By Dave Bouressa
Last Saturday premiered Peter Capaldi in the role of the iconic Time Lord, and had "whovians" across the world on the edge of their seats, waiting to see the new Doctor. So, did Capaldi's Doctor hold up?
Well....no. At least not yet-and it had nothing to do with Capaldi. This episode was just overall not-fun. In fact, I would go as far to say it was unsettling and uncomfortable.
As per usual, the Doctor has just gone through a regeneration, and with it, some confusion and memory loss-however, this is different than any other regeneration before. The Doctor is going through an entirely new life cycle past his 13 regeneration limit-which is something 99% of Time Lords aren't able to do, so in a sense, he has been simultaneously reborn, yet he is much older than he should ever be. He is an old man now both physically and mentally, and this episode shows it.
The Doctor simply seemed like an old man with Alzheimer's disease, and Clara seemed understandably upset about it. He didn't know who anybody was, he was mixing up names, he was confused on why he had a scottish accent and why he had the face he did (given that Capaldi has shown up in a previous episode as a Roman nobleman), he was scared that he wasn't understanding anything, and it was actually kind of sad, like watching an old man who didn't even recognize his best friend. It was unsettling realistic and rather uncomfortable to watch him struggle through the most basic of things, while also trying to understand Clara's frustration to the point of tears. The man she had been with and literally jumped through all of time to save, and the 28-year-old-looking man she was beginning to love is suddenly in his late 50's and doesn't even know her name. Because of this, Clara seemed very short-tempered and frustrated, and although it was understandable given the circumstances, having the constant short-temper made it very difficult to sympathize with her.
The majority of the episode focused on Madam Vastra, Jenny, and Strax-all characters who I love and wanted to see more of, and this episode more than filled it to the point where I don't want to see them for quite some time. Having only spent some short time with the trio in previous episodes, fans wanted to see more of the Paternoster Gang to the point of suggesting they receive their own spin-off series, but after this episode, I am curious if fans are still interested, because spending so much time with them proved one thing-they are boring. There is nothing for them to do, and the majority of scenes with them drag on in boring gags or pointless exposition. They are all very interesting characters-we have a prehistoric lizard-woman from the age of the dinosaurs, her human female lover, and a psychotic war-loving potato-man, but the shtick gets old very fast. They are quite a comical trio in small doses, but when you spend an entire episode focused basically around them in the 1800's, the joke goes stale quite quickly. When they have something to do, they are the perfect amount of tough, love, and comic-relief, but when they have nothing to do and are forced in an episode, it is unbearable.
This episode is also the very first episode to (spoilers) feature an on-screen lesbian kiss. Although I have to commend Steven Moffat and the BBC for being brave enough to feature such a feat, the way it was done was poor and not subtle at all. I'm 100% for LGBT rights and presence in the media, but when you uncleverly write it in as a major plot point for no reason and then film it as a slow-motion close-up, it becomes overly tacky and clear that you're just trying to make a statement. This kiss has received much criticism, and I can understand why. As I stated above, I commend the cast and crew for making such a step, but there is a better way to do without turning it into the blatant message it was.
One of the definite highlights was the the brand new opening credits, with both a new, less bombastic arrangement of the theme song and an entirely new opening credits, which is based on a fan-made opening, made by animator Billy Hanshaw, who was hired on to help with the new credits. Check out the original concept video, followed by the final product.
This episode had alot of issues, but the majority of them stems strictly from the writing. The acting from all parties involved was great (minus a few over-the-top moments from Jenna Coleman), and Capaldi proved that he can step into this world and hold his own. Although the writing for his character in the episode was considerably awkward and uncomfortable, he began to come to his senses by the end and showed that he is up to the challenge. There is also a cameo that I dare not spoil, but it comforts the audience in telling that its ok to let of the ones we love, and to move on with this new man, because he is just as scared as we are. I'm not quite fully accepting of Capaldi's Doctor yet, but there is definitely potential there and within just a few episodes, I'm sure he will be right up there with all the other legends who have portrayed this character.
Catch Doctor Who Saturdays at 9pm on BBC and BBC America