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Capaldi cheats catastrophe with world-weary panache

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2015-09-20 Sunday Telegraph.jpg

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★★★☆☆


Ten years ago, the writer Russell T Davies took Doctor Who and transformed it from an embarrassing childhood memory into our nation's proudest broadcasting export.

As a result, each new series has been hailed as a television event. Last year, several eyebrows were raised when the 12 Doctor was announced as Peter Capaldi - a proper actor no less, and one knocking on 60 to boot. But with Capaldi now established in the role, current writer Steven Moffat chose the first episode of the new series to look backwards and reintroduce an old enemy: Davros, a name that on its own send shivers down the spine.

To those of us without spellcheck it is a place in Switzerland where they hold the world economic forum and the secret rulers of the world control our lives. But to fans, Davros is the disembodied head on the bumper car who created and commands the Daleks. And in

he was back. We opened on the young Davros, many years ago, pre-bumper car, just a boy in fear of his life in a battlefield full of handmines – hands with eyeballs in their palms that collectively looked like a Pink Floyd album cover. The Doctor suddenly appeared, as he is wont to do.

He knew who Davros was, and more importantly, what he would become, and so the ethical dilemma, plucked straight from the film was: should he save his life or let a boy die for the good of everyone?

This was left hanging over the episode, and it provided a sturdy narrative frame for some of the bunkum that followed. There are times when is a little like fusion jazz or nouvelle cuisine – as if the scriptwriter is having so much fun performing he almost forgets there's an audience out there. The scene in which Capaldi appeared on a tank playing electric guitar in sunglasses to an audience of Vikings in 1148 was, I would suggest, a fusion jazz moment. The moment was only really made acceptable due to Capaldi's panache.

Rarely has a show been so dependent on the skills of a single actor, and Capaldi is able to bring enough emotional depth to a comic book caper to render it dramatic. His face, like a diagram of glacial erosion, exudes just the right level of worldweariness to temper what he's given to speak.

Elsewhere, events scaled up to staggeringly implausible heights, involving the Tardis being destroyed, the Doctor's companion, Clara, being turned to toast and the end of the world coming extremely nigh.

Part of the strength of that, owing to the quasi-mythical universe in which it exists, almost anything can happen. This is also a weakness: it means that even seemingly catastrophic events like Clara's blasting, or indeed the end of life as we know it, will probably turn out to be reversible after a little spatiotemporal sleight of hand.

The question is, can you really feel engaged with a drama that keeps reminding you you're not supposed to take it seriously? The jury's still out.


Caption: Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and Jenna Coleman as his companion Clara, who was turned to toast in the first episode of the new series

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Wilson, Benji (2015-09-20). Capaldi cheats catastrophe with world-weary panache. The Sunday Telegraph p. 19.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Wilson, Benji. "Capaldi cheats catastrophe with world-weary panache." The Sunday Telegraph [add city] 2015-09-20, 19. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Wilson, Benji. "Capaldi cheats catastrophe with world-weary panache." The Sunday Telegraph, edition, sec., 2015-09-20
  • Turabian: Wilson, Benji. "Capaldi cheats catastrophe with world-weary panache." The Sunday Telegraph, 2015-09-20, section, 19 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Capaldi cheats catastrophe with world-weary panache | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Capaldi_cheats_catastrophe_with_world-weary_panache | work=The Sunday Telegraph | pages=19 | date=2015-09-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Capaldi cheats catastrophe with world-weary panache | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Capaldi_cheats_catastrophe_with_world-weary_panache | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2019}}</ref>