POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILERS BELOW. YE BE WARNED.
Hello! Welcome to Doctor Who, where the plot’s made up and the continuity doesn’t matter.
Seriously though, last night Peter Capaldi made his debut as the renegade Time Lord and won me over. Not at first, really, but eventually. One of the things about a regeneration these days is how traits from the previous Doctor will hang on for a bit until the new Regeneration settles in. This really didn’t do Capaldi’s Doctor any favors though. Let’s face it. You can’t out Matt Smith Matt Smith. He doesn’t have the same feel and it felt odd at the beginning. Sometimes the memory troubles and craziness is charming. With Capaldi it was strained and pained. I don’t think it was until he was on his own and away from friends that we finally started to see who this new Doctor is. He’s grumpy, he’s cruel, he’s alien, and he still sees himself as the self appointed defender of humanity. There’s a definite feel that Tom Baker’s and Jon Pertwee’s Doctors have come back to the surface with this Regeneration and it’s actually quite a welcome change to the charming and loveable folk we’ve had lately.
Another change is the speed. Moffat has said on multiple occasions that the stories were speeding up and I agree. The last several seasons something would show up and before we even got a good look at it we were running away and into something else and the first monster was forgotten in witty banter. This episode slows things back down. Atmosphere has returned. The stakes felt more real and the danger far more present. An entire sequence involving Clara having to hold her breath was genuinely tense. This freed up room for actual character moments (which I’ll get to in a minute) and forged a deeper connection between them and us. Also, there was ambiguity. The Doctor’s final solution to the story is left in question. Did he or didn’t he?
Now, let’s talk about character for a minute. People have been talking about giving the Paternoster Gang a spin off and other than Strax I had no idea why. Vastra and Jenny seemed overly generic. Especially Jenny. Prim and proper until it was time to kick some ass. Whooptie doo. Deep Breath saw them finally develop. It wasn’t the high and mighty talk with Clara that did it though. Vastra showed a much more distracted side to her personality in this outing, AND a more amorous side! Jenny, for the first time in my memory, felt like Vastra’s wife. The pretense that she is her assistant and maid wore thin and there were finally REAL relationship moments between them. Not the “my love” moments, but the “I can’t believe you just did that!” moments. It was funny, sweet, and aggravating like a real couple would be. Strax, for the very first time, got on my nerves. There’s a certain amount of stupid I’m willing to accept from Strax. Most of it has to do with gender identification. Basic anatomy should not be that difficult though. The guy knows what eyes and mouths are, damn it.
The plot. Oooooh the plot. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the lack of one, but it’s there if you look for it. The Doctor’s first outing in a new body usually isn’t that taxing and normally doesn’t make sense. Sycorax, anyone? Prisoner Zero ring any bells? This one was a bit different. It tied back into a one off episode from Tennant’s day and implies that there’s more to learn about it. It’s all a matter of perspective and patience. And then there’s Missy. She turns up at the end of the episode and it’s implied that she’s been behind a few moments in Doctor Who’s recent history.
So what did I take away from the episode? I took away that Capaldi’s Doctor is one I want to get to know. I took away that this series will slow down and tell a proper story. I took away a genuine excitement for the series that I wasn’t expecting. Trust me, I went into this expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised. I’m all ready looking forward to next week.