The wait is over Whovians!
The torch has been past, and so begins a brand new era with a new Doctor. Last night was the much anticipated premiere of the new season of Doctor Who which welcomed Peter Capaldi as the beloved 12th Doctor. Fans of the long run show had have much to be excited this past months, wondering what changes were coming with this new regeneration and how the show would differ from the reign of the 11th Doctor. So, did the episode deliver on all the excitement? If you happened to miss the episode, you should warned now that this review loaded up with spoilers.
The episode opens in Victorian London where the Paternoster Gang, consisting of Madame Vastra, her human maid and wife Jenny, and Sontaran butler Strax, are summoned when a dinosaur unexpectedly materialises outside the Houses of Parliament. As they observe, the dinosaur spits out the TARDIS where they are surprised to see the newly-regenerated Doctor emerge, followed by a confused Clara Oswald. The Doctor deliriously begins speaking to the dinosaur, while incoherently mumbling through his past memories and struggling to remember who the people around him are before finally collapsing on the banks of the Thames.
The Paternoster Gang take the Doctor and Clara back to their residence to help him recover where Madame Vastra take the opportunity to confront Clara on her attitude towards the Doctor’s changed appearance. Clara is offended, but later admits that she is struggling to accept the new Doctor, mainly due to his stark difference to the previous incarnation, particularly his apparent age as well as hinting to the hidden feelings she may have harbored for the 11th. Meanwhile, the Doctor has suddenly awakened after hearing the dinosaur’s pleas for help, translates them and realises he was partially at fault for bringing the dinosaur to this present by operating the TARDIS. He leaves Madame Vastra’s manor and heads down to the river with his companions following close behind. However, suddenly the dinosaur bursts into flames and dies just as they arrive.
The Doctor, visibly angry and demanding answers from his companions, discovers that this is not the first case seen in London recently. Shortly after, he sports a seemingly unfazed man across the river and jumps into the Thames to follow him. Clara is then convinced by Vastra to return home, and Vastra asserts they will find the Doctor if they study the mystery and try to think like the Doctor.
The next morning, the Doctor is roaming the back streets for answers, rambling to himself and questioning how his body chooses a new face when regenerating. Fans of the show may find this moment rather comical as Peter Capaldi is famously remembered for his role in a previous Doctor Who episode, “The Fires of Pompai”.
He questions why he would chose a face that he vaguely remembers belonged to someone else, as if his memory is trying to tell him something. Searching the trash, he comes across a message in a disguarded newspaper. Back at the manor, Clara reads the same newspaper and discovers a message, reading “The Impossible Girl”, pointing her towards a restaurant across London. Believing that the Doctor left this for her, Clara heads there. The Doctor joins her shortly afterward, but reveals that it was not him that left the message.
Before they have time to contemplate who did, they realise that the restaurant is full of robots that are preventing their escape. They become entrapped in their seats and are lowered into an underground lair where they find the man they saw at the river sitting in a chair surrounded by several other idle human-like robots. The Doctor frees the both of them and surmises the man is a long-lived cyborg, but in the unusual sense that it is a robot trying to make itself human by replacing its parts with biological ones taken from the victims of spontaneous combustion, including the dinosaur. The cyborg suddenly comes to life and insists it is trying to find “the promised land” and justifying its need to extend its life via parts replacement.
The cyborg and other robots begin to wake up and in a rather shocking moment, the Doctor manages to escape and appears to leave Clara to die, refusing the give his sonic screwdiver to Clara to save herself. Although visibly upset and heart-broken by the Doctor’s acts, Clara recalls the Doctor’s earlier advice about holding her breath to hide her humanity from the robots. Although it works at first, Clara is unable to hold her breath for long and she soon is captured and taken to the cyborg. He questions her on the Doctor’s whereabouts, which Clara refuses to give up, holding out hope that he will come in time to save her. The Doctor does reappear, having disguised himself as one of the humanoid robots as does the Paternoster Gang and join in alongside Clara to fight off the robots while the Doctor chases down the cyborg back to the restaurant. The cyborg releases a hot-air balloon made of human skin, lifting the restaurant into the London sky with the Doctor and him inside.
The Doctor warns the cyborg that it will either have to kill itself, or he will kill it to protect the humans in London below. The cyborg takes its own life, jumping out and impaling itself on the spire of Big Ben with the Doctor looking on darkly.
After regrouping, Clara finds the Doctor and the TARDIS have vanished, leaving her to believe that he has abandoned her yet again. However, Vastra assures Clara that the Doctor will return, though Clara admits that she is still having trouble accepting the Doctor’s new identity. Eventually, The Doctor and the TARDIS does reappear, and prepares to take Clara home, but she tells him that she cannot continue traveling with him as she does not know who he is any longer. As the TARDIS lands Glasgow when Clara’s cell phone goes off. She takes the call outside and in perhaps the most touching and moving moment of the episode, she finds it is the Eleventh Doctor, calling her during his last moments before regenerating while on the planet Trenzalore.
He calls to tell her to not be afraid of his newest regeneration. The Eleventh Doctor explains that this new Doctor needs her more than ever and is just as scared as she is at the moment. The Eleventh Doctor makes a final pleas that she stay with him. The Twelfth Doctor, remembering the conversation, at first is angry that she can’t see him beyond the new face and asks her whether she will help him. Clara agrees to stay and asks go with him for coffee. The two hug, although the Doctor admits that his new regeneration isn’t “the hugging type” person anymore.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this new season and this new Doctor. As I’m sure with every Whovian, we go through a cycle of acceptance when it comes to getting used to a different Doctor. We are unsure whether we are going to relate to this new regeneration as we had with a previous one. Every new Doctor brings with it a whole new territory and persona, one that we not only as the audience must grow accustom to, but as does the Doctor’s companions.
That’s just one of the things that make the show so unique and magical is how it almost involves the audience in the character’s journey.
What I really appreciated and admired about this episode was how the premiere creatively voiced the fan’s concerns and hesitation by working into just about bit of the Doctor’s dialogue while also giving insight in his own feelings regarding his regenerations through thought analogies. In one such scene in which the Doctor is negotiating with the cyborg, he talks about the robot’s continuous need to change himself. He uses a broom as an example and how if it breaks and you make repairs over and over again, can one still call it the same?
You are a broom. Question – you take a broom, you replace the handle. Then later, you replace the brush. and you do that over and over again. Is it still the same broom? Answer – No, of course isn’t. But you can still sweep the floor …You have replaced every piece of yourself, mechanical and organic , time and time again. There’ not a trace of the original you left.
It does not dawn on the Doctor mid-way into the conversation that he has been speaking about himself. Through the majority of the episode, we see the Doctor truly struggling with his regeneration, but also the notion that his new identity might cause those closet to him to turn away. The Doctor knows this and it terrifies him. These fears do not come back into play until the Doctor finally confronts Clara after she receives the call from the Eleventh Doctor. For me, this scene was very important in finally nailing Capaldi’s stance the Doctor for the fandom. In very blunt and yet clever dialogue, the Doctor makes it a point that it is still him.
“You can’t see me, can you? You look at me and you can’t see me. Do you have any idea what that’s like? I’m not on the phone. I’m right here. Standing in front of you. Please. Just… Just see me.”
So how do I feel about Capaldi as the Doctor now that I’ve seen him in action? Well, I’ve had several months to get used to the idea. I have to admit; like with all first meetings, I’m still on the fence about it. That’s not saying I don’t like this Doctor. He is certainly different from his past incarnations. Where 10 and 11 were easy going, suave, charming and fun to have around, this 12th version is none of those things. He is much colder now, more intolerant of humans and not very welling to open up with them. He is more alien this time and disconnected from the world around him. In a sense, he feels as though he is stranger to everyone. Yet, somehow that adds a whole new sense of mysterious to the Doctor. There is a renewed darkness to him, the kind that I feel we’ve haven’t seen since the days of the 9th Doctor. So do I think this Doctor will do as well as his predecessors?
Capaldi’s Doctor as a menacing danger to his persona as well as sense of excitement that comes with facing the unknown. Because in a sense, this is unknown territory for the fans and the show. For a sense of how much the playing field has changed from the first days we traveled with Matt Smith, one only needs to listen to Doctor’s final words at the end of the show. When Clara asks we’re off to next, the Doctor simply replies in a dark tone, “Into Darkness.”
All in all, a fantastic start to a new season! I await with much anticipation on what we can expect new from this dark Doctor and who will be meeting next!