Television Review: Doctor Who S8, Ep. 1 “Deep Breath” written by Robert Reineke August 24, 2014 “Deep Breath” is both the title of Peter Capaldi’s initial episode and advice for a certain section of the fanbase who are likely in for a readjustment as The Doctor goes in a wildly different direction. Gone is the youthful manic energy, the good looks, the goofy pleasantness, and in is a more old school, acerbic, and quiet Doctor. One who you don’t know quite what to expect from and is not, at first glance, comforting. Post-regeneration episodes have a lot of hoops to jump through. They have to a) show the trauma and confusion of post-regeneration, b) introduce the personality and character of the new Doctor, c) introduce/reintroduce The Doctor to his supporting cast, and d) tell a suitable story in the remaining time. And, as a season kickoff, this story also has to serve to introduce the themes, questions, and mysteries of the upcoming season. “The Eleventh Hour” is probably the Platonic ideal of the modern post-regeneration story, while “Deep Breath”, with many strengths, tumbles here and there. The biggest trip up comes at the beginning of the episode where the story kind of stands still with a dinosaur in the Thames during the Victorian period and Peter Capaldi forced into comedic non-sequiturs and mistaken identities. He’s not Matt Smith and the silliness doesn’t play to Capaldi’s strengths. Not much really happens then as the dinosaur is safely contained by Madame Vastra and Clara is explained the rules of regeneration by Madame Vastra. There’s a rather good scene, undoubtedly helped by having a good director in Ben Wheatley, as Vastra instructs Clara to look beyond initial appearances and see what’s underneath. It’s definitely a meta moment, like the title, and perhaps doesn’t make the best sense considering Clara and Vastra have met previously, but it nicely lays out Clara’s arc for the episode as she has to move on from The Doctor who was her fantasy boyfriend and see what he really is underneath. Once those formalities are out of the way, the plot actually kicks in with the dinosaur plotline resolved and The Doctor moving on to investigate organ snatching disguised by spontaneous combustion and the return of the clockwork robots last seen in “The Girl in the Fireplace”. The plot is relatively simple, and given the running time of the episode that’s a good thing, but it’s where we get to see Capaldi emerge into the role and the mysteries of his character. As we see Capaldi emerge from his confusion, we really see him put his stamp on the character of The Doctor. Sarcastic, heavily Scottish, with a suffer no fools attitude, and a bit lacking in empathy as he demands a tramps coat with the reasoning that “There’s no reason for both of us to be cold.” you can see the broad outlines of his Doctor emerging. Perhaps the choice of face is a reminder that he’s supposed to have empathy and go out of his way to make a difference, as evidenced in “The Fires of Pompeii” as he openly wonders why that face. His pairing with Clara strikes sparks as they don’t hit it off immediately, and that perhaps give Clara the most depth to date as she moves out of her “impossible girl” phase and becomes a character instead of a mystery to be solved. Their lunch together is among the strongest scenes of the episode as it moves from comic to seriously creepy as it’s revealed that they’re surrounded by robots and have fallen into a trap. The suspense is ratcheted up further with Clara seemingly abandoned and a fearful Clara answering the seemingly innocent question of “how long can you hold your breath”, tying nicely into the title, in a legitimately suspenseful sequence. It’s made all the more suspenseful as we, like Clara, don’t know that we can fully trust this version of The Doctor yet and it allows the character to surprise us, negatively and positively. Thing sort themselves as they usually do in this current iteration of Doctor Who, but the journey is different as we get to see how Capaldi approaches the solution. In this case, it involves The Doctor and his clockwork adversary, a nice bit of special effects, having a conversation and the offer of a drink. It’s a much more direct and old school final confrontation than some of the pseudo-magical solutions that have sometimes plagued the new series. In particular, Capaldi’s metaphor of how many times can you swap out parts of a broom until you can’t really say it’s the same thing, is particularly apt and signals that the rules might be out the door as it applies to both him and his adversary, and visualized terrifically through dual reflections. His adversary ends up going out the door literally, perhaps signalling yet another way that the old rules don’t apply. Of course, the wrap up signals that some of the same rules still do apply. The old “you’ve changed things, I don’t like it” exchange occurs. And a friendly face from the past convinces Clara to give this new Doctor a chance, which is probably yet another meta element in an episode heavy on them. There are new mysteries to solve though and a new Doctor that promises to get things done. It’s a promising start of a season and a good debut for Capaldi who has definitely put his stamp on the character. Speaking of mysteries, Missy seems to be the big bad of this season and there’s certainly that Moffat is going to wrap up most of the remaining mysteries of his run. Who is Missy? Spurned fangirl? Some sort of variation of The Master/The Rani (the Mistress)? Something altogether new? In any event, there’s a full season ahead to sort out this mystery and for us to truly discover what Capaldi’s Doctor is made of. Based on the premiere, I’m looking forward to it. Review: Doctor Who S8, Ep. 1 “Deep Breath” was last modified: February 20th, 2016 by Robert Reineke Related Doctor Who 6 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Robert Reineke previous post Marvel’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Absorbs Crusher Creel next post Star Wars With Friends #6- The Clone Wars: Theatrical Release You may also like Weeky Ratings Roundup: February 8 to February... February 18, 2015 Weekly Ratings Roundup: September 27 to October... October 2, 2015 Weekly Ratings Roundup: April 12 to April... 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Guess he’d better make it count. Robert Reineke They managed to throw a couple of hidden regenerations in, including John Hurt, and addressed the elephant in the room with Capaldi being the start of a new cycle, so that elephant is out of the room. I agree though, if they’re going to change Doctors, it’s time for something different from the last couple. stock So, he’s on a second 12 round trip then? Well, nothing is written in stone I guess. I am looking forward to testing this out, as, like I said, I fell out of it for a while. One explanation for the tumbles is that the Doc (and the actor) takes some time to get into his own new skin, with some residual personality traits of the previous incarnation lingering. Personally, I’d vote for Eddie Izzard as the next Doctor. Or if he’s not interested in that, perhaps the next Master. Something about that guy screams Dr. Who to me, and they’ve obviously been investing in good English actors to play roles on the series:John Hurt, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, etc. Love to see Eddie take a crack at it. Robert Reineke We’ll have to see how the ratings perform. There’s a good chance if the new fans bail, they’ll go right back to what’s proven to work. I’m looking forward to a lot less running around frantically to pad episodes and create artificial excitement. I’m not expecting a cerebral Doctor Who, but Capaldi’s strengths would seem to play to a different kind of storytelling. And, besides, I can’t wait for Capaldi to talk smack to a Dalek. Probably next episode. Robert Reineke I should add that the good news is that ratings were very strong. http://deadline.com/2014/08/doctor-who-season-8-premiere-2014-ratings-peter-capaldi-823853/ stock Cool, I have no clue who Capaldi is. Except he has the same last name as the famous Brit drummer for Traffic. Looking forward to the chance to see him as the Doctor.