The Doctor and Clara land in Victorian London, bringing a dinosaur with them. Still suffering the after-effects of his recent regeneration, the Doctor seems harsher, more severe, and… Scottish. Clara is bewildered and wary of the Doctor’s new persona. Then the dinosaur spontaneously explodes, and it seems this is only the latest in a series of spontaneous combustions. People have been mysteriously exploding for a while, and an explanation eludes the local law enforcement. The Doctor and Clara, along with the Paternoster Gang (Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax) take the case, but with an erratic and curmudgeonly Doctor on their hands, things are not going to go smoothly for his friends.
SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!
Show-runner Steven Moffat promised us an explosive start to the Twelfth Doctor’s era, and he certainly delivered on that. By Mr. Moffat’s standards the story was a bit light-weight, and he even re-used monsters from one of his previous stories (see “The Girl in the Fireplace” from Season 2). But the main purpose of this episode was to introduce the new Doctor, so I think we can overlook shortcomings in the plot. Capaldi was magnificent and totally owned the role from the first moment he stuck his head out of the TARDIS and told Strax to “Shush!” And I like the direction we’re going with him. He is not Clara’s boyfriend, and, indeed, seemed to have difficulty distinguishing her from a Sontaran. They are about the same height, after all! This new Doctor walks with confidence and treats the “pudding brained” inhabitants of Earth with a bit of aloofness. It’s as if he suddenly remembered he’s from Gallifrey, and while he walks among us, he’s not one of us. Some fans might be a little uncomfortable with that, but I think it’s about time the Doctor operated on his own agenda instead of being manipulated by his companions.
The only down-side to the story (IMO) was that it overplayed the “he may look old on the outside but he’s still the same inside” line. The scene with Vastra and Clara that ends with Clara asking when Vastra removed the veil was probably the best encapsulation of the idea. And that’s where they should have left it. But no. We have to have a call from the Eleventh Doctor to reassure Clara everything’s okay and he’s still the same person. Please! If the reaction from the recent World Tour is anything to go by, Whovians the world over have accepted Capaldi as the new Doctor despite his grey hair. Yes, this was a major shock for Clara, but fandom moved on from Matt Smith six months ago. Half an hour into the story, Clara should have moved on too.
To sum up, a good episode and a promising start to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. The first episode post-regeneration is not always the best to gauge what a Doctor’s going to be like (e.g., “Castrovalva,” “The Twin Dilemma,” “Time and the Rani”…). This coming Saturday we’ll see Twelve face his arch-enemies the Daleks for the first time. That’ll be worth watching for sure!
What did you think of the episode? The new Doctor? Do you agree they over-did it with the whole “he’s still the same inside even if he’s wrinkly on the outside” bit? Share your thoughts in the comments!