Doctor Who series 8, Deep Breath, review: Peter Capaldi is hilarious and brilliant even if he does stray into Tucker territory

Meet the twelfth Doctor: He flirts with dinosaurs, argues with tramps and has eyebrow anxiety – oh, and he doesn’t like mimes or karaoke. Capaldi firmly takes hold of the Time Lord reins and doesn’t let go in this fun adventure.

Brash, furious and very, very Scottish, Peter Capaldi’s twelfth Doctor burst out of the Tardis and onto our screens tonight in his first proper outing as the Time Lord.

Within the first five minutes he was shushing the Paternoster Gang, flirting with a dinosaur, and confusing Clara with Strax, all before keeling over due to post-regeneration fatigue. Cue questionable new title credits and revamped theme tune. It was a memorable introduction for the new Time Lord.

Capaldi’s incarnation is hilarious from the off and throws some great one-liners courtesy of Steven Moffat. He is very much removed from Matt Smith’s clumsier and sillier Doctor, yet he keeps the acting physical and can do the slapstick moves when required.

At times his irritation sends him into Malcolm Tucker territory: “I’m not just being rhetorical here - you can join in!” he yells as he admonishes a terrified homeless man, or berates his friends “you all sound English!” But the spectre of the Whitehall spin doctor is likely to always linger somewhere in the background.

 

The Doctor wasn’t the only one getting shirty though, Clara revealed that she too has a temper. The standoff with Madame Vastra moved Clara on from the passive observer, who makes doe-eyes at the Time Lord and flirts with him, to a legitimately strong and self-assured companion.

Moffat and Capaldi have said that there will be no flirting or “Papa-Nicole” scenarios and it's blessed relief because Clara’s attraction to the Doctor was tedious and detracted from any merits she might have. Perhaps now Clara can truly develop and grow?

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It also gives Jenna Coleman a chance to show a more feisty side to her character. Make no mistake, Coleman is a very capable actress, with roles in everything from Death Comes at Pemberley and Dancing on the Edge to Julian Fellowes’ Titanic, but unfortunately Clara has proved to be restricting.  

Video: Doctor Who world tour

‘Deep Breath’ is fun enough but is unlikely to become an instant classic in the same way as Smith’s introduction in ‘The Eleventh Hour’. Ben Wheatley’s superb direction keeps things creepy and adult. The special effects and cinematography are dazzling.

Meanwhile Moffat’s script is suitably darker and more mature to match the new Doctor, yet the Time Lord's dialogue is side-splittingly funny to balance the darkness. Within the story he even addresses everything from Scottish independence, the Doctor's age and Clara's relationship with the previous incarnation, which is an impressive feat in itself.

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Of course, this story was never really about a (female) dinosaur in the Thames or even the Clockwork Droids, who we last saw in 2006's 'The Girl in the Fireplace', ‘Deep Breath’ is primarily here to usher the show into Capaldi’s era.  

The surprise appearance by Smith helped to bridge the transition between the eleventh and twelfth Doctors. In case viewers were still uncertain about this new, silver-haired Scottish man with bushy eyebrows, the call between the old Doctor and Clara seals the deal.

The only question left is: what does the Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere want with the Doctor?

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