Ben Wheatley directs the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. Written by Steven Moffat and starring Peter Capaldi, the opening episode ‘Deep Breath’ sees the Doctor combating clockwork robots whilst facing post regeneration fatigue.
Set in Victorian London, the Doctor sees himself struggling to come to terms his new, but older, body and his old, but new, relationship with companion Clara. From hitting on female dinosaurs, battling time cyborgs to coming to terms with his new appearance, this is an enigmatic reboot for the show.
Peter Capaldi is dangerously mercurial as the Doctor, effortlessly dancing from being in-compassionate and cold, literally stealing a jacket from a tramp, to being kind hearted and vulnerable. With a cameo at the end revealing that under that steely veneer the Doctor is still the Timelord we know and love, these co contradictory emotions are balanced beautifully. Jenna Coleman is also given a opportunity to show off her acting chops. Now with an older Doctor, the doe-eyed companion is gone. Similarly facing her own set of torn feelings with the Doctor’s new incarnation her performance is fused with anger and confusion. Steely on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, but without the clichés and with actual substance, we now have a companion that is able to realistically mix it up with the Doctor. From dropping nice references, Scottish independence, sexuality, comedy, horror, you name it’s all in there quietly and subtly.
Primarily a character piece the plot is somewhat secondary to the emotional arc the Doctor and Clara go through. As a result, plenty of time is given to develop these characters and emotions properly with an 80 minutes run time that never drags or dips. Wheatley direction is atmospheric and focused and Moffat’s screenplay doesn’t drop a beat, pulling together a diverging array of elements from knowing references, Scottish Independence, ageing, identity, sexuality, comedy, horror to action. All executed quietly and subtly.
Out with young in with the old, this new Doctor is in safe pair of hands and bodes well for the future.
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