Sunday, 24 August 2014

Review: Doctor Who - Deep Breath

And breathe out - Peter Capaldi's first episode has aired! But how did the new Doctor measure up? 

'I'm the Doctor. I've lived for over 2000 years. Not all of them good. I've made many mistakes. And it's about time I did something about that.'

Has any other actor been the Doctor so immediately as Peter Capaldi? Usually when a new Doctor is announced there's months of trepidation on the fans' part, worrying 'will this new guy fit the bill?' But it felt different this time. As soon as Peter Capaldi was announced to the world, walking out of the smoke holding his lapels, he was the Doctor. Then when we got to see a glimpse of him in 'The Day of the Doctor' - those were the Doctor's eyebrows. It was simply a fact that the Doctor's future was in safe hands. So, a whole year after he was announced as the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi last night made his début in the role. And how like Doctor Who to give us a change we've already accepted and then rip the rug from under our feet. Make no mistake, 'Deep Breath' marked a regeneration, not just of its leading man, but of the whole show, hurtling us into a brave, moodier reincarnation of Doctor Who

After one of the daftest (for daft, read brilliant) pre-titles sequences to ever grace the series - not only is there a T-Rex in Victorian London but it also coughs up the TARDIS! - 'Deep Breath' proves to be a more low-key affair than other opening episodes. Instead of a large-scale alien invasion we have a pseudo-sequel to 'The Girl in the Fireplace' with a troupe of Clockwork robots rebuilding themselves with bits of people - with some clever parallels drawn with the eerie Half-Face Man and the Doctor (both have changed their body parts so many times they can't tell if they are the same person underneath any more). And, of course, the Paternoster Gang return with the now customary comedy Sontaran antics of Strax. However, this was just window dressing as the main thrust of the story was the idea of changing perceptions and age. In all, then, the plot was a familiar one but it was how it was told and the moments hanging on it that set the different tone. Quite fitting for an episode about patchwork monsters, really. 

Perhaps this episode's biggest surprise, however, was how it is really Clara who steals the episode. Some have said that the character served as a plot device throughout Series Seven rather than a proper person but here we are unequivocally on Clara's side as we both adjust to the new Doctor. Jenna Coleman delivers her best performance yet, imbuing Clara with facets to her character - fear, anger, grief - that we have never seen before. The spark that she shares with Peter Capaldi is incredibly fresh and feels like none of the other Doctor/companion pairings we seen so far in the revived series. These two have real promise to grow into one of the great TARDIS teams.

Invasion of the Dinosaur: A T-Rex visits Victorian London.

But the most important question is -  yes, all right, I shan't keep you waiting any longer (blimey, put down that pitch fork) - how was Peter Capaldi? Well, over the course of the adventure there are hints of Christopher Eccleston ('I'm stuck on the planet of the pudding-brains!'), Tom Baker (there's much wide eyes and eyebrows - plus a mention of long scarves) and Jon Pertwee (the more autocratic attitude and the dress sense) but really Capaldi carves out a Doctor who is all his own. He's in turn mirthful and mournful, crazed and calm, not-your-boyfriend and, oh, so very Scottish. Deep Breath was a wonderful taster, showing us all that this new Doctor is capable of, but he is still a newborn. We'll have to wait until next week to see him on an ordinary day. Because travelling inside a Dalek is just another Saturday to the Doctor.

Complete with a thrilling title sequence (still not sure of the shrill new theme though) and a new mood and tone, this new series could literally go anywhere but there is someone to hold our hand along the way. Irascible yet irreplaceable, Peter Capaldi is the perfect man to helm this brand-new version of the show. The old Doctor Who is gone. Long live the new Doctor!

P.S. As we're on the subject of old Doctor Whos... While it's sure to prove a controversial moment, I for one thought Matt Smith's cameo as the Eleventh Doctor was a stroke of genius. It could have come across as fandering (that's a contraction of fan-pandering - do you like it?) but instead marked a special moment of Clara's - and our - acceptance of the new Doctor. This moment tells us that beneath the volatile and a little unknowable Twelfth Doctor, the more amiable, human characteristics of the Doctor - that Matt Smith embodies - are still there. Also, more Matt Smith is always a good thing.  


  1. Although I instantly liked Matt Smith when he appeared, it took me half a dozen episodes or so to really think of him as the Doctor - he was "the NEW Doctor" for a while in my head. But I've already accepted Peter Capaldi and his eyebrows as the character, so well done to him! And though I'm not quite sure of the new recording of the theme tune (I like the bell though) the title sequence is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen on TV.

    1. I have to agree with you there - they are just Time Lord eyebrows aren't they? I find it hard to judge what I think of his Doctor yet but I have definitely accepted him as the character.
      Yeah, as I say above the new theme might take some time to grow on me but the title sequence itself is a lovely thing. It's interesting that it was inspired by a Youtube video as it's nice to think that fans can really contribute to the making of the show like that.

  2. I actually really liked the theme song as well as the credits. The whole show just felt nice and fresh!

    1. I'm really glad you're so enthralled with the new series! For me, having grown up with the revived show, the new arrangement of the theme just doesn't have the same grand and orchestral feel to it as the recent versions have done. I imagine classic fans quite like it, though.


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