A young feisty, energetic, wisecracking Doctor (Matt Smith) replaced by a the older, slower, grumpier and sterner Peter Capaldi.
Will the world-wide audience accept this latest regeneration?
After almost 10 years of “New Who” aimed squarely at modern young audiences, how would they cope with an older doctor? Remember Peter Capaldi is as old as William Hartnell was on his debut back in 1963.
Obviously concerned about the transition, Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat held our hand throughout the season premiere, Deep Breath. At 75 minutes this feature length opener gave us plenty of time to explore the Doctor’s new persona.
And not only did he need to introduce number 12, Moffat wanted to change the pace and feel of the program. Gone are the short scenes, snappy dialogue, quick-fire humour and express storylines. Replaced by longer exposition, more talking, more characterisation and deeper introspection.
I used my son as a barometer for how people would accept the new doctor. He was very sceptical.
“I don’t want to watch this, ” he said. “I preferred Matt Smith. This guy is too old. He’s Scottish and I don’t understand what he says.”
In fact we almost had to chain our son to the sofa (not behind it.) to make sure he watched the first episode.
By the end however he was converted. He liked Peter Capaldi. He enjoyed the story. And he thought Peter Capaldi was a great replacement for Matt Smith.
Despite the age gap.
Steven Moffat pulled it off. How did he do it?
Firstly by surrounding the Doctor with familiar characters from previous years, most notably the Paternoster gang; Madam Vastra, wife and maid Jenny, and Sontaran Strax.
But main companion Clara was the key. She was the viewer. She was us. She was the one who reflected our thoughts.
Uncomfortable with the older Doctor. Pining for the “almost boyfriend” who regenerated last Christmas. The lines she spoke reflected the thoughts we were thinking.
“I don’t know who the Doctor is any more.”
By the end of the show, aided by a surprise cameo by Matt Smith phoning Clara from the past, she knew that Peter Capaldi was the Doctor. We’re now set up for a cracking series 8. If doubters across the world converted as quickly as my son, then Capaldi will be a successful doctor.
So what was he like?
Definitely older. Definitely more alien. Intolerant of humans. However he’s still funny and eccentric and, well, Doctory.
“Who invented this room?”
“Don’t look in the mirror. It’s furious.”
“The planet of the pudding brains.”
Here is anger and confusion. But most importantly Peter Capaldi stands out. He’s the focal point for every scene he’s in. He commands the screen. Almost to the extent that he overshadows all the rest of the cast including strong actors like Jenna Coleman and Neve McIntosh.
The scene in the alley-way with the tramp is impressive as the Doctor struggles to find his real identity. Once he’s settled into the role and we move to the plot including the clockwork androids led by the “Half-Face” man the show becomes tense and scary. In the restaurant where they realise the other diners aren’t in fact eating and are in fact robots is particularly frightening and well-directed.
Capaldi plays the Doctor as a cross between Colin Baker and Christopher Eccleston. He is definitely has a harder edge. Dismissive of human beings. Not as compassionate as Tenant or Smith.
Any niggles. Some of the scenes with the Paternoster Gang were superfluous. And why was Clara struggling so much with a new older Doctor when she immediately empathised with the War Doctor in the 50th anniversary show?
That aside Moffat has successfully rebooted Doctor Who yet again.
They showed Deep Breath in cinemas across the world. Ben Wheatley’s direction fits the big screen. From the dinosaur at the start, to the Doctor racing across Victorian London on horseback, to the last did the “Half-Face” man jump or did the Doctor push him conundrum, Doctor Who is back refreshed, more adult, and feeling much more like “Classic Who” rather than “New Who”.
Now it’s your turn:
Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who Deep Breath? What did you think of Capaldi? Please leave a comment or post a link to your blog.