DOCTOR WHO 8.01 ‘Deep Breath’ Review

DOCTOR WHO Season 8 Episode 1

Episode Title: “Deep Breath”

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Ben Wheatley

Previously on “Doctor Who”:

“The Time of The Doctor” Review


In the fifty plus years of “Doctor Who,” there’s never been an actor whom I didn’t like as the Doctor. But that’s not a universally held position. There are actually “Doctor Who” fans who seem to still hate Matt Smith for daring to replace David Tennant as the title character.

At least the change between Tennant and Smith wasn’t too jarring. The Twelfth Doctor (as played by Peter Capaldi) is so different that even his current companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) has trouble coming to grips with the idea that her Doctor is now this angrier older man who appears to be Scottish.

“Deep Breath” catches up with the Doctor and Clara shortly after “The Time of The Doctor” as they arrive in Victorian London within the belly of a dinosaur that swallowed the TARDIS. From there, the Doctor and Clara are reunited with Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey) before they are drawn into a new mystery.

Unlike some of the previous episodes that introduced new Doctors, “Deep Breath” has an oddly sluggish pace that was very distracting. Writer Steven Moffat appeared to be trying way too hard to justify the Doctor’s regeneration into a much older man by using Vastra as his mouthpiece. Perhaps Moffat is assuming that the younger “Doctor Who” fans will be just as skeptical about the new older Doctor as Clara is.

Clara actually has very good reasons to be alarmed by the Doctor’s newest personality. He abandons her twice and he’s much ruder to her than his predecessor was. There’s a particularly amusing scene late in the episode in which the Doctor describes Clara as an “egomaniac needy game player.” Clara actually agrees with him… until she realizes that he’s really talking about her.

While I wasn’t particularly enamored with the story, Capaldi was a joy to watch. His Doctor has a different style of humor than Smith’s or Tennant’s Doctors, but he was still hilarious as he spoke to a horse and a dinosaur. I loved the touch of the Doctor leaving a room by a window because a door was just too boring for him.

Capaldi also brought out the darker aspects of the Doctor’s personality when he confronted Half-Face (Peter Ferdinando), a robot that had transformed itself into a Cyborg in its quest to reach “the promised land.” The episode is ambiguous about whether the Doctor “murdered” Half-Face to save his friends, but it’s clear that this Doctor is capable of doing that.

Unsurprisingly, Capaldi nailed the scene in which the Doctor delivered a speech that was either the heartbreaking lament of a dinosaur… or himself. When the dinosaur is killed, the Doctor is so set on solving her murder that he jumps into action despite his lack of proper clothing.

Intriguingly, the Doctor seems to recognize his new face from Capaldi’s previous guest appearance on the show. Even the robots should seem familiar to fans of Moffat’s “The Girl In The Fireplace” from “Doctor Who” Season 2. These were subtle hints of continuity that may play into the larger storyline of the season. Moffat even brings back the idea that someone is intentionally keeping the Doctor and Clara together.

As the only returning star this season, Coleman emerged as a true co-lead in this episode. Clara had some very funny scenes playing off of Strax and she immediately had great chemistry with Capaldi’s Doctor. Coleman was also impressive in the way that she played Clara’s terror when the Doctor appeared to abandon her.

I loved the cameo appearance near the end of the episode that gave Clara the chance to say goodbye that she didn’t really get in “The Time of The Doctor.” One of the few weaknesses of that special was dispelled in a neat scene that allowed Clara to recognize her Doctor within Capaldi’s Doctor. I also liked the idea that Capaldi’s Doctor is just as scared about his new regeneration as she is.

Unfortunately, the tag scene for the episode was really weak. A new character named Missy (Michelle Gomez) is introduced as the Doctor’s new enemy or possibly his new lover. But as a cliffhanger, it landed with a thud. “Heaven” is going to need more of a punch if it is going to be the central mystery of the season.

But on the whole, “Doctor Who” is still “Doctor Who.” Capaldi is going to be just as great a Doctor as his predecessors were.