*WARNING – contains spoilers*
Last night we finally began the era of Doctor number… erm… 12 I’ll say. Peter Capaldi finally crashed onto our screens (literally) as the latest incarnation of the timelord from Gallifrey and it was a treat, even if it was a mixed bag.
The TARDIS crash lands in Victorian London where we are greeted by the gang again – Vastra, Jenny and Strax – as a Dinousar has appeared in the Thames, apparently by swallowing the Tardis when it travelled through time. Capaldi appears (freshly regenerated) with all the usual eccentricity, throwing out jokes left right and center and giving us a real flavour of what his Doctor is going to be about. There was a darkness to his portrayal, a rude and sometimes nasty edge to his character (think Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It) but with some of that energy that Matt Smith also gave. He of course collapsed from the stress of it all and was sent to bed as the others discussed why he had regenerated blah blah blah. Same old stuff with this story but I suppose it has to be told for casual viewers.
The real performer here was Jenny Coleman as Clara Oswald, who throughout the episode delivered a stellar performance and real emotion, finally giving us a deeper understanding of this anonymous character from the last series. I would like to point out at this point, to all those critics online talking about Steven Moffat’s poor writing of female characters, that they are full of nonsense. The show has always had strong female characters, particularly in recent series with Moffat. River, Amy and now Clara are extremely good characters and very strong and independent. I suppose some people won’t get over themselves until there is a female Doctor. Or perhaps they just hate Moffat and are awaiting his departure, which I hope will be a long time yet.
Anyway, back to the episode and the Doctor decides to leap out of his bedroom window in a nightgown and ride a horse to the Thames to talk to the dinosaur (a female one as well I think, like it matters.) This was quite comical, and Capaldi demonstrated that he can do that action stuff as well, despite his senior years. All of a sudden, woof, and the Dinosaur is engulfed in flames and goes down like the Hindenburg. What the heck? You have a cool dinosaur and it disappears like that? What was the point?
Soon the plot develops into what is really going on. There is a cyborg loose in London and of course, the Doctor has to go and save the day. The Doctor however disappears on his own, leaving Clara and the crew behind without a care, perhaps a hint at the attitude we shall see this series. Then his best scene comes along in a dirty alleyway where the Doctor ruffles through bins and has a comical conversation with a tramp and gets himself a costume – finally.
Clara and The Doctor reunite and end up in a restaurant where they soon realise that they are surrounded by Cyborg’s and are then taken down to a lair where the big baddy Cyborg is presiding. After some more jokes and angling – The Doc disappears leaving Clara alone to deal with the Cyborg in a dark and twisted turn of events. Again, Coleman delivers a great performance reassuring herself of her trust in the Doctor who does eventually come back to save the day along with the rest of the gang. With Clara and the gang fighting off the borgs, Doc and the leader of this misfit crew end up back in the restaurant which is actually a spaceship that launches into the sky with a hot air balloon made of human flesh (pretty cool).
Here we realise (even if the Doctor doesn’t) that these are the Clockwork dolls – or at least similar – to the one’s from Series 2’s ‘Girl in the Fireplace’. After some dark thoughts and battling, the Doctor throws the robot out of the ship, impaling him on Big Ben. Now we know, this Doctor doesn’t mess around. No more Mr Nice Guy. This shuts down the other borgs, who are controlled by the main cyborg, and saves the gang who return home.
This takes us to the gang’s house without the Doctor who Clara thinks has gone without her. Oh, don’t be silly Clara, we wouldn’t have a series if he didn’t come back. So he returns, and they converse in the TARDIS about the re-decoration and Capaldi’s new look. Clara finds it hard to take when, ring ring, her phone is calling. She goes outside to answer a call from, Matt Smith, or the 11th Doctor on Trenzalore. Seriously? We couldn’t move on? Anyway, after the talk she reconciles with Pete and they go into the TARDIS for their next adventure.
All in all, I was very impressed with Capaldi. His Doctor is a great character, just different enough and there are some lovely dark twists to boot. Coleman really broke out in this episode, after a poor first series, not entirely of her own doing. Good choice to have the gang in the first episode to help introduce the new doctor, but I think many of us are sick of Victorian England by now and hope that the gang move somewhere else in time. The plot was a bit weak at points, and took a while to get going, but it is hard to get a decent story going when we have to go through the same old stuff about the new Doctor who is a bit mental at the moment. One grating thought was that Clara, the impossible girl, is supposed to know about the different faces of the Doctor, she went through his time stream. So why the hell is she so bothered?
The other big talking point online seemed to be the lesbian kiss between Jenny and Vastra. It never even crossed my mind when it occurred whilst watching it but it seems many are talking about it like it’s a huge momentous thing – in both positive and negative terms – although a lot seem to be negative. It has been 15 years since ex-Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies brought us Queer as Folk, the seminal gay drama, full of sex and kissing between same-sex couples. Are people still that obsessed with this stuff, get a life please.
Anyway, pretty good episode, great new title sequence (unsure about the theme though), superb cinematography again (the DOP’s on this show just keep on getting better and better) sub-par plot but great character development and thoroughly entertaining. Hopefully, next week is where it all begins, and the trailer looks exciting.
By David Roberts