Don’t Hate on Season 8
A Personal Note on 'Deep Breath' & Capaldi's Doctor Who
August 29, 2014
Season 8 of Doctor Who began last Saturday with the first episode airing on BBC One. Appropriately named, Deep Breath was a plunge that had more than just Clara Oswald holding her breath. As we said goodbye to the lovable Matt Smith and his brilliant bow tie, we say hello to Peter Capaldi as the 12th and newest incarnation of the Doctor. This was Capaldi's first full episode as the Doctor. Much has already been preconceived about Capaldi taking over the reigns. Despite the talk, Deep Breath was our first real glimpse at Capaldi's new Doctor. I want to share my personal views on the transition of the Doctor, Deep Breath, and what I think is in store for season 8. If you have not yet watched Deep Breath, be advised I do talk about a few details of the episode.
Every new incarnation of the Doctor brings both hope and fear into the hearts of Who fans. Anticipation mounts, and opinions are formed even before the actor's first episode. Only in the past year have I began watching Doctor Who, and not yet had the chance to watch any classic Who. Still, everytime the Doctor regenerates and we're presented with a new face, something in my head tells me not to enjoy the new Doctor as much as the last. Is this a feeling of loss for the previous Doctor? Or is it that our personal connection with the Doctor is being tossed about? I've learned it's nothing more than human nature, controlling my judgement, and telling me to dislike a new Doctor. After experiencing a few regenerations, followed by a couple episodes of acceptance, I've always come to like each new Doctor for what he brings to the roll.
It's a natural feeling to assume the new actor won't live up to expectations of the last Doctor. But it's not his job to be the same and unfair to make that comparison. We must remember, one of the brilliant fundamentals of Doctor Who. It's that this man changes; not just his physical appearance, but most of his personality as well. He's the same man, but a different man. This is his very nature as a Time Lord. Each time the Doctor regenerates, we see first-hand the physical and mental toll he endures. So it's almost unfair to compare a new version of the Doctor to any other version from his past. I try and view the change almost as a completely new role. If you keep this core fundamental of the Doctor in your mind, it'll help you commend each actor for taking on a unique personality.
During the show Saturday, I followed fan reactions on Twitter. Disregarding multiple mentions of the show's revamped intro (which I didn't love, but didn't mind as much as others apparently), there was still a heavy dose of negative in the tweets I read. As Deep Breath began, my feelings aligned with many of these responses. But as the show went on, I began to understand many of the feelings I talk about above. Something Capaldi portrayed very well was just how frightened the Doctor was at this very point. There's a very well done scene where the Doctor is pouring out his fear and emotions to a homeless man he meets in an alleyway. He rambles on in a bit of a paranoid state, harshly critiquing himself, piecing together his memories, and even discovering he's Scottish. This scene really helped portray an understanding of that feeling. It became easier to allow myself to go along this transitional journey with the Doctor.
Before this scene, the episode felt a bit slow. Afterward it was as if a threshold was crossed and the storyline picked up quite nicely. The plot was intriguing and supported some well-written, witty humor, which I enjoyed seeing. In the ending scene, Matt Smith's 12th Doctor phones Clara from the TARDIS to let her know the new Doctor needs her. Albeit a touching scene, and not a bad way to address the transition, it felt a bit like Smith telling fans to give Capaldi a chance. I do understand any caution of the producers, especially as the number of young female Who fans has grown. The transition back to an older Doctor was an obvious concern. But I saw a flash of both new and old in Capaldi, and I'm looking forward to getting to know his Doctor.
If there's anyone reading this who's discouraged about season 8, I encourage you to think about why that is. Both Tennant and Smith played brilliant Doctors, but is that why you don't want to give Capaldi a chance? Or perhaps you're feeling a bit like Clara, and don't yet know who the Doctor is? I had to ask myself this same question.
All of this considered, I'm excited for season 8 and what Capaldi brings to the roll. Although I've not seen the older episodes, I get a sense that Capaldi's Doctor will bring a bit of classic back to the role of the Doctor. This new version of Who will be a shift for newer fans of the show, myself included. You classic Who fans, have patience with us newbies as we adjust and start to appreciate the complexity of the Doctor. As always, it should be one hell of a ride.
*This is an opinion piece only and nothing more.