Doctor Who is a show with many different kinds of viewer. Deep Breath, the first episode in the eighth series of Doctor Who starring Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, came out on Saturday 23rd and screened at Palace Cinemas. Woroni has wrangled reviewers from three different interstellar subspecies to give you their impressions of the start of the new season.
DOCTORIS FANUS [Homeplanet: Nerdotopia, located somewhere in the vicinity of the Betelgeuse star-system]
Peter Capaldi’s debut as the Doctor is akin to having a Tardis lodged in the throat – painful, sharp and irritating. Christopher Eccleston was cool, David Tennant had charisma, Matt Smith was quirky and now we have cantankerous Capaldi. He’s neither ginger nor young, rather, he has ‘bitchy resting brows’ and a Scottish accent; perhaps he lost out in the lottery of his regeneration.
However, much like my double-sided Doctor Who poster, there’s a flipside to this more tattered Time Lord – his age prevents the possibility of a Coleman-Capaldi romance à la Rose and the 10th Doctor. The skeins of flirtation that were present between Clara and the previous master of the Tardis have now been firmly (and thankfully) severed. We can now once again enjoy the true essence of the Doctor-companion relationship, which is that of a sage imparting the experience of eras and eons to a young ‘un (let’s not forget that the first ever companion was the Doctor’s granddaughter). If Donna’s stint as platonic travelling friend is anything to go by, Clara may now be able to develop some substance to back her spunk.
Proof? This opening episode passes the Bechdel test.
Clara: “But that’s impossible!”
Clara, my dear, so were you, apparently.
SCI-FI FANDROID MK. VII [Currently lost somewhere in the Far Spiral Arm aboard a Vogon Constructor Fleet]
Okay, so I feel like I am going to make some enemies here. Disclaimer: I have seen very little of Doctor Who. As someone who does thoroughly enjoy Sci-fi however, the episode left a somewhat bitter aftertaste.
My biggest objection is that the entire episode is half-arsed, lacking development of the more interesting plot dilemmas. Without going into spoilers, the (obvious) moral similarity between the Doctor and the main villain is glossed over by repeated assertions ad nauseam that the villain is obviously misguided and the Doctor is…well, the Doctor. Philosophical issues of time travel, continuity and memory were also clumsily handled throughout. All the truly interesting intellectual elements are short-changed at the expense of cheap morality plays.
Ultimately, stories are about characters, and this episode desperately needed to tell clearer narratives about the conflicts underlying each character, as well as a more nuanced story of the evolution of these conflicts over one-and-a-half hours of screen-time. Maybe the director was actually going for a postmodern end of meta-narratives approach and playing with the absurdity of reality. This is possible. The impression I actually got, however, was merely one of incoherent confusion.
REGULARIS VIEWERUS [Carbon-based, Earth-bound and currently confused about what the fuss is all about]
Even though I have never been a part of the almost scarily intense Cult of Dr Who, I must admit that I was hoping that the new series would make it a bit more appealing for the uninitiated. I am not opposed to the Doctor – some of the episodes I have stumbled across in the past have been kind of clever, albeit in a schlocky way. However, make no bones about it: judging by the first episode, the new season looks to herald a real dog’s breakfast of a series.
The debut episode of the new series stars Peter Capaldi’s Face as the new Doctor, and this series seems to attempt to move in a different, more morally ambiguous (and interesting) direction. However, as much as I love the whole genre of Capaldi’s-beautiful-haggard-face porn, a craggy face and a Scottish accent do not an anti-hero make.
The first episode of Dr Who throws together a whole variety of disparate ingredients in an attempt to appeal to different tastes, and ends up satisfying no-one. There were ads for the all-singing, all-dancing Dr Who stage show before the episode. There were philosophical dilemmas. There were horrific bits of camp flag-waving English kitsch, teapots and all. There were unfunny self-referential jokes. There was horror, noir, slapstick and zinging repartee – all mixed in together like a bad punch.
Dr Who seems to be essentially a victim of its own success. It is simply too large and too unwieldy an enterprise to direct with any degree of subtlety, and that results in a confusing viewing experience. If it is to appeal to the non-fan, Doctor Who desperately needs to take a blowtorch to its script, as well finding a camera team with the courage to make interesting aesthetic choices and stick to them.