Take a deep breath (see what I did there?), the opener of reboot series eight was something of a minor triumph. Not Steven Moffat's greatest work, but probably the best introduction to a new Doctor we've seen. Your Ecclestons, your Tenants, your Smiths, they set a consistent tone that's ran like an annoying thread through seven series and sundry specials: a tendency to overact. Did CapaldiDoc succumb to the same temptation? Having a Scottish Doctor cutting a serious, troubled, and (seemingly) more ruthless jib demands can only work if a clean break is made with Smith's hipster Doctor. The new Doctor lapses into a temporary breakdown and runs around London at night, lamenting over a dinosaur barbecue and scrabbling in bins for clothes. Sanity seemingly returns when he meets back up with Clara to do battle with the automatons slicing 'n' dicing their way through Victorian London for their own dark purposes.
As the Doctor struggles to rebalance himself, Clara is conflicted about the transformation. You'd be a mite perturbed if your closest friend had a full person transplant too. In conversation with Madame Vastra she lets rip about how she's not a distraction for the Doctor, that she's a proper person and not a pretty face that turned his head. Could this be anything other than Moffat answering his critics via Clara?
There was also a curious meditation on relationships throughout the episode. Whovians know Vastra and Jenny are married. Fair enough, viewers new to the show won't necessarily know that. Yet this was repeatedly emphasised with monotonous regularity. Why? Is Moffat fishing for plaudits for putting a lesbian relationship front and centre in the BBC's flagship kids' show? To portray their marriage well, he might want to be more subtle than every five minutes having a big great megaphone screaming YES THEY ARE LESBIANS DEAL WITH IT. Less is more, Steven. Then there is the Doctor and Clara. Again, as per the break with the previous are-they/aren't-they boyf/girlf flirty tedium of Smith/Coleman, a necessary line had to be drawn under it. And, actually, I think this was handled fairly well. Surprisingly given the tone of the pervious series, it turns out Clara wasn't the one who harboured The-Doctor-is-my-boyfriend fantasies, it was the other way round. The impossible girl was the object of an impossible crush.
The other key relationship was that we have with ourselves. The Doctor is confused and is trying to get his bearings as a new person in relation to his predecessors. It's something we as the audience will be doing for a long time to come too. But the monster of the week was a smart choice in this regard too. As the Doctor builds on multiple personalities, the android from the 51st century was approaching personhood by supplementing circuitry and mechanics with bits of people. As they float above London under an inflatable bag of skin, the Doctor lectures the automaton on how his consumption of human parts has transformed him into something beyond the parameters of his programming. The cycles of replacement have so changed him that the essential android, the original before he made like a Kwik-Fit fitter with body parts, no longer exists. This is to the point he cannot tell what was original and what has since been learned and incorporated into his personality. Allegory much.
Then there is the closing scene. After getting impaled atop Westminster's Clock Tower (did he jump? Did the Doctor push him?), the android wakes up in a garden. After spending the episode prattling on about the 'promised land', a woman informs him he's made it to heaven. With a sinister overtone she introduces herself as the Doctor's "girlfriend". So we have moved from a companion/Doctor relationship in which we'd been led to believe was suffused with unrequited love on Clara's part to having that upended to a new woman whose love for the Doctor is not so much unrequited as downright stalkery and co-dependent. Just as the new Doctor promised an improvement in the portrayal of women, for inspiration Moffat's new villain channels Fatal Attraction.
We'll have to see how this plays out, but going on past form I fear the new season will be scarred by sexism. Again.