Somewhat Reassuring Note: This review will be plot-spoiler free. I can make no promises for the Comments section.
So. Here we go again.
|Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman|
Introduction for the Uninitiated: Doctor Who is a British SciFi television show that has existed (with a notable gap or two) since 1963. The main character is the Doctor. He's an alien who travels around in a time and space ship called the TARDIS, which is bigger on the inside and looks like a police telephone box (long story).
The Doctor is quite old (over 2000 years now) and has no home other than the TARDIS. He picks up companions as he travels around saving planets and defeating bad guys. The companions help save the universe and keep the Doctor sane.
Well, I say sane...
When the Doctor is dying, he can "regenerate" - change every cell in his body in a burst of light and take on a new form (aka, new actor!). At this point, 12 men have played the Doctor. Well...13. Long story.
At the beginning of the season 8 premier, Deep Breath, the Doctor has just regenerated right in front of his current companion, Clara Oswald.
I think that's all you need to know.
My Review: Overall, this was a decent episode. Not one of my favorites, but it had some great moments and was a lot of fun, generally. I thought, too, it was a very strong opening salvo for a new Doctor.
1) The plot. It was a little bit Throwback Thursday. It clearly wasn't the most important part of the story, which is frankly to be expected in a regeneration episode. Plot-wise, most of the first half is pretty much fluff.
2) There were some moments that were just, I don't know. Not very good. Some of it I can get past by reminding myself that this is, after all, a family show. If they want to throw the kiddies a bone with a silly line here and there, fine. I can deal with that. There were one or two face-palm moments, though.
3) The bit with the tree. Seriously? Who thought that looked real?
4) Some heavy-handed writing. There are two types of heavy-handed writing in this episode. One is agenda-based, which is fairly common in SciFi and which always bugs me, whether I agree with the agenda or not. It's not terrible in this episode, but it's definitely there. The other type is character-based, of which there were three incidents in particular. Concerning the latter: It's Steven Moffat,** and it's a new Doctor - it was always going to happen. It wasn't as bad as The Beast Below (that would be hard to top). But still.
1) The transition. Peter Capaldi's Doctor starts out confused and all over the place in post-regeneration chaos, which is a lot of fun, if sometimes cheesy. It's a gradual and subtle transition as he spends the bulk of the episode trying to find his feet, but somewhere between the "attack eyebrows" and his final scene with Half-Face Man, he becomes Doctor #12. That Doctor is dead serious, funny in a way I don't want to define yet, and surprisingly open. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him.
2) The acting. The guest villain (Peter Ferdinando) is good - his physicality really sells it. The fellow playing the homeless man (Brian Miller) is just brilliant.
Jenna Coleman as Clara. It's clear from the beginning of season 7 that she's quite a good actor. But at the end of the season and in the specials, the writing for her character gets quite complacent. In Deep Breath, she's got some really good stuff to grapple with again, and she doesn't disappoint. Jenna Coleman is awesome in this episode.
And Peter Capaldi. I like him. He mitigates the third instance of character-based heavy-handed writing (the bit with the platter) via some nicely restrained acting. He really sells the sporadic stuff he has to do in the beginning, and has all the gravitas you could ever want after the transition. He also plays vulnerable very well. This is gonna be good. :)
3) The 12-Clara dynamic. I'm not gonna lie. I was really looking forward to this. The 11-Clara relationship was great, in its own way, but I felt like it had gone as far as it could (and then some). With an older Doctor, I anticipated that there'd be a lot more depth and breadth to it, and I was absolutely right! I can't say much about it without spoilers, so I'll just say this: Their conversations were nicely written, and these two actors play off each other brilliantly. The character dynamic is great - I loved it. Best part of the episode.
4) There really are some great moments in this episode. These are wonderfully-written scenes with great acting, cinematography, etc. The restaurant scene, for one. The Doctor-Tramp scene is pretty great. The talk with Clara (and the Doctor) and Half-Face Man in the basement is cool. And then there's the final 12-Clara scene, in and out of the TARDIS. Those were the stand-out moments, for me.
So, all in all, an ok episode with some really great stuff in it.
Placement: Season 8, Episode 1
Episode Length: 79 min
My rating: 3 stars (out of 5) for the episode as a whole; 5 stars for Coleman and Capaldi.
(Coleman and Capaldi? That's like Sparrow and Nightingale! How great is that?)
*This is a paraphrase of a line in the episode, not an actual insult to my readers. Don't be so sensitive.
**No, I'm not a Moffat-hater. Nor am I blind to his faults. I could write an entire blog post about this.