Doctor Who’s The Doctor isn’t a medical doctor, but let’s follow that analogy for a moment. Imagine going to a doctor you really trust and feel comfortable with. He or she gets you through the tough times, maybe rejoices with you for the good and simply knows what to do every time you visit. You have a history with him or her. Now picture how you would feel if you had to change doctors to someone you’ve never met and can’t quite yet figure out how you feel about him or her. Your first meeting is a little awkward because you can only think about how you wish you had your good, ol’ reliable doctor back. You don’t know whether or not this new doctor will treat you well and live up to your idea of doctors, notions created because of your great experiences in the past. You need time to build trust with this new person.
In this sense, Doctor Who’s The Doctor is very similar to medical doctors.
It’s a tricky situation when one actor goes and another has to come and fill the void. When I first binged Doctor Who, I waited quite some time after I finished David Tennant’s run to begin Matt Smith’s journey as the lovable alien with two hearts. However, I instantly came to love Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor and was crushed when I heard he was leaving the show. I then had a year to fret over the show’s choice of Peter Capaldi, an established BBC actor.
Finally, on Aug. 23, the wait was over. Capaldi had his chance to prove why he was selected for the iconic role. For the most part, it was a decent episode of Doctor Who, but its irregular pacing lead to a less than optimal beginning for the 12th Doctor’s career.
Capaldi is the oldest actor to have played The Doctor since the 2005 reboot. He is 56 and for comparison, Smith was only 27 when he began on the show. And the writers know this was a popular subject of conversation among fans. Though I like to think true fans aren’t worried about how Capaldi won’t be their next pin-up on their wall, it was something that needed to be addressed. As the show does, it used its companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) as a fan surrogate to tackle this issue. Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) accuses Clara of being superficial that her “boyfriend” doesn’t have the same young and handsome face anymore, adding he only chose a young face to be accepted — an interesting commentary on the reboot as a whole. Standing up for herself, and thus for fans, Clara snaps “do not assume I am so easily distracted,” to which Jenny (Catrin Stewart) — and the fans at home — literally claps and cheers for her. The season premiere largely focused on this change because it is truly an adjustment to go from Smith’s youthful energy to Capaldi’s darker Doctor.
Smith briefly returned at the end of the episode to further this message of acceptance for the new Doctor. Go on these new adventures with him; help him; he needs you, Smith’s Doctor told Clara over the time-hopping phone. It is his stamp of approval that is meant to be the final proclamation to fans to move on and continue their crazy journey with the Doctor and not get caught up in his newly regenerated form. “You look at me, but you can’t see me,” Capaldi’s Doctor said. “I’m not on the phone. I’m right here. … Please just see me.”
Coleman proved her worth tenfold, and thus made it harder to know that she is possibly leaving the show soon. At one point, the Doctor leaves Clara trapped in the robot lair, putting her in one of the most intense moments of the episode. Coleman’s eyes said everything: betrayal, fear, loss, etc. It was truly a remarkable moment to watch.
The Paternoster Gang returned in all their glory! An episode with these three personalities is always sure to be an entertaining one, especially with Strax (Dan Starkey) never ceasing to miss the context and wrongly relying on his Sontaran warrior culture.
The episode finally addressed the mystery of how Clara got the Doctor’s phone number to call him in “The Bells of Saint John” and even connected it to the mystery in the episode of who posted the Impossible Girl advertisement. Hopefully, this will be a major arc for the season.
I feel this episode was the only one to acknowledge the psychological repercussions of regeneration. Regeneration changes everything about the Doctor. He should be having an identity crisis.
Though it is refreshing to see the Doctor handle his regeneration truthfully, it hurt the episode. Capaldi was active during the entire episode, but we didn’t see his true Doctor until the last moments. In Tennant’s first episode, “The Christmas Invasion,” his Doctor is bedridden, showing the physical effects of regeneration. The only time we see him perform is when he is already his Doctor. It was hard to get a solid feel of how Capaldi’s Doctor will be from just this episode because for so much of it, he didn’t even know. I’m sure we will come to know about his Doctor very soon, but the first episode should have done a better job at introducing who he will be during his run.
Because we didn’t know this Doctor yet, it was very jarring to see him abandon his companion as he did in the robot lair. When Tennant took over for Christopher Eccleston, his Doctor still instantaneously connected with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) because he had just spent a year with her. Capaldi’s Doctor shunned Clara in a way that was hurtful to the audience. The companion has always served as a surrogate for the audience and to see how Capaldi treated Clara was not how we want our new Doctor to treat an established character or us as fans. As viewers, we haven’t yet established trust with this new Doctor. It was poor judgment on the writers’ part.
At the end of the episode, the villain, apparently called the Half-Face Man, reaches his desired destination of “paradise” aka Heaven. He is lead by an unknown woman who goes on and on about her relationship with the Doctor, though she never openly names him. My only issue with this is why some woman is calling the Doctor her boyfriend when that woman is not River Song (Alex Kingston)?