Thursday, August 28, 2014

Salem Watches a Movie(ish) – Doctor Who: Deep Breath

Well, ok, it's not a movie. But it was in the theater.

So after much careful deliberation on available funds, I decided to go ahead and pre-order a ticket to the theater showing of the season premier of Doctor Who. I'm not even going to try and figure out which season this is, seeing as how that one year that we had the feature-length episodes with Tennant may or may not be counted as an individual series and keeps throwing off my organizational folders. Technically, this would be the third time I've seen the episode (that's counting timeshifting the original airing, mind you, I would never ever ever watch that leaked workprint. Promise. And I haven't seen the next two episodes that leaked, either. Promise), but I missed Day of the Doctor in theaters, so I wasn't missing this one. As usual, spoilers ahead.

You know me and green women.
A nice extra to those of us who saw the episode was a vlog made by potato-head Strax prior to the episode, with guest appearance by the gorgeous Madame Vastra and her wife/maid Jenny. It served as a nice intro to people that may not be familiar with the series history, as well a chance to throw in some pretty hilarious piss-takes on the older series, such as referring to the Third Doctor as “an unfortunate hybrid between Man and Granny.” Strax is always welcome. Another bonus was the return of the “Doctor Who Confidential” behind-the-scenes documentary. Highlights were the effects that went into the villain of the episode, and seeing Peter Capaldi at the first read-through.

Speaking of Capaldi, we finally see this new Doctor in action. Previously, all we had of him was him in a panic, decrying his kidneys, or the cameo in Day of the Doctor, where his eyebrows stole the show. Watching him in action is truly a treat, as he is possibly the most talented actor to date to hold the role, and he's obviously enjoying himself immensely, possibly more so than Matt or David before him. I don't even have to use flowery words here like gravitas or presence (although I technically just did), as Capaldi easily has the energy and intensity of his predecessors, coupled with experience and bearing. In his post-regeneration trauma, he's wildly unstable and nigh-incoherent, but once his mind settles, what we have is a razor-sharp, intense Doctor with a brusque irascibility which recalls the classic series in a very comforting way.

Some of the best banter in the series.
There's been rumor that Jenna Coleman may be leaving at the end of this series, but I'm hoping she doesn't. I've been on the fence about Clara until now. She's clever and independent, but she always felt too comfortable around the Doctor, literally having more conflict with the TARDIS herself than with him. Witnessing this regeneration has really thrown her a curveball, and she's questioning just how safe she, and those around her, are with this stranger. “If his face is new, where did all these lines come from?” From this conflict, we get two outstanding scenes. Madame Vastra's questioning of her resulting in Clara losing her temper, and the wonderful bickering in the restaurant. Capaldi and Coleman have some amazing chemistry, and I really hope we get more than one series with them.

The guest cast in this episode really shines, as well. Vastra, Jenny, and Strax return, and some of the quieter moments in the episode are really carried by them. Jenny serving as Vastra's muse when she's not even doing art, Clara and Strax's banter around her 'medical exam,' and the touching moment during the climax, where we get what is possibly television's first interspecies lesbian kiss. The villain, a version of the returning Clockwork Robots from the acclaimed “Girl in the Fireplace” is extremely menacing, and really comes across as this inhuman, mechanical monster that quite literally has a screw loose, and the ending scene has a wonderfully creepy woman named Missy that's setting up the teaser for the series arc. And that's not even to mention the preceding scene, which has a truly touching cameo from a surprise guest

My final impressions on this episode, and the event of seeing it in the theater, is that it was worth the wait from the previous series, and worth the ticket price to see it on the big screen. Capaldi shines, and has wonderful chemistry with Clara. I've got high hopes for the remainder of the series, and the direction that Capaldi will help steer this ship in.

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