The New Who: Some Thoughts on the Twelfth Doctor’s First Adventure

Last night I watched the debut episode (“Deep Breath”) of the newest series of “Doctor Who,” now starring Peter Capaldi, who has taken over from Matt Smith. Like every other dedicated Whovian, I was excited to see how Capaldi would make the character of the Doctor his own. Here are a few of my observations:

  • Just one episode in and I can already tell that Peter Capaldi has created a version of the character that I will love. The sense of self-discovery seems to be a more prolonged process with this Doctor than with other fellows in the past, but I don’t mind that. (“I’m Scottish!” Twelve shouts incredulously when he realizes the type of accent he has. “I can complain about things!”) This Doctor appears to be less sentimental towards the human race than previous incarnations, but I don’t really mind that since I used to get a little tired of Ten and Eleven’s flowery speeches. There’s something really charming about the way that the episode ends: Twelve asks if Clara if he can take her out for coffee, even though he has no earthly money. (It’s also a reference to a similar request made to the character Rose Tyler by the Ninth Doctor.)
  • Clara Oswald, the Eleventh Doctor’s former companion who is still on the show (at least for a while), is as annoying as ever. She has very little personality, especially compared to the previous ladies from the last decade – Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy. I find it aggravating that a companion should be so torn as to whether she wants to continue having adventures with the most amazing being in the universe just because he transformed from looking like a guy in his early 30s to looking like a guy in his mid-50s. (Personally, I find Peter Capaldi far more attractive than Matt Smith, but maybe that’s just because Capaldi’s a better, more nuanced actor.) At the end of the episode there is a scene in which Clara receives a phone call from Eleven (it’s a message from the future – don’t ask), encouraging her to stick with Twelve. It feels like a slap in the face to the Twelfth Doctor, that his age and grey hair and “lined face” are such deterrents to Clara (who stands in for the fans) that she would no longer want to travel with him. How shallow must Clara – and the fans – be to reject a Doctor solely because of his looks? (And again, I think he’s a fine-looking gent.) Acting skill will win out in the end, I say.
  • For a while it seemed that the plot was moving along at a pretty slow pace, but I actually sort of liked that. During the Eleventh Doctor’s past couple of seasons, it often seemed that episodes were rushed through in order to pack in as many scenes as possible; in “Deep Breath,” we take a little more time to understand what’s going on, much like Twelve trying to piece everything together in his newly regenerated, still-confused state. Speaking of regeneration, I like that the villain of the episode was running an operation that was a metaphor for the premise of “Doctor Who.” The robot-villain was trying to make himself human by taking parts from many different people; similar to the Doctors always “regenerating” with new actors (and therefore new faces), the main robot and his robot followers could choose and change new faces from many different sources.
  • Twelve seems to recognize his face as someone from his past – is this a reference to the character Capaldi played in the 2008 episode “The Fires of Pompeii,” Caecilius? Or is the show going to an even stranger place and recalling the character John Frobisher from “Torchwood”?
  • Fact: Madame Vastra and Jenny are definitely the best alien-human lesbian couple on television.
  • It was a good start to the season, but I hope that Clara is booted out by Christmas and that the next companion has plenty of spark.

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