Such a great episode of Doctor Who and I am so glad it is back. Regeneration episodes are not really my favorite as I have never really cared for the whole “getting to know the Doctor” plot line, although I understand it helps get people into the new character.
I thought Peter Capaldi was brilliant as the Doctor and Jenna Coleman shines as Clara. Capaldi’s Doctor just felt right. I think he has just the right balance of the character we know and love and still leaves the door wide open for whats new and what could possibly come. Reminds me of when Tennant took over in The Christmas Invasion. No idea where he was going to go from there.
I feel bad for the character of Clara as it was tough following the Ponds who were really popular and then having to deal with the whole “Impossible Girl” plot line which never let us truly see Clara and the Doctor interact. It wasn’t until the 50th plot lines of “Name of.., Day of.. and Time of the Doctor” that I felt Clara and the Doctor finally had real chemistry. Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor) said it best in an interview that he wished he had another year with Clara as they were finally hitting their stride.
In Deep Breath, Clara is forced to interact with a new Doctor and at first her reaction puzzled me and didn’t sit right. After the events of “Name of the Doctor” and “Day of the Doctor” she should be pretty used to the idea of regeneration and that the Doctor becomes different people. I didn’t understand why she was having such a difficult time accepting the new Doctor and his new face. Then it hits me. Clara is really the on-screen representation of the Doctor Who fan who is experiencing the first change of “their” doctor. In a way, it is like Osgood in the Day of the Doctor who was a Doctor “superfan” just like those of us in the cinema watching on the anniversary with our scarves and sonic screwdrivers. As fans, we are used to the idea that the Doctor has changed and every time he does we have to get used to a new one. But when it comes to the Doctor that we really connect with and time for him to change, it can really affect us in ways we don’t anticipate.
On a personal level, this really hit me and now I totally get how she is and it’s a bold move by Moffat and Co. to call it out. Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor was always my favorite growing up but by the time I was really into the show he had long since regenerated into Peter Davison. I remember with Classic Who that Tom was my doctor and the rest just weren’t the same. There was not real emotional connection since this was all in the past. As much as I loved the Doctor, I really didn’t have to experience it since it already happened.
Flash forward to the reboot series and David Tennant’s 10th Doctor really connected a current Doctor to me for the first time. He really sold me on the character in the new series and made me appreciate the show more. So when he regenerated in 2009 it really hit me hard like how 11’s regeneration hit Clara. It felt like a part of me died (I know not really but in a small way) and I know I was in mourning for a while. Clara is asked to immediately recognize the new Doctor and doesn’t have the luxury of 3 months off like we got between End of Time and the Eleventh Hour. So after not getting it and not sitting well, I have a whole new appreciation for what Moffat was doing there and it has been interesting reading people’s tweets about the episode going through the same thing.
As far as the cameo goes, I still don’t know how I feel. It’s the first time we see a doctor so close to when he just regenerated. It almost feels like it robs Capaldi of the spotlight and deprives Clara of making the decision on her own to trust and help the new Doctor. She’s a strong character so relying on a phone call from the past seems like a weak way to get past a plot point. Random sidebar: this cameo reminds me of the movie Evita where Madonna is singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” and instead of focusing on her and getting her an Oscar nomination, the director cuts to clips from earlier in the movie to completely take you out of the emotion of the scene. Probably the only scene that still doesn’t sit well in the premiere, but I hope like most of my nitpicks on Who episodes, it will fade over time and I will learn to love it.
So as far as Regeneration episodes go, it’s a pretty good one – I’d still give the edge to The Eleventh Hour as my favorite one (mainly due to the cameo in this one). All in all, again, this was a great start to the new series and I am glad the show is in great hands.
I can’t wait to see more.