Doctor Who‘s The Doctor is one of the most iconic roles in television history, and yet every iteration is a new and radically different version of the character. With 11 iconic iterations of a single role (12 if you count the unnumbered (or 8.5th) “War Doctor” recently portrayed by Harry Potter‘s John Hurt), everyone will be loudly dissecting the new Doctor over the next year or so. The 12th Doctor, as we mentioned in our recent article “Welcoming a New Doctor”, is portrayed by Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, Skins), the oldest actor to take on the mantle besides the unnumbered “War Doctor”. So Without further ado, what did TVEnthusiast think about the new Doctor, and season 8 of Doctor Who (2005)?
Check back in throughout the week as more TVEnthusiast writers add their impressions in this article.
Warning: There be SPOILERS inside.
Tyson Gifford – Editor in Chief
We got our first look at the new Doctor tonight, but we still do not have a solid grasp on his character. Tennant’s first episode as the doctor was confusing and light on character. Smith’s first episode, however, immediately brought us into the manic world of the 11th Doctor. With Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, we got only vague glimpses. 12 seems to be more introspective, darker, more thoughtful and grounded, though with a presumptuous quirk that will play against him, bringing about misunderstandings and assumptions of cowardice. This Doctor is more critical of others, masking his affection which he hides along with the vulnerability it gives him.
Capaldi’s Doctor discovered himself with the aid of a tramp in a scene ripe with clever dialogue, both funny and meaningful. “Look, it’s covered in lines,” He said to the bewildered tramp while observing his reflection in a barrel of water, “But I didn’t do the frowning. Who frowned me this face?” One could assume that it was Smith’s Doctor who worked those lines in. Noting his aggressive eyebrows (in what must have been a fun moment for actor Peter Capaldi, who has become known for them), the Doctor said they looked cross (British slang for unhappy, or aggressive), to which the tramp replied “They are mighty eyebrows indeed, sir.” I like to imagine Capaldi frequently breaking from the scene in a fit of laughter. Upon noticing his aggressive attitude and his voice, Capaldi’s doctor came to a sudden realization “I am Scottish,” which excited him, “I can complain about things.” Surely another break until the laughter on set died down.
The best moment of the episode, however, was the Doctor’s peaceful and existential conversation with the Cyborg leader. A scene that ended with the death of the Cyborg, a deed that was either suicide or murder, we, as the audience, are not told. This leads into a scene in which the cyborg wakes up in a beautiful garden before a woman claiming to be the Doctor’s girlfriend (In an earlier scene Capaldi’s doctor told Clara that he wasn’t her boyfriend, when she became defensive, he said he didn’t blame her.), a woman of seeming great danger, who declares that the Cyborg has made it to Heaven (Do we know who this is? Am I not recalling her, Was there a hint I missed? I feel like that might be the case). With a more dangerous and cynical Doctor, we have to wonder if he killed the Cyborg, though I suppose you could rephrase it by asking if he pushed the Cyborg out the window. I would answer that, yes, he did, even if he didn’t. Even if the Cyborg jumped, it was the Doctor’s words that “pushed” him into doing it. A sobering thought.
The episode ended with a heartbreaking Cameo. Matt Smith reprized his role as the 11th Doctor, through a phone call to Clara, explaining the vulnerability of the 12th Doctor, despite his aggressive appearance. It is through Smith that the audience is told to stick with the new Doctor, even as you mourn the last. It is through Clara that, we, the audience, complete our grief at the loss of one doctor in order to accept the next.
Notice that I never mentioned the giant T-Rex used to open (and in promotion for) the episode. The T-Rex was a red herring, a short lived misdirect. Though the T-Rex did serve 1 important point, waxing philosophic (as translated by the Doctor in his sleep) about the loneliness of being all alone in a world that is not her own. It acts as a direct parallel to the struggle at the very heart of our beloved Doctor, a sad reminder we occasionally need in order to remind us of who the Doctor really is.
To wrap things up, let me just list off some other thoughts.
- I adore the new credits sequence, the gears, and clockwork spiraling into the background with a slightly more sinister take on the legendary theme song.
- It was smart of the series to bring in additional familiar faces to aide in the transition, especially considering said transition was rough. It served as a much better method of handling this sort of transition than was done with Tennant’s 10th Doctor.
- There was a major meta message about accepting the Doctor despite him not being a dreamboat heartthrob. This was paralleled with Vastra’s talk with Clara, telling Clara that she got rid of the veil the moment Clara stopped noticing it.
- Strax continued to be hilarious, “And we will ,NOT, melt him with acid!”
I greatly enjoyed, the season premiere of Doctor Who, and am happy to have a darker, more dangerous, and more scared Doctor.
Kat Taylor – Writer
It’s hard not to compare this to previous first episodes of the Doctors, particularly in the modern era. And in terms of tone and emotion, I found this lined up more with The Christmas Invasion than The Eleventh Hour – probably because 12 is also inheriting a showrunner and Companion, whereas 11 essentially started fresh, in every way. Although unlike 10, 12 got to spend more of the hour out of bed and experiencing live his existential crisis – brought on both by the Regeneration, and the fact that as an individual, the Doctor is really getting on in years.
Though the episode dragged a bit at times (especially in the first half, it did feel like they were trying to pad things out) once they got more into the main plot, things really picked up. The plot itself was a bit sticky and struggling to click into place – which I feel has been largely a Steven Moffat problem of late – but he still usually gets a lot of the emotion right. And this is where it felt like The Christmas Invasion to me: but instead of having to win over the UK audience to the idea of a new Doctor, now they have to win over an international audience as well, many of whom may not have experienced it in real time. That’s what a lot of the Clara-adjustment sections felt like – not to mention the Doctor himself constantly questioning and remarking upon this new individual. They even mentioned the “yes, he’s old” so many times that it felt more for the audience’s benefit (silly, shallow audience) than any of the characters.
My favorite moment was the end of Clara’s speech when she assured her foe with absolute certainty that the Doctor would come to her – and he did. It demonstrated the strength of her character under pressure, it reassured the bond between them, and in a brief moment of excitement – that culminated in the arrival of Madam Vastra and Jenny – then the score picked up, and for the very first time, Capaldi felt like The Doctor. Confident, in charge, and knowing with absolutely certainty that he can get them out of this situation.
The themes at play when the Doctor and the droid faced down at the end were particularly interesting – we still don’t know if the Doctor pushed the droid, or if he threw himself. And the whole notion (played with nice subtlety) about how much he’s changed, that he’s almost unrecognizable, was just lovely. Especially his comment about not expecting to go to The Promised Land. The final scene was a bit too gooey and left me a bit less convinced, but I’m certainly willing to give 12 a chance – especially based on so many of the other identity-discovering scenes littered throughout the episode.
I do hope that all the callbacks to Girl in the Fireplace are part of a longer-schemed plot for the season – otherwise, it feels a bit too much like Moffat saying, “Hey, remember that really great episode I wrote back in second season?” and serves no purpose for the present show and Doctor.
Menashe Kestenbaum – Site Owner
I was a bit conflicted over the new episode.
I don’t like the new Doctor’s voice and accent. It clouds every scene I see him in. I like his personality so far, he reminds me a bit of Eccleston in his dark and complicated nature combined with a bit of quirky and wacky. But i find it hard to make out what he says because of his accent, plus his quick pace of speech in comparison to the slow and clear enunciation of Tennant and Smith, and his voice is kind of quiet and guttural. Hopefully i get more accustomed to it because, currently, it bothers me.
Regarding the plot itself, i thought it was a bit poor. I didn’t like the dinosaur red herring, as it just served to confuse things even more. We already had a new Doctor to wrap our heads around, we didn’t need a dinosaur in London to throw us off even more. However, once the plot finally reached where it was actually going, beginning with the restaurant scene, i had something to chew upon and ‘measure up’ what the new Doctor was like in solving puzzles and action scenes.
It was standard fare. There were some good moments, like the Doctor convincing him to commit suicide. but Clara carried the action a bit too much. It seemed like she was given the majority of the air-time, while the Doctor was constantly disappearing and only reappearing in the last moment when he was needed. And then there was the whole emotional theme of the episode. Will we accept the new Doctor? It was a bit heavy-handed and sappy, especially with Matt Smith calling in, but i guess it’s OK to start with a feel-good episode at the beginning of a new Doctor.
All in all, I think it showed great potential for when we see the Doctor really come to life. This was just a hint of more to come. I think Capaldi will make for a great Doctor if i can just get over his accent.
What did you think of this episode of Doctor Who? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of Doctor Who, and all the shows you love.