DWO’s spoiler free preview of Episode 8.1: Deep Breath:
It’s an exciting time for Doctor Who right now, isn’t it? Last year saw the programme celebrate 50 years of adventures in time and space with real flare and style - taking this little show that went out on a Saturday tea time in 1963 and catapulting it into the television schedules around the world. Just a month later, and we watched on as Matt Smith faced down legions of the Doctor’s greatest enemies on the fields of Trenzalore, bursting with regeneration energy, before rushing back to the TARDIS to make his farewells, and setting the wheel in motion all over again.
When Peter Capaldi was announced as the new Doctor a year ago this month, the reaction was almost entirely positive. There were a few cries of anguish that he was going to be considered simply ‘too old’ to be the Doctor… but these cries largely seemed to come from Doctor Who fans who were convinced that the general public simply wouldn’t take to a Doctor in his fifties in this day and age. But on Thursday of last week, Doctor Who Online’s Will Brooks and Nick Mellish were lucky enough to attend the world premiere of Season Eight in Cardiff and we can confirm that the reaction is overwhelmingly positive.
Oh, the crowds! Hoards of screaming fans simply thrilled to see the new Doctor and Clara as they made their way down the red carpet towards the screening. Crowds made up of - yes! - children. And teens. And adults from thirty, through forty, and fifty, and right up to their eighties. Even those who’d clearly been dragged along to the event by a younger relative couldn’t help getting caught up in the thrill and magic of the event. The new Doctor had arrived, and the reaction has never been better.
But enough about all of that! You want to know about the episode itself! I can quite honestly say that sitting in that hall, I have never enjoyed an episode of Doctor Who more. Some of that has to be put down to the sheer atmosphere of the event - a crowd of people who were simply loving this new instalment in their favourite show, and who laughed, and cheered, and cried, and clapped, all at the right moments. I’ll forever associate one particular moment of the episode (and when you watch it, I’m sure you’ll be able to guess which one) with the sound of a packed auditorium simply bursting into cries of elation.
There’s been a lot of talk over the last few months about Series Eight being a ‘darker’ year of Doctor Who, with much more ‘serious’ drama and less comedy involved. I can confirm that the programme certainly has a darker edge to it, often brought in by the reactions of the new Doctor himself, but it doesn’t come at the expense of the lighter moments. Keeping the Paternoster Gang of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, means that they’re able to help inject some well executed comedy into a story that could otherwise feel a little bit bleak. In the same way that The Christmas Invasion takes the Doctor out of action for a while, allowing the focus to be squarely on Rose and her family, here it’s the Paternosters and Clara who we really want to focus on. They’re one big support group to oversee the arrival of a very different Doctor.
The story itself, while engaging, is really secondary to the characters here. We’re watching to see how each and every one of them reacts to the regeneration, and I came away feeling like everyone had reached a decent point of acceptance about events. Although I say that people accept the change, though, that doesn’t mean that they entirely like it. Having come away from the screening someone asked me what Peter Capaldi was like as the Doctor, and the only answer I could think to give was that “He’s brilliant… but I don’t know if I like him”. That’s clearly the intention here - the Doctor’s not playing at being your best friend, or your boyfriend, or the wacky madman with a box any more. He’s a man who’s spent a long, long, time travelling the stars, and he’s done pretending. I think he’s going to be the incarnation that we all love to hate. But fear not - while I don’t like this Doctor, I do absolutely love him, and Capaldi is clearly born to play the role.
Kick-starting the era with a story directed by a name director like Ben Wheatley really does seem to be setting out stall for what the programme wants to achieve. Doctor Who has never looked more cinematic than this, and if you’ve got the chance, then I’d certainly recommend making the trip to see this story when it’s screened in a cinema. It’s a character piece nicely suited to the small screen, but with beautiful visual sequences simply made to be seen projected onto a cinema screen.
It’s now less than two weeks until Doctor Who returns to the saturday night schedules, for its longest continuous run since 2011. We’ve a fantastic new lead actor, a supporting cast of characters who are turning in stellar performances, and a programme that feels like it’s been given a real shot of adrenaline. Hold on tight - we’re in for a heck of a ride…
Five things to look out for:
1) The Doctor is Scottish now - that means he can complain about things.
2) That’s not a hat… that’s hair.
3) Where do the Doctor's new faces come from?
4) We don’t get a ‘choosing the new costume’ scene here, but the Doctor does get to test drive several outfits before finding his ‘look’.
5) How long can you hold your breath?
[Sources: DWO, Will Brooks]