Any of you who know me even a little know that I had been anticipating last Saturday for some time. The reason? Everybody’s favorite Time Lord, the Doctor, was all set for the beginning of another season. But this wasn’t just any season premiere—this was the first adventure for a brand-spanking new Doctor. So does this new fella live up to all the hype? Let’s talk about the particulars of BBC’s Doctor Who premiere.
What I liked:
- The new opening sequence. I know some people have said they don’t really dig it, but I love all the clock parts and planets and that brief, glorious shot of Capaldi and those intense eyes. See what you think here.
- Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor. There’s a lot about him that I like. He’s Scottish, which is a nice change for the character (I believe he’s only ever been English). He’s very funny, and some of his moments in this made me laugh a lot. I mean, the guy calls a T-Rex a “big, sexy woman” while also insisting he isn’t flirting with her. He’s very self-aware, too, taking the time to analyze his new face, (“These are attack eyebrows! You could pop bottle caps off with these!”), new accent (“I’m Scottish! I can complain about things!”), and advanced age. Speaking of his age…
- How his age is handled. Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) take some time to talk about that, and Vastra has an interesting point: perhaps the Doctor kept regenerating young as a form of acceptance, but now that he trusts Clara, he doesn’t feel the need to keep up his youthful façade. In fact, at one point he even makes a point to say to her, “I’m not your boyfriend.” This Doctor may be a bit flirty when it comes to dinosaurs, but I think he might be done flirting with companions for a while. Frankly, it’s about time. He’s been a flirt for seven seasons, and the Doctor-companion romance thing often wore a little thin in the past.
- The return of the Paternoster Gang! (Sidenote: why are they called that?!) Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny (Catrin Stewart), and their “butler” Strax (Dan Starkey) are a really fun, quirky trio. Vastra and Jenny are not only tough ladies, but they’re very interesting as an inter-species, same-sex couple—the only couple like that I’ve ever seen on TV. And Strax…he just cracks me up. He’s clueless and blunt and unintentionally hilarious. Having these three in this episode is, for the most part, great.
- There’s a cameo toward the end that surprised and delighted the heck outta me. It’s perfect.
What I didn’t like:
- The whole dino bit. It’s funny for a while, but ultimately, I didn’t see the purpose other than for writer/producer Steven Moffat and co. to be able to say, “Look! We can make a CGI dinosaur!” Sorry guys, but Jurassic Park will always trump everyone else at that. Also, the people of Victorian London are surprisingly calm about the presence of a giant prehistoric beast.
- Though I ultimately enjoy having Madame Vastra in the episode, I will say that she’s a pretty big jerk to Clara for a while, and that seems unnecessary. Clara struggles with the idea of regeneration and a new-yet-not-new Doctor, which I think is completely reasonable, yet Vastra looks down on her for it. Maybe Vastra holds Clara to a higher standard since she’s the Doctor’s companion, but she’s still harsh. Ease up, homegirl.
- There’s a random flashback to Clara’s classroom that shows her struggling with some unruly students, and it’s just kind of dumb. I didn’t really see the purpose for it other than to show us more about Clara, but the scene is so brief that it’s hardly worth showing at all—which brings on the next point…
- Did this episode need to be almost an hour-and-a-half long? Frankly, I think a lot of moments were stretched out too far. I think Moffat was milking this episode a bit—not enough to annoy me, but enough to make me a little impatient.
- The Doctor. I know I said above that I like him, but there are certain things about him that make me somewhat uncertain. Don’t expect a lot of charm from this Doctor—he’s funny and clever, sure, but he’s also a bit scary and angry. He’s not charismatic or partial to hugs, and he can actually be kind of ruthless, pulling a stunt with Clara that leaves a lot of question marks regarding his character.
The Potential: Oh, there’s always potential with Doctor Who. But this will be an adjustment. This is not the kind of Doctor we’ve grown used to. I think the transition from David Tennant to Matt Smith was pretty smooth not only because they were kind of similar Doctors, but because Smith started out with, in my opinion, a really great episode. Capaldi’s premiere isn’t quite so strong, but I do like his Doctor for the most part, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Moffat does with an older, wiser, slightly less frantic leading man.
My Grade: B+