He doesn’t enjoy hugs, rejects scarves and definitely doesn’t do doors. Peter Capaldi’s first full episode as the 12th(-ish) Doctor trades in the uncertain identity of a new front-face.
But in truth, the measure of writer Steven Moffat and director Ben Wheatley’s smart, funny Capal-debut’s success is its assurance: it knows what it wants, knows what it doesn’t what and says “Shush” to anything in between.
So Who’s eighth series opens with a roar as the TARDIS is vomited into Victorian London, where the Paternoster Gang (Vastra, Jenny, Strax) and Jenna Coleman’s shell-shocked Clara need to figure out who the new Doc is and help him do so.
Meanwhile, just as 12 has issues with his face, so a man-droid stalking the streets is interested in faces. And eyes. And other body parts...
Moffat takes his time unpeeling that macabre (and faintly undersold) story, but his newly stealthy pacing gives 12’s mysteries room to simmer.
Which they do, in Capaldi’s sure, spidery hands. He’s funny, terse, wayward – likeable with it, sure, but also sharper than his costume’s curt lines and clear that his is a Doctor about whom assumptions shouldn’t be made.
Coleman likewise explodes any series 7-based presumptions with her forthright delivery. Equally forthright is the lived-in, cinema-standard direction, which shares a purposeful mien with Capaldi’s “attack eyebrows” and reiterates Wheatley’s flair for witty/tense stand-offs over dinner tables.
With the climax brimming with emotion, the crackle of all-fronts confidence is emphatic.
Deep breath, relax: Capaldi knows how to fly this thing.
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