The Great Canadian Doctor Who Roundtable: Season 8

Doctor Who  returns to our screens this weekend after eight long TARDIS-less months. And while the season premiere, "Deep Breath", promises to be full of familiar faces — like Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax — there will also, of course, be one big new face: Peter Capaldi will make his debut as the Twelfth Doctor. With the new incarnation, the show looks like it will be heading in something of a new direction — with a darker tone.

In Canada, we'll find out if that's true on Saturday night starting at 8pm Eastern (5pm Pacific) on Space. And since we're Canadian and the show was created by a Canadian, we thought we'd check in with some of our favourite Canadian Doctor Who experts to see what they're excited about — and worried about — as we head into the new season:

Steven Schapansky (Edmonton) is the co-host of the popular Doctor Who podcast Radio Free Skaro and The Memory Cheats, which discusses randomly selected episodes of the show. You can find him on Twitter at @Legopolis.

Erika Ensign (Edmonton) co-hosts the Hugo Award-nominated Verity! podcast — "Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who" — and produces a short fiction podcast for the also-Hugo-Award-nominated Apex Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @HollyGoDarkly.

Katrina Griffiths (Edmonton), along with Erika Ensign, is one of the two Canadian co-hosts of the Verity! podcast. You can find her on Twitter at @xanister.

Gian-Luca Di Rocco (Markham) is a member of the Executive of The Doctor Who Information Network and a frequent contributor to the Doctor Who Blog. He's on Twitter at @ProgRocco.

Cindy Peters (Toronto) is the co-founder of The Doctor Who Society of Canada. You can find the Society on Twitter at @DrWhoSociety.
Graeme Burk (Ottawa) is the co-author of Who is the Doctor and Who's 50: The 50 Doctor Who Stories to Watch Before You Die, as well as being the host of the Reality Bomb podcast. You can find him on Twitter at @GraemeBurk.

Peter Capaldi
1. What are you to looking forward to seeing from Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor?

Steven Schapansky: I'm looking forward to a darker, more mature performance in the actor playing the Doctor. I loved both Matt Smith and David Tennant, but you almost felt like they were trying to win over the room whenever they entered it. Capaldi seems like he knows he owns the room and it's up to others to realize it.

Erika Ensign: Something different. That's what I'm always looking forward to with a new Doctor. I love that the character can and does change with each incarnation. If we're going to be superficial, I could say I'm looking forward to the Scottish accent. Because I really am looking forward to that! And okay, I'll say it: Peter Capaldi is Dead Sexy. I'm a fan of an asexual Doctor, but asexual and Dead Sexy are not mutually exclusive.

Katrina Griffiths: I'm looking forward to a new Doctor in general. I adore Matt Smith but I'm hoping to see a new spin that's perhaps more formal, serious alien and a lack of romantic nonsense. Most importantly I'm looking for a great companion/Doctor dynamic.

Gian-Luca Di Rocco: A different take on the Doctor than has been seen in the new series to date - perhaps something a bit fiercer and intensity, a Doctor less interested in flirting for the sake of flirting while still being invested in a closeness and a caring relationship with the people he travels and interacts regularly with. I hope we see the Doctor demonstrate a biting wit and a "black comedy"-style sense of humour to go with what is said to be a "darker" season and Doctor. Hopefully we will see a Doctor that is as physically violent as Doctors 3 through 6 were.

Cindy Peters:  I’m looking forward to seeing a different perspective from an older Doctor. Tennant and Smith were all fairly young and although Eccleston was 41, he still had a youthfulness. As the actors got younger, the Doctor got goofier and I’m interested in seeing a stark turn from that type of Doctor. Having said that, I don’t want to lose the quirkiness that endears him to the masses nor do I want to see the show turn dark simply because Capaldi is an older actor for the part.

I'd also like to see how Moffat deals with a new Doctor. Smith and the Ponds were his "babies" and you could see a downward turn to the series once Gillan and Darvill announced their departure. For me, a clue to the decline was the constant use of soundstages versus location shoots. I’m always keenly aware of this and that was a hint of things to come. I want to see how Moffat turns things around: can a new Doctor with new characters breathe a little life back into a series that had started to get stale. I truly hope Moffat gives it his all!

Graeme Burk: What I look for from every new Doctor: to see how they establish themselves in the role, to see what he does differently, to see how he says "Hello. I'm the Doctor."

Capaldi specifically is sort of like when Christopher Eccleston took on the part: you have an established, heavyweight actor with a vast body of work coming to play the Doctor. He's not an up and comer like David Tennant or a relative unknown like Matt Smith. Consequently, there's a lot of interest on my part in seeing how he takes on the role. How he makes it his own.

Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald
2. Other than getting to see a new Doctor, what are you most excited about for the new season?

Steven Schapansky: An unbroken run of 12 episodes! It's hard to believe that we haven't had this many consecutive weeks of Doctor Who since 2010. I honestly don't know if my heart can take a dozen weeks in a row.

Erika Ensign: MORE CLARA! She has really taken my breath away. I think she's the best new series companion (with the possible exception of Donna). I love how Clara reacts to the situations she's put in. It varies, based on the situation and where she is in her arc. I love that. Sometimes companions seem more like a collection of idiosyncrasies. I feel like Clara is a real person who could exist in the real world without seeming like a cartoon. And she's cute as a button.

Katrina Griffiths: Some new monsters! New dynamics! New plots! It's Doctor Who, I'm just glad it's back.

Gian-Luca Di Rocco: The return to having at least a couple of two-part (or double-length) stories, which we didn't get in the 2013 season. I am also excited to see what the 4 stories written by the three writers new to Who this year will be like.

Cindy Peters:  I hope that we will actually be able to see Clara shine through. Her character had a huge amount of potential that has never been realized.

Graeme Burk: Two things: I'm looking forward to seeing how Jenna Coleman as Clara develops. I think Jenna is an amazing actress and she imbues Clara with a lot of wit and self-aware charm but I think the "impossible girl" storyline last season eclipsed some of Clara's better aspects with many fans. She was fabulous in "The Day of the Doctor" in how she could speak truth to power with the Doctor. Even though companion crushes are ten-a-penny these days I think it with Clara was done in a sweet way and only ever impacted on the relationship and the story in terms of her loyalty to the Doctor. It will be fun to see how that dynamic is completely shaken up with the regeneration into Peter Capaldi.

I'm also really pleased with the list of writers and directors: On the writing side there are people like Phil Ford (who has written some of the best Doctor Who not featuring the Doctor in the spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures), Frank Cotrell Boyce from 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy, Jamie Mathieson from Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (a hoot of a British science fiction film) and Peter Harness from Wallander. Plus the amazing Gareth Roberts. And they start and end the season with British film directors like Ben Wheatley and Rachel Talalay. That's real bench strength of creative people. I'm very pleased.

Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor
3. Is there anything that worries you about Season 8 based on what you've seen and heard so far?

Steven Schapansky: I'm worried that Jenna Coleman will be leaving the show, based on tabloid reports. She's been my favourite New Who companion and I want to see her stay for another year at least. 

Erika Ensign: I know the scuttlebutt is that the new Doctor will be "dark" and "less user-friendly" and such. I do like a more alien Doctor, though I'm not sure "dark" is how I'd characterize what I hope for. I don't want to see a broody, angry Doctor. I tend to not like grouchy (Pertwee) or angry (McCoy) Doctors as much. I'm trying to have faith that what they mean by "dark" is simply less-human and cuddly, because that is A-OK with me!

Katrina Griffiths: Clara being my favourite female companion ever, I'm always worried she'll leave or something will happen to her. There have been rumors...

Gian-Luca Di Rocco: No - but then I've made sure that I've heard next to nothing about the plot details of Series 8 (or Season 36 as I like to call it) thus far. Nothing that I've heard worries me.

Cindy Peters:  I’ve become very adept at avoiding spoilers. I know what Capaldi wears and that there will be a new character named Danny Pink – a co-worker of Clara's. Passed that I have seen glimpses of promos before I could avert my eyes and hum with my fingers in my ears!

Graeme Burk: I'm a little concerned that Peter Capaldi is going to play a very grumpy Doctor. Even William Hartnell and Colin Baker's Doctors -- the previous holders of grouchy Doctors -- smiled and had friendly moments. But honestly, it's Capaldi, I'm on-board for anything he does.

The Doctor gets a phonecall
4. Are there any outstanding plot questions you're still hoping to have answered?

Steven Schapansky: Steven Moffat did a fairly fantastic job at wrapping everything from his first four years as show runner up at the end of Matt Smith's era, but there's one question that I've wondered about that will apparently also be addressed, according to Doctor Who Magazine! (spoilers) So, no, I'm going into this season fresh and unsullied by needling questions.

Erika Ensign: I'm actually hoping we *don't* get any more about Clara's "Impossible Girl" story. I loved how that played out, and I hope it stays finished as-is. Same for River Song's arc (though I have no love for that one).

I do hope we eventually get some more info on the Time Lords and Gallifrey. I know bringing them back is a dicey prospect, but I love me a good Gallifrey story! 

Katrina Griffiths: I don't want there to be any outstanding plot issues at all! If they touch on Clara's mysterious past great but I want a fresh start with this new handsome Doctor.  

Gian-Luca Di Rocco: The only one is who the "woman in the shop" was that gave Clara the number to call the TARDIS in "The Bells of Saint John". 

Cindy Peters:  I'm hoping to have answered outstanding plot points answered per se, although I think everyone suspects that the search for Gallifrey will begin.

I wasn’t happy with the way the regeneration question was answered with Smith's Doctor. I firmly believed, and still believe, that this was explained in “Let’s Kill Hitler” when River gave the Doctor her remaining regenerative powers. We saw that River had two regenerations, giving a third to the Doctor and in that act bestowing upon him several more. This is not something that will ever be re-addressed but it is something that continues to bother me as a basic oversight.

Graeme Burk: I guess the identity of the person who gave Clara the Doctor's phone number in "The Bells of Saint John" last season? What's honestly left? I'm not big on Gallifrey resurfacing. I think bringing it back was fine and I think "The Time of the Doctor" put it in a good place to leave it for the time being, so to speak.

A Draconian
5. What classic villain (not already featured during the reboot years) would you most like to see return to the show?

Steven Schapansky: Either the Draconians (from 1973's "Frontier in Space") or the Rutans (from "Horror of Fang Rock", 1977). The Draconians were a brilliant design for an alien race that had a culture and a history and weren't necessarily good or evil. I'd love to see what the new series would do with them. And as brilliant as Dan Starkey's Strax has been, it's hard to imagine taking the Sontarans seriously now because of him. Having the Rutans, enemies of the Sontarans for centuries, return might provide a storyline to reestablish the might of the Sontaran race. Sontar-ha!

Erika Ensign: I guess I don't have any that I'm particularly waiting for. There are some I'd like to see updated strictly from a design perspective--just to see how they'd look with today's budget/technology. Bring back the Vardans! Or the Bandrils! How's about the Myrka?

Katrina Griffiths: Quarks, always the Quarks and/or the Dominators. It's not a good story I know that but I'd love to see a more modern twist on them. Also given how poorly they were done originally maybe the Zarbi.

Gian-Luca Di Rocco: The Valeyard.

Cindy Peters:  I’m New Whovian and I'm only starting to get into the Classic episodes now so I can't really speak to Classic villains. I would say that I would like to say more of Davros, I think that this is a villain that others like myself should become more familiar with.

Graeme Burk: Um... who's left again? We've kind of hit all my faves: Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen, Ice Warriors. We'd be in the B-or-C list of monsters. (Steven Moffat, I have a great story idea for the K-1 Robot. Let's talk!) I'd love to see the Master come back. I've heard Moffat say he thought Russell T Davies conclude the character in an interesting way and he's right but...a) I'd still like to see him come back and b) Moffat lies.

Mostly though I think it would be fun to bring back some new series monsters that haven't been seen for a while. I think it would be nice to revisit the Ood or the Sycorax or even the Slitheen. The modern version of the show has been back for almost a decade. There's lots of monsters from that incarnation who haven't been seen in ages.

The Eleventh Hour
6. If someone hasn't already started watching Doctor Who, which episode would you recommend as the best place to start?

Steven Schapansky: Matt Smith's first episode, "The Eleventh Hour", is just about the most perfect jumping on point in the show's long history. Everything starts fresh, yet there are hints of a past that a new viewer can explore later if he or she wants. And it's also a supremely entertaining piece of drama.

Erika Ensign: If it's someone who's not sure and just wants to try an episode, I say "Blink". I once wrote a blog post about why it's a good starter--it's exciting! It grabs you and makes you want to see what else this show can do!

The problem there is it's not the most representative. If this person is willing to commit, I think "The Eleventh Hour" is the best place to start. It's a great reset (of Doctor, companion, and production team) and re-introduces you to the concept of the show. And then there are only a few years of eps for the newbie to watch to get caught up! Then, of course, they ought to loop back to "Rose". And then dip into the Classic Series... 

Katrina Griffiths: Everyone says "Blink" and they are probably right. A new Who story is probably best although I'd love to start someone with a story like "Logopolis" so they can understand regeneration from the get-go and meet the beginnings of a very interesting time team.  

Gian-Luca Di Rocco: "An Unearthly Child" - although if they are not willing to start with the classic series, then I would suggest "The Eleventh Hour".

Cindy Peters: I always recommend "Blink" to those who’ve never watched Doctor Who before. I like to say that it’s "the least Whocentric" episode and if you like feel and the style, then go back to Eccleston. Of course you meet Tennant and Martha, but the story is about Sally Sparrow and the Weeping Angels. You see the TARDIS, but it's just a strange blue Police Box. In this episode, you learn with Sally about the world of the Doctor while being engrossed in an intriguing, well-told and creepy story.

Graeme Burk: Any damn place you like. The show even at its story arc-iest is designed to be relatively self-contained. I know people who started watching with the uber-nerdy continuity-heavy 50th anniversary special and loved it. I tend to start new viewers with "Rose", and have them go through the new series from the start but really anywhere. People will either get the vibe or they won't.

Abi Morgan, creator of The Hour
7. Is there anything you'd like to see done differently on Doctor Who?

Steven Schapansky: Doctor Who has always been about change. It's never really got so comfortable with itself to become stale, and it appears that Series 8 will be another sharp turn in a different direction. Given that theme of constant change, I wouldn't alter a thing!

Erika Ensign: It's become rather obvious to say "more female writers", but it really is something I'd like to see. I'd love for more varied life experiences to make their way into the back room. Writers of color would be fab as well. I do, however, understand that writing for Doctor Who isn't like writing for many other shows, and that new writers often need to be coddled along quite a bit, but so be it. They keep adding new white male writers each season. Let's try that with some ladies please!

Katrina Griffiths: I'm really happy with the way Doctor Who is going. I wouldn't mind less emphasis on characters like River Song and a return to more adventure driven stories. I'd also love to see way WAY less emphasis on romance not just between the Doctor and his companions but also in general, it's just not something I'm very fond of. Otherwise great job Doctor Who, I'm happy and eager to see the new stuff. 

Gian-Luca Di Rocco: I think we are overdue for a change in composer for the incidental music and the arrangement of the theme tune. And I'd be happy for there to be a higher percentage of two-part/90 minute stories in each season than we currently have.

Cindy Peters: I’d like to see the scope of the episodes widen and I'd like that to start with the overall design of the production. From the few stills I’ve seen, I hope that Moffat has gone back to location shoots and that the new series will have a more polished and less rushed look. I'd like to see more multi-part episodes that leave us counting down the minutes until the next one begins. There were too many “one-off” episodes last series that just felt disjointed and thrown together. They felt very un-British.

I'd also like to see a return to slow reveals, woven throughout years of story-telling. A word spoken off-hand in the first episode that unravels slowly to an impactful and emotional moment of truth or loss. This is something that I think Davies excelled in and that Moffat struggles with.

Graeme Burk: I would like to see more women writers on the program. I get that Doctor Who is a TV show, not a carefully selected demographic group, but after 9 years on the air there's no excuse that there's only been one woman writer. As great as the show is, writing reflects a certain point of view and as much as I love the series, I often find it pretty obvious a bunch of blokes wrote it. A more diverse writing pool could only be for the good of the program. And it's not like the talent isn't out there. Abi Morgan from The Hour would be amazing. Jane Goldman would be stunning. And that's the top level that have run shows or written for films. There are plenty of other female TV writers who could ace Doctor Who.

But otherwise? not really. The great thing about Doctor Who is that it's like the weather. You don't like what you have, something different will be along shortly.


We'll be writing about each new episode of Doctor Who this season — just like we did last season. In the meantime, you can keep reading with our previous posts about the show: including the story of Sydney Newman, the Torontonian creator of Doctor Who, our trip to the Doctor Who Experience and other Doctor Who locations in Cardiff, our thoughts on Matt Smith's final episode and our idle speculation that Tasha Lem might actually be River Song.

This post was posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


Anonymous said...

The Rutans have already been back. Their smack down with the Sontarans in the Gunpowder Plot adventure game (officially canon) proved to be a key moment in their on-going war.

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