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

Elizabeth Harper | 25 Aug 2014 05:00
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Though the premiere episode, Deep Breath, isn't a stunner, it's not a bad introduction to Peter Capaldi's Doctor, either.

Steven Moffat's recent Doctor Who episodes have been king-sized spectacles, telling stories that were massive in scope and often required an entire season get around to telling properly. But the result of this scaling up was often a storytelling mess, where characters, events, and special effects were hurled at the audience without much in the way of a coherent storyline to hold them together. While these stories were often fun for the first viewing, plot holes and inconsistencies became glaring the more you stopped to think about them... and sometimes the thin string of plot didn't quite manage to last through the entire episode, leaving you scratching your head and wondering what you were watching.

Peter Capaldi's outing as the Doctor is different. This episode focuses on telling a small story rather than trying to create a big -- but essentially meaningless -- spectacle, and holds together better than a lot of the last season because of it. This introduction gives us an indication of what to expect for Capaldi's turn as the Doctor -- which is reminiscent of Sylvester McCoy's time in the role, and not just because of the Scottish accent -- and sets up a few mysteries that are sure to play out as the season progresses.

Sure, the episode has its own plot holes (practically a Doctor Who staple) and if you loved Matt Smith and David Tennant, Capaldi's darker turn might not be what you want out of the character. But all in all, the episode is entertaining, giving us some truly great moments with Clara, who really shines as she tries to hold her own when she's no longer sure the Doctor has her back. And as a post-regeneration episode, where the Doctor is incapacitated for a large part of the running time, there's plenty of room for episode's colorful cast of side characters, leaving the ever-entertaining trio of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax an opportunity to take center stage.

However, the episode is also highly derivative of an earlier -- arguably better -- Moffat episode and on reaching the end you might just wonder why you didn't watch the original instead. (More on this later.)

You can watch new episodes of Doctor Who on Saturday nights on BBC America -- though cord-cutters will have to pick up the current season on iTunes or Amazon Instant. If you want to catch up on earlier seasons, they can be found on both Netflix and Hulu. Now, for those of you who have watched (or don't mind spoilers), read on for more about the first episode of season 8, Deep Breath.

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