The following is a major edit of the original blog, for good reason: I happened to see a pre-release of the third episode of season 8 Doctor Who and thought it was the first episode... so was under incorrect assumption when I originally wrote the piece.
Since then I have seen episode 1 when it was released to the public, which has presented a different look at the series itself but didn't really change my opinion of episode 3 at all. However it has changed my opinion of the potential of the new Doctor... so onward.
(See comments for running discussion of the series.)
DOCTOR WHO, SEASON 8, EPISODE 1: DEEP BREATH
After a rather long wait we have seen the new Doctor... and it was acceptable (even enjoyable). I watched the show twice, two days in a row, the first time by myself and the second time with a friend. I actually enjoyed it better the second time as I was able to pick up on a lot more of the subtle points. Also probably because I wasn't expecting anything or surprised by anything, so I had more time to just sit and enjoy.
Deep Breath is exactly that... a moment to take a pause between the Matt Smith Doctor #11 and the Peter Capaldi Doctor #12. (No, there aren't 13 Doctors, as we were clearly told William Hurt was #8 1/2. So there. Okay... there were 13 Doctors. But it's that timey wimey thing...)
This first episode was an hour and 16 minutes long (or so), which resulted in mixed feelings. On the one hand at times the show seemed to drag out and there were some unnecessary bits to it (such as the totally non-essential and lengthy carriage and horse ride to the... well... spoilers). But on the other hand it gave them plenty of time to include all the detail and good parts they wanted to include without feeling rushed to do so.
CAPALDI AS THE DOCTOR
Unlike the previous doctors, Capaldi is a "mystery"... which means (for me at least) he wasn't instantly likeable. I say this because I became a Doctor Who "fan" with the very first 2005 episode starring Christopher Eccleston, and I loved him as the Doctor (to this day he's still my favorite). The same held true for David Tennant and Matt Smith; I enjoyed both of them with their first episode.
Capaldi on the other hand presents a new Doctor. On the one hand he had opportunity for some comic moments which reflected the performances of Tennant and Smith-- but somewhat unbelievably. That's not unusual with a newly regenerated Doctor though; the character is meant to feel incoherent. But Capaldi also brings a "darkness" to the role which is quite intentional. It will be interesting to see how that continues in episode two. (NOTE: having seen the abysmal episode 3 already, I can state with confidence they do not maintain that darkness for very long, but that's covered in the second part of this blog).
CLARA IS ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT
"The Impossible Girl" returns in the form of Clara Oswald and Jenna Coleman is brilliant in the part. A great deal of that is due to her quality acting... but also greatly due to excellent scripting of the character. She is given some terrific lines in this episode. Her "logic debate" with one of the featured fiends in the episode is flawless and quite believable-- and puts one in awe of Clara. No wimp here, no brainless floozy, Clara Ozwald is fully capable of holding her own ground.
One thing this entry presents (and which was pointed out in the post-review) is the echo Clara provides of the fans themselves. How do we feel about this "new doctor"? Is he the same Doctor with a new face... or has he been replaced and the Doctor we loved gone forever? The hesitation and confusion of Clara very much mirrors that of the fans, who are wondering if Capaldi is going to present "as good" a Doctor as the previous three. Are we going to like him? Will he be believable in the role? There have been Doctors in the past that the fans didn't like all that well (as Balpien testifies in a comment below). What kind of Doctor will Capaldi prove to be?
Clara's failure to immediately accept the regenerated Doctor lays those questions right out in front of us. The resolution of the episode was excellent and over all, the entire episode well worth re-watching. While the character of the "new Who" is not yet fleshed out well enough for us to readily embrace him, the series continues to hold true to itself through the first episode. While Capaldi may be new, this is the same show. So what will follow?
DOCTOR WHO, SEASON 8, EPISODE 3
I've just had the enjoyment experience of watching a black-and-white pre-screening of the third episode of Doctor Who season 8. I have not yet seen episode 2 as of this writing, and very much hate to write a negative review of a show which I have greatly enjoyed since its rebirth in 2005. But the writers and directors really need to change lanes and quickly if the fanbase is going to accept Capaldi as our favorite Doctor. Episode 3 is simply horrid.
Note: there will be no spoilers in this review, so no need to worry. I plan to discuss the show and characters, not the plot. I'm also going to keep this relatively short, so you may breathe more easily.
ARROGANT, PRETENTIOUS, CHILDISH, ARGUMENTATIVE...
Does that sound at all like The Doctor? Agreed, he has been all of these things at varied times in the past, but not all of them at once and not all the way through every scene of the episode. Capaldi seemed to have great potential in this role-- if he were playing a more "serious" Doctor who knew something about what he was doing as was the case with episode 1. Such might even be a refreshing difference from the past three Doctors. Although I loved the actors and their roles, I'm up for something a little new-- a Doctor a bit more dark, a touch more alien, a bit more commanding and capable. In such role Capaldi would probably shine.
But in the role of a clown who bickers, takes no delight in his surroundings, is highly incompetent and cobbles around like Inspector Clouseau... the new actor's potential is lost in episode 3 and the character winds up being immensely unlikeable.
CLARA SAVES THE DAY
The saving grace of the show is Clara, played by Jenna Coleman. After the great charm of Rose Tyler, Amy Pond and River Song, Clara "The Impossible Girl" brings equal brightness to the show. Like the companions mentioned, Clara is no wimp constantly falling on the Doctor to save the day. She is capable, competent, determined and is excellent in this role. She could probably carry a show of her own; her acting abilities and screen presence takes center stage. As such she is thus far the saving grace of this show, frankly the only part of the first episode 3 found worth watching.
Episode 1 was quite acceptable-- the typical mixed feelings of a regeneration, new Doctor and confusion that becomes somewhat resolved by the end of the episode. But episode 3 totally reverses and spoils the entire concept and accomplishment of the first episode and makes us wonder "What were they thinking when they wrote this... nay... when they directed and released it?" If this show is going to succeed, if they're going to maintain their American fanbase (or even the British one for that matter), they're going to need to change directions and make the Doctor a bit more mature, quite a bit more competent, a bit wiser. That's what we want, that's what the fans are expecting, and that's what they will demand. Any more of the current schlock and folks will likely be turning their sets to reruns of Firefly.
* Actually, I found Eccleston's portrayal very enjoyable and was most disappointed he left after only one season. As much as I enjoyed Tennant's and Smith's Doctors... for me Eccleston created "the perfect Doctor"... that mixture of sheer joy of life mixed with repressed grief. Not old, not young, capable of both humor and judgment, the leather-jacket Doctor was just serious enough and happy enough to make the character totally believable... and is what made me a fan of the show. Both Tennant and Smith carried that on admirably and created their roles very well, but everyone has their "favorite Doctor", yes? And their Favorite "Who Girl". Rose. Ah Rose. How the great have fallen (seriously... a hooker?). And now I hear that Clara is leaving the show just as we were starting to really warm up to her character. Tch.
At least we had River Song, who I didn't like at first but then who captivated me both with her acting prowess and fascinating character development. And with Amy-- the Girl Who Waited... and Rory-- the loyal Last Centurion (or alternately... the guy who died, a lot...), What a season!