After months of anticipation, a new Doctor (Peter Capaldi) takes over the TARDIS. So how does our newly regenerated Doctor fare?
Let’s bitch it out.
It’s bound to be a difficult time whenever a new Doctor is introduced. There are equal parts dread, excitement, apprehension and enthusiasm, and expectations are undoubtedly high. As much as we don’t want to do it – comparisons are going to be made. I can’t say that I envy Peter Capaldi as he steps into such an iconic role. ‘Deep Breath’ indeed. But to ease with the transition this time ’round, we have a constant of sorts – Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) who acts as audience proxy as she struggles to accept our new Doctor as much as we do. Rose (Billie Piper) did a good job when Ten was introduced, so here’s to high hopes that Clara can do the same.
After any regeneration, we see our Doctor flounder as he tries to get his footing in his new body, giving him time to ‘cook’ as it were. Although it’s frustrating to watch, at the end of the day it’s for our benefit. We need to see the Doctor figure out how to ‘be’- it would be jarring to see a new Doctor immediately pop up and get right into things. Since the reboot in 2005, we’ve become accustomed to a youthful Doctor, but Twelve is decidedly more…experienced. I appreciate how the show didn’t shy away from the ‘issues’ that come with Doctor’s decidedly pronounced jump in age (in truth, when Capaldi was announced to take over the role, I was excited at the possibilities that an older doctor would bring). Even with plenty of acknowledgements from Clara about her disappointment that the new Doctor is, let’s face it, old, it’s clear that the show knows it’s going to be an uphill battle to accepting the new Doctor.
I’m dancing around the issue – the new Doctor isn’t the geek-chic hottie that we’ve gotten used to in the past few years. McGann had his effortlessly tousled locks, Eccleston with his angst and leather jacket, Tennant single-handedly made nerds hot with his boyish charm, hipster glasses and sneakers, and Smith, who further propelled the Doctor-as-hunk stereotype with his entire being. Sure, it’s not all about looks – all of the previous Doctors delivered amazing performances in their tenures – but hey, looking stereotypically young and hot didn’t hurt.
When Capaldi is flailing around and rambling nonsensically, he looks like the cooky old man screaming at you to get off his lawn as he goes through the early stages of dementia. It’s hard to let go of the image of the young and spry Doctor, but in reality, Twelve is much more likely to get the audience to understand that the Doctor is really a 1,500+ year-old time lord. I think the jabs the Doctor throws at Clara about Eleven being her ‘boyfriend’ are a nice touch, perhaps poking at the audiences’ perpetual desire to see young, attractive faces on screen.
Instead of trying to conceal what many viewers (myself included) were no doubt thinking, the show takes a tongue and cheek approach that I couldn’t help but admire. Take the sequence in the decrepit alleyway when the Doctor seems to be coming right out the oven as he laments about having a new face that he feels he’s seen before (cue inevitable callback to ‘The Fires of Pompeii‘ which I hope will be more fully addressed at a later time) wearing nothing more than a nightshirt as he yells at a hobo. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find another example of a scene that wasn’t screaming out “SELF AWARE” as this one was. Subtle no, but effective, yes.
It’s gonna take more than a single episode for us to get used to this Doctor, especially considering what we’re used to seeing in Doctor’s past, and really what’s defined the show as a reboot in the first place. I’m glad that the show is wrestling with it rather than presenting a simple solution and hoping we’ll all just buy in.
That being said, it would appear that the cameo at the end of the episode in which a dying Eleven (Matt Smith who delivers a much needed breath of fresh air) calls Clara from the past to tell her to give the old guy a break, is just a convenient plot point to push Clara’s (and the audience’s) buy-in to the new Doctor. It’s admittedly gimmicky and a little emotionally manipulative, but seeing the Eleven and Twelve almost side by side, has helped (me at least) with the transition. But undoubtedly there’s still work that needs to be done.
- You may have noticed that I’ve totally avoided talking about what actually happens in the episode. That’s because it’s all incredibly uninteresting. It appears that last season’s pitfall of boring stories that showed only small bursts of goodness hasn’t corrected itself. The episode felt bloated, ill-paced, and filled with villains and supporting characters that I just didn’t care about.
- Did you get that reference about the utopian-seeking Cyborgs as same villains/descendants that we saw in S2’s “The Girl in the Fireplace”. Did you even care? Me neither.
- Could we have gotten a more melodramatic scene than when Clara was running through the corridors holding her breath so the cyborgs wouldn’t detect her? Answer: No.
- Can we please get rid of the super-friends (Neve McIntosh’s Madame Vastra, Catrin Stewart’s Jenny and Dan Starkey’s Strax)? I don’t care for Vastra’s heavy-handed lectures, Jenny’s transparent plight for acceptance and Strax’s borderline cheesy comic relief moments. We traded up great supporting characters like River Song (Alex Kingston) and Captain Jack (John Barrowman) for this?
- The new opening sequence just doesn’t do it for me. Way too CG for my liking and it lacks creativity.
- What do we think of who will inevitably be the Big Bad of the season, Missy (Michelle Gomez) who rambles on about being the Doctor’s girlfriend? There could be some potential there but at first glance she feels like a poor man’s River Song.
What did you think viewers? Are you happy with our new Doctor? Did you like the season eight opener? Do you think Clara has fully accepted the new Doctor? Do you want to see more of the super friends? Sound off in the comments below.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9:00pm EST on BBC America and 8:00pm EST on Space Network in Canada.