On Saturday 23rd August a new Doctor exploded onto our screens, with vigour, darkness and a dinosaur. Peter Capaldi became his very own Doctor before our eyes, and over the course of the next 12 weeks, we at the Big Glasgow Comic Page will offer up both a review and this eccentric analysis. Full Spoiler alert going forward.
There is something very Doctor Who about a Giant T-Rex strolling through Victorian London, I don’t know that you could do that with any other show, unless of course there was a very lax adaptation of Oliver Twist somewhere. It looks wonderful, an improvement over the already impressive looking CGI from “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. We have come a long way from the awful effects from “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”.
I never tire of seeing the Paternoster Gang including them here seems like a really good idea on the part of Steven Moffat, we have the quintessential Matt Smith team, next to a brand new Doctor, you ease in those for whom Capaldi is their First regeneration. Something familiar with someone New and Dark; more on the dark in a moment.
Madame Vastra, arriving on the scene to greet the Detective Lestrade character, who seems a bit overwhelmed, armed with a handy plot saving device that means the T-Rex wont eat anyone during the course of the episode, we find out quickly that the T-Rex had swallowed the Tardis, after the poor thing vomited up the Blue Box. There enters The Doctor
The Doctor’s first words to Strax being simply “Shush” was up there for me with David Tenant arriving in series 3, taking off his tie and saying “Like so” to Martha Jones, unexpected is always a good way to start. Not to mention the overtly offensive (for a Sontaran) reference to the Dwarves from Snow White “Sneezy, Dopey”. The poor man seems very confused throughout his first episode, more so at the start when he has forgotten names and seems to be unaware that Clara is not Handles the C head. go.
The Doctor speaks Dinosaur, of course he does. The confusion quickly winds up with the Timelord passing out before we traverse to the new title sequence. Gone are most of the orchestral backing and in is the Theramin. At least I think it is a Theramin, it’s difficult to tell with synth. The clockwork design of the graphics throughout the sequence are very nice, it most definitely a busier opening than the last few years. I was growing bored with the Vortex imagery.
The Doctor questions the very concept of a bedroom, as we cut to within Madam Vastra’s Home “So you’ve got a whole room for not being awake in?”, decries the mirror “Don’t look in that mirror it’s absolutely furious.” and offends the English by demanding to know what is wrong with Jenny and Clara’s accents “You’ve all developed a fault!” But finds that Madame Vastra can talk properly, as evidenced by her brogue
There’s a fair few moments of Scottish humour throughout the episode, seceding eyebrows and being allowed to complain are but some of the Doctors assumed attributes of Scotishness. He is right of course and laments that we end up, inevitably blaming the English.
A lot is made of the Doctor’s change in this episode, the reasons why he chooses a particular face and as Clara and The Doctor make note of throughout the episode, his face is brand new but it is all grey haired and lines, yet The Doctor has done none of the frowning. It’s a concept that really hasn’t been addressed in the show, where do the faces come from.
We know Timelord’s have some semblance of choice given the Regeneration of Romana as she cycles through some faces,until she settles on the face of Lalla Ward, who had been on the programme previously as a different character altogether; a fact she notes when choosing the new form. Why did the Doctor choose Caecillius face? Seems poised to be one of the questions of the series.
Much has been made about the Jenny/Vastra relationship in this episode, it is explicitly stated throughout that they are married and that they love each other. I’m sure it was mentioned before that they were married, I’m not sure, if it wasn’t I just assumed. I wondered why the need to reiterate the relationship until it dawned on me that there are people who don’t watch the programme religiously like me.
In spite of the episode stating to the contrary, the person that understands the Doctor most this episode is undoubtedly Vastra, she sees the Doctors recent younger faces as what they where. A means for the Doctor to saunter through, being accepted. Even The Doctor himself in the face of John Hurt, assumed he was having some manner of mid-life crisis.
Throughout the “Veil” conversation, we actually get some character development for Clara, with the mystery of the impossible girl over, she can actually grow as a character and Jenna Coleman rises to the challenge. I hope that she continues to grow throughout the series.
The jokes at the expense of Peter Capadli’s age in this episode come thick and fast, all of them juxtaposed with his Doctor running around quite a lot. He climbs out a window, runs across some rooftops like Dick Van Dyke , falls through some trees ,lands on a horse and gallops off, all of which occurs within the first 20 minutes.
It is after this scene that the core of the episode starts to take place, the Dinosaur having just been incinerated by the villain of the episode, seen earlier taking a Londoner’s eyeball for his own. The Doctor is on the case.
Off we trot on a murder mystery. The episode jump back and forward between the gang with Clara, and the Doctor on his own, stealing a jacket from a tramp, who coincidentally was played by Brian Miller, husband of the late, great Elisabeth Sladen. This is one of my favourite scenes of the episode. We have the Doctor still “rebooting” his mind. He loses the word cold somewhere in the regeneration referring instead to “wet and bitey”. He seems suitably unhinged for the situation.
It’s really scenes like this and those in the killer restaurant that show a real comedic side to Capaldi’s Doctor very well, it’s a welcome sight given the overtly dark nature of the ad campaign.I was worried the humour would be lacking. Thankfully not at all. there’s some very silly moments in this episode, mostly featuring Strax and also within Madame Vastra’s apparent attraction to Clara. Take your clothes off indeed woman. Lizard, whatever.
After a good 40 minutes of running around and coincidence, that may not be coincidence at all given revelations later, The Doctor and Clara are together again to hash out their differences, they are confrontational and rude to each other. Both mocking each others hair and insisting that one had invited the other, via a cleverly (or egomaniacal-ly) placed advert. They never get to finish this argument as they find themselves surrounded by disguised robots, space age clockwork returns!
It is worth saying, right off the bat,it was very obvious who the villains where to the audience it’s only been a few years for us since we last seen them. I wonder if the Doctor’s forgetfulness is more to do with the 1100 years he has been travelling since,or his regeneration cycle playing havoc again.
In amongst the chaos of clockwork monsters and scathing remarks, there lie some truly wonderful moments. First off Capadli has a line, when asked what the spaceship was in reality ” an ancient spaceship buried for centuries” but “Functionally,a larder.” that just evokes Tom Baker. Only for a moment, but it’s there.
We see Clara tested/used by the Doctor to find out the robots plans. He has her intentionally trapped in which in which Clara, at first tries to escape before bargaining for her life with the Captain of the robots, before turning defiant in the face of her own fear. Clara stands firm knowing that even though he looks different, The Doctor always has her back.
Finally in all this panic and stress inducing scenes where people don’t breathe to trick the clockwork robots, we get the Doctor doing his thing. A great deal less disoriented than he was at the start of the episode, he is proud of his companion for finding a way to survive and get the information out of the enemy, as he lay in hid .
The Doctor does what he does best to villains, he taunts, he make’s himself look like the biggest person in the room. Which is somewhat deflated when he finds himself wrong about something. The Clockwork men, not unsurprisingly did not lure himself and Clara to the murder restaurant. It was someone else entirely.
The manner of the villains defeat, is one that will be mulled over until we get an answer, Did the Doctor murder? Did the Robot jump? There are always lots of questions in Doctor Who, always looking forward, except for one moment.
A shining little moment where the past called us. Matt Smith had one last moment to give us. The Eleventh Doctor calling Clara to help her accept the new face of her friend. The man, made me cry again, there’s no need to make me cry this much.
The call works and Clara finally “see’s” The Doctor within Capaldi’s face, they awkwardly hug and we move on for chips or coffee,or chips and coffee; perhaps just coffee. For us the audience we get a little more. The main robot villain awakes in a garden a Paradise as it is called by the other person present.
The Enigmatic Missy will no doubt be discussed throughout the next 12 weeks. Who is she? is that garden really heaven? is she friend or foe? Why does she call the Doctor her boyfriend? So very many questions. Theories for now have went from her being River Song using a different face, that garden does look a bit like the “Heaven” in the library, to her being the Rani. In all fairness every female guest star has been rumoured to be the Rani since the show started back.
My own theory, is that given that the BBC have called her Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere in promotional material, I wonder if there isn’t a place where all mechanical beings go upon death or deactivation, which would go some way to explain Cybermen once again at St Paul’s.
Onwards til next week, where we will travel Into the Dalek, what will we find, malevolent squid or cuddly octopus?