By now, you’ve probably seen the first full episode of ‘Doctor Who’ featuring Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. If you haven’t, then be warned that there are SPOILERS, sweetie! If you have, then keep reading to find out some exclusive new details about the things you saw in the season eight premiere of the 50-year-old sci-fi staple.
On August 14, 2014, the Doctor Who World Tour rolled through America and brought stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman with showrunner Steven Moffat across the pond to meet their adoring fans in New York City and screen the episode for them before anyone else. However, we were invited to attend a press only panel with the trio earlier in the day where we had the opportunity to ask some of the hard-hitting questions about ‘Deep Breath.’ For instance, there were many references to the season two ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, which saw David Tennant’s Doctor come face to face with Madame de Pompadour and the clockwork creatures terrorizing her. Moffat went into his reasoning for revisiting this episode for the Twelfth Doctor’s first adventure:
“I wanted a quite simple menace for the first episode. I didn’t want it to be wildly complicated as it were because obviously the grandstanding at the center of it is a new Doctor and a new relationship with a companion, so you really just want the villains to be lurching around offing people now and then with quite a simple backstory, but I also just quite liked the idea. I think I actually stole this joke from ‘Colombo’ that the doctor’s completely forgotten a previous adventure. Because you would. You just would. I remember there’s a lovely moment in one of the ‘Columbos’ where somebody somebody is recounting one of his previous cases, and Colombo just says, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve got absolutely no idea what you’re talking about’. Because you would! He’s 2000 years old, he’s forgotten the whole thing. It’s just that he forgot one of my episodes, so I’m very cross with him!”
Next, Moffat and Capaldi talk about the idea of identity and internal struggle that’s present in the episode. When asked about this theme carrying on throughout the season, they had this to say:
SM: First of all I don’t think we’re gonna put in the poster, “It’s more of an internal struggle this time.” [laughter] Because you know, there are monsters in corridors, I promise. And explosions. But yeah, I mean, the Doctor’s quite a complicated character, actually. For a melodramatic hero, he is quite complicated. And I think you’re wasting an opportunity with every generation if you don’t do a bit of that because we know that he doesn’t just change his face. He changes – things about him aren’t the same. Things he reaches for aren’t there. He has feelings he didn’t have before. I think that must be awfully alarming. It must make you wonder who you are. And I think there’s an element that runs throughout ‘Doctor Who’, and which was why ‘Doctor Who’ is so much better than everything else in the world, is that the Doctor doesn’t know he’s a hero. He doesn’t really. He doesn’t really know he’s in that shell. He knows that some other people think he is and he knows that sometimes he seems like a legendary warrior, but he knows and we know because we’re watching him, he’s just a man who can’t drive a time machine properly. The difference between how people see him and how he is is always exciting.
PC: But I think it’s interesting, the way that people are terribly interested. And we spend a lot of time talking about the character when in fact in the episodes they are so full of incident and drama and adventure that there’s barely any time to talk about the character. We just sort of get on with dealing with whatever threat has to be dealt with, and yet there’s something enigmatic and appealing about the character that makes me want to talk about it all the time.
SM: In the episode ‘Listen’, my impulse starting in that was just the idea, “What does he do when he’s got nothing do?” Because he’d throw himself off a building if he thought it’d be interesting on the way down. You know, he’s fascinated by anything. And here he’s with nothing to do so he just goes out and poking things with a stick until something bites it. And I think that’s quite interesting, isn’t that? Sort of, there’s a thrill seeker aspect.
Finally, though he gets off track a bit from the premiere, he comes back to it in another question about how the Doctor’s foes in this episode are somewhat going through the same things that he’s going through. After joking that this is a much better answer to the previous question, Moffat expands on his reasoning behind bringing back these old enemies in a new way before throwing in another little inside joke at the end:
“I suppose that’s why I chose those monsters because they’ve replaced themselves continually and the Doctor is faced with the fact that he has to and he doesn’t even know where he got his face from. I know it seems preposterous in a way that you’re obliged to sit in a room and think seriously, ‘What would it be like if you were Matt Smith one moment and Peter Capaldi the next? What would that be like?’ It’s not a general life experience. It’s not something that’s ever happened to me, for instance. So you have to take it seriously and you have to sort of think that it must be frightening. And it must be frightening when you look at your best friend in the whole world, because that’s where I put that line in about seeing. You look at your best friend in the whole world, the person on whom you are anchored, and they don’t see you. They literally look at you and look right through you and they see something else. And you still feel the same. You’re looking this way. You feel a bit different. But if someone’s looking back and not seeing you, how frightening that must be. Not to have your only basic irremovable right, the right to be yourself. The Doctor periodically has that removed from him. Usually because of an unsuccessful wage negotiation, but, you know – [laughter] not really actually. Not at all. Can I just say, that was not the case. We couldn’t resist the gag because I’m trivial. [laughter]”
Before I leave you to speculate on what that sentence is referring to, what did you think about the themes of the latest episode of ‘Doctor Who’? Were you excited to revisit ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ with this story? Do you think that you’ll ever have an identity crisis as big as the one that the Doctor frequently has? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
‘Doctor Who’ airs on Saturdays at 8:00pm on BBC America.