I have been looking forward to the new season of Doctor Who with some trepidation. I haven’t been happy with Moffat’s showrunning these last few seasons, and really hated Eleven’s finale, Time of the Doctor. So, I’ve been worried about how the introduction of the new Doctor, played by well-known British actor Peter Capaldi would go. There were little bits of hope coming up from behind the scenes, such as Capaldi putting the squash on any romance with his Doctor and any companions. But still Moffat was writing the first episode, and that gave me reason to worry.
And sadly, my some of my fears came to fruition. I’ve complained before about Moffat’s sloppy writing and it comes back in full force in this episode. He throws in ideas from previous episodes like gimmicks to draw in viewers; Dinosaurs, the clockwork robots, the “Don’t” warning, and the Paternoster Gang. I did like Eleven’s fascination with dinosaurs, but throwing an impossibly big dinosaur into the middle of Victorian London just so is can be killed as a plot device was not good. I did like the potential the return of the clockwork robots showed, but it was squandered as they were reduced to Weeping Angel wannabes with the Doctor’s warning “Don’t breathe.” I loved the idea of the Paternoster Gang when they were first introduced and would have loved to have seen them in their own series, solving their own mysteries. Instead they have also become overplayed and outstayed their welcome. While Strax can be a one-trick pony, it is still a funny trick, and I don’t mind it. I did like the newspaper in the face he gave Clara. Jenny and Vastra have been the token alternate lifestyle couple. Every time they show up, we get beaten over the head how they are two women married to each other in Victorian England. Right. Got it. It was revolutionary! But it’s not today. I would really like to have their relationship shown to us, rather than constantly telling us how great it is.
This leads me to Clara’s big, whiny rant about the Doctor regenerating into an older man. I’ll grant it was a more realistic reaction from a human seeing a Time Lord regenerate. However, not all companions knew the Doctor could regenerate, but still recognized the man they knew was still there under that new face and personality. It usually took an episode or special for them to realize it, but they didn’t immediately freak out. If, as I have seen suggested elsewhere, it was because she was upset that he didn’t know her, or his personality seemed really off, she should have said that. Instead, we get her going on about how he looks old. His face has wrinkles, his hair is grey. She really does focus on appearance, and even if she didn’t know about regeneration, she should know the Doctor better than to let appearances matter so much.
Much of this episode seems to be about Moffat lecturing fans, that it’s okay that the Doctor looks older and isn’t some “Doctor Hottie” the last two have been. He’s not a “boyfriend,” even though that seems to be exactly what Moffat was pushing Clara and Eleven toward. Clara’s denial that she thought of the Doctor that way came off as defensive rather than authoritative. I don’t think she really believed it. I also didn’t care for the phone call at the end from Eleven. Why was that even necessary? No other regeneration has needed the previous to justify the new one to the companion. She, and the audience that she is meant to represent, should have been convinced by Twelve’s actions, not Eleven calling and telling her it’s alright. It comes off as condescending to assume that “NuWho” fans wouldn’t be able to handle an older Doctor and have to have Eleven pat them on the head and tell them “It’s Alright.”
And how did the Doctor go from, 1100 in Impossible Astronaut to 2000 in Deep Breath? He was on Trenzalore/Christmas Town for 300 years. Where did the addition 600 come from?
I think what really made Clara’s reaction rub me the wrong way is that, it’s seems to suppose to be some character development. Here’s what I want to know. Why did Moffat wait half a season before doing any character development for Clara? Her outburst comes out of the blue and seems completely out of character for her. There was nothing in the previous 9 episodes to suggest that she had a temper, was a control freak or an egomaniac. She was the “mystery girl” and as a result wasn’t allowed to be anything else. But now she doesn’t have a Doctor to hang all over or kiss, so she suddenly has decided to get a personality. This doesn’t make Clara seem more relatable to me. It makes her less of a character and more of a puppet for Moffat to make dance. She has no life of her own. She is a plot device that Moffat molds as he sees fit. If she really leaving the show, then I’m glad. She really deserved better.
After saying all that, I can’t say I liked the episode, but I did like Capaldi as Twelve. I didn’t like the exaggerated disorientation they gave him, but I do like the more blunt and gruff Doctor. I have no problem with his age, his wrinkles or his grey hair. And not because I’m a Classic fan and have seem him both old and young, but because I do have a soft spot for older men. I don’t care for the eyebrow obsession, but I did like how he wondered about where his face came from, possibly referencing to his appearing in the Tenth Doctor story, the Fires of Pompeii, where Capaldi played a part. Unlike Clara, I liked the TARDIS redesign. I like the round things coming back, and love the bookshelf and leather chair from to read and drink tea at. By the end of the episode, I was getting a Fourth Doctor vibe from him. I approve.
I am going to refrain from speculating on the “Missy” character introduced at the end. I can already see she is going to be some complicated plot device, as all of Moffat’s women become, and be the new “mystery” for the Doctor to solve. I am starting to miss the old days of RTD, and his subtle hits to the overarching plot, such as Bad Wolf and Torchwood. Moffat’s cricket bat over the head is getting tiring.
Overall, I like Capaldi, and do look forward to more episodes to see how other writers will develop him, and maybe not be so heavy-handed with the fandom. Just write a good episode Moffat, and we’ll stop complaining. For a while.