[This may contain spoilers in a fervent ranty sort of way]
”This is not a day for jumping to conclusions.”
Returning to our screens after the 50th anniversary celebrations, Who returned in an slightly different format. An extended run time of 76 minutes and a later slot in the TV schedule, possibly in conjunction with cinema listings, there was an obvious pang of anticipation. Dancing round the more evident ‘Capaldi’s first episode’ – which will be covered in more detail later – The episode was a stark contrast to previous regeneration episodes.
Taking it’s inspiration from The Christmas Invasion Capaldi’s Doctor was largely absent from proceedings in the first half of the episode. After a brief confusing introduction to the new Doctor, it was down to Clara and the Paternoster Gang to try and alleviate the audiences questions. Such a contrarian, Moffat, delivered a powerful character driven opening that not only explored Clara’s motives with the Doctor but the audiences engagement with Clara. Having been bereft of decent story lines in previous seasons and reduced to a plot device rather than a character, it was refreshing to see Clara take the lead. It gives me great satisfaction to declare that she delivered. From a staunch impassioned defence of her intentions to a subtle nuanced monologue questioning her own intentions. Clara was absolutely tremendous albeit superbly supported by Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax. The interaction and dialogue between them was quite dazzling, breathless and yet measured.
Before I delve into a moderate rant about how good Capaldi’s Doctor is, it is worthwhile to mention the direction of this episode.. I already consider myself a fan of Ben Wheatley – If you haven’t seen Kill List stop reading this and come back after you have – but the direction of this episode was beyond perfection. There were several scenes of protracted dialogue between two characters and during my first viewing, it largely went unnoticed due to the masterful direction. There, that’s enough on that.
Through my clamped, crushed and gritted teeth, it’s time to shed some praise on Moffat’s script. Delivering the exact opposite of previous offerings, it was a light hearted, funny and a serious episode all in one bundle. Maybe he is not trying to be Christopher Nolan anymore! Reducing me to a laughing giddy child in one moment(its rather easy!) to making me consult my inner mind sanctum conspiracy chart trying to second guess whats next. What I have tried to do with Doctor Who is stop pre-empting what is around the corner. HOWEVER if Charles Dance turns up as The Master this season you’ll need to chain me up. I digress, Moffat done a really good job and it’s a different Doctor that will hopefully see him live up to his potential. He still has an issue with woman and male interaction but that’s a whole other topic/rant. “Five foot one and crying, you never stood a chance.” made me reach for my Germaine Greer books in a cringe. Anyway, overall he done well with a female driven, LGBTI involving ensemble cast that drove the episode minus the Doctor.
So *cough* Capaldi’s Doctor eh?
That’s as blase as I can be. Let me just state for the record here:
Anyone doubting his casting now should stop reading, go and become a nomad and wander the earth aimlessly alone until death. That may be quite an overreaction(you’ll get used to them) but you will be doing humanity a service.
Capaldi was quite simply breathtaking as The Doctor. I have had to calm down and reflect upon the episode but every time I re-watch it, I lose myself and yet find something new in the episode and Capaldi’s portrayal of a character we all pretend to know. If I have one criticism of the episode it’s that the villain was rather weak. Rehashed idea from The Girl In The Fireplace about clockwork robots rebuilding blah blah blah. It was rather weak but I was more interested in the interaction between The Doctor and Clara. It was sharp, seemless and extremely fast paced. The scene in the restaurant with the to-ing and fro-ing and quid pro quo attitude was tremendous. I am not going to examine Capaldi’s Doctor too much but aside from some terrible sound effects, normally a given, he offered something for everyone. Doctor Doolittle, Doctor Who and Doctor Quinn he was all this and more. Reflective as well: “I never said it was your mistake.” he offers as an apology to Clara(channeling Moffat I assume).
The Half-Face Man was a rather disappointing villain but it’s down to Capaldi’s performance that you don’t really notice it – superb broom analogy as well. The ambiguous ending for him raised more questions than answers and there was a subtle hint at an over-arching bad/good/Who knows character in ‘Missy’ played by Michelle Gomez at the end. Start guessing now folks!
Anyhoo, a promising start made and a really strong ensemble cast make this one of my favourite season openers. Long may it continue!
I’m away to consult my inner mind sanctum conspiracy chart.
Rating: 4/5 – loses a point for having a poor villain and terrible Matt Smith phonecall/Cameo… I Refuse to talk about it
This piece was written by: Andrew Melrose
You can follow Andrew on Facebook @ Ed Nygma