“And now it’s time for one last bow, like all your other selves. Eleven’s hour is over now, the clock is striking twelve’s.”
This line from Matt Smith’s final episode of being Doctor Who really hit home that he was leaving. For many, including myself to a degree, Matt Smith was our Doctor. He brought us into the world (and universe) of Doctor Who, and inspired us to watch all he did, and all that the past Doctors did. Let like the 10 men before him he had to pass on…figuratively speaking, and allow a new Doctor to come into the fold.
The highly anticipated premiere of Doctor Who Series 8 hit the reset button for all we knew and introduced us to a new status quo that honestly hasn’t been explored for a while in Doctor Who terms. For the first time (not including the War Doctor), our Doctor is old, and that changes things a lot. Especially for Clara.
If “Deep Breath” was to be summed up in one statement, it would be that this episode used Clara to voice many of the Doctor Who fans fears about the introduction of Capaldi. Over the course of the break between seasons (see: nearly 8 months) fans have been split about what to think about the new Doctor. Either they’re willing to give Capaldi a chance, or they’re furious about the age difference.
On one hand, I’m happy when writers/directors/showrunners acknowledge real world stuff, especially fan reactions and incorporate them into the show. On the other hand, it tended to deviate from what I feel should’ve been Capaldi’s time to shine.
“Deep Breath” was the true introduction to the 12th (depending on how you see it) Doctor. After the events of “Time of the Doctor”, both Clara and the newly regenerated Doctor land in Victorian London…along with a female Tyrannosaurus Rex. What? How do we know it’s female? The Doctor speaks dinosaur! DUH!!!
Anyway, aside from the dinosaur, the major problem at the beginning was our new Doctor getting reacquainted with the world…oh, wait, forgot something…
I will keeping spoilers light on this review. I recognize a lot of Whovians might not have seen the premiere. I’ll keep it light and let you enjoy the show for yourself. Now, let’s continue.
So as I said, the new Doctor is still getting adjusted to the world. For many a Whovian, this is an important part, as the regeneration process is sometimes not to kind to our fair Doctors. In Capaldi’s Doctor’s case, he was having memory problems, and was constantly passing out. But when there’s danger about, the Doctor is always on the case.
What would transpire was an odd yet dark tale. One that dealt with both the realistic and the fantastic. All the while asking some deep questions about what we are, and we do to ourselves over the course of our lives.
Easily the highlights of the episode were the interactions between the Doctor and Clara. As I said, the status quo has changed, and there is no more “flirting” between the two. Instead, we get a Clara who’s cross (to quote the English) and a Doctor who’s just trying to make her understand that he’s not the Doctor she knew…but is still the Doctor.
Capaldi himself may not have had an entrance quite as memorable as say Eccelston or Smith, but he did a darn good job as the Doctor. Intense, witty, and not afraid to insult people…or aliens. This is a guy who literally dreamed about being Doctor Who for most of his life, now it’s his time to shine, and he did the best he could in “Deep Breath” with what was given to him. A personal favorite was his showdown with the villain of the episode, showing his passion, intensity, and his age in regards to him being a Time Lord. The ending to said showdown will no doubt be a question many a Whovian will debate until the answer is given…if it’s given at all.
Jenna Coleman was brilliant as Clara. Yet much like Capaldi, her best scenes were her interactions with other characters, including recurring favorites Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. A particular conversation between Clara and Vastra really hit home as it was no doubt aimed at fans angry at losing Matt Smith.
For those hoping that the new series would lessen the comedy and bring on the dark, “Deep Breath” will disappoint. True, the plot itself was dark, but there was comedy abound. While I myself don’t mind it…it kind of felt both out-of-place and rehashed stuff. Strax being an idiot, Vastra and Jenny being a not so typical married couple, etc.
For me, there were two main problems with “Deep Breath”. First was the main plot. No, not the regeneration, the murder mystery that was occurring via a visually striking villain. Though the story wasn’t the best, the effects that the villain had was very well done, especially when you consider that this is a TV show. Again though, it really didn’t feel right as it tried to merge with the other stories. Honestly, a couple of the lesser mysteries were more important than the main one.
Second was the aforementioned “speaking out to the fans” part of the show. Which honestly took up a lot of time. Look, I get it, I really do, people loved Matt Smith. But people also loved David Tennant, and Tom Baker, and so on. Letting go is hard, but we need to move on. Acknowledging that in the story was fine, but it was quickly becoming overused. By the time we got to the “reveal” of a past Doctor (take a guess) comforting Clara, the point was already hammered home.
It’s hard to judge a new take on a series by just one episode. To condemn the new take is stupid. Yet to praise it as genius is equally as foolish. One has to judge it on how it made them feel in that moment.
In the end, “Deep Breath” was really about the fans taking said deep breath and exhaling at seeing the potential the new Doctor has. It’s not going to be the same as it has been in the last three seasons, and honestly it shouldn’t be. Capaldi I believe will make a fine Doctor, and he showed me he’s got the makings of turning all Whovians into his fans. While the plot wasn’t the best, and certain threads were harped upon, there was good in the episode. Hopefully, with the new course now set, and status quo firmly established, series 8 will really take off.