Reviews are pouring in for the eighth season premiere of “Doctor Who” and the debut of the new Doctor Peter Capaldi. Critics have generally praised the episode, online reaction however has proven more divided.
The performances of both Capaldi and co-star Jenna Coleman were well-regarded, as was director Ben Wheatley’s darker visual elements and the final sequences which included two surprises. The episode’s extra-roomy 75-minute runtime also allowed for strong character moments such as the restaurant scene with the two leads.
On the other hand the script, especially the main plot involving a dinosaur and robots, wasn’t as well received and several reactions labelled it too thin to justify the longer runtime. The first half-hour in particular has come under fire, especially the deliberately slower pacing which marked a stark change of tone following the sheer franticness of Smith’s final season.
The division among fans is also present in online reactions. Long-term Whovians who’ve been watching since the classic series seemed more receptive on the whole to the episode than nuWhovians, especially those who’ve only been onboard since Smith, whilst one or two reviews from complete newbies have described the episode as impenetrable. That said, there’s plenty of nuWhovians who responded well to the episode too. Here’s a couple of key quotes from various publications:
“The last two actors to play the Doctor had high-energy, leading-man qualities: David Tennant’s romantic brio, Mr. Smith’s aggressive goofiness. Mr. Capaldi is a consummate character actor, a quieter, more subtle performer. With his hooded eyes, angular features and praying mantis figure, he can project a slippery, suspicious quality, like a more intellectual Mr. Bean. His Doctor is not just older but looks to be drier in his humor, more reticent, more coldblooded and dangerous. From a critic’s point of view, that’s interesting and potentially an improvement. We’ll see how the fans feel about it…” – Mike Hale, The New York Times
“Deep Breath was a gothic period drama, true to promises of a show with a grittier tone and longer, more grounded scenes. In many ways, it was surprisingly low-key for a series opener. In reality, it maybe could have done with being shaved down to an hour.
But it would take a grump to conclude that this didn’t give us almost everything we could have hoped for…” – Dan Martin, The Guardian
“Deep Breath is a little bit quieter, certainly less frenetic an introduction than we’ve been used to. In that sense in particular, it feels like older Who than new. It certainly makes use of its 76-minute running time too, taking its time, making space to allow people to talk and to comfortably fit the story. It’s just that the episode-specific story is probably the least interesting thing about this one. Because in most other regards, Deep Breath is a success, one that feels like all concerned have real confidence in what they’re up to…” – Simon Brew, Den of Geek
“For me the Moffat era has been a very mixed bag – there have been some gems but too often what he’s served up has been shallow and poorly realised. The quality gap between the superb, epic, The Day of the Doctor and rushed, poorly scripted The Time of the Doctor is painful to recall… Deep Breath was so well executed that I’m hoping against all past experience that this is the season when he finally nails it. Tonight is the first time in several seasons that I’m actively looking forward to the next episode…” – Martin Hosick, Seen It
“Never was it clearer that this was a regeneration, not a rejuvenation, in Doctor Who’s most hallowed traditions, that much will be demanded of its youthful audience. But, if the challenges may be great, so too will be the rewards. Judging by Peter Capaldi’s debut episode, the Tardis is, once again, in very safe hands…” – Caroline Frost, The Huffington Post
“The theme of being ‘old’ was aired at length, bundled with notions of ‘selfhood’ and ‘differentness’ (veils, masks and prosthetic faces were deployed to this end) and hammered into a message we don’t hear often enough – that men in their 50s are human too…. The excitement was over before Capaldi had the chance to stamp his personality on things. And a little ingenuity wouldn’t have gone amiss…” – Phil Hogan, The Guardian