Spoilers! Whoa! Am I seriously taking on The Doctor?
Yes, yes I am. I have a few cycles until Westeros and/or the walkers take over again so I thought I’d take on the last son of Gallifrey. Yes, I know he’s not the last anymore but let’s not go there until the show takes us there.
The season 8 premiere of the show, Doctor Who 8×01: Deep Breath, brings us the new regenerated Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. The fact that the actor played a previous role in the series in the episode “The Fires of Pompeii” might actually become relevant. During a moment in the episode, the Doctor ponders why he chose that face and if he’s trying to tell himself (or us) something. But rather that show off my powers of digressing, let’s start from the beginning.
Or, the middle… because as it happens, both the newly regenerated Doctor and Clara Oswald are already in a predicament that caused them to be trapped inside the TARDIS which in turn is trapped inside a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The result is somehow the TARDIS brings the dinosaur to Victorian London. Luckily for them, this is the residence of their misplaced friends Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax.
It’s not strange that the Doctor is still adapting to his new form and seems more out of his wits than usual. Doctor Who is one of the finer examples of science-fiction-themed fantasy. Logic here works in strange, quirky and funny ways. If you’re new to the show (and chances if you are I’m just going to flummox you even further) get used to being lost without an explanation. Mainly, I’ve always feel this show is a fairy tale where magic is called science with a twisted sense of humor and wicked streak of malice.
The show doesn’t forget there’s the past to deal with, so you will see Clara still yearning for the previous appearance of the Doctor. It’s up to Madame Vastra to shake her out of any romantic inclinations she had over the centuries-old Timelord, as well as convince us to stand beside the new Doctor. This is hard when he escapes his room in only a nightgown and goes after the dinosaur. A carriage race later, and they’re all gazing at a burning carcass. There’s something else afoot.
Indeed the mechanical men are back. Drawn by an ad in the paper, Clara and the Doctor are reunited in a restaurant that ends up being just a cover for their activities. They manage to escape a trap almost too easily but as the mechanical captain awakes, the Doctor – and this one took me by surprise – actually leaves Clara behind. Remembering something the Doctor said earlier, Clara tries to hold her breath to prevent getting caught but finally loses consciousness.
Clara is obviously the point of view character here. The viewers know not what to think of this new Doctor and at this point, we’re tempted to think he’s all but abandoned her to her doom. Clara carefully tries to out-logic the captain so she doesn’t get killed or harmed, but eventually she has to rely on the Doctor having her back. He does, and as it turns out he was just nearby listening to Clara getting the intel he needed to destroy the mechanical men.
Eventually Madame Vastra, Jenny and Flax join the duo for the climatic battle scene, which as it happens isolates the Doctor and the captain in a balloon made of… you’ll learn that soon enough. The captain states it’s against his programming to self-destruct while the Doctor states it’s against his to commit murder. We don’t get to see who breaks their oath but we do see the fallen captain.
The scene at the end is a bit of a mystery. It’s a mysterious woman named Missy receiving the captain in “Paradise” where he wanted to go. Missy is convinced that the Doctor is her boyfriend and asserts it with troubling intensity.
- Peter Capaldi is the Doctor. He’s developing his own style, but the quirkiness, the aloofness, that hint of malice with almost childlike joy – it’s all there. He’s a fresh take on the Doctor.
- Clara is still the Impossible Girl, and carries us through the transition pretty well. You really feel bad for her when she’s left behind and alone. She’s not completely defenseless though, her use of wits rivals the Doctor’s.
- Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax are there once more to greet us into the Doctor’s universe just to make sure that as an audience we still see a friendly face that does not want to drown us in acid for the glory of the Sontaran Empire. Forget that last part.
- Almost at the end of the episode, Clara gets a call from an old friend on her cell. You can imagine who it is, and what she’s going to ask her. It’s a little bit of a farewell that pulls at the heartstrings.
- The Doctor abandoning Clara. I’m aware he doesn’t really abandon her, but she lets her think he does. Cruel, and it’s only done for the rescue scene later.
- I loved that Clara matches wits against the captain of the mechanical men, but why not go further and let her be able to save herself? Well, because they wanted the old damsel in distress routine. Why not use the reverse here and let the Doctor be captured? After all, Clara is an experienced Companion while the Doctor is still adapting. An opportunity lost, I fear.
That will do for now.