Television

Published on August 25th, 2014 | by Brad

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Doctor Who – Deep Breath review

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After eight months since he burst onto the screen at the end of Time of the Doctor, and more than a year since his casting was announced, Peter Capaldi made his long-anticipated full debut as the Twelfth Doctor on Saturday, as Doctor Who returned with the extended episode Deep Breath. Written by show-runner and executive producer Steven Moffat and directed by the brilliant Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, A Field in England), the episode sees the Doctor and Clara in Victorian London with the Paternoster Gang (the Silurian Madame Vastra, her human wife Jenny and their Sontaran butler Commander Strax) investigating a series of spontaneous combustions.

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The episode opens, as you might expect, with a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the middle of the Thames. Obviously. The Paternoster Gang are summoned to investigate, as the dinosaur spits the TARDIS out onto the embankment. The Doctor emerges, delirious from his regeneration, and after some histrionics, blacks out. These early sequences are a bit heavy on the shtick, as we’re still transitioning out of the Eleventh Doctor. The familiarity of Clara and the Paternoster Gang aid that transition, fulfilling the same purpose as Rose and her family in The Christmas Invasion.

The episode turns on a beautiful, heart-breaking sequence where, as the Doctor promises the lost, lonely, confused dinosaur that he will get her home, right before she is combusted. The fury and sadness stirred in the Doctor by this tragedy forces him into action, and he dives headlong into the investigation.

After a brief encounter with a tramp (played by Brian Miller, widow of the late great Elizabeth Sladen), the Doctor and Clara are lured to a restaurant run by a clockwork android harvesting human parts (which rings a bell – wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more). This is the first time we get to see the Twelfth Doctor and Clara really talk to each other, and it’s a great scene.

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The first appearance of a new Doctor is of course going to be subject to heavy scrutiny, but an actor of Peter Capaldi’s calibre was always going to be a match for the material. The early histrionics don’t quite suit him, but once things settle down, he really comes into his own. By the time he’s revealing himself with the glorious refrain of “Hello rubbish robots from the dawn of time!” we are left in no doubt that this is the Doctor. His final confrontation with the android gives a sense of the dark intensity which has been talked about, and I predict great things to come from this Doctor.

By his side is Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald. Clara’s had a bit of a difficult time of it so far, as her first ten episodes had her saddled as the impossible girl, a mystery for the Doctor to solve. Now that the show is done with teasing us with what Clara is, I hope we can get a better sense of who Clara is. The three episodes since the impossible girl mystery was solved have given Clara more time to be a character, so I hope she’ll keep up with that level of improvement. Coleman’s a very likable screen presence, so it’ll be nice to see her given more to do this year.

Ben Wheatley is a fantastic coup for the series, and his direction is impeccable. The underground sequences where our heroes are holding their breath to hide from the androids drip with tension and horror. It’s brilliantly made, with the effects team doing some great work on the dinosaur and the android leader. Wheatley returns for next week’s Into the Dalek, and I can’t wait to see what he can do with those slightly overexposed beasties.

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Overall, Deep Breath is a good, solid start to the Twelfth Doctor era. Takes about ten-fifteen minutes to find its feet, but as soon as the Doctor is out of bed and digging into the mystery, it never looks back. There is a cameo late on which is there as a symbolic passing of the torch which was a nice character moment, but I hope that’s the only time we see that character. Solid opening, with the promise of better things to come.

Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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