(Full Spoilers Below)
Well, here we are again, everyone. After an agonizingly long, eight-month wait, Doctor Who has finally returned to our TV screens, and suffice to say, things have changed. After last year’s touching, albeit convoluted, Christmas episode, which said goodbye to Matt Smith introduced Peter Capaldi in his place, fans like myself were eager to see how Capaldi would tackle the famous character.
After finally sitting down and watching the Series 8 premiere, Deep Breath, I think it’s a safe bet to say that this season of Doctor Who is going to be very different from anything we’ve seen before. And that’s a very, very good thing. Picking up shortly after the events of The Time of the Doctor, Deep Breath reunites us with the Doctor as he crash lands the TARDIS in the middle of Victorian London after catching a ride in the throat of an over sized dinosaur.
Yep, you read that right, a dinosaur. Apparently the newly regenerated Doctor has been having some issues in not only remembering how to fly his beloved TARDIS, but also in recognizing his companion and close friend, Clara Oswald. Which, as you can imagine, lead to some really funny and yet oddly heartfelt exchanges between the two that immediately established the kind of style that Capaldi will bring to the Doctor.
Right off the bat, Peter Capaldi rightfully steals the show with his befuddled yet strangely vulnerable performance as the Doctor, and I was really impressed by the amount of range he showed in just this first episode. He consistently and seamlessly transitioned from a quirky, slightly crazy old man into the powerful and menacing Doctor we all know and love, all while also putting his own unique spin on it all.
While Capaldi’s Doctor certainly shows signs of the man, or men, that he once was, there’s an unreserved menace just below the surface that seems to hint at a slightly darker, although still zany, Doctor than we’re used to. But for every moment of intensity or darkness, Capaldi’s Doctor also showcased his newfound love of sarcastic humor and a genuine heart that balanced it all out in an especially fun way.
This was never more evident than in his interactions with Clara, who, suffice to say, had some trouble initially accepting that her closest friend had suddenly become a very different man than the one she had grown to care so much for. This new Doctor and Clara played off each other really, really well, and their almost antagonistic, yet still well-meaning, banter they had going on near the end was a blast to watch.
Even though Steven Moffat’s writing still leaves a little bit to be desired in terms of Clara’s character, as it occasionally bordered on silly cliches, Jenna Coleman absolutely nailed everything that was given to her, and I loved just how much more of her character we got to see here as she struggled to understand and accept the Doctor’s regeneration.
She could be heartbroken one moment and in a fiery-rage the next, and Coleman brilliantly navigated through it all and proved that she is far more than just a one-note companion. Like I said though, some of the writing here felt a little cliched amidst everything else, and I’m looking forward to being able to see her continue to move past the infatuated companion stereotype she sometimes felt like in the past.
Deep Breath’s plot moved at rapid pace, and it continually surprised me with its many plot twists and mysteries. The basic premise felt like something akin to an old-school mystery, as the Doctor, desperate for a purpose, takes on a case of strange murders involving the seemingly spontaneous combustion of random innocents, including the previously mentioned dinosaur who the Doctor may or may not have flirted with at one point.
However, I don’t feel like we ever got answers to that initial mystery, as about halfway through the episode the plot took a surprising twist and suddenly became about stopping an organ-harvesting robot hellbent on turning himself into a human being.
While the twist did feel a little abrupt at first, it all came together in the end when the Doctor faced the robot-human hybrid leader in a tense battle of wits that brilliantly showcased the Doctor’s moral complexity and demonstrated once again just how far this new Doctor is willing to go to protect the ones he cares about.
Even though the plot went through more than its fair share of twists and turns, I was surprised by just how fluid it all felt in the end. Nearly every character got some truly great scenes here, and I was pleasantly surprised to see just how involved Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax were in the story, as they really added a great layer to the tone that only made the episode that much more enjoyable to watch.
Overall, I’m really happy with how Series 8 of Doctor Who has started off. It hit almost all the right notes for me, and even managed to include an amazing Matt Smith cameo right at the end. While I do have a few minor issues with the writing behind Clara’s character and wish that there had been more explanation for the villains’ motives, Deep Breath did a fantastic job at setting the tone for the rest of the season and I’m anxious to see where it goes.
There’s still plenty of questions left unanswered, primarily concerning the last-minute introduction for a brand new mysterious character, but I can safely say that the legacy of Doctor Who is in very good hands, as Capaldi’s Doctor is just as brilliant and enigmatic as we ever could’ve hoped for. He’s a very different man than Matt Smith’s Doctor was, but that’s a good thing, and I am very excited to see Capaldi continue to evolve as the season continues.