So it’s all over, Series 10 has come and gone, and we’ve watched the last ever Series Finale for the 12th Doctor, and all that’s left now is the Christmas Special.
Which looks as if it’s set to reunite The Doctor with a very old companion.
I am still not ready to say goodbye to Bill Potts, Nardole, Missy, or a version of The Doctor, which has really grown on me over time.
But Doctor Who is a show all about time travel, and with that in mind I’ve decided to go all the way back to the beginning, and rewatch the Peter Capaldi era as a whole starting with the 12th Doctor’s introductory episode Deep Breath.
This is my first ever attempt at reviewing, so please be gentle…oh and hello to Jason Isaacs…
Okay, this is not going to be a blow by blow, each frame review of the episode, if you want that my best advice is to search out a better reviewer, or support Doctor Who and buy the DVD, here.
So, what is this review then, I hear all three or four of you ask, well I’m going to be focusing all my opinionated efforts on the difficult relationship between 12 and Clara, as well as the problem of introducing a brand new character, which is all underscored by this opening episode.
Also there will be spoilers…
The episodes opens in characteristically zany style with a dinosaur coughing up The Tardis on the banks of the Thames in Victorian London, and we get our first glimpse of a brand new Doctor, after the whole kidney thing.
The Problem with The Impossible Girl.
Clara Oswald everyone’s favourite Impossible Girl, born to save The Doctor, all nice long winded, epic sounding titles, Nu Who is good at titles Bad Wolf, The Girl Who Walked the Earth, DoctorDonna, The Girl Who Waited, The Last Centurion, some of them end up being incredibly memorable, I’m looking at you Rose ‘Bad Wolf’ Tyler, others would earn you a winning score on Pointless.
Titles are good, but the most important thing about them is how they are earned, by accident or intention, and how they will go on to shape the character they belong to.
For example, Amy Pond became The Girl who Waited by accident, from the moment The 11th Doctor was late coming back for her, it informed her personality and the course of her entire life, it was a simple quirk of fortune, Amelia Pond wasn’t born to wait for The Doctor, it was just a happy/unhappy accident depending on which way you look at it.
Clara Oswald in comparison was born to Save the Doctor, it’s her mission statement, her purpose in life, so what happens when that purpose is fulfilled and the mystery of The Doctor’s Impossible Girl is solved…well Series 8.
Series 8 picks up from the Matt Smith’s Christmas Regeneration episode, but more than that it finds Clara in her new role as a teacher working at Coal Hill School-of all the places, who-da-thunk it, surprised face cus that’s where…yeah it all started.
Even in choosing Coal Hill as a location for Clara to work at, on the one hand seems quite clever, but on the other IMO seems to deny her any sort of agency, even outside of The Tardis she is simply a satellite to The Doctor, orbiting a school he once visited.
While Clara is a fun character, and Jenna Coleman puts in the hard yards to follow on from the popular Ponds, in Series 7b she is a likeable, caring, brave, young woman, who we know little about past the Impossible part, Series 8 starts with the unenviable challenge of trying to establish two new characters, The Doctor and Clara.
While it was established way back in Nightmare in Silver that Clara has a bossy streak, control freakery and narcissism are also added to the personality menu.
And although I can just about buy narcissism, I’m not sure anyone who willing runs away with a ‘madman in a box’, who can’t even drive said box very well, can ever be classed as a control freak, there’s another word for a person like that, and it doesn’t involve control.
As we will see the control freak part of Clara’s personality will be jettisoned in Series 9 in favour of reckless/Doctor Clara, but that of course is for another day.
A brand spanking new version of Clara Prime, now with added personality quirks and a better job, is fresh out of the box and ready to interact with the new Doctor.
And what better combination of personality traits to pair off against one another, than a bossy, control freak, with a grumpy, sarcastic, grouch.
Despite the odds however, 12 and Clara share some of the funniest scenes in NuWho, and their interaction in the restaurant is still some of the best, and most laugh out loud writing of the modern era, with both actors given great lines and keeping pace with each other.
At some points Clara’s interactions remind me of Sarah Jane Smith and the 4th Doctor.
12 and Clara are so good, and they almost work so well, but then they don’t, and the underlying reason for this once again belongs to Clara herself.
Let’s all blame Clara day.
Because Clara has gone and done the thing, which most, if not all her predecessors have done before her, she’s fallen in love with The Doctor, and not just any Doctor, the super young, playful as a puppy one.
She’s gone home with 11 and woken up with 12, which would be a shock to anyone’s system, but unlike her predecessors The Impossible Girl isn’t prepared to take it, and her rejection of The Doctor’s Old/New face is the emotional note, which resounds through this episode, and dare I say the Capaldi era as a whole.
But all of the blame doesn’t rest entirely with Clara, after all 11 is the only regeneration ever to phone in after/before death to reassure Clara and by extension the audience that everything will be alright in the end, if you just give the new guy a chance.
Matt Smith comes in at number two in my all time favourite list of Doctors, for anyone remotely interested my list is goes 7,11,12,10,2 and the rest you can guess for yourselves.
While it’s great to see the 11th Doctor again, it leaves the introduction of the 12th feeling sort of like watching a child who is still keeping one hand on the side of the pool, while they learn to swim.
Doctors have to sink or swim by they’re own efforts, but it’s a solo thing.
For me this was a massive miss-step, and rather than reassuring the audience that they’re in new capable hands, it leaves the audience feeling as if they need to be reminded of this fact.
This phoned-in scene with 11, combined with Clara’s rejection, create a general air of a lack of confidence in the new character of 12.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, I think this is the second best new Doctor introduction episode of Doctor Who, after The Eleventh Hour.
It reunites The Doctor and Clara with The Paternoster Gang.
As well as introducing a villain who was in equal measure terrifying and sympathetic.
The episode also leaves some interesting threads hanging, about the relationship between 12 and Clara, and the nature of trust between the pair.