TV | Doctor Who – A new face for an old classic

The world’s longest running, sci-fi show returns for its record breaking fifty-first year with a statement of intent. Peter Capaldi picks up the keys to TARDIS as he steps back in time to the perennial BBC favourite – Victorian London. Here a madcap adventure ensues as a series of Bleak House-esque spontaneous combustions plague the city; luckily a newly regenerated Doctor is on hand to investigate.

Sadly, unlike Capaldi’s majestic eyebrows, the plot of the episode seems a little threadbare. While the mechanical antagonists may have seemed fresh and chilling six years ago in another of Moffat’s story, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, here they come across as rather dull. There is a lack of menace to them this time round. Before they seemed like something out of a child’s nightmare, now they are as unsettling as a clockwork monkey.

The Victorian setting harked back to the chilling – although questionably racist – Tom Baker serial ‘The Talons of Wu-Cheng’, yet here it again felt underused. While the Victorian setting may feel underused it provided an excellent way for the BBC to show off why it is the world leader in period dramas. The costume designs were excellent, with Capaldi’s rather gothic ensemble being the highlight.

Despite the rather dull plot from the now Emmy-award winning writer Moffat the lead characters come across stronger than they ever have since he took over. After spending the majority of her inaugural series as a plot device, the incredible girl, Clara, is given a meatier role as her world is turned upside down by the new Regeneration. Jenna Coleman gives her best performance so far as she grapples with the idea that this is the same Doctor just a different face.

Life-long fan Capaldi is the oldest actor to play the Doctor since the sixties and for a show that built its foreign success on two young heartthrobs casting him seemed like a huge risk, but luckily it pays off with great success. Capaldi takes to the role like a fish to water, making it his own from the offset. Showing the menace that gained him plaudits for his role in The Thick of It, Capaldi hints towards a darker, more mature portrayal of the Doctor. This is no longer a show about a mad man in a box; instead we are given a brooding Doctor who’s willing to not separate right from wrong. With Capaldi being the first Oscar winner to enter the TARDIS one hopes that this high calibre of acting can be assured to continue. Take a deep breath, the Doctor is back in the house.

Frank Jackman

Image property of BBC

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