Somewhere along the line I’d forgotten that we had a new one, so there was a momentary jolt as his affronted owl face popped onto the screen.
But the surprise was momentary, because there he is, The Doctor. Calmer, more still, but still most definitely the Doctor. This one has replaced the childish enthusiasm with a gentle thrum of intensity. He vibrates.
So what did we get in this episode – Into the Dalek? Well, Tires for one thing (Michael Smiley). He’s always welcome, even if you do expect some Edgar Wright jump cuts to start slicing their way into your brain.
And a new boy – Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) – who made a great entrance, bold and strong, tearful and awkward, like some kind of Athena poster of a perfect modern man. But without the 90s Athena reference.
Oh, and plot straight out of 80s comedy, Inner Space (and before that Fantastic Voyage) something the Doctor acknowledges early on so we can get on with enjoying the show. It was a silly plot, but simple. So for once I didn’t spend the episode thinking “maybe this will make more sense when I get to watch it again with my daughters in four years.”
Despite the comedy plotline, the story was there to serve the bigger theme that’s developing this series “is the Doctor a good man,” a question he asks Clara early on with the chaste request: “Clara, be my pal.”
This darker, more grown up Doctor is exactly what we needed. Not that I would say a bad word about the three we’ve just had: I loved every fuzzy inch of them even during the over-sentimental moments, the kerrazy moments and the maudlin bits (although I could have managed without the soap opera lovestory moments). But this one is darker, meaner, less likely to coin a laboured catchphrase. No geronimos or allons-y nonense for this one… please god.
In short, I love Peter Capaldi.
I already did, so it wasn’t a difficult decision. But I admit I was nervous of having British comedy’s official shit in residence as our most beloved super hero: Malcolm Tucker would have gladly left Bernard Cribbins to perish in that glass box (if only in punishment for Right, Said Fred) while he went off to see if the Master needed a director of communications.
Capaldi looks tired. He dresses snappily, but it just looks like someone’s buttoned a furious dragon into Dracula’s morning suit. And I don’t think I’ll get tired of the Clara insulting any time soon. “Still making an effort, good for you.” What could have seemed misogynistic – constant references to her size, weight, looks – somehow just seems like a distracted alien forgetting to play human.
This Doctor would never make the mistake of marrying someone who called him “sweetie”.
In conclusion, then, there was a lot to like about this episode. The darker comedy – “he’s the top layer if anyone wants to say a few words” – and cameos from Tires and Fresh Meat’s Zawe Ashton (as well as the supreme Michelle Gomez playing Missy). But the bad stuff? We’ll, it’s too early to say for this fan-girl at the moment, but I admit I’m not buying the “is the Doctor good” plotline.
Next week, Robin Hood! Exciting!