As with any new Doctor, there was a lot of uncertainty by the public as to whether Peter Capaldi could be a good successor; Moffat wisely used the opening episode to what appears a promising season of Doctor Who to express to viewers that Capaldi is the best thing to happen to Doctor Who!
The trait of Matt Smith was having an over-the-top whimsical nature where he’d swoon in on an event and flirt his way to a happy ending; I don’t say that negatively, I loved Matt Smith, and despite the rocky Season 7, he clearly won his role as the Doctor – however Moffat took it to Season 8 for the Doctor to become a darker more mysterious character, which not only redefined the tone of the character but also the show in general.
For the first half of the episode, we don’t see much of Capaldi. When we do he’s speaking in tongues, questioning the uses of bedrooms and complaining as to why everyone else doesn’t sound Scottish; it’s all a wonderful performance as he plays the confused old man, which really throws Clara out of her comfort zone as she has to deal what appears to be a completely new man. From then on, the episode progresses to it’s darker tone as it deals with a Clara-centric episode, redeeming the character who was criticised last season for being too vanilla. Now Clara has the right mind to defend herself to Vastra that she wasn’t a useless love-struck girl with Matt Smith, speaking her true mind and actually building genuine and engaging characteristics for the companion.
The separation between Clara and the Doctor plays magnificently. We already are aware that the two had separate lives and time apart as Clara worked in Coal High School and the Doctor would occasionally pop by and take her off to adventures, however now with Strax addressing the threat that Clara could be stuck in Victorian London and the Doctor discovering who he is really created tension between the two characters. It wasn’t until The Doctor meets the ‘tramp’ on the street who helps the Doctor gain a sense of identity again, what makes this scene even more powerful was that (as addressed by the Doctor Who Live Q&A) was played by Elizabeth Sladen’s husband, Brian Miller – so the matter of fact is that a technical ‘call-back’ to his past helped regain who the Doctor is, oh and that he’s Scottish.
Other wonderful call-backs in this episode range from “The Impossible Girl” advert on the newspaper which ended up being neither Clara nor the Doctor, but rather the woman who handed Clara the Doctors number in the first place! Or the case that the cyborgs in the episode are in relation to the Clockwork monsters in ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, and how about that tea- jerker of a Matt Smith cameo, which links back to how the phone of the TARDIS was left dangling in the ‘Time of the Doctor’.
By the end of the episode we see the Doctor confront his “basic programming” of not killing, seeing quite a brutal death for the cyborg enemy, it’s clearly presented to viewers that the take of Capaldi isn’t going to be light-hearted as previous Moffat seasons were. Yet at the same time, there seems to be a perfect mix of childish yet entertaining comedy to validate the programme still being a ‘family programme’. Yes, characters such as Clara and the Doctor feel relatable and we feel we can emphasise with them now, yes there is an actual lesbian kiss (something which previous generations would have frowned upon in showing children) and yes there are brutal and terrifying scenes – yet it all somehow works in being extremely mature for older audiences and still suitable for younger audiences. It feels as though it’s the perfect mix Doctor Who should have always been at.
True highlights remain to be the performances of Jenna Louise Coleman who becomes the control-freak as the character and controlling the actual episode as well with her brilliant acting skills. Capaldi has merely been introduced to us, with the next few episodes showing us the Doctor truly in action, yet it was also brilliantly played by Capaldi too. Finally Ben Wheatley’s visual approach in this episode was gorgeous, considering that I was watching this episode in cinema screens, it truly felt as though it belonged to be seen in cinemas and that it was worth competing with other blockbusters.
That being said, this episode wasn’t perfect overall. It still had its inevitable faults such as the anti-climatic dinosaur use, the intimidating yet hardly explored cyborgs looking for their ‘promise land’ and such. The threats in this episode did feel genuine, holding ‘deep breaths’ was a fantastic and frightful idea, yet I felt as though we hadn’t seen enough of them to truly understand their intentions. That being said, there was that mysterious woman in the end, one which I’ll leave the comments section free for you to hypothesise about.
+ Brilliant performances all round, not a single person deserves to be uncredited in this fantastic episode.
+ The plot was well-paced and engaging enough to follow through to the end. There was no rushed resolution and it all felt perfect.
+ Gives a fantastic promise to the future episodes, there seems to be so much to look forward to!
– Villains were underused to a slight, some humour with Strax felt a bit too forced, whilst others worked wonderfully.