Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who 8.01: "Deep Breath"

“Oh, it’s good I’m Scottish. I’m Scottish. I am Scottish! I can complain about things. I can really complain about things now!”
-The Doctor

Well Whovians, the premiere of series 8 has finally arrived. We know a lot of people gathered around their TVs in anticipation of Peter Capaldi’s first performance as the newly regenerated Twelfth Doctor. So we won’t keep you waiting on what we thought. But first, a look at how our new Time Lord’s first adventure played out.

We find ourselves back in Victorian-era London with Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Clara and a very confused Twelfth Doctor (he can’t seem to remember the names for things and people) arrive and things quickly go from strange (spontaneously combusting dinosaurs) to super creepy (clockwork robots collecting body parts). Clara spends much of the episode fretting over having lost “her” Doctor while everyone else is trying to solve the problem of why people keep getting burned up. Madame Vastra is especially judgey with Clara, and she accuses Clara of abandoning the Doctor because he doesn’t look like he could be her boyfriend anymore.

It turns out that some clockwork men (yes similar ones to “The Girl in the Fireplace”) have a crashed ship in need of repair, and they’ve been using the best bits from people to do so. After being frantically manic for most of the episode, the Doctor gets a bit edgy and saves the day (although we are left to wonder if the lead clockwork guy plunged to his death of his own accord). By the end of the episode, Twelve has somewhat come into his own and settled down. Clara finally accepts him when she gets a parting phone call from Eleven in which he beseeches her to help his new regeneration and Twelve asks Clara to really see him. She does, and they head off for coffee (and maybe chips) in a very Nine and Rose-esque fashion. We end in a very strange place with the clockwork man. A woman named Missy greets him and tells him that he’s in Heaven. That can’t possibly go well at all.

Perhaps the best part of the episode was Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. We both were drawn to him from the start of the episode. It was great that, while the Doctor will never be “sweary” like Capaldi’s previously best-known character, Malcolm Tucker of “The Thick of It,” Capaldi was still given a scene where he got to channel Tucker in a way his fans will appreciate. He intimidates the heck out of an innocent homeless bystander as he complains about the changes that have taken place since his regeneration. We appreciated the references to his “attack eyebrows” and the fact that now that he’s Scottish he can complain about things if he wants to. He also knows how to be comedic (giddily exclaiming that London has a giant dinosaur too) when the time calls for it. We here at More TV, Please are hopeful that Capaldi’s superb acting can elevate the generally overplotted nature of Moffat story arcs. And that’s a good thing since it looks like Moffat has a hand in writing most of the season.

In addition to Capaldi being phenomenal as the new Doctor, we were quite pleasantly surprised to see all of the little references to prior Doctors, companions and specific episodes. We are sure we missed some of the references peppered throughout the episode, but it was quite a nice surprise (especially given that the episode was penned by Moffat) to see so much reference to the RTD era. The biggest name-drops of course went to “The Girl in the Fireplace.” While it isn’t a huge favorite of ours, it made sense that they would tie in heavily with these clockwork men (although the clockwork men in Tennant’s episode were a bit freaker since they didn’t have skin).

We also got some references to Rome that seem to hint at “Fires of Pompeii.” Perhaps the biggest reference to the fact that Capaldi has been in the Whoniverse previously is his speech to the homeless man about why he chose this particular face and why it was lined and aged. The Doctor also mentions that he thinks he’s seen this face before, but not in the typical way, because the face is freshly made. We also got a little throw-away Tom Baker line about the scarf which was pretty amusing. The origin of his face may be a potential story arc, or it may have been a one-off touchstone. But either way, we would be intrigued to see if Moffat does follow it through. A lot of the interaction between Clara and Twelve felt like Nine and Rose, especially at the end. While anyone who reads the blog knows we are both Ten fans, it was amusing to see some dialogue directly lifted from Rose and Nine. And of course the very start felt much like “The Christmas Invasion” with Twelve’s confusion and passing out and spending most of the episode in a dressing gown. Sadly, no satsumas were used to defeat evil.

Overall, we loved this episode and think that the franchise is in very good hands with Peter Capaldi. We wouldn’t be doing our job as critics, though, if we didn’t have a few nits to pick. A major theme running throughout the episode was Clara’s difficulty accepting the new version of the Doctor. Madame Vastra assumed Clara’s troubles were due to the fact that the Twelfth Doctor looks older instead of looking like someone who could be her boyfriend. That may have been a little part of it, but by the end it seems pretty clear that Clara is mostly upset that the person she knew and loved, personality-wise, seemed to be gone. It’s a bit surprising that Clara would have such a negative reaction to the Doctor’s regeneration, considering she has been exposed to all of the previous versions of the Doctor. It is reasonable to think, however, that knowing in her head that the Doctor regenerates and experiencing the loss of the particular version of the Doctor with whom she has spent the most time would be different things entirely. Even taking into account this fact, her reaction did seem a bit over the top.

The other aspect of the episode that didn’t sit quite right with us was the very end, where we are introduced to a being named Missy (Michelle Gomez) as she introduces the half-faced clockwork cyborg to the “Promised Land.” She thinks her garden is Heaven, basically. She calls the Doctor her “boyfriend,” and she seems to have some grand designs for the Doctor’s future fate. She’s really a creepy stalker, and we don’t particularly like her. The scene at the end seemed rather superfluous. In fact, this particular scene makes us a little worried about the quality of the ongoing story arc for this season. When should a viewer not be worried about the ongoing story arc for a Moffat show, though? He is notorious for overplotting.

While we had a few small nitpicks with the episode, we felt it was a very strong introduction to the Twelfth Doctor (whom we will be mercifully referring to as Twelve going forward). Things are bound to get a little wibbly-wobbly for Twelve and Clara going forward but we are confident it will be a compelling ride. Capaldi’s immense acting talent (both dramatic and comedic) and his life-long Doctor Who fandom both shined through from the get-go. Twelve is on his way to entering the pantheon of all-time favorite Doctors for sure.

No comments:

Post a Comment