Saturday, August 23, 2014

Deep Breath

If you're new to this blog then I should explain that what follows isn't a review in the traditional sense. That would involve critical faculties. What this is is a collection of immediate reactions, thoughts, ideas and bees in bonnets that pop up following the episode I've watched. This blog will contain spoilers so if you've not seen the episode then go and watch it and then come back. You. Have. Been. Warned.

So Deep Breath launches the Capaldi era of Doctor Who and it seems that the story was designed to do a few things. To introduce us to an older Doctor and deal with the New Doctor Who audiences fears of the that older Doctor. Hence a lot of the conversations Clara gets involved in with either the Doctor or Vastra are aimed at us, which makes her decision to leave the TARDIS before being reassured by the Eleventh Doctor's phone call an plea to the audience: "Don't leave. It's still Doctor Who." In that sense it is quite different to a lot of new Doctor's first stories, which just assume we'll pick up with the new Doctor and run with it. We don't normally need this much reassurance. And in a way it's insulting to both us and Capaldi but perhaps I'm being harsh.

There's also a dig at us the audience. The whole 'I'm not your boyfriend/You might as well flirt with a mountain/He wanted you to like him' stuff is a criticism of our apparent need for a younger actor. Even though it was Steven Moffat that chose Matt Smith.

Then there's re-booting Clara. Now she's no longer 'The Impossible Girl' she needs to actually have a character and this story is designed to give her one. I'm not sure I've seen enough 'control freak' in Clara so far to justify the Doctor's accusations that she is one. Jenna Coleman's clearly a good actress so it would be nice to see her given more scenes like the one when she's confronted with the Big Bad. She gets to do the whole Sarah Jane Smith brave and scared at the same time trick rather well. It's a step forward.

It also seems to me that the Big Bad guy's 're-building' of himself is a shadow of regeneration. It shows how weird regeneration actually is. I mean this is a man with a new face for heaven's sake. The Big Bad guy is regenerating the slow way round. Piece by piece. Could you apply the Doctor's broom analogy to the Doctor himself?

There's also seed sowing for other things to come. First off, where does the Doctor get his faces from? Or any Time Lord for that matter. Is there a database of faces. A Facebook perhaps. (Sorry, I'll get my coat). The Doctor's face thing - like the Doctor's name - seems to be Steven Moffat's latest bee in the bonnet as a result of casting Capaldi but I did think some of the best lines came as a result of this. I especially liked "Who frowned this face" and "It's like I'm trying to tell myself something." The face is going to be a thing. Let's see where that goes.

Secondly, who is Missy and what's she up to. This being being New Doctor Who we need an big season long arc don't we. Sigh. Do we though. Do we? Perhaps we do. Or perhaps we could just have a run of adventures that are just fun. Without the need for us to see how clever Steven Moffat is. In the end though we should judge the arc on its quality. If it turns out to be good then...good. If it turns out to be bad then can we stop and do something else instead.

Quick diversion: title sequence and theme tune. Loved the new title sequence. Hate the theme tune, which sounds like it was played on a weird combination of elastic bands, bells and kazoo. The new series has never cracked the theme tune in my opinion but perhaps one day they will.

What of Capaldi himself? I think he's great. He has an edge that Tenant and Smith didn't have. It's not darkness I don't think. It's just a sharpness. A lack of botherdness about how people see him, which I like. He's able to do both the comedy and the darker stuff. I like the fact that we're left to decide for ourselves whether the Doctor threw the Big Bad to his doom or whether it was self-destruction but this isn't the Sixth Doctor. The last scenes give us a vulnerability to this new Doctor underneath his crusty exterior. So yes, I'm happy with Capaldi.

Oh and do we really need all the hilarious Scottish stuff. The Doctor's been Scottish before and didn't seem to think it was a big deal. But then the showrunner then wasn't Scottish. RTDs gay agenda* has been replaced with a Scottish agenda.** Damn that McMoffat chap.

I'm less happy with what's happening with Vastra/Jenny and Strax. All three are brilliantly performed but Strax has become only comic relief. I'd like him to have a bit more edge. I really wish Steven Moffat would have had the courage to give Vastra and Jenny a proper kiss without having to give them a 'breath' excuse. It's just a loss of bottle. The Paternoster Gang are great when used properly but not when they're just there to provide some exotic sexual background and dumb comedy. Use them better Mr. Moffat. Use them better.

So after all that rambling I should say that I enjoyed it a lot but there's a lot of quibbles. It's lifted by the brilliance of Capaldi and it's excellent design. Doctor Who looks great these days, although Strax's disappearing bucket seemed to skip someone's attention in the edit.***

More Capaldi please.

* There was no gay agenda.
**There isn't a Scottish agenda either
***Or it'll turn out to be a key thing in the forthcoming story arc. The Bucket of Rassilon. Or something. [It won't.]

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