The Doctor is back. And he’s different. Deep breath.. are you ready? (Warning: Watch the episode first right here before reading)
Deep Breath boasts quite a number of familiar traits that Who fans will recognise. There was Strax, Jennie and Madame Vastra (or the Paternoster Gang as I refuse to call them), there were a few familiar ideas. A few familiar Strax jokes that didn’t always hit (although, I must admit the newspaper moment had me chuckling for a while).
And of course, this episode is a semi-sequel to The Girl in the Fire Place (Series 2, and one of my all-time favourite stories). So far, so very much a Steven Moffat episode of Doctor Who.
“Hello, hello, rubbish robots from the dawn of time.”
Yet this was a tonally different Who. I will get onto Capaldi in a minute, because what struck me most about Deep Breath was how much slower this Doctor Who was. I loved the Matt Smith era. Anyone who has read my reviews will know this. Yet my one complaint is how the episodes were never grounded. There was too much happening, too much running for any character development to occur. It’s perhaps why when news broke that Matt Smith would be leaving I was surprised. Even though he had a run almost as long as David Tennant, I felt I had barely got to know the eleventh (or was it twelfth?) Doctor.
I call out the brilliant restaurant scene between The Doctor and Clara. Great dialogue, brilliant interplay between the two actors and it was long. It seemed to be by far the longest dialogue scene I’ve seen in Doctor Who for quite some time. It suggested to me that perhaps Moffat is slowing things down slightly. This might be because he has a 56 year-old actor in the lead role. It may be because there were some complaints from some critics who couldn’t ‘keep up’ with the stories. Or it might just be because he wanted to develop the characters more. Either way, I quite liked the change of pace.
What I was slightly wary of, however, was the darkness of this episode. Although I knew it was going to be a slightly darker Who, because clearly The Doctor was going to be a slightly grumpier man. But I didn’t anticipate an episode where a robot (with half a human face) ripped out eyes, burnt dinosaurs alive (seriously, what has this show got against dinosaurs?) and then built a hot air balloon out of people’s skin. No inappropriate Strax comments or Jenny/Vastra flirting could distract from the fact that this episode might not be that appropriate for the little ones.
Nice to see a lesbian kiss on a prime-time family TV show mind. I’d hate to be in the BBC complaints department right now.
“5 foot 1 and crying. You never stood a chance.”
Look, I’ll get onto Capaldi in a minute. Because there was another star in the episode, and she shone spectacularly. If Clara Oswald continues this series as she has started, I will be devastated to see her go – far more so than any previous companion. The scene where this terrified young girl had been abandoned by her ‘hero’ to a group of human harvesting clockwork robots, and her efforts to escape, teary eyed, holding her breath… I was genuinely moved by her performance.
In fact, here’s a comparison for you. Remember in Doomsday (series 2 again) when Rose was confronted by the Daleks and she bravely stood up to them? Compare that to Clara here who, visibly scared, stands-up to her attacker. Sorry Billie Piper, this was on a different level.
Clara had, up until The Name of the Doctor, been relegated to a plot point. Another character created for story purposes not to be the associated link between audience and TV show. Yet that appears to be changing. And with Jenna playing the part, you just know it will go brilliantly.
“Who frowned me this face?”
Ok, Capaldi then. Let’s get this straight, we all knew he was an incredible actor. But it nevertheless did seem surprising to see an older man pop out of the blue box. And that’s coming from an old-school Who fan like me. The show then spent the next several scenes criticizing Clara for judging him on his appearance, which in many ways acted as a criticism of me and perhaps a few others in the audience.
There was a real sense of a classic Doctor about Capaldi. He dressed like Jon Pertwee and seemed to have a bit of the old Pertwee fight about him (although, this was just two men pushing one another). There was a lot of Tom Baker here, too. Quick to dash off without explanation, funny, scatter-brained and, at times, bloody harsh. Plus, a dollop of Sylvester McCoy, too. The arch-manipulator, who is unafraid to put his companions in harm’s way in order to save the day.
Oh and there was a smattering of Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. Using the broom joke to try and coax someone into killing himself… really… (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up!)
Yet, more than the sum of its parts, Capaldi brought a lot of himself to the role. And when The Doctor challenged Clara over her “something’s wrong” comment in his very first scene, I instantly thought to myself: “It didn’t take long for Malcom Tucker to come out did it?”
“He is more scared than anything you can imagine right now. He needs you.”
I am aware we are being manipulated into thinking it, but this Doctor isn’t quite the nice, sensitive hero we’ve come to love. The cameo at the end from Matt Smith was meant as reassurance, not just to Clara but to the viewers, that this man is The Doctor. It was also important because Capaldi’s Who isn’t one to admit he’s afraid. Or to let anyone in. Moffat, literally, had to resurrect the previous Doctor just to lend the new version a bit of emotional depth.
This is a different Doctor. A Doctor that threatens tramps, abandons his companion in a death trap just to find something out, and may (or may not) have murdered the bad guy.
But by the far the worst thing he did, at least in my view, was when he came back to collect Clara. Why did he come to pick her back up? Because he is the same Doctor who liked her and wants her around? No. Because ‘someone wants to keep them together’.
What a douchebag.
I like him.