Can we all take a “Deep Breath” of relief now that Peter Capaldi’s first “Doctor Who” adventure is in the bank? Can we all agree that his first full episode with Clara (Jenna Coleman) was equal parts sweet, hilarious, meditative, and awesome-sauce? Can we dig in to the episode’s biggest moments?
The New Doctor Emerges From His TARDIS
We learned pretttty much right away that Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is going to be a delightful departure from Matt Smith’s foppish, silly Eleven — but more on personality traits in a sec. Let’s talk about the snap judgments that came to mind once Twelve first exited his TARDIS. (Spit up by a giant dinosaur, of course.)
First and foremost, he’s Scottish! (“I blame the English!”). Basically, get ready to maaaaybe have some United Kingdom jokes fly over your head if you live in the US, because Capaldi has officially become the first Doctor to use his native Scottish accent on the show. (Can you imagine David Tennant’s Ten with his Tennant’s real voice? Woah.)
Second, it’s important to note that Twelve had almost as hard a time accepting his new old face as Clara did. That later bit where he terrorized the homeless man was hilarious — and hinted at great things to come regarding Capaldi’s ability to nail physical humor — but it also let us know that the transition from outwardly young man to outwardly older man won’t necessarily be a piece of cake for the Doctor, especially given his last several hundred years of existence with young, flirty companions. (Loved that “times like these I miss Amy” reference, by the way.)
The Paternosters Return
Lucky for Clara and the Doctor (and us), the TARDIS and its dinosaur crashed in 19th century London, which meant the reemergence of Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. These three brought a lot of comedy — and a badass ninja sequence at the end for Vastra and Jenny — but also some vanity-related truth bombs for Clara.
And while I don’t necessarily agree with Strax that Clara looks like a boy (what was up with that weird, sex-fueled examination, by the way?) I do agree with Jenny that Vastra might have been a littttle bit harsh on Clara for freaking out over her first regeneration.
Was Clara disappointed that her new Doctor didn’t have a youthful face? (I am loathe to say “handsome” face, because I personally think that Capaldi is a sex-bot.) Absolutely. Is it a little much to expect someone to instantly respond well to their best friend’s appearance and personality changing at the drop of a hat? Yep. Luckily, Clara — who was phenomenal in “Deep Breath,” and funnier than we’ve ever seen her — stood up to Vastra and asserted herself as a strong, capable Companion.
Which brings us to…
“The Girl In The Fireplace” Androids, Return?
Clara’s help was needed right away, because the dinosaur “spontaneously combusted” in the Thames almost as soon as she arrived, signaling that trouble was, as always, close by. The Doctor was initially too incapacitated — and too annoyed by the human race — to join the gang, so it was up to Clara and a mysteriously placed newspaper ad for lunch with “The Impossible Girl” once the Doctor ran off on his own.
(ASIDE: Did anyone else immediately notice the clockwork android sounds from “The Girl In The Fireplace” when the half-faced man started talking? It lessened the thrill from the “sister ship of the Madame de Pompadour” reveal at the end of the episode for me, but based on the audience’s reaction during the “Doctor Who” world tour event in New York, I might have been one of the few who spotted those suckers right away. Maybe it was because I’d rewatched it the week before?)
Anyway, this mysterious ad — which was not placed by Clara or the Doctor — brought the pair together about three-quarters in, in a restaurant that housed a bunch of androids made of recycled human body parts. I found the villains for Twelve’s first adventure to be a bit underwhelming, especially since we’d seen them before, but there were some nice parallels between the half-faced man’s journey and the Doctor’s, as well as some truly wonderful moments between our two leads.
It can be easy to forget how sad and alienating the Doctor’s life can be due to all of the show’s humor and whimsy, but half-face adeptly reminded us that he’s not the only one repeatedly covering up his face over and over and over again until the original “man” is no longer there.
Clara Comes Out Of Her Shell
Steven Moffat seems to really be responding to popular criticisms of Clara, because she was brave and smart and funny and generally wonderful throughout the entire episode.
Her two biggest moments with Twelve, I would say, came during the restaurant scenes. The first was when she bravely held her breath to walk through that terrifying tunnel of sleeping androids, and the second was when she sassed the hell out of half-face during their one-on-one. This ended with her bravely reaching behind her, praying that the Doctor would have her back, then finding him — it was a lovely, charming moment that solidified Capaldi and Coleman as a team, and I think fans should (hopefully) be grateful for it.
A New Big Bad Shows Her Face
Of course, ol’ half-face ended up not being the big bad at all. The mystery of whether or not the Doctor actually pushed him out of the restaurant-turned-spaceship — Twelve seems to be grappling with the issue of whether or not he actually is a killer — is yet to be revealed, but either way, half-face definitely ended up in a not-so-much better place at the end of the episode.
This place was with Missy, the new overarching villain of the season, who is so far a giant question mark. Who is she? Why is her backyard so nice? Why is she referring to the Doctor as her boyfriend when we already know that he doesn’t like flirting?
A No-Hugging Rule Is Established
This sounds silly, but it’s really not — Twelve’s lack of understanding when it comes to the human race is a huuuuuuge departure from the last couple of Doctors. This particular characterization was peppered with “no hugging!” and “let’s make fun of Clara for having sexual feelings!” jokes, but it’s way more than a surface level thing. The Doctor made it clear throughout the night that he’s much more alien than his predecessors, and this should be a very interesting (and humorous) character trait to explore.
Oh Hey, There’s A New TARDIS
It has a reclining chair! And round things! (Which are apparently called Roundels, FYI.)
When the Doctor picked up Clara after their restaurant jam at the end of the episode — she thought he was going to leave her in the 19th century, silly girl — he came equipped with a new, redecorated TARDIS. I personally love the redesign, as well as the sleek outfit he sported for their first official “date.” Hopefully he’ll finally figure out how to work it soon, since they ended up in Scotland instead of England…
The Cameo To End All Cameos
… Which brings us to the moment that is very likely already trending on Twitter.
Matt Smith’s emotional, end-of-episode phone call cameo was amazing, and not only because Clara’s goodbye to Eleven during last year’s Christmas special was largely eclipsed by Amy Pond’s “raggedy man, good night.” It was a relief to see Smith “return” (you can read all about how they pulled it off here) to let Clara know that this new Doctor was still him, and that he was going to really, really need her, because Capaldi’s version of the character is so hilariously gruff and almost irreverent right now that she might not have figured this one out otherwise.
Also, bonus points to Capaldi for instantly coming back with yet another hilarious one liner after Eleven and Clara’s phone call, to once again ease the regeneration blow with his utter awesomeness.
Phew. That was a lot to cover. What did you think of the episode, Whovians? Did you love Capaldi as much as I did? Did you enjoy Matt Smith’s cameo? Any theories on who or what Missy might be? Let me know in the comments!