“I think there should be more round things on the walls. I used to have a lot of round things.”
– The Doctor, Season 8, Episode 1, “Deep Breath”
Anyone who had doubts whether Peter Capaldi could embody the Doctor can rest easy.
Even if he can’t.
This Doctor is a Doctor in distress. All regenerations result in some sort of post-regenerative crisis. But Capaldi’s is second only to Colin Baker who wins by virtue of having tried to kill Peri.
I’m writing this in the immediate aftermath of the episode so, much like our new Doctor, my thoughts are a little scrambled. “Deep Breath” opens great and ends with a truly stunning twist. You’ll get no plot spoilers from me, though. Suffice to say, it was so good, I really want to find one of those leaked scripts now just so I can read the thing and see what did and didn’t change from the page to the screen.
I do want to talk about this new 12th doctor though. (Yes, I’m sticking with the original numbering. Hurt is just “the war doctor”, not a number, and meta-crisis Doctor is just…silly.) The word was this new doctor is “darker”. He is certainly not a Tennant-type cocky goofball or a Smith-esque puppy dog, or even a war-torn “fantastic” Eccleston. But I’m undecided as yet whether he’s really “darker”. He’s certainly more alien, way less comfortable in his skin than Tennant’s or Smith’s Doctors, and certainly seems colder. Time will tell if that’s just post-regenerative angst or if this Doctor really is one who will go to darker places. I do get the sense that this doctor, will be simultaneously unable to connect with humans and yet perhaps more dependent on his human companion than ever.
One of the podcasts about Doctor Who that I listen to is the Verity Podcast . On an episode last week, one of the panelists pitched the theory that Capaldi’s doctor might be the doctor that Colin Baker’s 6th doctor was intended to be, but never quit achieved. Six was arrogant and intense and alien, but he suffered from weak stories and, yes, a bad costume. Capaldi is reserved, to be sure. I don’t think he’s arrogant, but he can’t relate to people as the other recent doctors could.
The show feels different.It doesn’t bounce around in the attention-deficit way previous seasons often have. It takes time with their scenes, holding your attention with the events and dialogue found there, not the music and jump cuts. The opening title sequence is radically different. (Not totally sold on the new arrangement of the theme song though.) The whole show moves at a slightly different pace. Even the incidental music is a bit more subdued. The show is still both family-friendly and, somehow, more grown-up at the same time.
Even the Paternoster Gang has taken it down a notch. I’ve always been ambivalent about them. It often feels like they only show up in episodes because some producer somewhere really, really, wants another spinoff now that Torchwood is gone and is pushing this clever, witty trio on us and forcing us to like them. Tonight though, they were funny, but it was a much lighter touch for them.
Great as Capaldi is, the real winner in the season opener might be Jenna Coleman’s Clara. Jenna Coleman is a good actress, but I don’t think her character has been served very well since the “soufflé girl” bit and her official debut in The Snowmen. But tonight, it was like the old Clara woke up. She was angry and frightened and defiant and clever and warm and tough. She was what a modern companion should be. Finally. I wasn’t sorry, honestly, about those rumors she’s leaving at the Christmas episode, but I kind of am now.
“Deep Breath” opens dinosaur big (literally) and ends with a WTF moment followed by a really ambiguous-I-gotta-tune-next-week-scene.
Don’t let me down, Moffat.