I recently put up a poll on Twitter asking what people thought about season 8 quasi-companion Danny Pink.
Much to my genuine surprise, the majority of voters like him. Those results and the arguments made on his behalf convinced me to start my #12Rewatch. I wanted to see if being a few years removed from the season would change my feelings on him. In short, it did not.
I came into my rewatch with mostly positive feelings about the season itself. I liked season 8, even though I didn’t necessarily like Clara or Danny. I can say now with the benefit of hindsight that a lot of that was due to how much I despised seasons 6 & 7. Season 6 was awful for me and season 7 was a mess. Season 8 probably felt consistent then, but really it is just boring.
Peter Capaldi is great and really seemed to be enjoying himself and that was fun to watch. But the Doctor was sometimes a bit too unlikable. The show tried so hard to quell any notion of Clara and the Doctor as a romantic pairing that they resorted to him constantly criticizing her — which frankly, read more like negging anyway. They also leaned very hard on the Doctor HATING soldiers. We know the Doctor has a complicated relationship with war but they eliminated all nuance for the majority of the season.
In The Caretaker, the Doctor treats Danny like trash. The show wants us to take his subtle hostility toward Danny as proof of his staunch dislike of soldiers, but the fact that Danny is Black means it reads differently. First, the Doctor insisted that Danny was the P.E. teacher (and took to calling him P.E. for the remainder of the season) despite Danny asserting he taught maths. This is a microaggression Black people face all the time.
It’s the assumption that we must work at the store and can’t possibly also be shopping; it’s white people asking us for help even though we are not wearing the employee uniform — even if a white employee in uniform is nearby. It is white people seeing us at the valet area and handing us their keys, assuming we work there and aren’t waiting for our own cars. It’s us constantly having to reassert our capabilities or our positions.
Then, the Doctor sees Clara talking to another teacher who is slim, white, and vaguely reminiscent of Eleven and assumes he’s the one who Clara is dating. Again, what the show intends and how it reads is very different.
It was actually hard to watch a lot of Twelve’s earlier interactions with Danny because he was so abrasive. This is an instance where the lack of diverse talent behind the camera was evident in how these behaviors went completely unchecked in the script.
Coming into season 8, Clara had no discernable personality, so there was nothing for me to connect with. She eventually came into her own, but grew into someone I didn’t really like. I don’t have to like the companion, but I have to understand their POV, even I don’t agree with it. And I don’t really get Clara. She wanted to be in a relationship, which is fine. But she chose to date a person so polar opposite of herself that she had to lie for months cause she knew he wouldn’t agree with her lifestyle.
And with Danny, everything he wants is antithetical to everything Clara is. Even when that is made abundantly clear, he chooses to stay with her, despite her habitual lying about literally everything since they’ve been together. Not only does he not approve of her traveling with the Doctor, but he demands she tell him if the Doctor pushes her too far. A. He’d already argued that she doesn’t realize how far she goes with the Doctor, so how was she supposed to notice all’a’sudden? B. What the fuck was he gon’ do?
(Nothing, as we know. Cause when she later vents to him about that very thing, he just says “told ya so” and we move on.)
She eventually promises to stop traveling with the Doctor but continues doing so and lies about it — AGAIN. He catches her lying AGAIN and does nothing, despite his earlier ultimatum. By the time
A. None of their relationship that was shown on screen supported them being in love. B. Their lack of on-screen romance made her reaction to his death feel melodramatic. C. What the FUCK kind of zero to one hundred bullshit was that?! She didn’t even attempt to ASK first. She went straight to “save Danny or I’ll destroy the TARDIS key in a volcano!” Also, she was in the volcano, too so… what was the plan? Just be stuck there and die? It was an unbelievable and entirely unearned emotional response. Danny was not present enough throughout for how prominently he featured in the series emotional climax.
Outside of my dislike for the characters, most of the episodes just lacked impact. Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline, and maybe Time Heist are probably the only ones I’d rewatch. Kill The Moon only stands out cause the fucking space dragon and entire abandonment of science as a concept. The premiere and finale episodes are too long and while they feature strong moments, none of them are particularly great. Missy is fantastic in Dark Water and Death in Heaven and I would’ve rather seen more of her throughout the season than Danny anywhere.
And the thing is, I think Danny standalone could’ve been great. His relationship to the Doctor could’ve been complex and interesting, but it was just… not. I like when companions or their loved ones come for the Doctor. Jackie stayed up the Doctor’s ass. Francine Jones never took her foot of Ten’s neck. Wilf loved Ten but I do think he’d have thrown them old hands on Donna’s behalf. Rory never let go of Eleven’s edges, that is why he was scalped by the end. ????
But Danny just judged his lying ass girlfriend for her lifestyle, antagonized her friend, and stayed PRESSDT when he could’ve saved himself (and us) time and energy by just not being with someone he effectively hated everything about.
Overall, Season 8 was fine. I probably wouldn’t watch it in its entirety again, but it’s not awful.
Clara is irritating but I enjoyed the moments when she really leaned into her role as the Doctor’s companion. She may have reacted strongly at the Doctor leaving her to decide the fate of the moon, but everything about how she acted beyond that shows that she actually enjoys being pushed by the Doctor.
Turning Danny into a Cyberman Martyr was already some weak bullshit but in light of the fact that it was repeated with Bill — who is also Black — only two seasons later, it’s also some lazy ass, racist ass bullshit.
Sam Anderson deserved a better character and Danny deserved a better story and ending.