It’s been nine long months for fans of the longest running science fiction series in history, and the wait has been both tantalising and terrifying. Closing after ‘The Time of the Doctor’ where we witnessed the sad passing of Matt Smith’s eccentric and energetic version of the face-changing alien, ‘Deep Breath’ picks up to show Peter Capaldi in the shoes of his new role – along with a rather confused and shell-shocked Clara.
As a dinosaur wanders through the Thames, the good old crew consisting of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax convene to investigate, only to be promptly introduced to the TARDIS, fresh from the belly of the beast. Peter Capaldi’s rather blustery and quite ‘Eleven-y’ entrance, which saw him, discombobulated to say the least and doing his best to get the audience on the same page.
Upon collapsing, the gang takes him back to Vastra’s home to recover – cue quite a lot of comedy and then some dark, broodiness after the dinosaur is killed and it’s discovered someone is stealing body parts form around London. And the Doctor wants to stop them, while adjusting to his new body. I’ll leave the plot at that because Steven Moffat wrote this episode so it’s not going to get much more simple.
To sum it up, the episode was great, a solid return for the Doctor. Peter Capaldi and the lines he is given are some pure comedic bliss and adds some classic Who whimsy to the creepy acts of the main villain as well as the rather splintered relationship between the Doctor and his friends. The Doctor’s rants are brilliant but even the slowly repairing relationship between Clara and the Doctor leads to some great interactions. His zany and animated elements clearly left over from the Eleventh are a slice of genius and he slowly descends into a more elegant striding that leads to a more permanent imposing figure.
Clara has some integral moments in this episode, which were gladly welcomed, because, unusually, they didn’t feel forced. There was none of this ‘Impossible Girl’ who pops up and spontaneously saves the day because it’s convenient malarkey. Her outburst at Vastra, her intelligent trust in the Doctor, and her emotional part in a certain cameo all felt like moments that actually felt like they were actions of an authentic companion, instead of a convenient one.
While we had to deal with the series’ return and the regeneration into this latest iteration, the inevitable problem returned of the villain, and while it was suitably creepy, weird, and a clever nod to the Tennant era, it did indeed fall a bit flat. But it may have been difficult to balance the introduction of a new Doctor with a more staple or even grander villain. Interestingly, however, the villain did force the Doctor into that position we always expect in a new actor’s first appearance, the settlement of the Doctor’s ethos. The Doctor’s and the villain’s conversation leads to an excellently concealed ambiguity toward his whole outlining personality. Could he be ruthless? Could he be slyly manipulative? Or is he just as protective and passionate as ever?
After watching this (at the cinema I should add), there was a lot to love about the episode but there were the easy faults that are always inherent in Doctor Who – along with the crazy complicated nature of Moffat’s writing. Oh, and just for the last paragraph, if you like references, this is absolutely full to the rafters. But it was great, and it makes me look forward to see what Capaldi has in store for us in the future. Even though he may be older, and less pretty than Matt Smith, this actor could make the series’ past much more relevant, while carving a new path for a more mature and commanding Doctor, that could easily become people’s favourite.