By Ray Flook
As part of a new twelve-day, seven-city international promotional tour (including stops in Cardiff, Wales; London, England; Seoul, South Korea; Sydney, Australia; Mexico City, Mexico; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) for the upcoming season premiere on August 23rd, BBC Worldwide brought the Doctor Who: The World Tour to New York City's Ziegfeld Theater last Thursday evening.
Hosted by Chris Hardwick (Nerdist, Talking Dead, @Midnight), the event began with a special screening of the first episode of Season 8, "Deep Breath," and followed with a panel discussion/Q&A with Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) and executive producer/lead writer Steven Moffat.
*Tickets for the event went on sale on Monday afternoon, August 11th, and were priced at $12 per ticket. No surprise that tickets didn't last long; and based on Twitter comments, some people were having problems getting to the link to complete their purchases. I was glad to see that Dan Slott made it in, though…
*I want to take a moment to thank Alejandra (Nerdy Faery) Bodden for being able to get through online and secure tickets, and serving as audio back-up for the Q&A. HUGE thanks for that!
*Event started at 7:30 pm, so that means in line by 12:30 pm for a good spot…and the beautiful weather was a major bonus. The set-up for the lines was well-organized and easily adjusted when needed; and I found security, Ziegfeld Theatre staff and BBC America staff to be incredibly polite, pleasant and professional. Staff worked the lines over the hours with giveaways like pens, buttons and doughnuts; photo-ops with The Doctor- and Clara-themed adipose; etc., helping to make it feel like the hours were moving quickly.
*I never thought I would find a Cyberman "heckling" NYC traffic as hysterical as I did when I got to see it firsthand…and then someone escorted him back to the theater like they were cutting-off a drunk from the karaoke mic ("Okay, pal…enough 'Margaritaville' for one night, okay?").
*Important Note: If you ever have to wait in line outside of the Ziegfeld Theatre, I would strongly urge you to bring something to cover the sewer vents in the sidewalk. You'll eventually have to sit; and if you're not sitting up-wind, then the smell can get pretty harsh at times.
*Giveaway: laminated Doctor Who: The World Tour badge and lanyard (very cool).
*I try to have as much "spirit and pep" as the next person, but there's only so much b-roll footage I can perform for a station/channel/network before I'm exhausted.
*Pricing for merchandise was actually pretty reasonable (ex: t-shirts: $20/$25; wristbands: $2), and there was a very useful system in place where you could reserve your merchandise before the event so that it's ready for purchase/pick-up before leaving. Smart move that helped make long lines move amazingly fast.
*Really liked that they had fan art on the screen as we entered the theatre and waited for the show to start: helped add to the excitement, anticipation and overall fan-friendly environment. As someone who can't draw a straight line without a ruler, I usually try to avoid making any comments on other people's art…but that one painting of Coleman/Clara Oswald looked disturbingly like Emma Watson/Hermione Granger.
*Was cool watching the BBC America crew gather together all of the Doctor Who cosplayers in the front of the theater and film them…until they had them engage in some weird "Doctor Who Dance Party"-type thing that went on a little too long and then ended awkwardly and abruptly.
*Crowd liked the music…dozens of fans putting their sonic screwdriver-holding hands in the air. I'm pretty sure they were shaking them like they just didn't care, too.
*I now believe Hardwick was genetically-engineered to host events/programs like these for every cool "geek-genre" show out there. The audience knows he's as big a fan as they are, and that comes across through their reactions to what he's saying. He reminds the audience that he will be hosting a new post-Doctor Who show on BBC America, Doctor Who: After Who Live (Hardwick: "I pitched 'Look Who's Talking' but they wouldn't go for it.")
*The crowd is loud and excited; and as the lights are lowered, the applause gets louder until the first image appears…
Screening Commentary/Mini-Review: "Deep Breath"
This was a tough one because this episode has a lot going on in it, especially for a season premiere episode with a new Doctor. To avoid spoilers but to still give you a tease of what to expect, I've put together a list of some of the most interesting lines of dialogue from the episode…in chronological order, but minus who said it and the context in which it was said. When you see the episode for yourself, you'll understand how difficult it would be to comment on it without spoiling the answers we get and the new questions that the show raises for the upcoming season and beyond:
*"Your grasp of biology…it troubles me."
*"The 'Asking-Questions' One…"
*"Well then…here we go again."
*"So you get a whole room for not being awake in?"
*"You all sound so…English!"
*"People are apes…men are monkeys."
*"I don't 'like' her, mum. I love her."
*"Good 'pretense,' isn't it?"
*"He trusted you. Are you judging him?"
*"Big sexy woman! Hey!"
*"That's how I meet girls most of the time…"
*"Shut up! I was talking to the horse…"
*"I'm sorry. Sorry. Sorry."
*"'Planet of the Pudding-Brains!'"
*"And we will not melt him with acid. Old habits."
*"Well, it could be 'sports'…"
*"Look at the eyebrows! They're attack-eyebrows!"
*"I'm Scottish. I can complain about things."
*"Clara? Excellent. Put your clothes over there."
*"I don't know…maybe the smell?" / "Yeah…it's everywhere."
*"Do you have the children's menu?" / "I think we are the menu."
*"If The Doctor is still The Doctor, he'll have my back."
*"Never try to control a control-freak."
*"I've got a horrible feeling that I might have to kill you."
*"And unlike you, I don't expect to make 'the promised land.'"
*"Give him hell. He'll always need it."
*"I never said it was your mistake."
*"He needs you."
*"Is that The Doctor?"
*"Don't be afraid."
*"I'm not on the phone. I'm…right…here."
*"Please just see me…"
As for the episode itself? "Deep Breath" is an excellent introduction to Capaldi's 12th Doctor…one that runs at a faster pace and more dire tone than previous regeneration episodes. Moffat doesn't give this "new" Doctor a moment to breathe (ironic considering the title) as he forces The Doctor to face the effects of his regeneration; the process of establishing his own self; a companion who views him as a stranger and keeps her distance; and…something that seems very "familiar" to him but he just can't remember what it is.
I know that there will be many more detailed reviews of the episode as we get closer to August 23rd and immediately after its premiere, but there are some spoiler-free points I'd like to highlight that deserve a particular paying-attention-to:
*Based on the reaction they received the moment they appeared on screen, "The Paternoster Gang" of Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey) seem deserving of consideration for their own spin-off series. Their presence in this episode is key to addressing a number of issues that that have come-up in the media and amongst Who fans regarding the casting of Capaldi as The Doctor. In some ways, I see them representing Moffat and his team…wagging their finger at us as the "bad cop" side of a "good cop/bad cop" routine that would play-out in full by the time the episode ends…"angry" over how we could "dare" question the decisions that they made prior to this season. The exchanges between Vastra, Jenny and Clara are particularly revealing.
*Big fan of clocks? You'll love the new opening…which conveys the darker, more serious tone Moffat says we should expect from this Doctor and this season.
*Capaldi's Doctor is definitely a change from David Tennant, Matt Smith AND Christopher Eccleston…his Doctor isn't light-hearted with the potential to "go dark" if needed; he runs with a constant dark-seriousness about him, but still has the potential to "go light" if needed. This is a Doctor who I believe could be capable of anything if it's for a greater universal good, so you believe it when he makes threats. Capaldi stares at us, the viewers, toward the end of the episode…and that stare alone proves my point.
In addition, he approaches problems from a deductive standpoint…like a cross between Tom Baker in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" and Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes. And I know that there's been a ton of speculation over how the chemistry/dynamic would be between Clara and The Doctor, so let me just say this: I believe Capaldi's performance allows Coleman to elevate her portrayal of Clara to a completely different level. By the end of episode, I viewed The Doctor and Clara as "equals" in the sense that this "Doctor/companion" dynamic is one in which both sides are equally invested in their missions, their goals. Clara no longer works "for" The Doctor, but "with" The Doctor…and Capaldi's Doctor realizes that all too well. Considering the situations he puts her in throughout the episode (and in upcoming episodes), it will interesting to see how she handles the greater threats that are coming with her greater responsibilities.
*As for the whole "flirting controversy" going into Season 8? Maybe it's just me, but Capaldi and Coleman have such a great chemistry together that you can't help but forget about all the other nonsense and just enjoy their time together on the screen…"flirting" or not. Especially considering what we've recently learned…
*And in case anyone thinks this is just a standard stand-alone, "let's-introduce-a-new-Doctor" episode, know this: plot points from previous seasons are referenced and a number of clues/"red herrings" as to where the season is going are in play. The last sequence seems to be of particular importance, and ends the episode with the appropriate amount of dread.
Embedded below is the BBC highlight video from the Q&A session, which gives you an overview of some of the questions asked and issues raised, both by Hardwick and the audience:
Along with that, there were two points from the Q&A that I wanted to end with:
*Moffat really wanted to emphasize the importance of the crowd not spoiling the episode, especially the ending; and that contrary to rumors, there was never any controversy over he and Capaldi disagreeing on whether there should be flirting between Clara and The Doctor…and that had any conversations like that had taken place, they would've also involved Coleman.
*If you're a big fan of Doctor Who…in a room filled with Doctor Who fans…and you're asking a questions directly to The Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi…then you better remember that he played Caecilius and not Julius Caesar in "The Fires of Pompeii." And even though Hardwick tried to save him…it wasn't pretty.
Ray Flook is a contributing writer to Bleeding Cool, and tries every day to believe three impossible things before breakfast. You can follow him on Twitter: @oldmangeek88; visit his Facebook page: Old Man Geek; or check-out his new website: www.oldmangeek88.com.