As I write this, the new season of Doctor Who made its way to BBC America and I have watched it. The debut of a new actor in the role of the Doctor is always an interesting one. How will the new actor portray his Doctor? What will his outfit look like? What are his new personality traits? Will we like him as much as the last guy? And what threat will he be given to challenge the new incarnation?
I can safely say that this is one of the better debuts of a new Doctor. Spoilers will follow later but I think he brings some interesting ideas with him. Moffat is as much into continuity porn as Tony Lee in the comics and this may play well to that. While his debut wasn’t perfect it was still one of the better ones. If you haven’t watched the episode (or you’re waiting for the theatrical airing (check Fathom Events for more info) you may want to wait before reading this article and let us know what the bonus footage was. Otherwise, here’s the full review.
Let’s start with the threat. We get a red herring with the dinosaur showing up in 1800’s London but that turns out to be the Doctor’s fault. As usual he is trying to get a handle on his new self and while it seems easier than his previous incarnation’s getting himself together, it still shows that there may or may not be some mystery attached to his new, Time Lord-supplied face. It also takes him awhile to realize his enemy is from a sister ship from the SS Madame Du Pompedor and considering their penchant for turning living creatures into spare parts I really hope these clockwork robots were decommissioned at some point. Only this group uses the parts on themselves in order to reach some promised land. I don’t get it myself but it gets weirder. I’ll get to that.
First the reappearance of Vastra, Strax, and Jenny. I don’t hate them because they do make a fun appearance. Well, Jenny and Strax does. In this episode Vastra just rubbed me the wrong way in how she admonished Clara, like she was Rose or something. I think she was also projecting her situation onto Clara, forgetting that a new Doctor DOES mean a change in personality, so Clara’s in a sense right when she says she doesn’t know this new Doctor. Because neither does the Doctor. I kind of wanted to tell Vastra off and was happy when Clara did, but I still would have added a few things. She can be a jerk sometimes. Otherwise, every time the trio shows up I keep feeling like Moffat is trying to create a spinoff but I don’t think they’d work in their own series. We already wonder how Strax can dress himself in the morning.
I know I’m holding back on the new Doctor and his relationship to Clara but that’s a writing tool. Plus I want to discuss the new intro because, as you know, I’m an intro guy.
This is the best version I could find of it. For some reason the BBC was going hardcore against the posting. I like it. The music is properly strange but familiar. I like the motif of time and space (although space was underrepresented in my opinion). I’m just sorry they didn’t keep the Galifrey symbol from the concept video. What, you haven’t seen it?
The official intro only gives us Capaldi’s eyes, like in “Day Of The Doctor” and the concept put his full face on a watch. I like the full face better but I come from a time when the new Doctor’s face was actually part of the intro, something that wasn’t done until late in Smith’s run. Either way it’s a good intro. Okay, okay, let’s get to the Doctor and Clara.
I’ve seen some disappointment over Clara not accepting the new Doctor, at least not until the previous one called asking her to stick with him because he was scared and needed her, something Capaldi showed well without losing his…Doctorness, I guess. Personally I wanted Clara to hand the phone to Capaldi to make a stronger torch pass but I still like the moment. Anyway, people thought because she was already aware of regenerations (having met two previous Doctors) and she isn’t Rose (which is already a good thing) that she could handle the changeover to a new Doctor. What people forget is that new Doctor means new personality, new tastes, new interests (we already saw the new Doctor isn’t as much a hugger as he was before) and new ways of doing things. Heck, he just tossed a guy onto a church steeple to kill him, even if he was clockwork, to save London from further parts snatching. He has a dark side that we haven’t seen, forget 10, since 6 or 7. 6 was willing to use a gun to kill a Cyberman and 7 blew up Skaro just to throw it in Davros’s face. Even the new Doctor doesn’t know who he is (as seen in the trailers for the new season, where this will be a theme for the new Doctor rather than something that assert itself at the end of the regeneration cycle) so why are people so surprised that Clara doesn’t know what to make of him?
Speaking of that new regeneration cycle, we’re told that the Doctor used up his previous regenerations (I guess Moffat wanted to make sure he was the one who explained the 14th life onward) so this is rare for a Time Lord (although we know they can play all kinds of games with regenerations, like the time they promised the Master a new life cycle if he helped the Doctor in “The Five Doctors”). The Doctor’s history seems to be his biggest issue as he talked here about wanting to fix old mistakes, wondering why he recognized his new face (which is older than his more recent form), and reflecting on the old circles that surrounded the walls of the TARDIS control room. Also he dresses like 3 and Clara broke out 2’s old running gag in crossovers, the “I see you’ve redecorated. I don’t like it.” line. (Although any changes were really minor since the post-Pond TARDIS. The Police Box looked a bit cleaner I though.) I think this season isn’t just about exploring the present Doctor but the Doctor’s past and I’m curious to see where that goes. I kind of thought 11 would go that route or whatever his last life would be.
So overall I’m curious about this new Doctor and what the season entails. It looks like next episode we get the Daleks again. I’ll miss Smith’s Doctor but I’m also excited to see where Capaldi is going to take our favorite Time Lord.