner with all its lies about happiness was quite beautiful. This Doctor is not the one Clara knew and I think she finally understood him. 10 Sonics (originally a 9, but the messing with the opening credits bumped it up a point.)

Tiffany: Well, this is a heartbreaking way to leave the season, is it? Not as bad, for me, as 10 and Rose, but still a sad, well delivered episode. With the speculations that Clara might be pregnant swirling, I'm excited to get back to the series and see if that holds any water. 8 Sonics

Allison: Ahhhhhh so many feels in this episode. The performances of Capaldi, Coleman, and Michelle Gomez (The Mistress) were almost TOO good, if that makes any sense. But that also manages to be a major plus. Their talents rose well above what is in many ways a show that doesn't specifically rely on top-notch acting, but it was that top-notch acting that managed to sell some of these most outlandish plots. And it's also what makes Capaldi such a powerful Doctor, even if he hasn't always played front and center in every episode. And of all the arcs I'd tried to predict or wish for Danny, I never would have imagined this. It was sad and in some ways a major letdown. I wanted so much more from him. But I'm not quite sure we've seen the last of him either. 9 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 9

Episode 13 (Christmas Special): Last Christmas

The Doctor and Clara face their Last Christmas. Trapped on an Arctic base, under attack from terrifying creatures, who are you going to call? Santa Claus!
Justin: I loved this episode. By far my favorite Whomas episode to date (I didn't care for many of Smith's 25th of December episodes). As a kid I was a big believer in Santa. I thought other kids were crazy about him not being real, and TV shows would usually show he was real by the end of the episode (check out Punky Brewster). Having old St. Nick (played by Nick Frost--a fitting name for the person playing Santa) in it with two sarcastic elves (one played by Dan Starkey--the actor who played Strax (also the only other actor besides Capaldi and Coleman to be in the first and last episode of the season) was brilliant. Then you mix in two movies I love: Alien and Thing, and you have non-pudding brain move number two. After you have Capaldi's Doctor being awesome and potentially seeking out a new companion all while taking and giving jabs with Santa you mix in another of my favorite storytelling devices: dreams. All of this and an ending that gave me goosebumps (even though Facebook spoiled it for me), and I'm ready for Series Nine. Thank you Moffat, Capaldi, Coleman and crew, you made me believe in Christmas in the Whoverse again. 10 Sonics

Tiffany: Another fun and emotional episode. I like a lot about this one, especially Santa, because SANTA!!! But, I thought the "Christmas Carol" vibe was nice when Twelve visits old Clara and is able to stop the regret of too much time passing. 8 Sonics

Allison: This probably my favorite Christmas episode after the Snowmen one (overall, I think Smith had the best Christmas specials, but Capaldi's first has really set the bar high). I particularly love how it combines some of my favorite sci-fi. A little Inception here, a dash of Alien there, along with a beautiful meeting between the Doctor and an elderly Clara that reminded me a bit of Peter Pan when he comes back to visit Wendy only to find she's grown old. The Christmas episodes tend to bridge over into campy town more often than not, but this is one where I truly felt the magic. 9 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 9

Bonus Material:

Our perennial overachiever, Justin, has additionally reviewed two David Tennant animated specials. Their Sonic rankings will not be factored into the overall statistics below, but here they are anyway for your viewing pleasure.

The Infinite Quest
Even though this takes place before Dreamland (below), I ended up watching it after that episode. Watching Doctor Who doesn't have to be linear. Martha, Martha, Martha. How I loathe Martha. However, the episode wasn't that bad, and became quite brilliant in some parts (though not many). The animation was flash based and pretty awful at times, but hearing Tennant speak as the Doctor some more was a treat. Anthony Head (who played Mr. Finch in School Reunion) was the bad guy (again) in this episode. My favorite part was the Doctor in prison. 3 Sonics

Coming across a Doctor Who episode you haven't seen is a thrilling experience. It was by accident I found this on Hulu, and I thought it was deserving of a review. Taking place between Water For Mars and the End of Time (even though Day of the Doctor takes place before End of Time as well), the good Time Lord finds himself at Area 51 in 1947. Tennant reunites with his daughter/wife, the lovely Georgia Moffett who plays Cassie Rice. They fight a aliens, government spooks and the army all in one episode. The animation reminded me of the graphics from the video game Goldeneye on a bad day. I enjoyed the Doctor teaming up with a new companion, and found the episode to be overall enjoyable. 6 Sonics

Episodes Ranked Best to Worst:
(like colors indicate a tie)

Listen: 9.2
Death in Heaven: 9
Last Christmas 9

Dark Water: 8.3
The Caretaker: 8
Deep Breath 7.3
Mummy on the Orient Express: 7.3

Flatline: 7.2
Robot of Sherwood 6.5
Into the Dalek 6.3
In the Forest of the Night: 6.2
Time Heist 6
Kill the Moon: 6 

Average Sonic Ranking For The Season:

x 7.2

And there we have it! With that overall score of 7.2 Sonics, Peter Capaldi's first season managed to beat out the perennial favorite series 3 by .1 Sonic! I also think this season is unique because none of the episodes managed to average below a 6, even though some of us individually might not have cared for a particular episode. In retrospect, I think this season was the most consistent across the board of all of them. The writing was generally stronger, and while I think the budget felt a tad bit lower for this season, it seems like they managed to deliver a lot of bang for the buck story and performance-wise. Capaldi has absolutely sold us, and we cannot wait to see what the next season brings! 

And please, feel free to chime in and let us know what you think of these episodes. What was your favorite/least favorite moment or episode of the season?

Until next time, Whovians!

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