‘Doctor Who’ Season 8 Premiere Review – Capaldi: 1, Writers: 0

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doctor who season 8 premiere peter capaldi Doctor Who Season 8 Premiere Review   Capaldi: 1, Writers: 0

With the Battle of Trenzalore behind him, the Doctor has shed his Matt Smith form, and now longtime Scottish actor Peter Capaldi steps in to provide a new face for television’s favorite dual-hearted hero. In the Doctor Who Season 8 premiere, Capaldi brilliantly shoots for the stars in his first full performance, while a disjointed story serves to almost completely undermine it.

“Deep Breath”, written by the one and only Steven Moffat, is much less a premiere and more of a mashup adventure of sorts, in which a series of odd events are loosely connected to a generic nemesis that, in the end, doesn’t really matter. This is obviously not ideal; however, it’s used to blend the story into the background, allowing for a heavy injection of character development throughout.

Although terrific character development does occur, one must be watching intently for those moments which lay outside of the Clockwork Repair Droid, black market organ-harvesting storyline taking place – as it’s within those too few moments that both Clara and the new Doctor shine, and the feeling of uncertainty in the show’s future melts into a familiar feeling of excitement.

Capaldi is grey, yes, and his heavy Scottish accent can, at times, be a bit of a challenge when mixed with some of the series’ quirky dialogue. And in the premiere, it’s hard not to argue that he’s attempting a poor Matt Smith impersonation. Fortunately, many of Capaldi’s awkward affectations can be attributed to the fact that he is attempting to emulate his predecessor, and his voice simply doesn’t match up with what he’s trying to communicate. All other concerns can be attributed to the story, or having to talk to a T-rex while figuring out his purpose in life.

doctor who season 8 vastra 570x294 Doctor Who Season 8 Premiere Review   Capaldi: 1, Writers: 0

Madam Vastra (Neve McIntosh) helps kick off the new Doctor’s character arc by explaining that youth, for the Doctor, is a way for him to be accepted. Nevertheless, the Doctor has thrown away his youth for a reason, and much of the episode is spent trying to figure out why. What happens when the Doctor stops trying to be accepted? As he says, “he’s not our boyfriend.”

The Doctor is confused and afraid, and his new form is a sign that he once again needs to change his intentions. He’s holding on to his previous form, reluctantly following the lead of his new self, whenever and wherever it takes him. He’s facing similar challenges, but is now coming out with very different outcomes, and a much higher body count.

If the suggestion that the Doctor has been lying about the true nature of his programming is to be believed, then there are many exciting tales that can be told along the way – should he choose to continue ‘breaking bad.’

doctor who season 8 clara 570x294 Doctor Who Season 8 Premiere Review   Capaldi: 1, Writers: 0

Doctor transitions are never easy, and this particular shift might be a bit more difficult than ones in the recent past. But if viewers keep in mind that Capaldi is a BAFTA Award-winning actor who is making specific choices in this role, it is much easier to trust that the more problematic elements viewers will notice could actually be done for a purpose; a purpose that’s being overlooked… due to the large number of human skin hot air balloons in this episode.

In season 8, Doctor Who is well beyond the veil of safety in its position as a fan-favorite show. But just like others, it must still earn its spot on the air. After all, Doctor Who was cancelled before. At 8 years old, the modern Doctor and all his many adventures must still compete with what else is available to TV audiences, and although there will always be room for such a fan-favorite on the air, the quality of the series must match the enthusiasm of its many fans – not become dependent upon it.

The Doctor Who Season 8 premiere’s dependence on character development may prevent it from being one of the best introduction fans will have seen, but there are more than enough fun moments – not to mention a surprise phone call – to at least keep fans interested enough to tune in to next week’s episode with the Daleks. With a new Doctor, we’d say that’s a win.

Doctor Who returns next Saturday with “Into the Dalek” @8pm on BBC America. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below:

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  1. I loved Doctor Who again because of Matt Smith. I dont know about Capaldi he may grow on me but my wife for one wont watch DH anymore. I dont know where people are coming from I still would vote Matt smith best DH ever!!!

    • It’s a shame your wife won’t give Capaldi a few more episodes at least (I mean, it took me 3 episodes to decide that Matt Smith was the worst, most annoying Doctor I’d had the misfortune of watching before switching off until his final two episodes last November and December).

      Hopefully, you can persuade her to give him another couple of hours because one 80 minute episode (which was admittedly fairly dull) isn’t enough to judge him just yet.

  2. There’s a trend on the Internet: post a positive review, you get positive comments, post a negative, and people pile on. Well I’m not playing by those rules. Deep Breath is the best Doctor intro episode to date. Moffat’s script was perfect because it developed the companions (and I meant the plural) while introducing us to the new Doctor. And this was a Doctor in the “thick of it” (can’t resist) from the start, not like Tennant who spent most of his debut episode sleeping. This is the type of episodes diehard fans have been wanting to see for awhile. I personally liked past arcs (funnily enough DW fandom is the only fandom that DOESN’T want long-form story arcs, for some reason) and I twigged to at least 3 new ones in this episode. Capaldi made a barnstorming first impression and it’s made even better when you know (as many critics and fans don’t) that the season is being filmed in broadcast order for the first time since Colin Baker’s time I think. Which means of course Capaldi doesn’t have a full grip of the character yet, and this is a good thing. He’s learning as we’re learning. It’s the closest thing to a “Real time” season as we’re going to get.

  3. have had a peek at the first 4 episodes of season 8 so far. peter is growing on me, but as the doctor he is way more cerebral than his predecessors. it will require a bit more of an attention span to sit through episodes 2 to 4, but viewers will not be disappointed in the long run.there is a reason why he did this to himself, but I’ll let the details wait for viewers to see for themselves.keep watching. there are so few good TV shows out there. DH needs continued from it’s fan base to stay on the air. keep the faith.

  4. Here’s my theory on the Doctor’s current incarnation. Warning, major spoilers for Nu-Who. The tone of ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ fits with the lingering question in series 8; “am I a good man?” The Doctor knew that Pompeii was going to be destroyed, it’s a fixed point in time and therefore cannot be changed; however, he finds out that by staying and stopping the alien threat, he’s the one that destroys Pompeii and that he has no choice but to in order to save the world. “That’s the choice, Donna. It’s Pompeii or the world.” Although he leaves a wake of death behind him, it’s for the greater good. But despite the destruction, he saves Caecilius and his family. I believe this is why he regenerated with Caecilius’ face, even though he may not remember it, every time he looks in the mirror it’s proof that he is indeed a good man. Just a theory.

  5. WELL MAYBE I SHOULD JUST WRITE FOR DOCTOR WHO AND NOT ALSO THE SHERLOCK HOLMES SERIES WITH BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH. THIS WRITING SCHEDULE IS JUST FOR THE BIRDS OR SHOULD I SAY DALEKS HAHAHA.
    I MEAN FROM THE STORY I WROTE WITH DAVID TENNANT AS THE DOCTOR-THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE. WHERE THE DOCTOR SAVES MADAME POMPADOUR TIME AFTER TIME AND THEN I SWITCH THE STORY LINE WITH MATT SMITH AND CLARA OSWALD SO THE GIRL NOW SAVES THE DOCTOR ALL THE TIME.
    AND HOW I SIDE-STEPPED EXPLAINING HOW SHERLOCK SURVIVED JUMPING OFF THE BUILDING.
    JUST CANT FIND THE TIME TO WRITE FOR TWO SUCCESSFUL SHOWS.
    MY LASTEST IS THAT WITH THE SEASON OPENER OF THE DOCTOR. I MAY HAVE EMBELLISHED AGAIN ON MY STORY LINE-THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE. BUT HEY I DID HAVE THE SENSE TO MENTION IT IN THE STORY THIS TIME.(IF ONLY FOR YOU TO REMEMBER DAVE)
    IF ANYONE CAN HELP ME WITH THIS WRITING DILEMMA PLEASE SAVE ME FROM MYSELF.

  6. I find myself liking Peter Capaldi in the role of The Doctor. I also liked this introductory episode. It seems to me that the “reset” Eleven received from the other Timelords in his final episode was mostly the cause of Twelve’s confusion.

    It was, of course, rather heartwrenching to see Matt on the screen again. I have to say, though, that it was equally heartbreaking when Twelve was saying to Clara that he’s standing right in front of her, but she’s not seeing him; and is she going to help him?

    I look forward to seeing the rest of the new season’s episodes and seeing how the Doctor grows into his new self’s personality. (Hopefully the writers don’t screw it up)

  7. I don’t have much patience for people who whinge and kvetch about liking this Doctor but hating that Doctor, as if they are not the same character. I like the Doctor in whatever form he’s in because of what he is, a larger than life yet not quite supernatural savior of the world. He’s a mythological character but without the pompous ancient religious overlays. His different forms started as a way to cast a new Doctor without having to cast a similar looking actor. But this has morphed into a lesson about the Doctor as a character: his form is not his function. The Doctor’s form is changeable, but underneath, it’s always the Doctor, the one who identifies so much with humans that he is always drawn to our seemingly unimportant world and risking his life (which over the years has been clearly revealed to be mortal) to save us, but always trying to avoid saving us by destroying someone else.

    That is the eternal mythological theme of the Doctor and that is what keeps me coming back to see what new way the writers can weave the same basic elements. The Doctor’s form changes (and the actor who plays him), the companions change, even the Tardis changes, but the Doctor stays the same. Sometimes he’s in the present, sometimes the past or the future, but it always links back to us humans. The menaces he deals with may appear various: sometimes Daleks, sometimes Cybermen, sometimes clockwork automatons, sometimes the Silence or the Weeping Angels, but think about it a little and you will see these are all mythological analogs for aspects of human nature which repeatedly lead us to our own desperate pickles, individually or collectively. The Doctor is the doctor who has the prescription for these ills, if we can see it past the window dressings of set, actors, special effects, gadgets, and dialogue.

    So my comment is to just watch the show and enjoy the ride and know that your perspective on what it means to be human has been enriched in ways you may not immediately notice. That’s what classic storytelling is supposed to do, keep us amused and amazed enough to come back for more, but at the same time teaching us something important as well. If you want a truly classic example of this, watch my favorite DH episode, The Rings of Akhaten, where the Doctor (Matt Smith) and his companion (Clara) save a different world from a God who is really just a vampire sucking the life out of those who worship him, defeated by the power of the stories implicit in each new person. Watch any other episode and you’ll see similar virtues to admire in the Doctor, whether played by Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, or (one can only hope) Cappaldi.

    • Finally someone who truly gets the show! Well said!