I shouldn’t have to say watch the episode first. If you’re reading something called Deep Breath Review and you haven’t watched the episode yet, I think you brought that on yourself. Fair?
Overall, I feel like the episode basically amounted to: The young flirty Doctor is gone, the older darker Doctor is here. He’s the same character, but a different man. The dynamic will be different. Accept it, because the fan base is built up enough to withstand the shock. It’s a return to the pre-2005 era, and I for one love that idea.
I also felt that the premier allowed Clara to shine, and Jenna Coleman to finally do something with her role. Up until now she’s been just kind of there, and flirting. This gave her a chance to start interacting with other characters and show a little depth. Up until this point I haven’t been able to get attached to her because she was just window dressing, but now she’s more engaging. Hopefully we’ll continue to see character development for her.
All right, to the episode itself!
Before the opening sequence, we’re treated to a dinosaur in Victorian London, the appearance of the TARDIS and the return of the Paternoster Gang (Jenna, Vastra, Strax). There is something obviously wrong with Doctor, as he can’t tell Clara from Strax, can’t remember the Gang properly (the green one and the not green one) and calls Clara “the not me one, the asking questions one” then mistakes her for Handles (remember the cyberman head from 11’s last episode?) before passing out. The regeneration needed to be addressed, and this was a good start. It was also a nice way to let Capaldi be a little wacky right away without it being for no reason.
We have a new opening sequence, which is to be expected. I’ve heard it was fan inspired, which is great. I’m not sure if I like it, but I do, if that makes any sense at all.
12’s bedroom rant scene was fabulous! “Don’t look in that mirror, it’s absolutely furious!” It’s the first time you really notice his Scottish accent, and I love that they addressed it. Vastra knows just how to handle him, which I feel is somehow fitting, but I could do with a little subtler man-bashing. Yes, I get that Jenny and Vastra are married. Yes, I get that they don’t care for men. I don’t need to pointed out every 3 seconds. This particular scene I found funny, but it was the first of many, which was taken a little too far. Some people have already pointed out that they found it excessive, though I could easily let that go.
The Doctor translating for the dinosaur was a nice touch. It was a nice setup for later.
The veil scene with Vastra was quite useful. It proved that Clara was being judgemental, no matter what she was projecting to others and no matter what she thought herself. After all, the veil was only there as long as Clara could see it. Vastra reminded everyone (including the fans) that the Doctor was very old, that he had a young body to be accepted, and that the time for flirting is over. She made Clara realize that the old Doctor isn’t coming back. Seeing Clara angry/indignant was something we seldom see, and I rather enjoyed it.
12 promises the dinosaur he would keep it safe and get it home. Seconds later, it bursts into flames. It drove home the fact that innocents get caught up with the Doctor, and get hurt or killed despite his best intentions. He does show remorse, so he’s not entirely different.
The interaction between Clara and Strax allowed for some much needed comic relief. Sometimes Strax can be a bit much for some people, but personally I really like him.
Did you know that the homeless man that 12 is interacting with is actually Brian Miller? That may not mean much to you, until you realize he was the husband of the late Elisabeth Sladen. The alley scene allows 12 to give a little head nod to the 4th Doctor (the long scarf) and by extension Sladen herself. It also gives him an opportunity to address the fact that we’ve seen him in Who before. Did anyone else pick up the similarities between his comments on his eyebrows and the Scottish independence talk?
More comic relief, though I must say that Jenny posing made her look fabulous! A little chit chat about the villainous plot that’s afoot, then Clara must decipher the code in the newspaper. Meeting the Doctor for lunch she discovers him wearing the homeless man’s jacket and smelling like it. Some banter here makes me love the new arrangement, and I love that it doesn’t stop once they realize it’s a trap. Of course, each figured out the other didn’t write the ad while they were calling each other names… The ‘banter’ continues once they’re trapped and need to use the sonic to escape (“it’s times like this I miss Amy”) but then things get darker.
In another reminder that this isn’t the Doctor we know, he abandons Clara in the room with the captain. He wouldn’t leave his screwdriver for fear he might need it. So here she is with her life in danger, with no hope and just a memory of being asked how long she can hold her breath. It would only be a matter of time before she would fail, and I think this was handled beautifully. I found myself unconsciously trying to hold my breath along with her, and willing her to be able to keep going, even though I knew she wouldn’t last. Once captured, the hope was there that the Doctor would rescue her, but it was never for certain. Drawing on strength from her previous experiences let the audience further connect with her, and the edge in the scene was something we haven’t seen for a long time. It was wonderful. Clara held her own, and we needed to see that.
Of course, the Doctor still has to save the day, since that’s what he does. A little more comic relief (“I had being wrong in public, everybody forget that happened”) along with a realization that something’s not right with the paper before the cavalry arrives. This is where things get interesting. First, the Doctor telling the captain he’ll probably be killing him and pouring two drinks. How often have we seen the Doctor drink the hard stuff? Next, seeing this ship (the SS Marie Antoinette) is the sister ship of the Madame Do Pompadour, and the Doctor not being able to place it. Guess these droids are more familiar than we thought. After that, the gang below holding their breath. When Strax can’t do it any longer, he turns the gun towards himself to avoid betraying his friends. Despite his value for comic relief, he obviously loves the group and is fiercely loyal.
By the way, I just need to say that the balloon made of flesh was nicely disturbing…
Lastly, the demise of the captain. Did the Doctor do it or did he just manipulate him into killing himself? Does it really matter? Isn’t it really the same thing?
We get to see a new TARDIS and the Doctor’s new clothes, have 12 admit that he previously thought he was Clara’s boyfriend but no longer does, and have Clara decide to leave. You can just see the disappointment in 12’s face even though he knows what comes next, but then… the call. Oh, the call! I have to admit that I knew this was coming, which spoiled it a bit for me. As it was, I teared up and kept it in, but if it had been a surprise I don’t think I could have done it. The second viewing was even worse, and I had to walk away from it mid-call for a couple minutes… a couple of times. It made 11’s regeneration so much better, and I know it was directed at the fans to tell them to give Capaldi a chance (especially those who haven’t experienced an older Doctor yet). I’d already embraced Capaldi, but it was still very nice to see 11 one last time.
You can actually see the moment when Clara sees through the 12th Doctor’s old face and sees the 11th Doctor in him. The moment when she realizes he’s the same man, and the moment when he knows she can see him. The hug made me laugh, since he had no idea what to do with his hands, and I think we needed a laugh right then.
Okay, deep breath (ha, see what I did there?). One more thing before I’m done. There’s all kinds of speculation about Missy. The fact that she seems familiar with him says she’s seen him before, and I just want to point out that the layout of the courtyard appears suspiciously like a TARDIS control room.
This is WAY longer than I’d planned, and I’ve left out a lot of things. So, feel free to comment with your thoughts. I want to hear them all!
And I don’t know about you, but I can’t WAIT for the next episode!