After what has felt like an eternity – and no TARDIS to time travel – Doctor Who has finally returned to BBC. Though there was much more to be excited for than just the Doctor’s return. The start of Season 8 also signaled the start of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as the Twelfth Doctor – depending on how you count. So how was the episode? Did Capaldi own the stage like his predecessors despite being – tied for – the oldest Doctor yet? The answer – to both – is surprisingly dark; but none the less “fantastic!”
Clara as Audience:
For the majority of the episode, we saw Clara grapple with the fact that this is not her Doctor, the Doctor she began to fall in love with. Though it’s not just Clara dealing with this dilemma; but the audience as well. It’s important to remember that the companion is the audience itself. We are the companions that join the Doctor each week through every adventure. Thus it is Clara’s primary role to be there to express our concerns and feelings.
Just as we were starting to love Matt Smith’s Doctor, we lost him and wish we could turn back time. We – like Clara – don’t know who this new doctor is. He seems strange; but slowly through the episode he starts to show some signs of the old Doctor we knew. Just then, we see that he MIGHT have killed someone. Some could see this as a brilliant darker twist on the Doctor we knew and love; but others could see it as more proof that “this isn’t our Doctor”. That is why Matt Smith’s cameo phone call as the Eleventh Doctor was so important.
He wasn’t only asking Clara to give the new Doctor a chance; but also the audience to give him a chance. We saw his memory return bit by bit; but it is that final moment after Eleventh’s call where he reveals that he knew it was Eleven not because he was listening; but because he remembers. Just like when Ten first told Rose that their adventures would be “Fantastic” – a remembrance to the Ninth Doctor’s catchphrase – by Twelve revealing to Clara that he remembers that whole conversation, we finally have that perfect transition from Smith to Capaldi.
“You look at me and you cant see me…. I’m not on the phone, I’m right here. Standing in front of you.” – The Twelfth Doctor
A Darker Doctor:
As for the Doctor himself, everyone can agree this is a much darker Doctor than we’ve ever seen before – at least for those familiar with the rebooted ‘New Who’. He’s mysterious, unapproachable, and seems to have left behind much of the humanity he showed during his time as Ten or Eleven. He might still do anything to protect the human race; but not for one second could you think him to be part of it.
Though how far will he go to protect the human race. The Doctor doesn’t kill; and that is one of the things that make him a great hero. He isn’t the gunslinger or the star fighter; he’s clever. He’s the cleverest man there is. So did the Doctor push the Clockwork Cyborg or did the Clockwork Cyborg jump? Well contrary to what you might think, this wouldn’t be the first time the Doctor sent someone to his or her death. Off the top of my head I remember Ten’s first introduction when the Sycorax Leader tried to attack him from behind and Ten dropped him off the ship before saying “No second chances. That’s what kind of man I am.”
Though here the Doctor wasn’t acting in self-defense and the Clockwork Cyborg didn’t betray any oath; but regardless this ‘did he or didn’t he’ makes for a good bit of drama that shows off a much darker side to this new Doctor. Personally, I think the Clockwork Cyborg jumped. If you noticed the cracking in his speech and Twelve pointing out that by constantly asking ‘How would you kill me” it reveals that the Cyborg wants to die. Though by the same ideas, you can say the Doctor did push him because he threatened it from the start, had a drink and then looked painfully at the camera after the jump. Whether he did or didn’t, it’s this question that adds the most to the story – and I personally hope we never find out.
Antagonist’s Reflect The Doctor:
The antagonists for this episode might have seemed pretty random; but they actually represented this new Doctor’s plight. As Wil Wheaton said during “After Who” – Chris Hardwick’s latest post show talk show – this new Doctor seems like a man disconnected and taken out of time. Both the T-Rex and the Clockwork Cyborgs were taken out of their respective times and were thrown into a world that they didn’t understand.
The T-Rex was frightened and didn’t know what was going on, which is exactly what Eleven later described to Clara that the new Doctor must be feeling right now. Even when Twelve interacts with the T-Rex, you can tell he identifies with the T-Rex. They are both one of a kind and out of their times. A similar situation happened with the Clockwork Cyborg; though this was less self-identifying and more unintended revelation.
“You are a broom. Question. Take a broom, you replace the handle. And later you replace the brush; and you do that over and over again. IS it still the same broom. Answer, no of course it isn’t!”
Twelve went into an amazing analogy and asked if you change a broom handle and brush continually, is it the same broom? The answer is of course no as he shoves a reflective plate in front of the Clockwork Cyborg and says that he’s changed his face so many times, theres none of the original in there. The point is a powerful one that even has Twelve take a step back as he realizes he’s the same. Just like the Clockwork Cyborg, Twelve “can’t even remember where [he] got that face from.“
The answer to this question will be explored later this season when he finally remembers that his new face is the same as someone he met in Pompeii – Capaldi previously starred in the episode ‘The Fires of Pompeii” while the Tenth Doctor was out and about. Also, that last little tangent about this ‘not the same broom still being able to ” sweep a room with it”, actually does fit with the Doctor’s analogy – at least as far as he’s concerned. He might have changed numerous times and there might be nothing of the original him left; but regardless of that he can still perform his duty of protecting humanity and saving people – no matter how many times he changes his face.
Who is Missy?:
The final question of last nights episode is WHO is this Missy character. Aside from looking like the evil, freaked out version of Mary Poppins; we don’t know who this woman who calls the doctor her boyfriend is. It seems that this is ‘the woman’ who keeps bringing the Doctor and Clara together, so is she wacky friend or foe? That being said, there are some theories as to her identity.
The first of which is that she is River Song; but with River giving up her regenerations to save the Eleventh, I doubt it. She could also be a new transgendered regeneration for The Master. Missy/Master, could be possible. Though this would bring up a lot of questions, such as: If Time Lords change gender during regeneration; does their sexuality change too? Or are Time Lords pansexual?
There is also the option that this could be a malfunctioning Tardis. We met the incarnation of the Tardis once before and she was a little kinky; and she also referred to the Doctor as her boyfriend. Then again there’s the very real possibility that Missy is someone completely new. Her name as The Gatekeeper of the Netherworld makes it sound like she controls the space between dimensions – or after death. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if this was a one time cameo or if she’ll be recruiting each of the Doctors nemeses this season – assembling a sort of A-Team of villains.
Panda Theory Time:
Perhaps Missy is an incarnation of ‘Death’ itself. And she thinks the Doctor is her “boyfriend” because he’s playing hard to get. For all intensive purposes, the Doctor should have died at Trenzelor; but instead he was spaced and got another set of regenerations. If there were a manifestation of ‘Death’, he/she would feel cheated, which could lead to her intense drive to stopping the Doctor. As for why she needs Clara and the Doctor together, if Clara went into the Doctor’s timeline then Death would need them both together in order to stop them – so that Clara couldn’t pop up and save the day since she’s already in the trap.
All in all, it was a good episode. Was there the classic Moffat touch of ‘let’s make certain parts more complicated for the sake of making them more complicated’? Of course; but overall this episode had great writing. Even their choice of the Clockwork droids being from a sister ship to the Madame De Pompadour from the episode “The Girl In The Fireplace” was an excellent choice. Seeing Twelve struggle with trying to remember why this all seemed so familiar was wonderful. There were even some references to “The Day of the Doctor” special when Clara remarked that the Doctor had redecorated the TARDIS interior and followed up with “I don’t like it”.
I’m hoping the writing stays at least as good as this episode. The fast Scottish accent might take a little getting used to; but it’s nothing major since it is quite catchy. The new intro has pros and cons. On one hand, I don’t like that the music changed; but on the other, the graphics highlighting time were a nice addition. Either way, it’s much better than that god-awful ‘this is my imaginary friend who came back’ intro we had during The Ponds era. So stay tuned everyone. It’s sure to be an interesting season.