Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: The new Doctor Who

Putting a new face on "Doctor Who" is always a risk. And this time out, the show's creators have taken an exceptional gamble.

Not that Peter Capaldi is a bad actor - he's fantastic. Check out "In the Loop."

But his face is much different from that of his immediate predecessors.

Capaldi's older for a start: 56 compared to Matt Smith's 31, and not nearly as cute a cuddly as Smith or David Tennant before him. Plus, he's got gray hair, a scrawny frame and an owlish countenance.

It's a more severe look, to be sure. But the new Doctor has undergone a slight personality shift to match it.

Still goofy and funny much of the time, this Doctor also tends to be more grim and temperamental. There's a fresh edge to him that's mysterious and keeps you on your toes.

In many ways, actually, he reminds me of Tom Baker's Doctor, which isn't a bad thing at all.

Baker could be silly, absent-minded and sometimes bumbling, but also quite stern and serious. He was fun, but his mood could switch on a dime.

Not that we haven't seen a grumpy Doctor before. William Hartnell was short-tempered and irritable right out of the gate. But the Timelord hasn't been this old, or this testy, in quite a while.

I think the change is much-needed and good. The series needed a shift to stay fresh. And I like that Capaldi's Doctor seems to signal a back-to-basics approach.

The most recent episode, "Robot of Sherwood," for example, had a real 1960s/70s "Doctor Who" vibe to it. Filmed on location in England, mostly outdoors, it looked and felt like something from the earthbound Jon Pertwee era.

The plot was straight-forward, too, unlike the mind-twists of last season, with all its focus on the Doctor's own confusing mythology.

This was just the old-school setup: The Doctor and his companion materialize someplace and address whatever big problem they find on hand. In this case, a real life Robin Hood fighting alien robots. What more do you need?

There was plenty of witty dialogue and some nice suspense and action scenes to boot.

And it was nice to see current companion Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman, emerge as more of a real person.

Up until now, Clara has never had much of a personality - a problem that stems from her introduction last season as "the impossible girl" - not a real human but a being that incarnated several times throughout history in order to save the Doctor from peril.


This season, though, the focus is on Clara the human and Coleman is given much  more to do with part. She's a fine actress with a flare for comedy. "Robot" provided her with some great lines and she was the Doctor's equal - if not more so - in helping to save the day.

A potential love interest for Clara, introduced in the previous episode, "Into the Dalek," also bodes well for the character.

So, yes, changing things up is always a risk, but I think these changes will do "Doctor Who" good.


1 comment:

  1. Capaldi was indeed a good move. However, he still has a bit too much of Smith's babbling buffoon about him for my tastes.

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