On Saturday night, the Doctors descended on Burbank.
At the AMC Burbank 16, “Doctor Who’s” most loyal fans gathered for a special midnight screening of the eighth-season premiere, “Deep Breath.” It was their first chance to see the latest Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, in action. And it was definitely one of the most dapper late-night movie crowds in recent history.
Many fans arrived dressed as their favorite Doctors — there were bow ties and fezes in honor of Matt Smith, pinstripes and sneakers for David Tennant and even a long, colorful scarf or two to acknowledge Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor.
They came from far away — Matt Borcky, dressed as Smith’s Doctor, and his three friends drove 100 miles from Bakersfield just for the screening. Yes, they could have just watched it at home when it aired on BBC America on Saturday night. But at home, he wouldn’t get the experience of being greeted by another costumed Doctor in the theater lobby.
“Doctor!” a fan dressed like Peter Davison’s fifth Doctor greeted Borcky.
“Doctor!” Borcky replied without missing a beat.
“I go to conventions dressed like this,” Borcky said. “It happens all the time.”
So it goes for Whovians.
The theater devoted two screens to the special premiere, and when those sold out, it added a third. But despite the excitement, “Who” fans didn’t bring a rock concert vibe to the screening. There were no waving light sabers like at a “Star Wars” screening or thrown beach balls. “Doctor Who” fans aren’t raucous so much as emotional. As one guy was overheard admonishing his friends before the screening began, “Don’t laugh at me if I cry.”
The screening organized by Fathom Events took place in 12 cities at midnight. Another screening is scheduled to take place on 550 additional screens on Monday night.
The episode was written by current “Doctor Who” showrunner Steven Moffat and set the Doctor and his companion, Clara (Jenna Coleman) on very familiar territory in Victorian London, as the city was threatened first by a rampaging T. Rex and then by repair bots run amok, harvesting human organs for their own purposes.
Fans in the theater were treated to a special prologue featuring the Doctor’s other comrades Strax (Dan Starkey), Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart), with Strax recalling the fates of the previous 11 Doctors.
There were in-jokes and references to previous Doctors galore in “Deep Breath,” which served to help acquaint both the fans and Clara with this eccentric, darker version of the Doctor.
If “Fezes are cool” was the catchphrase from the Matt Smith era of “Doctor Who,” the most notable quote from the Capaldi era seems be “Shut up!” Which, considering the foul mouth of Capaldi’s character from “The Thick Of It,” it could almost be considered a term of endearment.
After the episode and the behind-the-scenes featurette ended, the Doctors congregated once again in the plaza outside the theater to dissect what they’d just seen.
Some objected to the Doctor’s trimmed down new costume — no hats or scarves. Others discussed the shooting style of the episode’s director, Ben Wheatley, known for his films “Kill List” and “A Field in England.”
But concerns and quibbles aside, they all seemed pleased, if a bit trepidatious about this new era of “Who.”
“I’m happy” one fan said, fiddling with his bow tie.
And with that, the Doctors disappeared into the night.
– Patrick Kevin Day | @patrickkevinday
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