[Note: The following post contains SPOILERS for Doctor Who season 8]
It's been a divisive season for Doctor Who fans - full of change as well as some very drastic highs and lows. Following initial concerns from new Who viewers that Peter Capaldi was too aged to play a 2,000+ year-old Gallifreyan time traveler, the BAFTA-winning actor successfully brought a fresh dynamic to the central character. Capaldi might not be as youthful or hip as his recent predecessors but the Twelfth Doctor has quickly become a fan-favorite - even among the show's youngest viewers. Fresh layers in the titular hero allowed for inspired storylines and season 8 of Doctor Who became a platform for some genuinely great episodes.
Nevertheless, a controversial and pretty clumsy finale (read our "Death in Heaven" review), has led many fans of the series to once again ask: Is it finally time for a new showrunner? Series head Steven Moffat is responsible for some of the best modern Doctor Who stories but many viewers have begun to wonder if the talented writer/producer is running out of steam - especially considering the ever-growing number of projects on his plate. However, a new report suggest that Moffat is already hard at work writing the season 9 premiere - indicating that, currently, there are no plans for him to step down.
While attending a Royal Television Society event, the showrunner revealed that he is already hard at work on the Doctor Who season 9 premiere and that the full list of episode writers has been locked in (though any names and story details will remain a secret for the time being).
Moffat also reflected on series 8 of Doctor Who - defending some of the more divisive elements.
- On the casting of Peter Capaldi (instead of a younger actor): "We definitely ruffled their feathers by changing the actors. Shows don't die when they change, they die when they are comfortable. If you're watching it saying I'm appalled! Well then, you're still watching it!"
- On killing fan-favorite UNIT operative Osgood in "Death in Heaven": "I was aware that the Master as a character gets cuddly very fast. If we're going to bring her back, she's got to kill someone in a. horrible way. Otherwise she becomes a slightly more naughty Doctor."
- On rumors that ratings for the show are falling: "The figures are the same - they're just the same. If by 'ratings', you mean the number of people who watch the show... they are the same. The number of people who watch Doctor Who on iPlayer has tripled. The way people watch it has changed but viewing figures have remained the same. Brian Minchin also pointed out how well the show is doing globally now, for example the audience watching on BBC America is up 30 percent since Capaldi took over the role of the Doctor."
Of course, just because Moffat is writing the season 9 premiere doesn't necessarily mean that he's confirmed to once again head the series - particularly because it's been speculated that current executive producer, Brian Minchin could inherit the job. Still, since the gears are already turning on the season 9 slate, and without official word from BBC of any major restructuring, it's highly likely that Moffat will remain in charge for at least one more season.
One aspect of season 8 that the showrunner did not address was Missy - specifically the Master's gender change and the character's ultimate fate (following vaporization at the hand of Cyberman Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart). Yet, in a separate interview with Doctor Who Magazine (via Doctor Who News), actress Michelle Gomez commented on the character before teasing a return for her iteration of the Master:
"Everything about making the Master the Mistress kind of ups the ante, it makes everything that little bit more dangerous. It blows open this Pandora's box.
Yes. 'Yes' is my answer. I'll be back. Can I say that? Am I allowed? If not... well, I guess we'll have to see how she's received."
After a series of rumors suggested that a female Doctor might follow Matt Smith's take on the Time Lord, response to a female Master was a mix of outrage (that the Master had switched genders) and intrigue (thanks to a zany performance from Gomez). Some viewers were disappointed, since a female Master temporarily sidestepped cries for a female Doctor, but most fans ultimately embraced the choice and enjoyed watching Gomez revel in the character's twisted psyche.
To that end, in a finale that drew a wide range of reactions (many of them negative), Gomez and her Mistress were easily the most interesting and entertaining aspects - a clear indicator that, if her return truly is dependent on "how she's received", there's a very strong possibility that the character will be back.
That said, in the Doctor Who: Extra episode for "Dark Water", Moffat indicated (without outright confirming) that Missy wasn't limited to a one-off appearance in Season 8 and, instead, was just the beginning of a new chapter for one of the Doctor's most dangerous adversaries. Coupled with Gomez's initial claim that she will return, before seemingly walking back the bold confirmation in favor of teasing viewers (and covering her butt), it's a very safe assumption that Missy wasn't outright vaporized by Cyber-Brigadier and, instead, managed to escape or survive.
After all, Gomez wouldn't be the first Doctor Who actress to toy with viewer expectations this season - after months of Jenna Coleman dodging questions regarding her own potential departure from the series after the 2014 Christmas Special. Turning rumors of a potential exit on their head, Coleman has managed to keep fans and press guessing about Clara's fate throughout season 8 (and beyond). Many assumed that Clara would ultimately choose to stop traveling with the Doctor and settle down with Danny Pink but, following the dour conclusion to "Death in Heaven", suddenly anything is possible again - including the possibility that Clara and Missy both reappear in season 9.
We'll keep you up to date as official Doctor Who season 9 news (and casting) is unveiled by BBC.
The 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Special will air December 25, 2014 on BBC and BBC America.
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