Jodie Whittaker Provides A Refreshing Regeneration To Doctor Who

Dr Who S11 poster

The world premier of the new season of Doctor Who just aired earlier today to much fanfare. The reason for the hoopla is not just because a new actor debuted as the new Doctor, but for the first time, a woman is playing the iconic time-traveling alien.

Jodie Whittaker had large shoes to fill with the role of the Doctor being that so many memorable actors left their mark in the role. But she pulls it off splendidly and provides a refreshing take on the character now that the Doctor is a woman. This does not mean that Doctor Who turned into a show with a feminist agenda. Rather, Whittaker and the first episode “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” have given the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall (who also wrote this episode), an invigorating chance to reboot the series.

While the new version of Doctor Who that premiered in 2005 has been terrific, for some time the show felt formulaic and needed a shot of creativity. The regeneration episodes of Doctor Who are seen as a way of reintroducing the character and the show’s premise. “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” follows the same beats as other regeneration episodes-the Doctor is confused as the regeneration cycle completes, new Companions are introduced, and some kind of alien menace threatens the Earth. In the end, the Doctor gathers his/her wits to foil the extra-terrestrial menace and concludes with the Companions being invited into the TARDIS to join the Doctor in new adventures.

woman who fell to earth

“The Woman Who Fell to Earth” actually felt different because it took an alternate route. The Companions that are introduced are diversely different, made up of dissimilar races, ages and backgrounds. The plot felt more grounded and far less outlandish than previous Doctor Who episodes. It was refreshingly simple without any convolutions or the Doctor gabbing away nonsensically. In fact, the Doctor has never seemed this gathered, resourceful and centered since the Ninth Doctor’s introduction. Basically, an alien warrior shows up to gather human trophies as a rite of passage to become a leader. The alien threat was not buffoonish and was rather creepy and menacing. The enemy alien looked appropriately gross with all his victim’s teeth embedded onto his face.

Since the episode was more grounded, it felt more real and the moments of suspense and danger were much more engaging. The pseudo-magical science that was prevalent in past seasons is downplayed. The Doctor is without the safety net of the TARDIS and the usual trappings. In this manner, Doctor Who seemed like it is no longer aimed at young viewers. This may upset some fans, but the show needed a change of pace and gearing it to slightly older audiences is the right thing to do. This does not mean that Doctor Who lost its sense of wonder and passion. Those elements are still there, best expressed by Whittaker and the new Companion, Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole). Needless to say that Jodie Whittaker has a stunning, electric debut as the 13th Doctor. Keep in mind that the episode was not perfect. There are some pacing issues and the behavior of some characters was not natural at certain moments.

Still, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is a refreshing way to regenerate Doctor Who and leaves you curious as to what happens next to the Doctor and her Companions.

Lewis T. Grove

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New Doctor Who Off To A Mundane Start

new doctor and clara

Peter Capaldi made his debut as the new Doctor in “Deep Breath”, the season premiere of Doctor Who. Unlike the two other modern regenerations we’ve seen, this debut episode of a new Doctor had a very different tone.

To be blunt it was rather underwhelming.

This verdict doesn’t have anything to do with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, it would be harsh to judge him solely based on this episode. On the other hand, when new actors took over the role of the famous Time Lord, they left very deep impressions. who horseCapaldi’s Doctor doesn’t have any particular quirks or kinks about him and that was a shame. Yes, in the new episode “Deep Breath” the Doctor was characteristically confused after his regeneration at the end of the special “The Time Of The Doctor”, but Capaldi seemed to be just going through the motions. It felt like when he was spouting off disjointed lines about not knowing his hands or talking to a dinosaur that he was just acting.

Even as he settled into the role later into the episode it was very clear that this Doctor would be more subdued and less flamboyant, eccentric or even energetic like the three previous actors to play the Doctor.

It’s a change of pace, but it may turn off some Doctor Who fans who were used to fast-talking and goofy Doctors, which were so endearing.

But Capaldi’s interpretation of the Doctor wasn’t what was offkey about the episode “Deep Breath”. Rather, it was the story itself.

As stated in the opening, this debut of a new Doctor was decidedly different. It was more low key and unfortunately mundane at times with its center being an uninteresting mystery taking place in Victorian-era London.

The episode starts with the Doctor’s Victorian compatriots the Paternoster Gang: the reptilian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her wife Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and the warrior Strax (Dan Starkey) witnessing a rampaging t-rex in downtown London. The dinosaur coughs up the Doctor’s space/time vessel the Tardis and that is how the Doctor and his Companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) first appear in the episode.

dinnerAn interesting start, but then “Deep Breath” dovetails when the new Doctor (the 12th? Wouldn’t he be the 13th if you count the War Doctor? Or is he a reset?) starts rambling about in a forced manner at his friends’ residence. Clara is trying to grapple with the fact that the Time Lord she knew and loved (Matt Smith) is now morphed into this noticeably older and confused man. Seeing the two of them together with the in-your-face age difference was jarring to watch and the dynamic between the two feels strained.

After a few uncomfortable scenes of that, the story shifts to this cyborg (Peter Ferdinando) going around abducting people to cannibalize them for parts. This part of the story was rather predictable and mundane. Even the listless fight sequences between the cyborg’s army and the Paternoster Gang wasn’t interesting to watch, nor was the confrontation between the Doctor and the cyborg.

new tardis

“Deep Breath” did come to life near the end of the episode when a certain character made a surprise appearance. As welcome as it was, the cameo served to remind Clara (and the viewers) to learn to accept the new Doctor and to support him. However, the problem wasn’t accepting the new actor, but that his character deserved a better episode to launch his stint. It’s way too early to write off this understated version of the Doctor and some clips from the upcoming Doctor Who previews look intriguing. It’s just lamentable that the new Doctor is off to an unremarkable start.

Annette DeForrester

Best Of 2013

 

 GRAVITY securing-yard

Best Sci-Fi TV Show

Doctor Who has been going on for fifty years and it’s still an entertaining and imaginative romp. The show was at its creative peak this season thanks to wonderful scripts, a spunky new Companion (Jenna Coleman) and Matt Smith’s perfect portrayal of our favorite time-traveling alien. All this was topped off with its fiftieth anniversary special that united the Doctor with past incarnations to save his world.

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Best Horror TV Show:

The Walking Dead is the best genre show on TV right now and for good reason. Gory, suspenseful and gripping, The Walking Dead reached creative heights with the introduction of the evil Governor (David Morrissey), who was a greater force for our heroes to grapple with than the flesh-eating zombies. The show has become a must-see event with each new episode.

Best Fantasy Show

thronesGame of Thrones, man can the Starks ever catch a break? The wedding event was a surprising game changer and the body count both infuriated many and created new fans of this adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga. Its rich production values, dense plotlines and acting make it one of the best shows on TV.

Best Documentary/Reality Show

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited, throughout the year BBCAmerica aired at the end of the month three-hour long specials that examined each incarnation of the Doctor starting from William Hartnell’s era up to the present. Then once that was done, we were treated to episodes from each era. This was a great way for old and new fans to see each version of Doctor Who.

Best Cancelled TV Show

Touch was cancelled after its second season, touchwhich was too bad. After its over reliance on touchy, feel-good stories in its first season, Touch switched gears and introduced an evil corporation that wanted to kidnap Jake Bohm (David Mazouz) to harness his near-precognitive ability. Meanwhile, he was stalked by a religious fanatic. With these developements, Touch added a much-needed narrative and purpose as Jake’s father (Keifer Sutherland) struggled to understand his son and protect him.

Best Animated Show

Beware The Batman, the computer-animated show looked at the early years of the Dark Knight’s crime-fighting career. The stories and the animation were great, as was the use of lesser-known villains like Firefly and Anarky. We cannot wait to see new episodes next month!

batman

Best TV Character

The Doctor (Matt Smith) in Doctor Who was very memorable this year thanks in large part to Smith’s performance. Showing an unexpected maturity while retaining his zest for life, the Doctor was someone who was a joy to watch as he outwitted his foes. Sadly, while Smith was at his peak, he decided to leave the show. But his last couple of outings were a tour de force and brought a tear to the eyes in his final moments as he reflected on how while things will always change, it’s important to remember your past.

Most Missed TV Character

rick and hershelHershel Greene (Scott Wilson) in The Walking Dead was a gentle and wise patriarch and the voice of reason for the show’s characters, especially Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). As the show’s moral compass, Hershel’s shocking death at the hands of the Governor was outrageous and we can only wonder how Rick and the others will carry on without him now.

Best TV Villain

The Governor (David Morrissey) in governorThe Walking Dead was one of the most malicious, manipulative and sadistic characters ever to grace a TV show. His character elevated the show as he and his machinations were one of the best reasons to tune in each week. His well-deserved death after the destruction he created was welcomed, but we can’t help wondering how the show’s creators will follow up this character. 

Most Improved TV show

Supernatural and many other genre shows greatly improved this year. But the long-running show about two brothers facing down the supernatural found new life in its latest episodes. Gone was the turgid storyline about the Leviathan with a renewed emphasis on Castiel (Misha Collins) and the troublesome angels that are just as bad as the demons in the show.

Best Series Finale

fringe season 5Fringe, the show came to a very satisfying conclusion very early in 2013. The storyline wrapped up the future invasion of the Observers and we got to see the parallel world for one last time. More importantly, we were allowed to say goodbye to the quirky characters that defined Fringe. The final episode’s last image of the white tulip drawing that Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) held was pure perfection. Thanks guys for five great years of stimulating weirdness. We’ll leave out some licorice for Walt if he ever leaves the distant future and drops by to visit.

Biggest Disappointment

Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, Joss Whedon, the  mastermind behind Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Firefly, is the show’s executive producer. For Pete’s sake he directed The Avengers! How could this show be so bland with generic and annoying characters? Instead of elite, badass super spies this show is riddled with so-called cute and perky morons that should be tossed from that S.H.I.E.L.D. plane at the first chance!

Best Sci-Fi Film

Gravity, it was a hard choice graitybetween this and Pacific Rim. An argument can be made that Gravity isn’t really a sci-fi film, but there are a few elements that imply that it is such as a still functioning space shuttle program (perhaps it’s an alternate reality?) and the nature of the space disaster. Nonetheless, Gravity was an electrifying and immersive viewing experience thanks to its perfect depiction of living in space and direction by Alfonso Cuarón’s expert hands.

Best Horror Film

The Conjuring set out what it wanted to do, which was to provide good, old-fashioned scares thanks to James Wan’s direction. What is even more frightening to ponder at night when you’re all alone is that this was supposedly based on actual events.  

Best Fantasy Film

smaugThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson continues his journey into Middle Earth with this lush and exciting adventure. The entire affair was elevated to new heights with the revelation of the dragon Smaug. His presence was so captivating that it made some forget about Gollum!

Best Animated Film

Monsters University, none of 2013’s animated movies were really exceptional, but this was the best one released. A surprisingly good and effective prequel that accomplished its goal of examining its main characters and helping audiences understand where they came from. It was also very funny.

Best Superhero Film

Man Of Steel, after the perceived misfire of Superman Returns years ago, it seemed that making an exciting Superman movie was impossible. Well, folks it was done with Man Of Steel. It had its flaws (another round at the editing station could’ve helped) and was controversial, but it’s clear that it got people talking about Superman again. Those fight scenes over Metropolis and Smallville were really epic, too.

MAN OF STEEL

Best Superhero on Film

Superman in Man Of Steel, thanks to Henry Cavill’s performance the Man of Tomorrow became relevant again in this bold and exciting film. While Christopher Reeve will always be Superman, Cavill’s interpretation takes him to the new century.

Best Film Character

GRAVITYDr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) in Gravity. She was the emotional core of the movie and audiences empathized with her as she found her inner resolve to fight on and survive in a hostile environment. Audiences couldn’t help but root for her during her struggles with herself and her plight.

Best Film Villain

Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Star Trek kahn2Into Darkness. One of the highlights from the latest Star Trek film was Kirk’s greatest nemesis. Putting aside the complaints about using the genetic superman in the rebooted Trek, it can’t be denied that Cumberbatch gave a chilling performance.

Best Surprise In Film

World War Z, it should’ve been DOA like After Earth given its many production problems. It went into massive reshoots, which delayed its release. All this spelled a crappy film, yet this zombie apocalypse film was actually well done.

Best Use of 3D & IMAX In a Film

Gravity is the kind of film tailor made for 3D and IMAX with its space visuals that looked so realistic. The entire thing looked like it was actually filmed up in the I.S.S. It’s hard to see how typical home theater can do this film any justice when it’s released on Blu-ray and other outlets.

Best Trailer For an Upcoming Film

Godzilla, beat out a crowded crop of many excellent trailers (X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Transcendence, Interstellar) but this one hit all the right notes with its ominous mood. From the beginning with the Navy SEALs preparing to take on a force of nature to the mayhem shown in quick cuts, Godzilla is now a must-see for 2014.

Best App

Plants Vs. Zombies 2, the sequel to the hit app is one of the best free apps around. Addictive with great content and game play, Plants Vs. Zombies 2 is worth downloading to your devices.

Best Online Social Network Game

AAMarvel: Avengers Alliance, is a very addictive, turn-based game based on the Marvel superheroes. It’s very buggy and the player vs. player feature is annoying as hell, but it’s a lot of fun to play. The game rocked fans with the introductions of obtainable lockbox characters and group bosses that had to be fought by you and your allies online.

Best Video Game

Bioshock: Infinite, the sequel to the superb Bioshock video game took the story in a new and fresh direction, in a year with many great games like The Last Of Us, this one stood out thanks to its storyline and game features.

Best Hallmark Ornament

It wasn’t the best year for genre ornaments with the slim pickings offered by Hallmark. Still, the Star Trek ornament based on the classic episode “Arena” is our pick for best Hallmark ornament. Whether it was the sight of Kirk cowering in terror from the might of the Gorn or hearing the alien hiss, this ornament is a very kitschy thing to hang on a tree.

Biggest News Item

Forget the government shutdown and batsupe symbolthe Obamacare debacle! The news that truly shook fandom came in the summer when it was announced that the Man Of Steel sequel would pit Superman against the Caped Crusader himself, Batman! DC and Warner Brothers have clearly thrown the gauntlet at Marvel and its cinematic universe. Each new update, ranging from Ben Affleck being cast as Batman to the confirmation that Wonder Women will appear has sent fandom into tizzies.

*Be sure to check out our Facebook page for our lists of the top 10 films and TV shows of 2013.

Top 10 Doctor Who Specials

 doctor day

The modern era of Doctor Who has seen many specials that aren’t part of the regular season or series of episodes, but are just as entertaining. Many of them cover important developments about the Doctor, notably his regenerations. Often, these specials air during Christmas or in between long stretches of seasons. Some of the specials aren’t even aired on TV but are found online as mini webisodes and reveal many interesting aspects of the Doctor. These are the best specials to date.

10. “Voyage Of The Damned” The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) finds himself in an imperiled space-going luxury liner named after the Titanic. Can the Doctor and assorted crewmembers and passengers keep the ship from suffering the same fate as its namesake? Well, he isn’t called the Doctor for nothing!

snowmen9. “The Snowmen” The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) mourning the loss of his Companions lives in self-exile in Victorian London. While he is drawn to an eerie mystery involving sentient snowmen, he encounters a perplexing woman, future Companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who he keeps running into during his time travels. Coleman shined in her introduction as the spunky Clara.

8. “The End Of Time, Parts One and Two” David Tennant’s swan song as the Doctor was probably a bit overblown and too long. Still, it was memorable for returning the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master (John Simm), who was a pawn in a plot to reignite the Time War. While the Doctor’s demise dragged on, it was nice seeing him bid subtle farewells to his Companions throughout time.

7. “The Waters Of Mars” One thing Doctor Who excels at is putting out genuinely creepy tales. This one, which won the Hugo award, isn’t an exception as the Tenth Doctor aids the first human colonists on Mars infected with an intelligent virus. What was more unsettling was the tragic result of the Doctor trying to change history.

6. “The Christmas Invasion” In his first full outing xmas invasionas the Doctor, David Tennant grabbed the role and ran with it. As he and his Companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) struggles to deal with his regeneration, the world comes under an alien invasion on Christmas. While the Doctor is busy getting used to his new body, Rose and her associates must deal with the alien threat on their own.

5. Various Webisodes. These minutes-long stories were often some of the best Doctor Who stories. Whether it was about Paul McGann returning time crashas the Eighth Doctor (“The Night Of The Doctor”) or the Tenth Doctor meeting the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) in a weird time quirk (“Time Crash”)  or Rose’s confused and frightened reaction to the Doctor’s regeneration (“Doctor Who: Children In Need”) these nuggets added to the rich lore of Doctor Who.

4. “The Next Doctor” Before his iconic role as the sadistic Governor in The Walking Dead David Morrissey next doctorexcelled in this special as an alleged future Doctor incarnation. The Tenth Doctor meets him in London in the 1850s and the two team up to stop a Cybermen plot. Morrissey’s exuberant performance as the amnesiac Doctor a.k.a. Jackson Lake left many fans wishing he would be cast as a Doctor sometime in the future. He captured the essence of being a Doctor and his character’s tragic back story was unforgettable.

3. “The Time Of The Doctor” In the most recent special, Matt Smith’s gave a truly heartfelt performance as the Doctor for the last time. The time 3story about the Doctor sacrificing his natural lifespan to stay on a planet and defend a town called Christmas was a bit rushed and should’ve been longer, but the finale just tugs at the heartstrings. Unlike Tennant’s Doctor, this version faces his impending natural death and regeneration with maturity and wisdom. He reminds us that change is part of life and that it’s good as long as you remember your past. A Doctor’s farewell couldn’t be more poignant.

2. “A Christmas Carol” The best Doctor Who special about Christmas is this adaptation of A Christmas Carol. To save his Companions’ live, the Doctor must change the cruel and bitter ways of a Scrooge-like figure (Michael Gambon). The Doctor makes brilliant use of time travel to subtly reform the lost soul throughout his life in this loving tribute to Dickens’ classic. Actually, the story enhanced the classic with a tragic love story that is uplifting at the same time. The special also featured some of the most out-of-the-world imagery, specifically that of a flying great white shark (!) that is eventually used to pull a carriage through snowy skies.

1. “The Day Of The Doctor” This is the all-time best special and not just because it celebrated the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. It had an epic all docsstory as the two Doctors (Tennant and Smith) that won over legions of fans in modern times united to solve a mystery regarding the ominous Time War. Many puzzles were solved as we learned about that war and the mysterious War Doctor (John Hurt), who was just outstanding. What’s more, there were many nods and references to the show’s long and rich history that culminated in the Eleventh (or rather the Thirteenth) Doctor meeting the Curator (Tom Baker, the Fourth and most revered Classic Doctor). For the most part, the special delivered for this special occasion and set a very high standard for such events.

José Soto

Doctor Who Celebrates Its Fiftieth Anniversary

doctor who

Doctor Who fans are still aglow over the recent fiftieth anniversary special “The Day Of The Doctor”, and for good reason!  It was inventive, frenetic and most of all it was  downright cool in so many ways. More importantly, “The Day Of The Doctor” was a loving tribute to the fifty-year-old program

Who’s Who?

For anyone who hasn’t watched, Doctor Who is about the adventures of a time-traveling alien called the Doctor, who can go anywhere in time and space. As a Time Lord, he often winds up in some misadventure while defending Earth and is accompanied by a long line of (mostly) human Companions. When the show first aired in the BBC back in 1963, it was more pedestrian than the madcap pace exuberated by hartnellthe modern show. The Doctor was played by William Hartnell, a distinguished older actor who was more cerebral  and sedate than his successors. Doctor Who was always plagued by low budgets and production values, which didn’t help its stature of being a children’s show. Still, it had an unmistakable charm and its youthful audiences loved the show. This happened after the show began steering away from historical dramas and introduced goofy aliens that were played by actors in bargain-basement costumes.

This status stayed with the show for many years and over many incarnations of the Doctor. You see, once Hartnell left the program in 1966, he was ingeniously recast. The Doctor was an alien, so it was established that he could regenerate into another person at the time of his death. Each Doctor that followed him was more and more outrageous in demeanor and attire, probably culminating in Colin Baker’s eye-hurting, multi-colored waist coat and his flamboyantly overbearing behavior.  But this concept allowed each actor to add his own touch to the character, making the Doctor a rather complex person for this kind of show. It was probably why Doctor Who began to catch on past the kids.

tom baker

The first significant introduction to American audiences of Doctor Who was the Tom Baker era from 1974 to 1981. His Doctor was distinguished by an overlong, multicolored scarf, and a huge afro. While he was quite daffy, Baker’s Doctor exhibited a cunning, intellectual side that was masked by his eccentric behavior. Still, the show was bogged down with horrible special effects and production values. While the show won many fans, there were just as many who dismissed Doctor Who as kiddie fare.

Eventually, Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 and the property laid dormant until 1996 when Fox aired a TV movie pilot that attempted to jumpstart the franchise. The film was actually good, but controversial with many longtime fans, who bemoaned the semi-reboot. For instance, the Doctor revealed he was half-human and shockingly enough he had a romantic moment with his Companion. Egad! Sure, it sounds silly but fans can be recalcitrant whenever changes are made. The movie didn’t lead to a series and so the attempt at restarting the franchise was stillborn.

Who’s Back

nine docBut like any good intellectual property, Doctor Who refused to die. Finally in 2005, a brand new series was launched that rejuvenated the stale franchise. Now Doctor Who had updated effects, the characters were dynamic and relatable and the stories were more adult. The ramifications and intricacies of time travel were explored in episodes like “Father’s Day”, “Blink”, and “The Name Of The Doctor”.  Others had outlandish plots best explained by their episode titles–”The Stolen Earth”, “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” and “Let’s Kill Hitler”. Some others where actually heartfelt like “The Doctor’s Wife” where the Doctor’s spaceship attained a corporeal, sentient form . To its credit, the show still retained its sense of whimsy and charm. Episodes featured many unique images like the Doctor soaring through the air in a carriage pulled by a flying great white shark (!), or him and his Companion riding a motorcycle up a glass tower. For every lighthearted episode, there were those that were quite chilling, adventurous, wondrous, and more importantly, thought provoking.

A very important change made to the modern Doctor Who is that the Doctor is the last of his kind. His race, from the planet Gallifrey, along with their mortal enemies, the Daleks, had died off fighting in a Time War. The Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccleston, was more morose and subdued. It was even reflected in his dark attire. He was clearly suffering from survivor’s guilt and was wracked by what he did in the Time War (it was revealed that he destroyed both races). However, by the end of his run, Eccleston’s Doctor (the Ninth Doctor) seemed to be recovering thanks to the help of his Companions Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).

Edgier, More Emotional Doctors

This change into a more optimistic demeanor was fully expressed with the next Doctor brilliantly portrayed by David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor was exploding with youthful energy and charm. He often rambled on at a mile per second and had an impish way about him. One couldn’t help but be delighted by his antics. Yet, the Tenth Doctor once in a while unmasked a haunted and frightful demeanor that was unsettling to watch. This was underlined by Tennant’s ability to convey someone who was much older than he appeared.

hi res bike

His successor Matt Smith also had this uncanny ability. But, being that he was the youngest person to portray the Doctor, that ancient quality shown in his eyes and mannerisms added to the dichotomy of the Doctor. Now that Peter Capaldi will be the new Doctor come the next Christmas special (“The Time Of The Doctor”), some of his conflicting aspect will be toned down since Capaldi is an older actor.

But what does that mean for Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman)? She will seem more like a daughter next to Capaldi. It’s doubtful there will be any romantic tension a la Rose Tyler, who started falling for the Tenth Doctor once he came into the picture. Perhaps Clara will soon leave the show. However, River Song (Alex Kingston) seems more compatible with Capaldi’s Doctor since the actress is closer in age to him.

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