Doctor Who: Deep Breath (EPISODE REVIEW)

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.

37 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Deep Breath (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. Completely agree that The Paternoster gang needs to go, I never appreciated them. Strax has his moments but I can’t stand the other two. Awesome review by the way!


    1. Thanks man. I just feel they’ve served their purpose, and if they go nobody will really miss them. They’re a part of the shows past at this point (in my opinion)


  2. More character development for this Doctor will be necessary. That said, I enjoyed this episode. I believe Capaldi is a good departure from Smith & Tennant to more fully realize an omni-faceted Doctor.

    I thought having the previous Doctor place the phone call to Clara was excellent writing, and gives Clara a confidence boost as to her importance in her role of helping the Doctor regardless of the situation. It gave Clara the opportunity to say good-bye to the Doctor she knew setting her free to develop with the ‘new’ Doctor.

    I saw it as integral for story development, and not Matt Smith upstaging Peter Capaldi. Rather Matt Smith with a more humanistic transitioning of the role to Capaldi.

    Some favorite parts of the show for me: The new Doctor remarking to the others that, something was off with their accents. Then somewhat surprisingly discovering they were all British, as he is not.

    The phone call referenced above as it gave us one more visit with the previous Doctor.

    Missy the caretaker at ‘The Promised Land.! Several ways to take this character.

    Generally speaking, I have had a couple of inquiries at work regarding Doctor Who. They couldn’t quite catch the gist of this program.

    I explained to them one of the great things about Doctor Who is not the gist, and no need to understand. You start watching this show with an attitude of fun. Ultimately, after first discovering enjoyment, you’ll drift into it, and you will get it.


    1. Those last two paragraphs. Exactly my sentiments. I don’t know where it hit me that I loved the show, where it clicked, what the gist of it was… I just knew I understood it at some point and couldn’t turn my head away.


  3. Despite everything that sucked about this episode (and the fact that they’re bringing Daleks back AGAIN), I’m so frickin happy we have a Dark Doctor again *muwahahaha*


  4. What an excellent review. I’ve just watched the episode and your reviews just about hits the nail right on the head from my perspective especially the not so good stuff (Dinosaur Kong, awful horse, Paternosters & the tired old same sex/different race relationship) I’d probably be slightly more critical especially concerning the colour coded right on pc stuff and as I’ve gone on before about those Sontaran and Silurian abominations there’s no need to say any more.
    The first story for a new Doctor is always a bit tricky with him finding his feet and getting the viewers used with the story really secondary in importance so that story aside I was very pleased with Capaldi and generally encouraged. The only main area I disagree on was the Matt Smith cameo that I really didn’t care for. As for the RANI…………chortle chortle took the words right out of my mouth.


  5. I didn’t hate the Matt Smith appearance… but I would have liked it better if it was played at the end of Series 7 instead of at the end of the first episode of Series 8. I would rather see Capaldi make his own way without the shadow of Matt Smith. Bring Matt Smith back for a multi-doctor episode after Capaldi is on his feet… but don’t overshadow him by essentially pleading with the fans “please accept Capaldi, he’s almost as good as me…”


      1. There’s only one thing to say about it: Eccleston didn’t do that for Tennant & Tennant didn’t do that for Smith, so why would they be worried about Capaldi??


      2. It’s never been done before, and the show is about trying new, different things. It fit for the type of episode and the theme of acceptance.


      3. But ultimately didn’t make sense…especially b/c only Americans were in love with Smith…not really anyone else…but whatever! We have the rest of the season for the infraction to be made up for 😀


      4. That’s not true at all. Doctor Who boomed in popularity in America while Matt Smith was in the TARDIS with the advent and ease of Netflix and that being one of it’s top shows. To write off someone as only popular in America is silly. Most fan polls conducted in the UK rank him in their top 5. It did make sense lol – whether people choose to write it off because they felt it undermined the new guy is more likely. But realistically, that is something Matt Smith’s doc would do. Hold on to the fairy tale shtick for as long as he can.


  6. A talented actor doing a grownup Doctor: excellent. Saddling him with the same old “right-on” politics for kids like the lesbian marriage thing: so very tired.

    Once upon a time the Doctor Who show rarely if ever revisited the same time period or setting, and rarely reused old monsters. As the years went by the monsters people really liked were brought back more and more often, thus cheapening their impact and making the repetitive nature of their storylines really evident.

    And now here we are with an American show style closed loop universe where EVERYTHING has to be fanwank and self referential all the time. To the detriment of the show, the characters and anyone wanting something new.

    And whatever the good or bad of the performances, it is an unprecedented and stupid mistake in dramatic terms to overshadow the new guy with the old guy. When is a leading man not a leading man basically. Stupid stuff. And undercuts the whole of Capaldi’s time as the Doctor until Clara leaves.

    Ah well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a shame they make the formula, which was toted as being all new and different, feel so similar to the rest of the series. It’s been done to death. Agreed about the “right-on” politics being done to death.


      1. the politics pushing is pretty bad. Gene Roddenberry did it with so much more skill. This is… just… no. Just… No.

        And such a different new Doctor, and new regeneration cycle really REALLY needs all new monsters.

        There’s no reason or excuse to turn Doctor Who into the (not so) Amazing Spider-Man with the same eight villains, three subplots and one tired writer. Needs to fly man! Fly!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Have to say I concur with a lot of what you have written here, but we tend to sing from the same song sheet on new Who anyway. Despite this, I am optimistically hoping and encouraged so far that Capaldi’s Doctor will shake things up at the bbc and hopefully start to move away from the colour coded touch-me torchwood undertones brought in by JNT clone RTD

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on bagofcats and commented:
    I for one absolutely loved this new episode. I agree with some of the aspects of this, but I think that everything was perfect. I will always miss Matt Smith , but I feel that I can trust Peter Capaldi to be a fantastic doctor. I also felt like I understood Clara more. Before I couldn’t really connect with her, and she was my least favorite companion. I hope this new season gives Clara a chance to become one of my favorite companions. 🙂


  8. Stellar review. I loved Capaldi’s struggle with his “face” and the glimpse into his self becoming less and less with each regeneration. I agree that the “hold your breath” fell flat to me, and could not hold a candle to “don’t blink”. I do like the Paternoster gang, but am ready for Clara to go (which I guess will happen post-holidays).

    Re: Matt Smith cameo – I liked it, I found it moving – but not so much for Matt’s Doctor/Clara, but for Capaldi’s Doctor’s reaction to it. That made me tear up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thanks! I actually agree with that last bit. The whole “why can’t you see me? I’m not on the phone, I’m in front of you” was great.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. SO, SO ready for Clara to go…like, the moment she stepped on lol I felt like she was basically a direct copy from Amy and Moffat’s attempt to keep the whole “Amy” ball rolling fell flat. I didn’t like the fact that she was smarter than the Doctor (or acted like it) and the only reason he made things work is b/c he had more knowledge of the universe than her (whereas all the previous companions made the Doctor better/taught him a lesson/helped him by “being human”)


  9. You know what I wonder… is are they ever going to bring his daughter back on the show… it bothers me that that episode where he gets that daughter made and he thinks she’s dead and leaves but she comes back to and decides to travel… I just kept thinking she would show up again and it bothers me that he hasn’t noticed there’s another time lord still running around…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a generally derided episode amongst fans, so at this stage I doubt it. Also, that was one of Russell T. Davies creations – one of many that Moffat has scrapped for new characters such as River, Strax, Vastra, etc. But you may be happy to know that the actress who played Jenny (in The Doctor’s Daughter) is actually the real-life 5th Doctor’s daughter. Also, after the episode David Tennant and her got married. So she’s the Doctor’s daughter in the show AND in real life, along with being married to one of the Doctors.


    2. I’m inclined to agree. Moffat revisits everything else… even his own stories. I still say Amy + Rory were new versions of the characters from Blink (Sally Sparrow and her friend’s brother).

      Of all the characters not to revisit… I would actually like to see what Jenny has been up to.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree w/ RGDOLE in that we need Jenny to come again & w/ SJVERNON in that Moffat revisits characters…he actually stated in an interview that he’s keeping an eye out for a spot to bring her in again (probably with a new face) and while that gives me great hope, I also realize that he’ll probably use her as a reason to kill off someone else….maybe even the Doctor himself.


  10. Totally agree about the “hold your breath” thing. I was able to suspend my disbelief, and attempting to hold my breath for the same length of time while watching was effective in that regard and really did make it creepy, but I still kept thinking “Just let your breath out and then hold it again…”

    I actually thought the Paternosters were less of a joke here than they have been in the past, and I’m hopeful we’ll actually get some character arcs for them now. But not super-duper hopeful just yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Not to mention I was a bit iffy on the new theme-song sequence, but after it went through all of the new spirals and things, I was in love with it and I was freaking out and it’s just the best! (:

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I finally got to watch this tonight… It might just be me, but the new opening theme music evoked memories of Sylvester McCoy’s theme.


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