I went off the grid for a few days at the tail end of last week, camping in Northamptonshire. More on that another day. It means that as far as Peter Capaldi’s debut is concerned, I’m a little late to the party. But at least I brought wine.
What follows is not actually a review. There are hundreds of them out there and at this comparatively late stage in proceedings I don’t think there’s anything I could say that hasn’t been written already with far more coherence than I could manage at half past one in the morning. Instead – and for one week only, unless for some bizarre reason it proves wildly popular – this is a one-stop hop through the general mess that was ‘Deep Breath’, with stuff that cropped up during a first (continuous) and second (stop and start) viewing, interspersed with random Fireworks images. I make no apology that some of it is puerile and some of it is crap. It’s the sort of stuff I would have tweeted, had I watched the episode live. “This way,” I explained to Gareth, “you’ll be saved the job of actually having to watch it.”
“Gosh,” was the response. “This from the person who encouraged me to give the new season at least two episodes before giving up?”
“I do want you to watch it”, I said, “because you might need a frame of reference for the rest of the series (and all the memes I’m going to do), but it’s an hour and a quarter, and you will be emailing me saying how much you hate it and want to give up watching way before the end. I’m just saving us that conversation.”
You will notice that I do not talk about the conclusion. This is largely because the arcs have become so tedious over the years I’m airbrushing them out of the discussion, except to say that there are two possibilities: either the name ‘Missy’ is a deliberate clue pointing to something that sounds quite horrendous, or it’s a deliberate red herring designed to make the fans think that something’s going to happen, and this sort of tedious tomfoolery is exactly what makes the clue hunt so interminably dull.
In the meantime, let’s have a look at that dinosaur, shall we?
00:12 – OK, so we’ve been here before. More than once.
00:50 – Ah, look, it’s the Three Amigos looking up at the CGI. Vastra’s making veiled references (pun subconsciously intended) to female genitalia. Business as usual, except that Strax hasn’t said a word yet.
01:48 – Jenny: “It’s the TARDIS!”. Just in case we hadn’t spotted that.
02:43 – Oh, it’s Peter. First word: “Shush!”
03:15 – Dwarf jokes? Really? Weren’t the potato ones bad enough?
04:20 – Clara’s hair is amazing. Her role has thus far been to stand and look shocked and devastated, but she does it so well. Presumably she’s just seen the script for the series finale.
05:30 – He’s pissed out!
05:48 – Ah. And we’re back in ‘Planet of the Spiders’ territory. I do miss Nick Courtney.
06:00 – DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THE TITLES?!?
Oh, this is all wrong. The clocks, the cogs, the roman numerals, the planet alignments. Is this something to do with him travelling through time, by any chance? This is horrible to watch; it’s like they had a brainstorming session for new title sequence ideas and decided to use every post-it note on the flipchart. It looks like something a fan did. Oh, wait.
Murray Gold has done the impossible and managed to produce a theme arrangement that I hate even more than his 2010 edition. The strings are so screechy they make my ears bleed. When will the man learn that less is more?
“I’m going to have to leave the room every time this comes on,” says Emily. I have to agree. It also calls to mind a conversation I had with Gareth a few weeks ago, in which he directed me to a video I didn’t see until a few minutes ago:
Seriously. What sort of idiot applauds a screen graphic with a person’s name on it? “Woooo! It’s a typeface! SICK!”
07:00 – We’re in the bedroom. I don’t know if I’m watching an episode of Doctor Who or a BBC drama about dementia.
07:55 – Peter: “I like to skip ahead to my bit. It saves time.” Congratulations, Doctor, you’ve just described the internet.
08:30 – Smug monkey joke from Vastra, complete with feminist twist to make it acceptable. Also misses the point that the Doctor is a Time Lord. Presumably in there so that the pedants have something to moan about.
…wait a minute.
10:40 – Ah. Dinosaur soliloquy. This is admittedly quite good. The last time Moffat wrote dialogue this eloquent for someone lying in a bed, we were waiting for the rain to stop. Coincidentally that also featured a young woman talking to a would-be boyfriend who’d suddenly aged several decades.
12:13 – Bloody hell, it’s Ali G’s mate Dave! What happened to him, his voice finally break?
13:50 – All right. Clara may as well be wearing a t-shirt that reads “I LOVE MATT SMITH” and running a tumblr page. I can see what Moffat’s trying to do here but this really does come across as a fan lecture.
17:35 – “Oh, look!” says Emily. “It’s Mary Poppins!” Capaldi is bouncing across the roof, a little like Patrick Troughton in ‘The Invasion’, minus the panache. Then the dinosaur explodes, and Vastra demands that Strax free the cabbage, which instantly makes me think of killer plants. This is like watching Second, Third and Fourth Doctor stories all at once.
20:00 – Peter: “Sorry sorry. Sorry. Sorry sorry.” Well, that’s the new catchphrase sorted then.
23:05 – Oh look, it’s the Short Funny One again. Don’t knock her out by throwing the newspaper through the window, Strax. Don’t knock her out by – shit.
26:20 – Gosh, Bill Oddie’s really let himself go.
27:30 – And we’re back to the face. FFS, WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO BE A THING? Did Colin Baker stride around the TARDIS console room saying “I look like Maxil; obviously the Time Lords are about to do something dreadful”?
28:40 – Ten years ago, Emily and I were living in a bungalow out in the sticks where the only pizza we could get delivered came courtesy of a bearded, leather jacket wearing chap in his late thirties – think of a short-haired Bill Bailey – who had incredible eyebrows. As he and I traded cash and hot food I noticed that his manner was vivacious and even hyperactive, as if he were watching out for a passing police car, while his eyebrows – two great bushy things – jerked constantly up and down in rapid succession, like two limbo-dancing caterpillars. I tell you all this because it’s frankly more interesting than the Doctor’s rambling monologue about the Independent State of Eyebrows. This is clearly Capaldi’s Ridiculous Chin moment.
30:16 – Oh, you’re married, are you? Thank you for pointing that out.
35:30 – The Doctor and Clara, in a restaurant. These two are sparking off each other wonderfully. It’s back and forth, back and forth, with overlapping sentences and a chemistry that is very different from the one that Coleman had with Smith, but no less effective. It’s like they’ve been working together for years.
38:12 – All right, this just kicked up a notch. Forty minutes of indifferent comedy and I’m suddenly enjoying it thoroughly. Wheatley’s direction is understated but effective and the score is, for a change, unintrusive.
42:45 – And all at once, Capaldi is the Doctor. It’s nothing specific, more a quirky eccentricity that underpins an absolute sense of self-control. It’s halfway between Tennant and Davison. Leaving it until now was a risky gambit, and Moffat’s only got away with it by playing to the strengths of his leading actor, but it works.
45:15 – So. That was Utter Bastard Scene #1, then.
47:10 – “Look!” squeals Emily. “It’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! She’s the music box doll from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!” And of course, she is.
50:02 – Ha! Clara’s just explained the second rule of classroom management: never make a threat unless you’re prepared to carry it out. As a failed teacher, I remember this one well. Moffat wins brownie points for its inclusion, or at least manages to slip back up the negative zone towards zero.
(The first rule of classroom management, in case you’re interested, is anticipate the problem in advance and plan things so that the likelihood of it happening is reduced. In other words, think about the worst things that could happen and develop a workaround that you can implement before it all goes south. Thinking about how bad things could possibly get was basically what got me through ‘Journey To The Centre of The TARDIS’.)
51:33 – Emily again: “Ooh. The Crème brûlées you could make with that torch.”
53:25 – “Rubbish robots from the dawn of time” might just be my quote of the week. And now Capaldi’s raging against mime, which ups the heroism quotient of his Doctor considerably.
54:48 – Jesus, was it really necessary to have Strax repeat Michelangelo’s comedy fall from the 2007 TMNT trailer?
57:30 – So we have a Doctor who kills and drinks. ‘Dark’ is not the word. ‘Lazy’ might be.
59:45 – It’s a shame the controller isn’t nearly as creepy as the waiter was. The waiter sounded like a sinister Speak & Spell. The controller sounds like a shady villain in a BBC Dickens adaptation.
60:54 – I think I caught a Father Ted joke just then, but it’s hard to tell because Capaldi’s mumbling, or the score is too loud, or both. If I wanted to hear an angst-ridden Scot muttering unintelligibly, I’d be watching Gregor Fisher.
61:51 – Broom handles now. If they resurrect Only Fools and Horses, Moffat really should write for it.
63:15 – I don’t have a problem with the lesbian kiss from a moral standpoint. It just seems unnecessary. But I can’t think of a single kiss since 2011 that needed to be in there.
64:50 – Emily and I both just cried out “Ow! It really hurth! I’m going to need thome ithe cream…” Oh, and there it is. The hungover look. Coming soon to a Google image search near you.
67:10 – Give it up, Steven. Please. No more redecorating jokes. Or round thing jokes. In fact, don’t do jokes. Or love scenes.
68:10 – “What do you think?” Well, I think Jon Pertwee wants his jacket back.
Eleventh Doctor [on phone]: Hello.
Clara: You realise this totally undermines your replacement.
Eleventh Doctor: Yes, but the teenage girls are upset. And there are little children fidgeting on the sofa because they don’t accept the grumpy old man.
Clara: Oh, come on. People got used to Colin.
Eleventh Doctor: No they didn’t. The show was suspended for a year and a half and the hiatus spawned the worst novelty single in history.
Clara: Point taken.
Twelfth Doctor: I do feel somewhat upstaged by this.
Eleventh Doctor: Shut it, Malcolm. This doesn’t work out, you have the Musketeers to fall back on. Clara, one last question: am I ginger?
Clara: …Not exactly.
Eleventh Doctor: Bollocks. [Hangs up]
Clara: Want to help me rebuild the Fourth Wall, Peter?
Twelfth Doctor: I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed.
Clara: Where are we, anyway?
Twelfth Doctor: Glasgow.
Clara: Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s Cardiff.
Twelfth Doctor: Close enough.
Next week: we travel inside a Dalek, and find several eggs, a repository of lint, and all those lost pens you thought were down the back of the armchair.