Saturday 23rd August 2014.
Recasting The Doctor is one of TV’s most difficult jobs, the part is what will essentially make or break the career of sometimes unknown actors taking the lead. The first two regenerations of the revived Doctor Who series proved successful, with David Tennant becoming an almost instant favourite amongst fans while Matt Smith took Doctor Who to new heights and popularity worldwide. Peter Capaldi was the star of hit show The Thick Of It and also was an Academy Award winner for his short film Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life. August 2013 saw Peter Capaldi announced at the Twelfth Doctor and work begun on his first series. After a teaser of his striking eyes in ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ and his appearance at the end of ‘The Time Of The Doctor’ following the regeneration gave us only minimal information on our new lead. Starting a new set of regenerations, we begin Series 8 with a Doctor now going through Post-Regeneration. The Doctor has taken the face of that guy he met in Pompeii in Series four and Frobisher from Torchwood: Children Of Earth.
The episode opens with The Paternoster Gang (The Silurian warrior Madame Vastra, her human wife Jenny Flint and Sontaran butler Strax) in Victorian London. A dinosaur is in the middle of London and the gang have been called to investigate, this is where they discover the TARDIS and get their first look of the newly-regenerated Doctor as he struggles to get used to his new body and to remember his friends that are around him. The feature-length episode explores The Doctor as he has to deal with the stress of his body change and also getting into a mystery which is seeing people apparently spontaneously combusting and Clara struggles to see her Doctor in this new man. Conflict comes between the two as Clara doesn’t know the man he has become, she feels like a stranger in his eyes while The Doctor still doesn’t know himself. A scene in which The Doctor is looking at his face questioning how he got the face is one which many fans have wondered previously, a question that could be answered by Capaldi’s previous appearances in the show and the spin-off Torchwood.
Later in the episode we learn that the plans to rebuild a spaceship and *SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ONWARDS UNTIL THE END OF THE PARAGRAPH* involves a group of clockwork droids similar to those in ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’ who are looking to repair their ship the SS Marie Antoinette (sister ship to the Madame De Pompadour ship in the previously mentioned episode) and they are looking for body parts to get their ship working again. This results in a confrontation with the Half-Face man and The Doctor where they see that they are both changed from what they used to be, the droid is more android after attaching many human pieces to itself and The Doctor still fresh from his change. A fight between the two arguing about “The Promised Land”, the doctor tells the cyborg that there is no such thing and the clash results in The Doctor stopping the other droids from destroying more life and the lead droid he fights with taking its own life. Clara and the Doctor are then apart for a short time, but The Doctor then returns to get Clara and try to convince her that he is still the same Doctor. The top scene comes from a phone call Clara receives from her Doctor (Matt Smith) from Trenzalore as he asks her to look after him, that he is scared and will need time to adjust. Clara then accepts the new Doctor and the two begin their new journeys together. But it’s not over yet, as the lead droid from earlier is seen to be in a new place, a gardened area where he meets a lady called Missy who (played by a rather quirky Michelle Gomez, Miss Pickwell from Bad Education) seems to know The Doctor well and has been noted for making a future appearance later in the series.
Ok I left out a lot from this episode, but there is a lot to get through (and I think just the basic information will do, but you may have to watch the episode a couple of times to take it all in). Peter Capaldi has sold himself to me well, he is a different and intriguing Doctor who will no doubt cause as much trouble as he will solve. Jenna Coleman is still on top form as Clara, her shock at experiencing The Doctor change is gripping. Connections to the first appearance of the real Clara Oswald via the phone call she made to The Doctor in ‘The Bells Of Saint John’ where she got his number from a “woman in a shop” and in this episode when they seemingly find each other again via another bit of information provided to them in a newspaper. The episode is strong in that we don’t know what The Doctor is going to be like as he is still rather unstable and seems to be rather reluctant to help people around him, his personal interests is his number one priority and this looks as if Clara will be put in danger often. The unpredictable nature of The Doctor never changes and he does make sure he looks after the human race, but I am sure he will be a more complicating man with more sides still to be unveiled. Steven Moffat has written an episode which opens many questions and begins a new journey which looks to be intriguing, even if the episode doesn’t offer too much in terms of memorable moments, though the last ten minutes seals the episode with a “you have to watch” stamp for what’s to come! I think the episode is not as strong as Steven Moffat’s previous debut for a new doctor (‘The Eleventh Hour’, which is still one of the best episodes made). This is a more mature, battle-worn Doctor who isn’t going to go easy on anyone. Friend or foe! Be prepared for next week, The Doctor will get to fight with The Daleks already!
Final Rating: 8/10
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove