by Tony Ortega
So the day has arrived and we have now seen Peter Capaldi’s first episode as the 12th doctor (are we really counting John Hurt) on Doctor Who. Now, before I go any further, I must admit that I am a diehard Matt Smith Whovian. That man got me through some very tough times. I will miss 11 dearly. However, as I have with past regenerations, I withheld judgment about the new doctor until his first episode: I remain open and receptive to regenerations.
So Deep Breath basically opens up with a dinosaur up chucking the TARDIS in Victorian England. Enter the best trio of characters since Rose, Mickey and Jackie – Strax, Jenny and Vastra to investigate this latest TARDIS sighting. They are my favorite non companion companions. No matter what Doctor they are paired with, this trio steals the show and they are a welcome edition to this season premier. However, the best part is not necessarily their roles in this episode but the interplay between the trio, the Doctor and Clara. The extremely witty dialogue between Vastra and Clara was priceless and seeing Jenny root for Clara and not her own wife was worth the price of admission. Add to this, Strax’s medical and psychological examination of Clara almost made me forget how much I will miss Matt Smith.
My favorite part of the season opener was Clara’s storyline. There have been many companions that have witnessed the Doctor regenerating throughout the years. However, never has the emotional impact that the regeneration has on the companion been dealt with, or at least to this level. I was moved by Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of angst and confusion, which likely mirrored my own every time the Doctor has regenerated. I loved, loved, loved how not only how expressive she was about her feelings, but also the almost last minute twist of how she was able to resolve her mixed emotions (thanks to a very surprise guest star – “Damn you Moffat.”). Some might say that she has seen at least two other versions of the doctor. However, this experience was a very intellectual one. Actually witnessing a regeneration and losing someone you loved is quite traumatic. This part of the storyline bridged the gap between intellectually understanding a regeneration and emotionally experiencing it.
Now, let’s talk about Capaldi. He has some pretty big bowties to fill as far as I’m concerned. However, his first episode reminded me of the Colin Baker era when the Doctor became arrogant, self-righteous and sanctimonious. This extreme shift of personality was not successful back then and certainly won’t work now. Capaldi’s post-regeneration haze reminded me of this shift in personality. I only hope that this does not continue and will phase out in episode 2. No, drum roll please, Capaldi is an amazing actor and I think, if written well, will be just as powerful of a doctor as the others. I particularly liked the one liners in which he referenced past iterations of himself. I am giving him a chance folks. Please don’t tell Matt.
The ending of Deep Breath sets the stage for what appears to be two major storylines – who is this mysterious female and what role will she play in the Doctor’s life and how will Capaldi’s Doctor rectify his past transgressions – “Am I a good man?” All in all, I think Season 8 is off to a great start and as long as they don’t make Capaldi’s Doctor too dark, we have another winner.