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‘I’ve known him since he was a little girl,’ is one of three facts about The Doctor The Master doles out to Clara in the season premiere of Doctor Who this week. With a wry smile, she asks Clara to identify which one is a dirty big fib. Hopefully, The Doctor’s ambiguous gender is not the one.

I don’t say this as someone wanting to troll those hard-core fans who angrily wept into their tea when the Doctor was given a new set of regenerations two Christmases ago. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of those people who cried out that their precious canon had been crushed under foot, and then tore their souls out over the prospect that a throwaway line from 40 odd years previously had been ignored. Though I will say, I enjoy it a little.

No, for me the line is significant in that it suggests that Moffat, for all his supposed misdemeanours, is leading to something big. That whooshing sound you just heard was the inhalation of a million people getting ready to tell me in no uncertain words that Moffatt is the anti-Christ. To them I say, hear me out.

The post-credit opening of The Magician’s Apprentice started with planes frozen in the sky. Hanging like so much metal and pulpy flesh in the atmos, it was clear that there was only one person who could help… And he was nowhere to be found. Yes, like Sterling Archer, The Doctor had decided to go AWOL when things weren’t going his way. A trait he appears to have kept from his Time Lord Victorious days. So, who was left?

Well, to begin with there was Clara; Nanny turned English Teacher, now, let’ be honest, the Doctor’s equal. It was she who first noticed the planes, it was she who instigated a hashtag frenzy with her students to call certain people’s attention to the event. And upon rocking up at UNIT headquarters, it was she who taken into Kate Lethbridge–Stewart’s confidence. Yes, Clara has become a force to be reckoned with.

And of course Kate, following in her father’s footsteps, is bolshie, but willing to listen. With no Doctor around, the two women set about trying to work out what’s going on and how they’re going to find the elusive Timelord. To aid them, they bounce ideas off UNIT’s new Scientific Advisor Jac, who, like all those who have come after The Doctor, doesn’t quite meet the requirements, but is still someone with valuable input.

And then came the gate crasher. She’s so fine, she blows my mind. Hey Missy. The Master had her own reasons for finding the Doctor and, despite a momentary lapse in which she needlessly killed people, she was begrudgingly willing to side with the goodies to get the job done. If you’re not catching on, dear reader, here were four strong women solving problems and dealing with catastrophic events – albeit a catastrophic event manufactured by one of them. Four women getting shit done. In Doctor Who. Without the Doctor. Yes, with reasoning, the scene doesn’t exactly pass the holy Bechdel Test, but they weren’t hopeless without him. They rolled up their sleeves and got on with it.

Later on, they find the Doctor who is licking his fractured ego after leaving a young Davros to die. Which to be fair, is a horrible thing to discover. You know that haggard, corrupted megalomaniac you’ve fought eons? Well, his twisted view of humanity was probably down to a chance encounter where YOU left him to die. Pop that in your pipe and smoke it. But lets’ digress. When Davros’ slithering associate came to take him away, Clara and The Master decided they would go with him, even before he had chance to wag a finger at them. The Doctor would not define their actions through his. No, they would be the ones to do that.

Twenty minutes into Doctor Who and the Doctor has become a side character in his own story. The women were up front and tenacious, and whilst inevitably the Doctor was their destination, THEY were the ones who set the course. Not him.

It’s the kind of thing Moffat isn’t supposed to write in accordance with the internet. But for all his detractors, Moffat is trying, he is learning and he is growing. In the same way that no one is born racist, no one is born with a full set of values that encompass every one of the beautiful people that populate this planet. Well, yes, we’re a lot less judgmental as babies, but we also soil ourselves regularly and can’t form shapes with our eyes. Have you ever tried to discuss the patriarchy with a baby? Utterly pointless. I myself try to be a good ally, but will struggle with concepts and vocab. thinking I was being all benign and majestically during a conversation with a transgender woman, I referenced that she was born a girl in the wrong body. No, she said. She was born a boy and as she got older she realized who she was. There will be some reading that last part who may think that that SHE was wrong, but such is the world. It is a great big ball of learning and evolving.

So yes, Moffat has said some ridiculous things via twitter and interviews. But haven’t we all been pulled up on something and realised that we had to rewire our thinking. Equally we can take all the stuff we’ve thought was right, and break it down enough to find offence. I cringed a few times watching the Ninth Doctor only yesterday. Remember that time Russell T Davis had Rose call the Doctor ‘gay’ for wearing a leather jacket, or spent two seasons having the Doctor calling the only main character in the show who was black ‘thick’? And what’s with all the mother’s being matriarchal harpies who the Doctor re-educates?

I’m being flippant – well, only a little bit anyway – but the point I want to get back to is that this new season of Doctor Who has made great leaps and bounds from the days when Amy forced herself on an unwilling Doctor (Yeah, that’s right. I have a list of all the stuff that bugs me) It might not seem like it, but there’s a revolution coming. The seeds were planted long ago when the Corsair and their gender swapping ways were first mentioned. They grew when The Master took her new body for a test-drive and when Clara, sonic screwdriver in hand, solved a mystery for the Doctor. They blossomed when an admittedly cheeky season finale saw Clara’s face replace the Doctor’s in the opening credits. I am confident we’re going to have a female Doctor. It may not becoming as soon as people want, but if we accept what The Master said about her childhood with the Doctor as truth, then it’s going to happen. The door has been propped open.

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And so it ends. Series 8 has possibly been one of the more satisfying series of Doctor Who under Moffat’s reign. Stripped of its recent dependence on timey wimey nonsense, the show has felt reinvigorated. It’s been suggested that Moffat doesn’t listen to the fans, and nor should he, but it couldn’t have escaped anyone’s attention that this series has had more in common with the first four than anything else.

In Dark Water/Death in Heaven, several story arcs came to an end as an old enemy returned to cause havoc upon planet earth with a little help of the Cybermen. It was big, it was brash, but it also managed to be highly emotional in way that Doctor Who hasn’t been for a long time. These two episodes have seen Moffat doing what he likes to do best: referencing the past (a lot) and messing around with everyone who has access to the internet.

Danny Pink joins the ranks of Rory and Mickey as people get caught in the crossfire when the Doctor and his companion are in town. Hit by a car, facing your demons in a fake heaven and being cyber converted is not the first thing one would ask for in the event of their death. But here he was, defiant in the end. His final scenes with Clara were heartbreaking. When the Doctor appeared on the scene, his anger was well and truly justified. Through no fault of his own Danny was about to pay the ultimate sacrifice. And as he proved The Doctor’s skepticism of soldiers was unwarranted, my heart broke further. Danny probably deserved more in life. He was a tortured man, who didn’t need to prove anything, but found himself having to do so.

And poor Clara. There was no glory in death for her. Remember the bubbly wide-eyed innocent we met in Series 7? It’s fair to say the Doctor has chewed her up and spat her out. Handing her a lottery ticket with next week’s numbers on it, ala the Tenth, is just not going to cut it this time. She tried to do by right the Doctor, by Danny and more importantly by herself. She was clever and resourceful. Look how she handled the cyber men by pretending to be the Doctor (further acknowledgement that Moffatt sees a future for a female Doctor): she deserved better. And she knew this too. As they both lied to each other in that final scene, her relationship with the Doctor is like that metaphorical ball of paper. It can be flattened out, but you’re still going to see the marks.

UNIT returned to boss the Doctor around and make him the President on Earth. A storyline that didn’t really go anywhere, but at least gave us an excuse to see? Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Osgood again. There are accusations that Moffat can only write one type of female character, which I find to be completely unfounded. Moffat can’t write ‘sexy’ femme fatales very well. See Irene Adler and Melody Pond in Let’s Kill Hitler. However, in this series we had four distinct female characters. Four? Yep four. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading now.

Missy was in fact the Master!

Those who brush away the reference to the Corsair’s gender-swapping antics in season 7 are going to struggle now. It’s official. Time Lords can and will change gender. Maybe one day we will have a female Doctor too and I look forward to it. I will be there cheering on the change, as well as warming myself by the heat of the anger from Twitter. Did the dynamic change with Michelle Gomez in the role? For me, not really. Once I quickly accepted her preference of pronouns, I was fully on board. When the Master first resurfaced under RTD’s reign, he was a coward, having hidden himself away from the Time War. He forced his regeneration to put him on par with the Tenth’s youthful appearance. No goatees here, my good man. Except something wasn’t right. With youth cam a little bit of madness. He was erratic, sexual and not shy of abusing his wife. Even in defeat, he had to get the upper hand on the Doctor by refusing to regenerate. And then, after some Harry Potter BS, he was back as blonde jacked-up super villain. The drumming that drove him mad, revealed to be the work of Rassilon.

The last appearance of the Simm-Master saw him fighting against Rassilon and weirdly defending the Doctor. And where was the Doctor? Well, he got a poorly tummy from radiation sickness and went off to cry about Rose. So, it’s understandable that the Master might have been a bit pissed to have been left in the lurch. And so here she is, having orchestrated the meeting of Clara and the Doctor simply to prove a point. That The Doctor is basically The Master. Two sides of the same coin. And to prove it, she gave him control of her cyber-army. As she pointed out several times, she’s bananas.

Gomez’s portrayal of the Master was superb. Channeling a touch of Simm as well Sue White from Green Wing, she was a whirlwind of villainy and 80s pop songs. It’s good to know that no matter what happens to the Master, they love their Earth pop culture. Then there was that kiss. It could be argued that Moffat was injecting some heteronormative behavior in the role, but another way to look at it is that the Master is bloody enjoying the fact that The Doctor doesn’t recognize her. And whereas the Eleventh Doctor might have been up for the snog, Twelvy clearly wasn’t. If you wanted further proof that Moffat has put the pretty-boy Doctor to bed then that scene was it.

Sadly, we couldn’t enjoy her company for too long before she had back against the wall and the Doctor being called upon by Clara to take her out. Not just in revenge for Danny but for everyone that has died at the hands of the Master because the Doctor always lets them get away. Would the Doctor have gone ahead with it? Who knows because someone did it for him. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart did the job for him. Now you may not have liked how he was brought back, but I certainly think it was in character. If Danny Pink was going to override his cyber-programming to find Clara, then the Brig was not going to stand away and be told what to do by the Master. And like Danny’s sacrifice, it proved once again that the Doctor needs to ease up on his armed forces bashing. His solitary salute was beautiful.

Then there was the Doctor. Ah Twelvy. You wanted to know if you were a good man and you realized like the rest of us, that we’re capable of being anything at any time and as long as you keep fighting the good fight, you have nothing to fear. Too bad the Master managed to give him the finger one last time by giving fake coordinates to Galliffrey. When the told The Master she had won, he didn’t know the half of it.

And then there was a further tip of the hat to the Davies era, with a credit sting leading into the Christmas special, with Capaldi’s raised eyebrow replacing the Tenth’s triple what.

It’s been a fantastic series and I look forward to revisting it over the next couple of weeks to catch things I may have missed. If Moffat can keep up this momentum for series 9, things can only get better.