This will be a new thing I will be doing. Each week I will take a look at an episode from the current season of Dr Who. But to avoid spoiling it for everyone I will put a one week delay on it. So this week I will give you my thoughts and ideas on episode 1 of the new season. Following episode three and going forward I will also make a quick spoiler free review of that week’s episode.
Now let me start this off by saying that I am in no way a Whoivan. While I have seen the entire new run and the odd old series episode here and there, I do not go in to this as a fan of the series. More like a casual observer. That being said I will not act ignorant or ignore things for the sake of playing the novice. I am the kind of person that tend to look things up if they puzzle me. And with such a complex and downright confusing canon as Dr Who… Some amount of wiki-browsing and web searching is needed.
So first off. The big thing… The era of young dashing hunky doctors are over. It is time for a new doctor and he is old and grumpy. And no offence to Mr Capaldi but maybe the make-up department did a tad too good of a job because you look like the show’s opening character stepped on you. She by the way is a T-Rex… In London… That is choking on the TARDIS. I am not sure I was all that pulled in by the opening sequence. It was literally all over the place and Capaldi was chewing the scenery like they had not feed him since Matt Smiths doctor regenerated. We also meet the Who universe´s very own Batman… If batman was a Victorian era lady… and a humanoid lizard. Yes Vastra is back and with her the usual team of Jenny Flint and Strax. Last but not least we also have Clara.
So the stage is set and the story of the episode goes as follows.
The Doctor was using the TARDIS while regenerating and it went about as well as expected, they got eaten by a dinosaur and accidently pulled it with them as they did the timey-wimey stuff. And they ended up in London where they meet up with the dynamic trio. But the Doctor has yet to “re-boot” and Capaldi does his best to top any previous delirious doctor. But as usual mystery happens and a poor bloke get his eyes stolen by a mysterious clockwork man.
Then the T-Rex combusts... The game is afoot. Some twists and turns and the Doctor and Clara end up in a very depressing diner that is in fact a front for the clockwork men. They are harvesting organs to replace their worn out parts and have been doing so for a very long time. The plan is for them to repair their ship and get to their paradise. The Doctor and Clara get captured but fortunatley the cavalry is not far behind.
The Doctor gets his grim moment and the poor Clockwork leader falls to his death but thanks to the dialogue it is unclear if the Doctor pushed him or if he jumped. He wakes up in a lush garden with a mysterious woman who claims to be the Doctors girlfriend.
The game is afoot indeed.
So the big theme of this episode in my mind is doubt and acceptance. With Clara and Jenny being the primary “actors” who have to come face to face with different truths. Clara of course have the biggest hurdle to overcome as she watches the new Doctor who at a glance does not resemble the man she knew and loved. This is of course not helped by the delirious state that the newly regenerated Doctor is in. While some might call it a bit shallow to react like she does, putting so much value in the outer appearance it is worth to remember that this is not a new haircut and wardrobe. This is in fact a new personality, a new person even. This person just happen to have the memories of the old one. So I find it fairly natural that she is put off and very unsure of how she will deal with this situation. The Doctor on the other hand have to accept that the relationship he had just a short while ago is forever changed. And while he has more experience with this sort of thing it does feel like he is genuinely hurt by the chasm his new body have opened between them. But by the end of the episode thanks to deus ex Matt smith Clara finds a way to at least see the new Doctor as a friend and companion.
Jenny on the other hand have to battle with doubts of if her workaholic wife has any place for her in the day to day life of being London’s own Batman, but when push comes to show she finds herself ready to fight and die for Vastra. While this is done a bit ham-fisted they work a good amount of character development in to the timeframe of a single episode and I assume it is a conflict that will be touched upon again in later episodes. Vastra on the other hand I like to say realizes that she have been taking Jenny for granted but I am not entirely sure, she seems more curious about Clara and the Doctor then her own household. Finally the theme is reflected in the monster of the week, the clockwork repair drone that the Doctor and Clara faces. Who is in the end defeated by his own doubts, planted by the Doctor and perhaps his acceptance that here is no great beyond that awaits him.
I hate Strax… There is no creativity in his writing… Not even by the standards of comic relief.
This episode like so many is peppered with nods and eastereggs to previous seasons. The biggest and most overt of course being that the drones are of the same type as the ones in “the girl in the fireplace” and as such make a nice connection to a fairly emotional episode and a personal favorite.
So for an opening episode I am a bit split. On one hand I like the new doctor once he calmed down and had his “re-boot”, going to be interesting to see what Capaldi does with the part. At the same time the first third of the episode was channel flipping worthy and heaven forbid that you are a new viewer as they would have been confused as all come fuck. Yes I know this is season eight and that every episode is someone’s first but a bit more effort to welcome new viewers could have been made. Also would it have hurt to push the reveal of Missy aka the woman in the garden (should we read this as an Eve euphemism) another episode or two… Just saying.
Also I am not entirely sold on the new intro and theme.