Ben Wheatley

Doctor Who S8 E2 “Into the Dalek” (BBC One)

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Contains some spoilers for the aired episode

Regeneration stories are always atypical Doctor Who outings, so it’s not really until the second or third episode of a run that the audience really starts to get a proper sense of how a new Doctor is going to play the role and what the shape of the series around him is going to be. Last week’s “Deep Breath” was a nice feature-length treat, but this week’s “Into the Dalek” is where series 8 really starts to take shape.

In which case, I’m more than delighted with the way things are going. This episode delivered pretty much everything that I had on my pre-season ‘wish list’ for the show, being a fast-paced action-orientated thriller with real characters, peril and jeopardy for everyone involved. Jenna Coleman continued to get some strong material as Clara, and Peter Capaldi’s journey into the darkness of the Doctor’s psyche continued with compelling and at times genuinely surprising results.

What really struck me was the first pre-titles scene, when young rebel soldier Journey Blue (an excellent performance from Zawe Ashton) is saved from her exploding spaceship and finds herself in the Tardis console room with the Doctor. This is no longer the regeneration-scrambled version of the character but the Time Lord completely in control of himself and the situation, and Capaldi is riveting as he shows how he intends to play the part going forward. He’s calm and still but utterly remorseless as he breaks down Journey’s defensive antagonism, and you can’t take your eyes off him. Second episode in to his tenure in the part and already Capaldi owns it; not since Tom Baker has an actor so quickly settled into the role (David Tennant came close, but it still took until “School Reunion” before he really nailed it; Matt Smith, brilliant through he was later on, look the better part of a season to settle in and arrange the furniture as he wanted it; and for me at least Christopher Eccleston never quite managed to iron out the rough edges before he moved on.) Read the rest of this entry »

Doctor Who S8 E1 “Deep Breath” (BBC One)

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Contains spoilers for the episode

So Doctor Who is off and running again. And by running, I mean that literally as well as figuratively, the new incumbent in the title role wasting no time to disprove those doubters who felt that he might be too old for the role at the age of 56. On this evidence he’s more than up to the part and just as capable of manic-running-aroundness as even his youngest predecessors in the role were.

It makes sense to start this review with the question everyone had on their lips coming into the weekend: is Peter Capaldi going to cut it as the Doctor? To be honest few of us who knew Capaldi’s body of work had any doubt that he would be anything other than completely wonderful in the role, but it’s still the case that seeing is believing and until he finally appeared on the screen there was always just the tiniest chance that it could go horribly wrong. It’s a big relief then to report that instead it’s all gone wonderfully right: Capaldi is fantastic as the Doctor. For the first five minutes I was distracted by watching his performance, but after that I completely forgot about the actor himself because the Doctor was once again just the Doctor, which is just as it should be.

Capaldi’s Doctor certainly makes for a change from the others we’ve seen since the 2005 reboot, all of whom were very user-friendly and effortlessly charming, not to mention easy on the eye for the younger and also more female demographic drawn to the modern show in a way that was rarely the case with the classic series. No, this Doctor doesn’t really care if you like him or not – he’s not even very sure he likes himself. But he’s certainly fascinating and compelling and mysterious, which is not to say that he can’t also be very funny when he wants to be such as when he’s critiquing his new face and wondering from just where those “attack eyebrows” came from. For my money one of the most sublime lines ever uttered on television came early on, a throwaway moment when he told his companions “Don’t look in the mirror. It’s absolutely furious.” Read the rest of this entry »