Peter Capaldi’s version of the Doctor on “Doctor Who” is still taking his first steps.
The first episode of Series 8 of the revival premiered Saturday, Aug. 23.
Since the British series premiered in 1963, there have been 13 incarnations of the Doctor, an alien capable of regenerating into a new body. Capaldi’s Doctor is the latest incarnation, though he’s considered the 12th Doctor due to a series of plot twists.
The Doctor travels time and space in a ship called the TARDIS that, due to a longstanding malfunction, appears as a blue British police box. Usually along for the ride are one or two of the Doctor’s companions, most recently Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswin Oswald.
This Doctor seems to be struggling with his identity and trying to figure out just how far he’ll go to protect the universe.
The first episode, “Deep Breath,” begins with the TARDIS being vomited up by a tyrannosaurus rex in the middle of the Thames in London.
Capaldi keeps the episode afloat as the Doctor struggles with his chaotic and confused identity.
Despite strong performances, and an interesting premise, “Deep Breath,” written by showrunner Steven Moffat, struggles to find its center.
The episode harkens back to one of Moffat’s previous “Doctor Who” episodes: “The Girl in the Fireplace.”
As the 12th Doctor struggles with his identity, the episode struggles to synthesize Victorian London, lost robots that use humans for spare parts, and the tyrannosaurus rex.
The wild mash of themes and elements is similar to some of the high-energy romps seen during Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor, but Capaldi just doesn’t fit.
The second episode, which premiered Saturday, Aug. 30, sees Capaldi truly settling into the role of the Doctor.
The Doctor and Clara find themselves shrunk down to repair a sick Dalek, one of the Doctor’s recurring enemies.
The Daleks are programmed to be xenophobic killing machines, but this Dalek has turned his rage against his own kind due to severe damage.
Capaldi reveals his Doctor to be far more callous than many previous incarnations, shrugging off three deaths in the course of an hour.
We see him falter, though, when he reveals his mind to the Dalek and the Dalek finds a deep-seated hatred for his kind.
Capaldi’s Doctor is refreshingly introspective, more aware and frightened of his flaws than Matt Smith’s portrayal, but the 12th Doctor still has the power to keep audiences guessing.
Introduced in the second episode is Danny Pink, veteran, schoolteacher and possibly a companion for the Doctor. Pink, played by Samuel Anderson, may put on a tough front for his students, but he is quickly revealed to be sensitive, kind and haunted by his past as a soldier.
Michelle Gomez provides what is likely to be a long-term mystery in her role as Missy. It’s still unclear as to who or what Missy is; an announcement from June calls the character “the Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere.”
She’s appeared in both episodes welcoming people to heaven or paradise.
The next episode is scheduled to air Saturday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. on BBC America.