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. Capaldi’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.
An 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.
“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.