New Doctor Who Off To A Mundane Start

new doctor and clara

Peter Capaldi made his debut as the new Doctor in “Deep Breath”, the season premiere of Doctor Who. Unlike the two other modern regenerations we’ve seen, this debut episode of a new Doctor had a very different tone.

To be blunt it was rather underwhelming.

This verdict doesn’t have anything to do with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, it would be harsh to judge him solely based on this episode. On the other hand, when new actors took over the role of the famous Time Lord, they left very deep impressions. who horseCapaldi’s Doctor doesn’t have any particular quirks or kinks about him and that was a shame. Yes, in the new episode “Deep Breath” the Doctor was characteristically confused after his regeneration at the end of the special “The Time Of The Doctor”, but Capaldi seemed to be just going through the motions. It felt like when he was spouting off disjointed lines about not knowing his hands or talking to a dinosaur that he was just acting.

Even as he settled into the role later into the episode it was very clear that this Doctor would be more subdued and less flamboyant, eccentric or even energetic like the three previous actors to play the Doctor.

It’s a change of pace, but it may turn off some Doctor Who fans who were used to fast-talking and goofy Doctors, which were so endearing.

But Capaldi’s interpretation of the Doctor wasn’t what was offkey about the episode “Deep Breath”. Rather, it was the story itself.

As stated in the opening, this debut of a new Doctor was decidedly different. It was more low key and unfortunately mundane at times with its center being an uninteresting mystery taking place in Victorian-era London.

The episode starts with the Doctor’s Victorian compatriots the Paternoster Gang: the reptilian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her wife Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and the warrior Strax (Dan Starkey) witnessing a rampaging t-rex in downtown London. The dinosaur coughs up the Doctor’s space/time vessel the Tardis and that is how the Doctor and his Companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) first appear in the episode.

dinnerAn interesting start, but then “Deep Breath” dovetails when the new Doctor (the 12th? Wouldn’t he be the 13th if you count the War Doctor? Or is he a reset?) starts rambling about in a forced manner at his friends’ residence. Clara is trying to grapple with the fact that the Time Lord she knew and loved (Matt Smith) is now morphed into this noticeably older and confused man. Seeing the two of them together with the in-your-face age difference was jarring to watch and the dynamic between the two feels strained.

After a few uncomfortable scenes of that, the story shifts to this cyborg (Peter Ferdinando) going around abducting people to cannibalize them for parts. This part of the story was rather predictable and mundane. Even the listless fight sequences between the cyborg’s army and the Paternoster Gang wasn’t interesting to watch, nor was the confrontation between the Doctor and the cyborg.

new tardis

“Deep Breath” did come to life near the end of the episode when a certain character made a surprise appearance. As welcome as it was, the cameo served to remind Clara (and the viewers) to learn to accept the new Doctor and to support him. However, the problem wasn’t accepting the new actor, but that his character deserved a better episode to launch his stint. It’s way too early to write off this understated version of the Doctor and some clips from the upcoming Doctor Who previews look intriguing. It’s just lamentable that the new Doctor is off to an unremarkable start.

Annette DeForrester

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Doctor Who Celebrates Its Fiftieth Anniversary

doctor who

Doctor Who fans are still aglow over the recent fiftieth anniversary special “The Day Of The Doctor”, and for good reason!  It was inventive, frenetic and most of all it was  downright cool in so many ways. More importantly, “The Day Of The Doctor” was a loving tribute to the fifty-year-old program

Who’s Who?

For anyone who hasn’t watched, Doctor Who is about the adventures of a time-traveling alien called the Doctor, who can go anywhere in time and space. As a Time Lord, he often winds up in some misadventure while defending Earth and is accompanied by a long line of (mostly) human Companions. When the show first aired in the BBC back in 1963, it was more pedestrian than the madcap pace exuberated by hartnellthe modern show. The Doctor was played by William Hartnell, a distinguished older actor who was more cerebral  and sedate than his successors. Doctor Who was always plagued by low budgets and production values, which didn’t help its stature of being a children’s show. Still, it had an unmistakable charm and its youthful audiences loved the show. This happened after the show began steering away from historical dramas and introduced goofy aliens that were played by actors in bargain-basement costumes.

This status stayed with the show for many years and over many incarnations of the Doctor. You see, once Hartnell left the program in 1966, he was ingeniously recast. The Doctor was an alien, so it was established that he could regenerate into another person at the time of his death. Each Doctor that followed him was more and more outrageous in demeanor and attire, probably culminating in Colin Baker’s eye-hurting, multi-colored waist coat and his flamboyantly overbearing behavior.  But this concept allowed each actor to add his own touch to the character, making the Doctor a rather complex person for this kind of show. It was probably why Doctor Who began to catch on past the kids.

tom baker

The first significant introduction to American audiences of Doctor Who was the Tom Baker era from 1974 to 1981. His Doctor was distinguished by an overlong, multicolored scarf, and a huge afro. While he was quite daffy, Baker’s Doctor exhibited a cunning, intellectual side that was masked by his eccentric behavior. Still, the show was bogged down with horrible special effects and production values. While the show won many fans, there were just as many who dismissed Doctor Who as kiddie fare.

Eventually, Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 and the property laid dormant until 1996 when Fox aired a TV movie pilot that attempted to jumpstart the franchise. The film was actually good, but controversial with many longtime fans, who bemoaned the semi-reboot. For instance, the Doctor revealed he was half-human and shockingly enough he had a romantic moment with his Companion. Egad! Sure, it sounds silly but fans can be recalcitrant whenever changes are made. The movie didn’t lead to a series and so the attempt at restarting the franchise was stillborn.

Who’s Back

nine docBut like any good intellectual property, Doctor Who refused to die. Finally in 2005, a brand new series was launched that rejuvenated the stale franchise. Now Doctor Who had updated effects, the characters were dynamic and relatable and the stories were more adult. The ramifications and intricacies of time travel were explored in episodes like “Father’s Day”, “Blink”, and “The Name Of The Doctor”.  Others had outlandish plots best explained by their episode titles–”The Stolen Earth”, “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” and “Let’s Kill Hitler”. Some others where actually heartfelt like “The Doctor’s Wife” where the Doctor’s spaceship attained a corporeal, sentient form . To its credit, the show still retained its sense of whimsy and charm. Episodes featured many unique images like the Doctor soaring through the air in a carriage pulled by a flying great white shark (!), or him and his Companion riding a motorcycle up a glass tower. For every lighthearted episode, there were those that were quite chilling, adventurous, wondrous, and more importantly, thought provoking.

A very important change made to the modern Doctor Who is that the Doctor is the last of his kind. His race, from the planet Gallifrey, along with their mortal enemies, the Daleks, had died off fighting in a Time War. The Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccleston, was more morose and subdued. It was even reflected in his dark attire. He was clearly suffering from survivor’s guilt and was wracked by what he did in the Time War (it was revealed that he destroyed both races). However, by the end of his run, Eccleston’s Doctor (the Ninth Doctor) seemed to be recovering thanks to the help of his Companions Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).

Edgier, More Emotional Doctors

This change into a more optimistic demeanor was fully expressed with the next Doctor brilliantly portrayed by David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor was exploding with youthful energy and charm. He often rambled on at a mile per second and had an impish way about him. One couldn’t help but be delighted by his antics. Yet, the Tenth Doctor once in a while unmasked a haunted and frightful demeanor that was unsettling to watch. This was underlined by Tennant’s ability to convey someone who was much older than he appeared.

hi res bike

His successor Matt Smith also had this uncanny ability. But, being that he was the youngest person to portray the Doctor, that ancient quality shown in his eyes and mannerisms added to the dichotomy of the Doctor. Now that Peter Capaldi will be the new Doctor come the next Christmas special (“The Time Of The Doctor”), some of his conflicting aspect will be toned down since Capaldi is an older actor.

But what does that mean for Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman)? She will seem more like a daughter next to Capaldi. It’s doubtful there will be any romantic tension a la Rose Tyler, who started falling for the Tenth Doctor once he came into the picture. Perhaps Clara will soon leave the show. However, River Song (Alex Kingston) seems more compatible with Capaldi’s Doctor since the actress is closer in age to him.

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