Spoilers ahead for those who don’t know anything about how TV works…
So, Doctor Who is back! I was so excited during the run up to Peter Capaldi’s debut as the 12th incarnation (no arguments about that please… save them for the blogs!) of the universe’s most famous Time Lord that my face fell off. That’s right… my face actually fell off. I had to put it back on with sticky tape!
First outings for post-regeneration Doctors (and I know them ALL) are difficult ones to assess in terms of getting a feel for who the new Doctor is. Regeneration is traumatic and more often than not the Doctor’s behavior is wildly erratic – in fact, character-wise, there is something to be said for the argument that is only in this wild renaissance moment of cellular novelty that any of the Doctors truly resemble one another – which means that it is not only until the very last moments of such an episode do we get a glimpse of who this latest Doctor might be.
Such is the case with Deep Breath, the opening episode of this year’s season, with the Doctor flailing about wildly, trying to get a grip on who he is. Luckily, to help him do that is a mystery that requires solving – nothing focuses the Doctor like a mystery! In this case, the mystery involves the return of a favorite monster – the clockwork robots (first seen in David Tennant episode, The Girl in the Fireplace) that like to cannibalize human body parts to keep their machinery and, this time, themselves in full working order. They’re not even beyond spontaneously combusting an entire, unlucky Tyrannosaurus Rex (accidentally brought along to Victorian London courtesy of having swallowed the TARDIS, the Doctor’s time machine) for a wee bit of optic nerve. The devils!
Anyway, while the Doctor rushes about, falling out of trees and galloping on horses (in some somewhat unnecessary slapstick), stealing clothes from tramps and asking himself existential questions about why he ends up with the faces he does (as well as celebrating that he now appears to be Scottish and can therefore enjoy complaining properly and using his eyebrows to make sly secession jokes), his companion Clara (played by Jenna Coleman), herself suffering from the existential angst of just having seen her best friend transform into someone completely unrecognizable, does her best to come to terms with the situation – as well as help out of course. Coleman does a damn good job of this and you properly feel her stress. Yet, even though to some degree these characters are once more strangers to one another, there are moments of beautiful back and forth between them that bode well for the future.
Eventually, the robots are thwarted and the Doctor buggers off, apparently leaving Clara to fend for herself but really only quickly popping off for a broody think and a change of clothes in order to let us all know what this Doctor is all about. Key point number one: NO MORE FLIRTING! Which is good, because that was getting a bit boring EVERY SINGLE SEASON! Perhaps we can look forward to a bit more of that Doctor/Donna relationship Tennant shared with Catherine Tate. Also, this Doctor is older – obviously he’s exactly the same age he was when he was Matt Smith but the fact that he’s subconsciously chosen an older face (apparently) is significant. He’s a bit grumpy. He’s a bit rude. He looks good in black. But he IS the Doctor and he NEEDS his companion (a truth we are given courtesy of a beautiful moment when a pre-regeneration Matt Smith calls up Clara in a very timely – or perhaps that should be ‘timely-wimely’ – way to tell her so).
As well as introducing us to the 12th Doctor (I said SAVE IT FOR THE BLOGS!!!), Deep Breath saw the welcome return of the Paternoster Gang, the crime-fighting gang headed by the lusty Silurian, Lady Vastra, with the help of her wife (yes, wife!) Jenny Flint and thick-headed (both literally and figuratively) Sontaran butler Strax – a trio just screaming out for their own spin-off series – providing a lot of humor and no small amount of very lusty same sex naughtiness (hooray!). In fact, at one point, Vastra even tries to get Clara out of her clothes – but then again, so does Strax. Let’s hope the removal of Clara’s togs doesn’t become a major story arc.
Speaking of which, someone is messing about with the Doctor, a woman calling herself Missy who claims to be the Doctor’s girlfriend. But who is she? Some of us are already panting at the possibility that she might be the Doctor’s old Time Lady foe, the Rani, somehow broken free of Gallifrey’s time lock. Man, I hope so. Was that garden at the end of Deep Breath her TARDIS? We shall see. It’s all great Doctor Who!
Now, before we sign off, just a word about the new credits. WONDERFUL! At last, something that actually hints at time travel – and I’m glad to see that the flash of the Doctor’s face reintroduced towards the end of Smith’s tenure remains. However, I do have one gripe. With a Doctor that now has some serious, grouchy gravitas, why are these beautiful new opening credits accompanied by an odd, tinny version of the theme tune that sounds like it’s being hummed by a mosquito through an old Sony Walkman? What happened to all the orchestral depth of the last variations? Come on guys, get it together!
Like I’ve already said, it’s difficult to gauge a Doctor in this kind of episode. It’ll be the next few stories that will really tell us what kind of character he has become and just how good Capaldi is in the role. From the glimpse we saw at the end of Deep Breath, though, I suspect he’s going to be bloody brilliant. This weekend he faces the Daleks. Surely there is no greater test for a Doctor…
Oh, and, really, every program should have a lesbian lizard in it!