After being off our television screens for nearly 8 months now, we can take a
sigh of relief deep breath as Doctor Who has returned! In a story written by Steven Moffat to bring a new, changed, older appearing incarnation of the Doctor to the forefront as he wars within to find himself. As much as this episode focused on Capaldi bumbling about and finding his feet anew, it was equally Clara’s show as she attempted to grasp the newly regenerated Doctor.
My initial impression of the episode was mixed. I loved Capaldi’s take, his fast-paced nonsense, the anger evident, and the confusion apparent. But I also felt myself uneased by the attempt at making an episode with more mature themes, whilst still pushing it as a children’s program. Why was it necessary for Jenny to reiterate the fact that she is married 5 times throughout the episode? We already knew previously, but once throughout the episode should’ve been enough, surely. Perhaps since the episode had such a potent theme of acceptance, Moffat felt the need to overkill the topic.
Despite those mature themes however, we get scenes like when the Clockwork Droids were attacking the paternoster gang + Clara under the restaurant and it just looked as if the camera was turning quickly in circles, bumping into people. I guess it was meant to invoke action, but it was so poorly done it actually put me off. And for robots that were just attacking you to suddenly stop simply because you outsmarted them by holding you breath… Again, Moffat tries to recapture the brilliance of Blink, but the villains had no bite whatsoever in comparison. Just take a deep breath, breathe, deep breath again. Serious flaw and loop hole in their cognizance. Along with silly things like the fake horse, the elevator chair, and the far-too-big dinosaur being so poorly explained, the episode didn’t always hit home.
That’s not to say that the villains weren’t entirely lost on me though. I loved that they were the sister species of the Clockwork Droids from SS Madame de Pompadour (and it was great that the Doctor didn’t make the connection fully because if you remember in The Girl in the Fireplace, the Doctor never actually figured out the reason the droids were after Ms. Poisson – that the name of the ship was actually the SS Madame de Pompadour). The leader droid, or the node as the Doctor mentioned, was rightfully freaky, and his plan to harvest human parts in search for “the promised land” was equally so.
An interesting idea that the episode plays with was the Doctor never exactly knowing where he gets his faces from, and this time it’s really bugging him. There’s a fantastic scene where he’s going through the trash and terrifying a local bum, while attempting to remember why he recognizes the person who “frowned” him that face. But by far the best scene for me was his showdown with the node Clockwork Droid. In it he explains that the more you change the parts, the less of the real you there really is, until eventually there is nothing left. As he shows the droid it’s reflection in a mirror, the reverse showed him his new “furious” reflection, and he realized that the same is true for him.
“I’ve got the horrible feeling I’m going to have to kill you.” Peter Capaldi’s delivery of that line gave me chills. Fans who’ve been clamoring for a darker Doctor finally have one. And it looks to me like he’ll be a handful. The juxtaposition of Tennant’s “I don’t want to kill you” in The Girl in the Fireplace to Capaldi’s “you need to die” (not actual quotes) in Deep Breath is a powerful distinction. I really want to know if the Doctor pushed the droid out of the ship, or if the droid jumped, but the ambiguity of it all struck an equally impressive chord with me.
Coleman and Capaldi have excellent chemistry. He often turns the conversation on her, when it used to be the opposite with Matt Smith. You can tell it infuriates her. I can’t wait to see more of this.
And now I have to talk about THAT cameo. Yeah. Spoilers. Matt Smith phones at the tail end of the episode to Clara, pleading that she accepts the new him. Many fans are divided on this. I thought it was a magical moment that the show pulled off – a masterful example of the merits time travel play allows. And yeah. I’m gonna call it now – the Rani is back. Quote me later when the reveal is official (haha).
We need to get rid of the Paternoster Gang. They’ve overstayed their welcome, Strax is becoming less and less funny, Jenny is a stagnant character, and Vastra is ever more arrogant. They’ve become a running joke, but a joke that’s running in place while the rest of the series moves on past them. Did we really need those Blue Peter props to soak up 5 minutes of the episodes plot? Was that really necessary? Rhetorical, as the answers are clear.
Capaldi has a great weight on his shoulders now – all of time and space, everything that ever happened, or ever will… And I think he can definitely pull it off. I’m super excited for the rest of the season (although wow, am I sick of the Daleks). Next week? (sigh) “Into the Dalek” by Phil Ford & Steven Moffat. If the rest of Series 8 stays strong though, we [may] have one of the best seasons yet.
EDIT: Changed the header image, as it was taken from a promo image from a different episode, mistakenly.