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Unsettling Capaldi is a fine and edgy Doctor

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Our verdict on Peter Capaldi's first adventure DEEP BREATH

'You've really let yourself go," said Peter Capaldi's Doctor as he surveyed the very fresh face of his assistant Clara (Jenna Coleman). Within a few moments, this new incarnation of the Time Lord, cadaverous and wild-eyed, had passed out on the ground. Clara clearly wondered what to make of this and so did we, the audience.

This first episode of the eighth series, screened at a special event in Cardiff's St David's Hall, showed Capaldi's Doctor to be mercurial, edgy and febrile. Deep Breath was set in Victorian London, and we saw the Doctor dance around in a nightgown on the rooftops of the city like a demented extra from

Mary Poppins. Later we saw him in a derelict slum, ruminating on his reincarnated appearance with a tramp. "Why this one?" he asked of his face, horrified that his Matt Smith jawline had disappeared. His Scottish accent was, however, the source of some joy.

"I am Scottish," he said. "I can really complain about things."

As seen in such shows as The Hour, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and, most famously, The Thick of It, Capaldi channels a sort of nervous energy through his performances, and the same was true here. You always felt that his mood could turn at any moment, and sometimes it did, his unpredictability crackling off the screen.

But by the end, we were left in no doubt that the Doctor is a goody. Best of all was the penultimate scene (following a very shocking and very secret cameo that will delight fans of the show), in which the Doctor and Clara showed each other their vulnerability, and hinted that travelling through space and time together might be good for their souls. It was a humane moment, the sort that Doctor Who does so well. It's far more than sci-fi fodder for geeks.

It is important not to downplay Jenna Coleman's role in all of this. Outwardly tough, inwardly insecure, her Clara has you rooting for her every step of the way. As the Doctor was out of action for a lot of the episode, it was she who drove the plot, and Coleman showed she was adept at playing the spirited heroine.

Deep Breath was directed by the acclaimed Ben Wheatley, best known for two very adult films, Sightseers and A Field in England. Although still squarely aimed at a young audience (the Tardis accidentally appeared inside a dinosaur, which it transported to Victorian London, and the creature spat it out like a small egg on arrival), Wheatley also deployed a certain darkness. This was shown most vividly in a scene in which a group of people eating in a restaurant turn out to be zombie-like droids, all baying for the Doctor and Clara's blood. It must be one of the most frightening scenes in the series' history.

This was a highly effective opener, showing Doctor Who is still the most intelligent, ambitious and eccentric show on British TV. In his unsettling, cerebral performance, Peter Capaldi fits right in.

Caption: Fitting right in: Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara in Victorian London

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  • APA 6th ed.: Lawrence, Ben (2014-08-08). Unsettling Capaldi is a fine and edgy Doctor. The Daily Telegraph p. 20.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Lawrence, Ben. "Unsettling Capaldi is a fine and edgy Doctor." The Daily Telegraph [add city] 2014-08-08, 20. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Lawrence, Ben. "Unsettling Capaldi is a fine and edgy Doctor." The Daily Telegraph, edition, sec., 2014-08-08
  • Turabian: Lawrence, Ben. "Unsettling Capaldi is a fine and edgy Doctor." The Daily Telegraph, 2014-08-08, section, 20 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Unsettling Capaldi is a fine and edgy Doctor | url= | work=The Daily Telegraph | pages=20 | date=2014-08-08 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 June 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Unsettling Capaldi is a fine and edgy Doctor | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 June 2024}}</ref>