Doctor Who series 8, episode 1 review: Peter Capaldi’s Doctor may just be the best yet
The plot is not really the point - it’s to get to know Doctor No.12
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Thursday 07 August 2014
Tonight, in a not particularly Tardis-like screen at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank, members of the press, expert Whovians and lucky competition-winners gathered for a preview screening. This first episode of Doctor Who’s eighth season is titled “Deep Breath” – appropriate, given the heart-stopping anticipation it has generated in the 12 months since Peter Capaldi was announced as the new Doctor.
There have been lengthy debates about the 56-year-old Glaswegian actor’s suitability for the role. Forums and Twitter feeds have been clogged with speculation on production details and there was even a mysterious scandal in July, when scripts and footage were leaked online.
And exhale: thankfully, this new episode fully justifies the patience of those #keepmespoilerfree fans, determined to wait it out for the Steven Moffat-approved version. It is a perfectly paced, hugely enjoyable 80 minutes of everything you want from Doctor Who – action, silly jokes and enthralling sci-fi.
The Victorian-London setting also meant time pleasantly spent in the company of everyone’s favourite intergalactic same-sex couple, the lizard-faced Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and her human wife Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart).
To give away more than that would involve spoilers and be unfair to the Doctor’s devotees. As you read this, Capaldi and his co-star Jenna Coleman will be jetting off to the next stop on the five-continent, 12-day screening tour, but most fans in the world will have to wait until 23 August, when BBC 1’s official first broadcast takes place.
In any case, plot is not really the point of “Deep Breath”. We have celebrated the Doctor’s legacy in the 50th anniversary episode “The Day of The Doctor”, and said our teary goodbyes to eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, in the Christmas special. Now is the time to really get to know No 12.
So what’s he like, then? Everyone has their favourite Doctor and my hunch is that Capaldi will one day be viewed as the connoisseur’s choice. He is mercurial, of course – that’s in a Time Lord’s DNA – but also fierce, snappily dressed and patriotically Scottish.
As is only age-appropriate, the Doctor’s relationship with companion Clara (Coleman) had a very different dynamic to the will-they-won’t-they tension of last series. These are two clashing personalities with the very real potential to get up each other’s noses; romance is very definitely not on the cards. You do fancy, however, that this more thoughtful incarnation would get on famously with Moffat’s other great creation, Sherlock, should they ever meet in some alternate fan-fiction universe (internet, make this happen, please). Fans of The Thick Of It will also be glad to know the Malcolm Tucker death-stare hasn’t been retired just yet; it’s merely been ‘regenerated’.
Capaldi isn’t the only exciting new addition to the Doctor Who team. This episode is one of two in the new series directed by Ben Wheatley, the British director of such witty, weird and woozily violent films as Kill List, Sightseers and A Field In England.
Wheatley’s grown-up CV, combined with a Doctor who is pushing 60 has led some to worry whether Britain’s longest running sci-fi can still fulfil its family-entertainment remit. The plot contains a sharp lesson on ageist assumptions – just because the Doctor has gone grey, doesn’t mean he has lost his youth appeal.
It is one of the scarier episodes of the series, but the dark mood Wheatley creates makes the Doctor’s dark side all the more plausible. “Am I a good man?” he asked Clara in a recently released trailer. ‘Deep Breath’ ties up many a loose end, but that question remains thrillingly unanswered.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre