Doctor Who returns with a solid transition episode
I DIDN’T really know what to expect from Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I haven’t really seen him in any of his other major roles and in a way I think that’s a good thing – this way I won’t keep seeing (or wanting to) him as Malcolm Tucker. Suffice it to say, Capaldi makes a convincing Doctor, albeit a very different one to Matt Smith… but there isn’t really much surprise there.
The opening shots of the season opener ‘Deep Breath’ show a T-Rex causing havoc in central London, perfectly mirroring where the Doctor is right now: out of his comfort zone, confused, grumpy and a little bit afraid. It’s an odd but brilliant way to introduce the new man to the role. As he starts out, it appears that he is somewhat broken as he struggles to cope with his regeneration and who he now is. Scottish is something he certainly is, as well as a fair bit older but we expected that, it’s as the episode develops and we learn a bit more that we see how interesting this new Doctor is potentially going to be… “These are attack eyebows”, need I say more?
As we have seen previously, there was a lot of anticipation for the arrival of the new Doctor and if he could live up to the previous incarnations. I remember thinking how awful it was when David Tenant left the series, but despite my initial reservations over Smith’s, he has since become one of my favourite Doctors. So that in my mind, Capaldi has a lot to live up to. I came into the episode expecting a rather dramatic and loud introduction of the new doctor, however what we got was a much slower paced, quieter affair that set the groundwork for the really big moments in this feature-length 80 minute episode.
Steven Moffat’s plot this time round was wacky to the extreme. The aforementioned T-Rex was pretty much a red herring, there simply to divert fans in the trailers and also to be a rather fun way for the new Doctor to arrive on our screens… in the mouth of a dinosaur. After what I would say is a bit of a shaky start as we first meet the rather overwhelmed cast, the episode settles down into a slower paced introduction. The plot twists and turns in ‘Deep Breath’ and we are given no meagre amount of references to watch out for and consider, not to mention the villain of the episode, the clockwork cyborgs.
Jenna Coleman gives an excellent performance, her character is as confused as ever with the sudden changes seen in the Doctor (“I don’t think I know who the Doctor is anymore”). Coleman does exceptionally well in this episode and I found myself liking her more as she valiantly tries to uncover who the hell the Doctor is now, while struggling with the loss of ‘her Doctor’. We are of course then met with a surprise cameo from Matt Smith. The Eleventh Doctor calls Clara just as he is about to regenerate to make sure that she helps and takes care of his future self. This was a very welcome addition to the episode in my mind, in what was a very moving scene. It really adds to the now changed relationship between the Doctor and Clara as they find their feet again and shows us that it will be the companion helping the Doctor for a while.
In ‘Deep Breath’ we are joined by the ever present trio of Madam Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) in their roles as the Silurian detective and her human wife and joined with Strax (Dan Starkey), the rather potato shaped Sontaran warrior. Their roles are great and fun to watch, while acted brilliantly they do bring a lot to the episode. However, in some ways they did steal a lot of screen time from the Doctor and I would have liked to have much of that as possible!
Despite this surprising eventuality of limited screen time for Capaldi, as the episode develops the evidence is there that he will indeed make a great Doctor. Taking things back to the Doctors of old, he feels much more like a first generation doctor with the new outfit and general behaviour. Then of course we have the change shoved in our faces with the line to Clara of “I’m not your boyfriend”, gone is the romantic flirting between them.
The final surprise is the little scene at the end, now just who is Missy? She introduces herself as the Doctor’s girlfriend and seems to reside in some sort of paradise. It indicates that with the new 12 episode run, we are once again going to be met with a number of story arks and twists. It’s a welcome return.
This season premiere was a good one. We have been introduced to the new Scottish Doctor and the tone has been set for the rest of the series, albeit I am still unclear who this Doctor is, it’s only episode one. The plot was a bit bizarre, but that wasn’t the focus here, the focus was on the new Doctor and Clara. Coleman and Capalidi performed very well in this transition episode and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. Let’s see what they can do with the Daleks next week.