Doctor Who finally returns to our screens after a lengthy wait since the Christmas regeneration special. And was it worth it? Erm, no. Sadly, I didn’t like this episode at all, and I will expand on that further below. It’s nice to have the show back though, and even nicer to see the addition of Doctor Who Extra – a bonus ten minutes of content, online, in a replacement for the much-missed DW Confidential.
My feelings about this first episode of the eighth series of New Doctor Who can, and should, be split into two distinct factions – thoughts on the Doctor himself, and then on his introductory story.
New Doctor Who
I was right there with some of the first people suggesting it was time for Matt Smith to move on. He’d done an awful lot during his time in the TARDIS, and it felt like it was the right time for a change. I was a bit skeptical when Peter Capaldi was first confirmed as the Doctor, way back in the midst of 2013, but willing to give it a shot.
He’s a bit older, heaped with gravitas, and clearly a huge fan of the show.
Sadly, this first episode didn’t give him the chance to deliver anything, at all. It was a regeneration episode, where he’s not himself, that much we have to understand. David Tennant’s first episode had him asleep in pyjamas for much of the screen time.
But with DT, there was a big lovely moment of redemption. The Doctor took control, had an epic sword fight and generally won the day. This time, our new Doctor sort of won the day (did he fall or was he pushed?) but it was done sitting down having a cup of tea. After spending a lot of time being dazed, confused and oh-so-ridiculously needy. Maybe this is the new style of Doctor, less sword-fighting, more negotiating. We’ll have to wait and see.
I was also a bit disappointed at the lack of real character on display. Ecclestone had that wide-eyed naivety, Tennant that good-looking intensity and Smith that quirky energy. What I got from Capaldi was that he’s… Scottish. Hopefully there’ll be more to come from this because it wasn’t a great start.
Take a deep breath
Many of these problems can be attributed to the episode rather than Capaldi himself, though. I just didn’t find this one at all interesting, and even muted it halfway through to record a sixty second podcast instead. The story felt recycled (even though the Doctor spent much of his time admitting that and wracking his brains to figure out why), the characters jumpy and the snippy one-liners felt tired.
Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax were there, but not really integral to the plot – aside from that rather excellent descent into the fight towards the end. The restaurant scene was well-written and acted, a tough one to have such a long dialogue between actors getting to know each other – but it still didn’t really move us forward at all.
The Doctor’s need to have Clara like him was so prevalent and whinging at the start, when he was still under the effects of the regeneration, but then when we were supposed to get emotional with him at the end – I didn’t buy it. I also thought it was a mistake to have Matt Smith’s appearance there. A great cameo and a well-kept secret, but it made me miss what we had and want that back.
I’m disappointed with this opening episode of the new series, and the new era, but not despondent. It wouldn’t be fair to judge Capaldi on this episode alone but if things don’t pick up in the next one (Daleks!), I might give this series a miss.