Doctor Who 2005 Season 8 Episode 1 (TV Show Review)
In last year’s Christmas Special, Matt Smith’s 3-year reign as the Doctor came to a close in a bittersweet story about heroism, sacrifice and general all-round goofiness. The 50th Anniversary special episode and the Christmas Special were my first two episodes of the show ever, and I quite liked what I saw there. I saw a few episodes of the first series when the show was relaunched in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston in the role of the Doctor and I loved that too though I haven’t kept up with it. Still, the introduction of Peter Capaldi as a the new Doctor, the Twelfth that is, made me excited because having seen these previous two special episodes, I felt like I had jumped in at the right time and that it was a good time to be a new Whovian.
The new series debuted this Saturday, with Peter Capaldi in his first full-on episode as the Doctor, titled “Deep Breath” and it charts the course of the new Doctor and Clara’s relationship as they both try to adjust to the changes that have happened. For the former, he is still in regeneration shock and is picking back up the pieces of his memory while the latter is dealing with the loss of the man she knew and the arrival of this… older man who is unlike the Doctor she knew. It is kind of a really fun episode at times, packed with what I’d say is the show’s trademark humour, and with some excellent acting, though it often felt like there was something… missing.
A new Doctor, a new actor in the role, it all means that there is a big change happening in the Who-verse, and if you are a newcomer like me, it is also a good time to get started with the show. I quite enjoyed the two special episodes at the end of last year and I really came to like Matt Smith as the Doctor. He had a rather goofy and easy charm that made the transition to a new show a pleasant experience and now that I sit here and write this review, I feel as if I’ve done myself a disservice by not continuing on with Eccleston’s series or the three series with David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor or even Matt Smith’s own three years on the show. There’s so much that I’ve missed out on and right now I feel my head is full of Eccleston versus Tennant versus Smith versus Capaldi. Too much confusion, maybe?
Still, doesn’t impact my enjoyment of the show. Not much, at any rate.
In the new series opener, we are taken to an alternate Victorian London where a dinosaur suddenly appears out of nowhere in the middle of the Thames and goes on a rampage, though not before disgorging a fluid-soaked Tardis. As soon as the new Doctor, and then Clara step out, the game is on as the protagonists attempt to make sense of their new circumstances following the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration into the Twelfth last year. The Doctor is lost, trying to hold on to snatches of his sanity, while Clara is shocked to see that the man she knew for so long is gone and there is a stranger in his place.
The episode grips you as soon as the heroes make an entrance and from there we are treated to what I’d say is a rather cerebral episode that comments on relationships, ageism and even a little bit of PTSD, all of it garnished with the typical Who-verse humour (or is that Steven Moffat humour?) and, unfortunately, a rather thin plot-line that deals with self-combusting people in Victorian London.
Despite the disappointing nature of the storyline itself, I’ll say this: the leads were both fantastic. Peter Capaldi is very intense as the Doctor, very… Scottish, and even a bit dangerous as the Doctor. You look at his portrayal and you get the sense that the Twelfth Doctor is a really smart and investigative individual. Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald on the other hand is just plain awesome. In the two previous specials, she has been quite cheerful and excited and generally very positive as well, complimenting the Eleventh Doctor quite nicely. At the time of the regeneration however, I got to see a very emotional side of her character, and as the show moves forward with the Twelfth Doctor, her character is balanced midway on those extremes. Coleman is as intense as Capaldi, but she is also much more fun to watch because you really get to feel who her character is and what she is feeling. Capaldi’s Doctor is very internal and often very abrupt as well and much more mysterious too, so it is not so easy to connect with him. Coleman is something different entirely.
I sympathized much more with Coleman’s Clara than I did with Capaldi’s Doctor because the latter’s performance was much more compelling. Her struggle to make sense of this new person in her life was more of a treat than the Doctor struggling with his regeneration. And also, Clara interacted much more with the episode’s secondary characters, Madame Vastra and her wife Jenny, than the Doctor did, so we saw much more of Clara than her companion. More opportunities for Clara to open up and thus appear more welcomingly vulnerable. The Doctor was rather cut-off from the masses so to speak, so not as much fun to watch but it did have its place I suppose.
One thing that I really didn’t like in this episode was how the Doctor treated Clara. I don’t have much of a history with Clara, I’ll admit, but some of the Doctor’s criticisms of her really rubbed me the wrong way. Clara is neither an ego-maniac nor a control freak. In this episode, she was fantastic from the get go, being much more interesting and active than the Doctor. She was also the one who was challenged the most because she had to defend her relationship with the Eleventh Doctor and had to stand alone against an army of villains. The Doctor, meanwhile, sniffed around on his bedroom floor for chalk, (kind of) tried to seduce the aforementioned dinosaur, quipped negatively and hunted around in London’s trash-heaps for something. Clara was far more interesting than the Doctor, if we directly compare the two of them. And yet, she gets called out for nothing, by both him and by Madame Vastra’s psychopathic alien-ish bald-headed butler Strax who also hits her on the head with a newspaper at one point.
I just didn’t get any of it. The latter point I can even see as some kind of a gag, but it was just so… unnecessary.
Oh and let’s not forget how judgemental Madame Vastra is of Clara being totally not in-tune with the new Doctor versus the one before. It was like… wait… does Vastra have an experience with these things? Has she dealt with the same, ever, on any level? Clara’s reactions to her accusations were pretty damn justified, I’d say, and she gives her a good telling off too.
I loved that Madame Vastra and Jenny are portrayed as a same-sex couple, and actresses Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart (respectively) delivered decent performances. And there was even a pseudo kissing scene between them. But that doesn’t really balance out how Clara was treated by the male characters, nor it should.
As an introduction to a new Doctor, I think the episode worked out well enough. It could have been better, sure, because the titular character got way less screen-time than any of the other major characters and was essentially a crazy old guy, albeit a genius crazy old guy, and the writer’s portrayal of him wasn’t so great either. But the new season premiere shows promise and hopefully the kinks will be ironed out in the coming weeks so that the overall experience can better soon as possible.
And please, please, please, get a better villain than the one we did in this episode. The villain was just window-dressing here, nothing spectacular, nothing simple, just incredibly dull and boring. There seemed to be an interesting twist at the end, but since I’m not up-to-date on Who-lore, can’t say that I am all that excited by it, though I’m keeping myself neutral on that front.
Posted on August 25, 2014, in Doctor Who, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged Aliens, BBC, Ben Wheatley, Brian Miller, Catrin Stewart, Clara Oswald, Dan Starkey, Deep Breath, Derek Ritchie, Dimensional Travel, Dinosaurs, Doctor Who, Doctor Who 2005, Doctor Who 2005 Series 8, Doctor Who 2005 Series 8 Episode 1, Dr. Who, Eleventh Doctor, Ellis George, Genre Television, Graham Duff, Half-Face Man, Humanoid Lizards, Inspector Gregson, Jenna Coleman, Jenny Flint, Madame Vastra, Maggie Service, Mark Kempner, Matt Smith, Michelle Gomez, Neve McIntosh, Paternoster Gang, Paul Hickey, Paul Kasey, Peter Capaldi, Peter Ferdinando, Peter Hannah, Regeneration, Review, Review Central, Robots, Science Fiction, Sexism, Sonic Screwdriver, Steven Moffat, Strax, TARDIS, The Bells of Saint John, The Time of The Doctor, Time Lords, Time Travel, Tony Way, Trenzalore, TV Show, TV Show Review, Twelfth Doctor, Victorian London, Women in SFF, Women in Television. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.