Spoilers lurk below for anyone yet to watch Deep Breath
‘Clara, I’m not your boyfriend’ was probably the most welcome line in tonight’s outstanding Doctor Who season opener.
For far too long, the show has been working hard to ape US supernatural and fantasy shows with couplings of pretty Doctors and desperate to be loved companions.
When David Tennant took over the role, his close relationship with Rose had a natural, unforced feel to it.
But by the time Matt Smith’s Doctor was on the scene and being drooled by the too annoying for words Amy (Karen Gillan), it had become tired, cliched and stale.
The casting of 56 year old Peter Capaldi meant a change of tone was inevitable but few can have expected such a blatant and blunt casting aside of what had gone before.
Instead of the Doctor as a hoped-for/wannabe boyfriend who acts as an enabler for this week’s lovestruck companion, Capaldi’s incarnation appears to be a traditional hero in the style Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee.
‘I want to speak to the manager’ is classic Baker, silly enough to raise a smile, serious enough to make it clear that this is a man ready for battle should the need arise.
I’m undecided about the appearance of Smith at the episode’s close.
The cynic in me can’t help but feel that it was yet another example of Steven Moffat simply being unable to let go – witness too the unnecessary appearance of Amy at the close of the tawdry Christmas episode – while part of me sees it’s probably necessary to help a subset of viewers accept the show’s transformation from Young Adult/romance back to Sci-Fi drama.
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.
I’ve hoped on several occasions that an outstanding episode meant Moffat finally knew what he was doing and was going to deliver a knock-out run, only to be disappointed.
But 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. Let’s hope that’s still the case in a few weeks time.