Monday, August 25, 2014

My Review of Doctor Who's 8x01: "Deep Breath"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Ben Wheatley

Clara: “I don’t think I know who the Doctor is any more.”
Madame Vastra: “It would seem my dear, you are very wrong about that.”

For someone who not so long ago jumped into the Doctor’s time stream and interacted with his previous selves, you would think that Clara Oswald would know the Doctor the best out of everyone but this episode proved to be something of a crash course for the impossible girl as she struggled to at first accept her friend’s new look.

I’ve seen a fair amount of criticism for this particular choice but it seemed that it wasn’t so much that Clara didn’t like not having her Doctor looking like her gentleman friend but more that she didn’t really know who the man was that was standing before her. The same man that now looks older, is a bit ruder and somewhat more prone to leaving Clara to deal with the baddies under some serious stress as well.

It’s not just Clara that had to get used to a new Doctor – the audience did too and there was a certain directed commentary at the younger side of the audience with the discussion of the Doctor older looks and demeanour, explicitly with the barbed comments that Vastra had made to Clara about wearing a veil. It was those comments that provoked a strong reaction from within Clara and despite her trepidation with the new Doctor, she wasn’t exactly ready to throw in the towel just yet, was she?

Last season there were some complaints about Clara not having much of a personality. This episode alone certainly added a fire to the character that she might have been previously lacking but more to the point, it gave Jenna Coleman some meaty material to work as she struggled to hold her breath when surrounded by Clockwork Droids and even had to put her fear to one side when the Half Face Man/control node threatened to kill her. If this is a sign of things to come, then Clara will definitely become a far better character to watch this upcoming series.

Of course Clara wasn’t the only one providing able support for the Doctor. This episode alone had the events set in Victorian London, so the Paternoster Gang were out in force, providing the Doctor somewhere to recuperate and also able assistance when things went to pot with the Clockwork Droids as well for good measure.

While Strax does remain the same comedic character (notably with his interactions with Clara this week), I actually think this episode added a lot more depth to Vastra and Jenny and in particular their relationship. Both women got to explain to Clara and the audience the dynamics of their marriage and the veil they also wear in relation to society’s attitude while at the same time finally sharing a kiss in one of the loveliest moments from the series. I’d even go as far as to say now that this might be my favourite appearance of the gang so far. I also hope contrary to some fan opinion that it is not the final appearance either.

As for the man of the moment, in case anyone was thinking that I had forgotten about Peter Capaldi – do I really need to say he’s brilliant? Okay, then – he is, from start to finish with every single interaction with everyone in this episode. He’s certainly not going to be a fools suffer gladly type of Doctor and his whole ‘I’m not your boyfriend’ speech to Clara (along with a certain phone call) means that the two of them are definitely going to have a very different but interesting dynamic. Already in this episode alone, there was a biting chemistry between Capaldi and Coleman and it’ll be interesting to see where the remaining episodes take it.

Last but not least – the Droids/Half-Face Man, overall, I think they were a great use for a returning monster. They provided some suitable gore (murdering a dinosaur for an optic nerve, a balloon made of human skin, etc), were a nice throw back to a popular Tenth Doctor episode and there was also the hint of the series arc here as well – the promised land. As for whether or not Half Face Man jumped or was pushed, I think it was the latter.

As for the mysterious, Mary Poppins inspired Missy – she’s another of Moffat’s mystery women, played with a creepy charm by Michelle Gomez, who thinks the Doctor is her boyfriend and might let him keep his new accent. I don’t know if Missy will be a friend or foe but I do think it’s obvious that she’s the woman in the shop and that she made sure Clara and the Doctor met at the restaurant. Out of all the theories that are currently circling the internet about her, I really like the idea of her being death personified. It’s the one I’m sticking with for now until something else comes along.

Also in “Deep Breath”

I don’t like the new theme tune or title sequence. I even think they might be the weakest we’ve had so far but on the other hand, I will probably get used to them.

Clara: “That’s him, that’s the Doctor.”
Madame Vastra: “Well then, here we go again.”

Aside from meeting Missy, we also met Courtney (the bratty student who told Clara to ‘do it’), who’ll be recurring this series as well.

Jenny: “Oh, I see, so people are monkeys now, are they?”
Madame Vastra: “No dear, people are apes. Men are monkeys.”

Madame Vastra (re the Doctor): “You thought he was young.”
Clara: “He looked young.”
Madame Vastra: “He looked like your dashing young gentleman friend. Your lover even.”

Brian Miller, the husband of the late Elisabeth Sladen played the homeless man that the Doctor demanded a coat from.

The Doctor (to Barney): “I am Scottish. I can complain about things. I can really complain about things now.”

Jenny (re posing): “I don’t understand why I’m doing this.”
Madame Vastra: “Art?”

Clara made a comment about having a poster of Marcus Aurelius while Strax told us that she was 27, narcissistic and liked ‘men doing sports’. Let’s not forget the egomania as well, shall we?

Clara (to the Droid): “Is there a lot of that on demand?”
The Doctor: “I don’t think that’s on the menu. I think we’re the menu.”

Clara (to Half Face Man): “If the Doctor is still the Doctor, he’ll have my back.”

This episode confirmed that a connection between the Doctor’s current look and the previous appearances of Caecilius and John Frobisher will be made over the course of the series. As for the cameo of the Eleventh Doctor – it wasn’t needed but it added nicely to the episode though.

Half Face Man: “I will not die. I will reach the promised land.”
The Doctor: “There isn’t any promised land.”

The Doctor (to Clara): “I am the Doctor. I have lived for over two thousand years and not all of them were good. I’ve made many mistakes and it’s about time I did something about that.”

With Confidential and Behind The Scenes/Lens proving popular, this series is accompanied by something called Doctor Who Extra, narrated by Matt Botten.

The Doctor (to Clara): “I’m not on the phone, I’m right here, standing in front of you. Please just see me.”

Missy: “Hello, I’m Missy. You’ve made it. I hope my boyfriend wasn’t too mean to you.”
Half Face Man: “Boy-friend?”

Chronology: Mostly 1894 Victorian London, present day Glasgow and wherever ‘Heaven’ is actually set.

For an opening episode, “Deep Breath” was certainly different. I’m not sure it completely needed to be over 70 minutes (cinema screenings be damned, lol), but the extra time did allow for many great character moments, the beginnings of a wonderful new Doctor with Peter Capaldi, a nod to some of Moffat’s familiar tropes while promising for a new dynamic as well. Overall, I’d say the episode was a success.

Rating: 9 out of 10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the new title but the new tune isn't very strong. However, at least it doesn't take attention away from the episode itself.