While I was writing the review for this week’s episode of Doctor Who, I realized that I was behind in posting my Doctor Who reviews over on The Lowdown. I promised Doctor Who reviews over here this season so you’re getting all three episode reviews this week. Today is the season premiere, Deep Breath. On Thursday is the Into The Dalek review. Usual Friday service begins with the third episode review for Robot of Sherwood.
Given the recent explosion in popularity that Doctor Who has seen on this side of the pond, it seems as though that Deep Breath might be the greatest test of the revived Doctor Who. Sure, this is the fourth incarnation of the series but it with Doctor Who becoming more and more popular during Matt Smith’s tenure at the controls of the TARDIS, this will be many fans’ first regeneration.
While Deep Breath won’t go down as the greatest Doctor Who adventure ever, it certainly worked well at showing that the show is changing pace and themes with the new man in the blue box.
As Peter Davison put it in a recent special, Doctor Who is really the story of a person who could be you going on a journey through space and time with The Doctor. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that most of the focus of the episode was on Clara and how she was coping with the new Doctor.
My one issue with Deep Breath is that it certainly felt like it was written for people who had never seen a regeneration before. While I can appreciate that Doctor Who is more popular now than any point in the last decade, if you’re jumping into a 50-year-old TV series, we shouldn’t really have to go back to basics in a regeneration episode so that you can keep up with the key plot component of the show that allows it to refresh itself every three or four years.
That might make me sound a bit entitled but I just think that Eleven’s first adventure wasn’t really about Amy but Twelve’s first adventure feels like it’s about Clara. Then again, maybe I’m just being picky because I have high hopes for Capaldi as The Doctor and wanted the focus to be on him from the start. I’d say the introductions of Nine and Ten were more about Rose than they were about The Doctor. Perhaps this is a companion’s show and Moffat’s emphasis on Eleven in The Eleventh Hour was a one-off.
That being said Coleman didn’t do too badly this week. She was helped by the fact that she had great scenes that allowed her to play off the other characters, especially Peter Capaldi (Twelve) and Neve McIntosh (Vastra). The Clara character just hasn’t been quite as strong as her introductory episodes, this week showed that she can hold her own with some of the supporting characters. We’ll see how that goes as we get more time with her and Twelve.
With all that being said, Capaldi was fantastic in this episode. He was very much not trying to be Matt Smith or Matt Smith trying to be David Tennant. Once we got past the Doctor’s initial post-regeneration amnesia, we certainly got a new Doctor. Twelve is not a happy-go-lucky Timelord but a much more serious man who is far more prone to speaking his mind. However, Capaldi’s lauded work on The Thick of It as his biting humour and amazing ranting ability is right at home in Doctor Who even if it would be completely unexpected from the last two Doctors.
Perhaps the best thing about the change in Doctors is the end of The Doctor as the object of a companion’s affection. The best thing that Moffat did was bring Rory aboard the TARDIS and quickly put the kibosh on any potential love triangles. Rose’s last scene very nearly made me give up on the series. Martha didn’t help matters too much. Donna was fantastic but I think that was mostly down to Catherine Tate who was simply magical working alongside Ten(nant) whether she was wooed by The Doctor or not. Ending any romantic interest earns points in my books.
Overall, even if I found this an unspectacular episode, it was a good start for the new Doctor. Deep Breath managed to be creepy and serious and slightly dark without letting go of the typical timey-wimey and comedy that one would expect from modern Doctor Who. If Doctor Who can hold onto that darker tone for the remainder of the season without resorting to spastic comedy from The Doctor, I’m very much looking forward to Capaldi’s run as The Doctor. Then again, I thought that’s what we were going to get from Moffat in the first place and that’s not quite what we’ve gotten.
Other random points of note:
- I quite liked the new title sequence that we teased a little while back. I was a little disappointed that the pocket watch didn’t make the cut but I thought it was a pretty good compromise between time and time vortex. Then again, maybe it’s more of a hybrid given the tunnel of watch gears.
- There was a quick little scene that alluded to Peter Capaldi making a couple of appearances in the Who-verse before which was clever. I’d have to go back and watch but I don’t recall that happening when Colin Baker took over as the Sixth Doctor. He appeared in a memorable role, shooting the Doctor, only a year before taking on the role himself. At least Capaldi had five years between appearances (that being his Torchwood appearance).
- Ser Dontos doesn’t catch a break, does he? But he’s well on his way to becoming the Sean Bean of extras.
- I didn’t like the unannounced 15-minute pre-show that we had in Canada. Space advertised Doctor Who starting at 9:00, not 9:15 but if they did, no one would have tuned in for that waste of 15 minutes of my life that we were all treated to. That being said, I love that the host trying to say “The new season of Doctor Who starts… NOW!” got cut off before the “NOW.” The pre-show was almost worth it for his epic fail. That and post-shows are always just the worst. They add nothing but a circle-jerk to promote the network and get a bit more ad money from the lead-in.
Next week, the Daleks return. The last time we saw the Daleks was almost two years to the day before this Saturday’s episode. In that one, Clara was a Dalek. This time, Clara meets them face to face in Into The Dalek. We’ll have to see if she actually does remember the Daleks given that she would have met many in her trip through The Doctor’s timeline in The Name of the Doctor. Then again, she should have known about regenerations from that trip through time in that episode but seemed little lost in Deep Breath.