Doctor Who
Doctor Who Review: The Doctor's Going to Some Dark Places

Elizabeth Harper | 25 Aug 2014 09:00
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When we left the recently-regenerated Doctor with Clara at the end of Time of the Doctor, the TARDIS was heading for a crash-landing and the Doctor had asked Clara if she knew how to fly it. (Spoiler alert: she doesn't.) But we quickly find out what happened to them, as the episode opens to a tyrannosaurus rex tramping through Victorian London, where it coughs up the TARDIS.

A Different Kind of Doctor
As you'd expect when a dinosaur appears in the heart of London, there's a crowd gathered, including the Victorian detective trio of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, who hurry down to meet a very confused Doctor. He emerges from the TARDIS guessing Strax is one of the seven dwarves, calling Vastra "the green one," Jenny the "not green one," and Clara "the not me one." Names, he explains, aren't his area.

He gets on better with the dinosaur (he speaks dinosaur, because of course he does), calling the t-rex "my lady friend" and explaining that he isn't trying to flirt with her. It's a joke, and a funny one with the Doctor's overly dramatic delivery, but it sets the tone for a big change this season: Peter Capaldi isn't the ladies' man that Matt Smith had been. This is reinforced throughout the episode as Clara realizes the Doctor isn't exactly who she thinks he is -- he's not a young man he appears, but is instead thousands of years old. "You might as well flirt with a mountain range," Vastra tells Clara. When Clara denies it, Vastra suggests "He flirted with you."

Capaldi's Doctor not only doesn't flirt, but towards the end of the episode (when he's more or less himself again), he and Clara have a conversation that indicates a dramatic change in the show's tone:

"Clara, I'm not your boyfriend."
"I never thought you were."
"I never said it was your mistake."

And wow, this little snippet of dialog is a major rejection of the show's recent romantic bent -- and I find it a refreshing change. With Smith's Doctor, the trend of randomly kissing people (even people who had no interest in being kissed) had already moved from "he's an adorable idiot" to "he's a creep," which makes this very welcome. Though this isn't the only change we see in Capaldi's Doctor, it's a huge one.

Capaldi spends most of this episode more than a little confused. He ends his first scene by fainting, is baffled by everyone's accents ("You all sound all English, you've all developed a fault!"), and is puzzled by the appearance of his own face in the mirror because he's sure he's seen it before. Of course, he has: Capaldi also played bad guy Caecilius in the 2008 episode Fires of Pompeii (which also featured a pre-Amy Pond appearance of Karen Gillen), but how this ties into the plot is of yet unclear. "It's like I'm trying to tell myself something," the Doctor muses, but we get to the end of the episode without refiguring out just what -- presumably we'll find out later this season.

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