Before we jump in, I should note that up until last night, I had only seen one Doctor Who episode. After catching the series seven finale and last night’s premiere featuring an older Doctor, I’m sure glad I’ve jumped on the bandwagon. Let’s begin.
So this is all pretty new to me, but I was pretty fricken excited that the episode started with a tyrannosaurs rex in Victorian London. That’s one way to make an entrance. After spitting out the TARDIS, Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax rush to the crash site, only to find a very confused and much older looking doctor (Peter Capaldi). He steps out speaking riddles and seems to be confused as to who Clara (Jenna Coleman) is – and the young companion looks pretty tired of his shit already.
Back at Madam Vastra’s, the team manages to coax the Doctor into bed where he is quickly knocked to sleep. Clara kneels by his side, but seems unnerved by the fact that this new doctor looks old despite being new.
Clara soon finds herself being interrogated by Madam Vastra, who is pretty hard on Clara after every instance of the companion complaining that the doctor “doesn’t look renewed…he looks older”. Ageism, or generally any kind of discrimination, doesn’t sit too well with the lizard-like lady, who notes that she wears a veil “as a judgment on the quality of the hearts of others”. This insult doesn’t fly with Clara, who reprimands Madam Vastra for judging her, and defends herself as a girl who doesn’t easily fall for “pretty men”. Jenny applauds the great speech and Madam Vastra looks assured that the companion is tougher than she looks.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has awoken and begun drawing strange patterns and equations on the floor. Soon we find him losing his shit on the roof, yelling out to the t-rex that he will do whatever it takes to get her back. Unfortunately the plan is ruined when the dino spontaneously combusts into flames. The doctor then falls upside down into a tree, comes across a bewildered man on a horse-drawn carriage, then decides to take the horse and ride off to chase the madness. Jenny, Madam Vastra and Clara make chase, eventually finding the doctor at the river’s edge along with other spectators. He’s clearly distraught at not being able to help the t-rex, and speaking more riddles he enquires if there have been any other similar murders. After seeing a man at a distance walk past the scene without so much as a second glance, the group becomes suspicious. The doctor as always is well ahead of them, jumping into the river and disappearing. I’m new to this Doctor Who thing but I take it he’s a the type who just gives zero fucks and comes and goes as he pleases? If so, I like it.
The next day, Clara finds Strax outside her window with none other than the retrieved Tardis– much to her relief. Strax then throws The Times at Clara’s head and I died laughing. Just thought i should mention that part.
At the same time, the Doctor is busy rustling through trash in an ally; he still appears to be out of his mind and manages to completely freak out a poor homeless man. The Doctor finds a mirror and looks as concerned as Clara was at the fact that of all the faces he could have chosen, “why this one?”. Believing it to be some kind of sign or message that he’s trying to tell himself, he becomes more frustrated at the idea that he wouldn’t just pass on the message in a simpler way. The good doc then points out his impressive Sandy Cohen-esque eyebrows to the freaked out homeless man, “look at these eyebrows! They’re attack eyebrows”. I have to stop and applaud Capaldi right now. It can’t have been easy taking on an iconic role and following one of the most popular modern doctors to date (Matt Smith). However, Capaldi attacks the role with passion and promise, leaving us excited for the season to come. At the end of the scene, we become fairly certain the doc is about to rob the homeless man of his clothes after noticing there have been other cases of spontaneous combustion while reading the newspaper. He’s got work to do…but he can’t do it in the nightgown.
Back at Madam Vastra’s, we find Jenny dresses in a slightly more revealing outfit and posing for her wife whom she believes to be painting her. Turns out Madam Vastra was really just putting together a detective board of newspaper clippings, maps and string in an attempt to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Clara soon rushes in, having noticed a note for her in the newspaper (presumably from the Doctor) which reads: ‘Impossible girl, lunch on the other side?’. She figures out the riddle by literally turning the paper over to the other side to find an advertisement for a new family restaurant.
In the next scene, we find Clara waiting for the doctor, whose presence she eventually smells thanks to the homeless clothes he stole. As it turns out, the doctor didn’t put the ad in the paper, and originally thought it was placed by Clara (after first pointing out that only an egomaniac would put something so cryptic in there). There’s little time for Clara to be offended by his criticisms, as they soon realise they’re in a trap with the other diners turning out to be robots. The Doctor and companion are suddenly strapped into the chairs and brought down to an underground lair. The Doctor and Clara manage to cut the straps and observe the robots charging in the room. The droids appear to be harvesting human spare parts, and as the pair exchange theories, we can’t help but notice they’re finally working together as a real team.
The Doctor is convinced that he’s seen this all before and as the pair make a run for it, Clara becomes trapped inside the room and presumably left for dead by the Doctor. She manages to stall the droid leader long enough without revealing a thing about the Doctor, who turns out to have never left her at all. He unzips out of a clever disguise and soon Madam Vastra and Jenny enter elegantly from the roof a la Mission Impossible, followed by a uncoordinated Strax who drops to the floor.
The Doctor follows the droid leader who escapes upstairs and starts up his ‘ship’ in order to reach a so-called “promised land”. In the lair, the foursome are left fighting off the robots to no avail. As they’re about to lose, Clara tells everyone to hold their breath (a trick which temporarily worked for her earlier). After a battle of strength, the Doctor triumphs over the droid leader, throwing him outside a window which also causes the robots downstairs to disengage.
The next day, Clara seems resigned to the fact that she’s now stuck in Victorian times with no Doctor in sight. Madam Vastra assures Clara that the Doctor will return for her to which the companion replies “I don’t know who the Doctor is anymore”. The silver lining does arrive however, and Clara rushes outside to find the TARDIS. Once inside, she notes that it’s been redecorated but isn’t too keen on the design. The Doctor makes a sort of plea to Clara, whom he wants to accompany him again on his travels. Clara simply apologises stating again that she doesn’t know who he is. After her phone rings, Clara heads outside to modern day Edinburgh and answers (which unfolded as the kind of scene that dreams are made of). On the other end of the line was the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), calling during his last moments on Trenzalore (which I thankfully understood after seeing ‘The Time of the Doctor’). He assures Clara that the new Doctor is more afraid than she is right now, and that he will need her help. The new Doctor pops out to check who was on the phone, and Clara knows what she must do. More curious than afraid now, she embraces the Doctor with a hug, though he’s not so keen on the act.
Though quite long, the episode was a great introduction to a more standoffish and stern Doctor. This isn’t a bad thing at all though. Change is a great way to reinvent and revive a new season, and with Capaldi taking the lead, we’re confident it’s going to be a thrilling journey.
The next episode ‘Into the Dalek’, airs next Saturday, August 30 on BBC One (UK).