It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Peter Capaldi’s first outing as the Doctor in the premiere episode of Doctor Who series eight. But if you thought it was going to be an easy ride for the ageing Time Lord, you’d better think again… as it seems the Doctor is having a bit of an identity crisis.
Not wasting any time, we’re thrust straight into the rather odd story of a dinosaur on the loose in 19th century London. And you know that that can only mean one thing – the return of the Paternoster gang.
Attempting to get to the bottom of London’s newest and most terrifying resident, Madam Vastra and co. soon find out how this prehistoric lizard ended up in the Thames… and it’s all down to the new (and seemingly inexperienced) Doctor.
Emerging from the TARDIS with a crazed look on his face, you’d be mistaken for thinking that Capaldi’s Doctor is anything like Matt Smith. In an instant, we’re reminded of the wacky charm of Number 11 when Capaldi exerts a familiar-sounding rant. But it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems.
Obviously, Peter Capaldi and Matt Smith are two very different people… and it’s safe to say that Peter Capaldi will be a very different beast. But just as we’re not sure what to expect, it looks as though the Doctor himself isn’t quite sure either.
Unsure about his appearance and unable to figure out what kind of man he is, it’s a neat way of reflecting the audience’s reluctance to embrace an older Doctor. And while the Doctor just can’t get to grips with his latest regeneration, it’s Clara who really gets under our skin.
The Doctor has visibly aged, becoming an older, angrier man with older, angrier eyebrows… and it’s a far cry from the almost boyfriend/girlfriend relationship between Clara and Matt Smith. In fact, this is soon referenced in the episode itself, the Doctor proclaiming that he isn’t her boyfriend. It couldn’t be clearer that the dynamic aboard the TARDIS has changed forever.
Of course, there’s also the small matter of an enormous dinosaur to take care of. And while the episode may at first seem a little tangential, the Doctor soon ends up embroiled in a rather grisly plot when a mechanical menace is found to be harvesting body parts…
But while this is exactly the kind of stand-alone story that would do quite well at any other time, the focus is clearly on Peter Capaldi as he takes his first tentative steps. And perhaps that’s where the episode falls a little flat. It’s an interesting concept – the Doctor having to find himself while his companion and the audience themselves reconcile the differences between the Doctor and his former self. And when it really comes down to it, it’s clear that this episode tells us a lot about the human condition and our response to ageing.
How appropriate that it’s an ancient being such as the Doctor who teaches us this valuable life lesson. He may be as old as time, but his youthful vibrance is always seen on the outside. And that’s where the tables have turned.
Obviously, the Doctor comes a step closer to acceptance by the end of the episode… and in a confrontation with a mechanical Jack the Ripper, it looks as though he’s forced to face many of his own personal demons in dealing with his latest nemesis.
Overall, it’s a solid start for Peter Capaldi as he steps into the role of the Doctor. But can’t help thinking this his first episode could have been a bit more grandiose. It’s an appropriate opener for a new Doctor, sure… but with Capaldi still finding his feet, we’re still yet to see exactly what the new Doctor is capable of.