It’s good to be back. It had been too long since the last series episode of Doctor Who back in May 2013. It’s almost as far back since Peter Capaldi was announced as Matt Smith’s replacement too, so, ignoring his very brief cameo at the end of The Time of The Doctor, Capaldi’s introduction has been a year in the making. It’s safe to say that his premiere as the Doctor was eagerly anticipated.
What a massive relief it is then, that, after a shaky first five minutes, Capaldi was as good a fit for the role as we all hoped he would be. That’s not to say the Doctor’s personality is at all clear going forward, but Capaldi felt like he knew what he was doing, as he portrayed a character stumbling between clueless and utterly commanding.
At the moment at least its certainly a departure from the norm of previous Doctors, both original and revived. It’s a lot more unpredictable, but that’s a great thing for the show, which under Matt Smith felt a lot more nailed on in how the Doctor would fit into each episode and plot.
Here, there were moments where one could be forgiven for thinking the Doctor had truly gone rogue, seemingly leaving Clara behind at one point. There were moments where he seemed to have gone mad, but also moments where the charm that has been in one way present in each Doctor since Tom Baker came to the surface, albeit differently to how Smith used it.
Capaldi and Jenna Coleman’s on-screen chemistry was very good for a first outing, dispelling any worries that Clara’s substantial link to the Eleventh Doctor, and the significantly different bond between her and this Doctor, would make this a more strained relationship. Coleman made the most of a lot of great opportunities to give further insight into what makes Clara tick, and already feels more developed in this new series.
As for the episode itself, Deep Breath was a bit hit and miss. The start – with the T-Rex abruptly turning up in the Thames and wreaking havoc – was great, and the tie-in to Tennant episode The Girl In The Fireplace was also a welcome surprise, but beyond that, things weren’t as good. There were too many Strax jokes – one would be funny, but that one was many episodes ago, and certainly not here. More importantly, the villains didn’t feel like they served enough of a purpose beyond setting up the Twelfth Doctor, and getting us all excited because it harked back to an older episode.
This brings up a broader criticism of the Moffatt-brand Who. Too often there are too many meta-references, and not enough of the basic, serious storytelling that made the Russell T Davies era so good. For example, the exchange at the end with the Eleventh calling from Trenzalore felt like one big message from Moffat to the audience about moving on from Smith.
Who else noticed how Moffatt has once more changed a key element of the show? Apparently the Doctor can now choose how they look post-regeneration. While Moffatt characterises well, and consistently understands how to pen exciting sequences, respect for the show’s heritage is certainly not one of his strong points.
Despite this, Deep Breath was still a great episode, and it bodes well for Capaldi’s future. Next week, we venture Into the Dalek. That should be interesting…