You felt it when 2,000 Whovians cheered and applauded. You knew when the unstoppable force of Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat stood for a standing ovation, and when they were pulled left, right and centre outside for autographs and pictures. You knew it when people cheered Capaldi’s name for just coming up on the screens.
The Doctor Who fandom has accepted Peter Capaldi.
HeyUGuys were lucky enough to attend the very first screening of Deep Breath in Cardiff, this episode is the series 8 opener and the full debut of a certain new Doctor. The first point on a whistle stop world tour of the new episode, St. David’s Hall was rammed with hardcore fans dressed as their favourite Doctors, companions, even the TARDIS. There were age-old fans and 4-year olds dressed in Fezs and bow ties, wielding their trusty Sonic Screwdrivers. There were 18-24 year olds – seemingly the show’s most dedicated demographic – all arriving together wearing minimalist t-shirts covered in quotes from the show (I’VE GOT NEW KIDNEYS!). This was a party as much as it was a premiere, with Whovians coming together to show their absolute appreciation for their all time favourite show. As a self-confessed Whovian myself, it was a wonderful spectacle to be a part of.
Matt Smith was a wonderful Doctor, but was getting stale. The weight of the complicated scripts, the ‘not as good as Tennant’ cloud throughout his tenure can’t have been easy, nor the lack of any episode you can consider a genuine Who masterpiece that would live long in the memory (perhaps The Girl Who Waited or The Doctor’s Wife are the only two which would come close). Matt Smith got through on wonderful talent, enthusiasm, love the show and its fans. He will forever be remembered by Whovians, and the reveal of his successor didn’t do an awful lot to convince them the show was going in the right direction. They needed convincing that Capaldi would bring them the same.
Of course, regeneration is never about doing the same thing again, it’s about doing it all completely differently. When a Doctor regenerates, the show must also. Deep Breath could have broken Capaldi, and done nothing to convince fans that he was the correct choice.
That was of course, before he stood outside St. David’s Hall for well over an hour talking to fans, taking pictures and signing autographs. This was before he knelt down to greet the kids who were too short to see over the railing. This was long before he smiled his entire way up the red carpet, ignoring pleas from organisers to hurry up and get into the theatre and give as much of his time as he could to those who simply wanted his scribble on a piece of paper. T
his is long before he turned up looking so effortlessly cool with the gorgeous Jenna Coleman on his arm. Peter Capaldi turned up and gave the fans exactly what they wanted, and then we were moved into the Hall and by the end..he had everyone.
Deep Breath is probably the most ‘Doctor Who’ episode of Doctor Who we’ve seen for quite some time. Directed with an inventive, macabre eye by one Ben Wheatley, we see a brand new Doctor learning his new body – and a wonderful new title sequence – understanding the world around him and his place in it. It’s interesting how the two previous regenerations have had the Doctor either asleep (Tennant) or bonkers (Smith) in their first episode. In Deep Breath we have a strong combination of both. We see a Doctor who isn’t yet comfortable with who he is. He doesn’t understand what people are expecting of him and are relying on the crime fighting trio of Jenny, Madame Vastra and Strax to help him work out exactly he should be (it’s worth noting at this point that his entrance in this episode is uncompromisingly the very best introduction we’ve had for a new Doctor thus far).
The most heartbreaking aspect of the opener is Clara, played again with huge aplomb by the massively underrated Jenna Coleman. She’s just had to witness her Doctor transform into someone completely different and is finding it painfully difficult to cope, in a similar way Rose did. The difference here is that Clara is surrounded by Vastra, Jenny and Strax. They understand what’s happened and do their best to talk Clara through the regeneration. A popular theme from Clara throughout is ‘I don’t know who the Doctor is’, the most prominent line for the recent trailer is a recurring theme in Deep Breath. Clara and her new Doctor are clearly at loggerheads, they don’t understand each other at first, Coleman playing angry, confused, fascinated and devastated throughout the first half hour is quite wonderful. If anything, Jenna Coleman steals the whole episode. Her misunderstanding of the Doctor’s regeneration is genuinely tough to watch at times. You see someone losing their best friend, only to be replaced by a bumbling, shouty, confused old man.
It’s pleasing and a huge relief if anything that the chemistry between Coleman and Capaldi is so strong. I’m not sure what order this series was filmed in but it’s evident there is a genuine bond between the two already. Coleman clearly relishing working with Capaldi, who looks like he’s having the time of his life (a scene between him and a Victorian drunkard confirms this indefinitely). It’s public knowledge now that our new Doctor has been a fan of the show since he was a kid and now he’s the Timelord himself, he’s going to play it with all the joy and excitement an actor playing the Doctor should be.
It’s seemingly the same levels of joy that accompanied Tennant’s reign, a joyful exuberance that came from becoming their childhood hero in adult life. You can see Tennant in the first spout of madness from Capaldi. Although saying this you can also see Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, The Bakers, Davidson, McCoy, McGann, Eccleston and Smith. Capaldi’s opening episode is almost a greatest hits of everything that makes the character so fascinating. Yet, THAT Capaldi stare, the fear that is created behind those eyes, the same ones you didn’t want to be on the other end of if you were an MP in The Thick of It, alarmingly signals an era of a Doctor that has a pure ‘no bullshit’ attitude. The playfulness only really coming through during the early moment of his regeneration, the rest of the episode it’s all 100% rebel Timelord, and it’s glorious. This is the Doctor that Who needs right now.
As the credits rolled the room erupted. It’s safe to say Deep Breath is what Whovians have been clamouring for, waiting so (in)patiently since Christmas Day for new Doctor Who and to have it return and deliver on such a monumental scale as it has done here, it’s hard to argue with that kind of reaction. As this tour heads to New York, Rio, Sydney and more, I have no doubt that every crowd will be the same. Deep Breath is a monumental beginning for the Capaldi/Coleman era.
I want to tell you everything, but to blurt out the secrets of this episode would do an injustice to everyone that has worked so hard to put it all together so therefore I will not. We were shown this episode in good faith, I couldn’t possibly say any more about that ONE PART WHERE THAT AWESOME THING THAT MADE ME ACTUALLY CRY REAL MAN TEARS HAPPENED. But I won’t. I have sworn an oath and I have a code to abide by.
Oh it’s good, though. It’s really good.
Saturday. August 23rd. BBC One.