I first started watching Doctor Who completely by accident. Back in 2005, I knew it was being revived – mostly through a big billboard in my town centre – but I had no actual plans to watch it. On the evening when it was broadcast, I just happened to be flipping through channels, and came onto BBC One just at the point where the Ninth Doctor is giving his “I can feel it, the turn of the Earth” monologue. I thought “Hey, this actually looks pretty good” and carried on watching.
I’ve been a devoted viewer ever since; I don’t tend to watch that much TV, but Doctor Who is one of the shows that I get really passionate about. More recently, I’ve tried to catch up on the classic series, and have so far seen a bit of every Doctor except the Second and the Sixth.
Just to get it on paper:
Favourite Doctor: David Tennant
Favourite classic Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Favourite companion: Donna Noble
Favourite classic companion: Ace
Favourite stories: “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances”, “Blink”, “Vincent and the Doctor”, “The Doctor’s Wife”, “The Day of the Doctor”
So, after positively jumping up and down with excitement through most of Saturday waiting for the new series to start, how was it? (Warning: spoilers.)
* The title sequence itself is fine, but I don’t like the wailing quality of the new music. And I hope later episodes give us more than half a second to read the episode title.
* I remember taking a little while to get used to Matt Smith (maybe just because I loved David Tennant so much) but Peter Capaldi hits the bullseye right from the word go, just from that moment where he’s peering suspiciously through the TARDIS door at Strax. I love watching his progression through the episode, from initial post-regeneration instability to gradually reaching a more stable state. The Twelfth’s new, unique character is pretty clear by the end; but at the same time, you can definitely see traces of the man he was throughout – his mannerisms occasionally brought Tom Baker to mind, and he also seemed to be channelling David Tennant at one point in the scene with the homeless man. With brilliant comedic and serious moments, this new Doctor looks set to be a good watch.
* I had a hard time getting a handle on Clara here – some of the things she said felt rather out of character, like when she gets angry in her veil discussion with Vastra and doesn’t make much sense. I suppose the stressful situation she finds herself in here brings out some new layers of her personality. Although I really like Clara, I’ll admit that in her previous appearances, she didn’t have quite as much of a distinct personality as some other companions – perhaps Moffat was taking the opportunity to work on that.
* Vastra, Jenny and Strax – well, it’s hard to go wrong with them. Still fantastic.
* Rather gutted that we had to lose the T Rex, and did wish it could have been used for a bit longer.
* The serious atmosphere and complexity we’ve come to expect from Steven Moffat’s stories is still there. It certainly feels very different from The Christmas Invasion, the last time we saw the Doctor regenerate with a companion still around to deal with it; the current story feels less straight forward and more multi-layered than that one, particularly with regard to the companion’s feelings. And it looks like Moffat is introducing a new ongoing plot thread too with this Missy woman: I hope it’s easier to follow than the last ones.
* The robots are among the creepiest monsters I’ve seen on Doctor Who for a while, particularly that first restaurant scene once we actually see them just moving back and forth without moving or talking.
* While the opening sequence is very funny, it seemed to go on too long, and that’s a running problem with the episode: it really didn’t need to be that long and often feels quite stretched, especially as the story itself isn’t especially exciting. There were some times – like when Strax is doing a medical examination of Clara – that I thought, “What’s the point of this, except for comedy?” On the other hand, the running length did give more time to develop the Doctor and Clara post-regeneration, which was satisfying.
* Definitely didn’t see that little sequence with Matt Smith coming. It almost feels like a breach of etiquette to have the previous Doctor make an actual appearance immediately following regeneration, but I still liked it, and it felt like a good way to bring Clara round.
So this episode was a little like Guardians of the Galaxy: great characters in a not-quite-as-great story. Still, I’m feeling in very safe hands with Peter Capaldi, and looking forward to the rest of the season. Rating: 3.5/5.