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Doctor Who #801 - Deep Breath Review

3

A dinosaur is roaming London and a recently regenerated Doctor is off his game.

The 8th series of Doctor Who is finally here! While it wasn't the mind-blowing experience we were hoping for, there's still quite a bit of good to take from it as well as a interesting set-up for the series-long story line. A recently regenerated Doctor and Clara head to Victorian London where a dinosaur, that they kind of brought there, is parading around They hook up with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax and find the dinosaur isn't the problem. There's droids taking human parts to make themselves more human.

There's a lot to dissect in this episode. Not only is it a new season, but it's a new Doctor. This is Peter Capaldi's first time in the shoes of the Doctor and it's always hard to judge what kind of Doctor he's going to be in a regeneration episode because regeneration always makes the Doctor a bit wonky. However, we do catch glimpses of something darker here.

I'm just going to leave this picture of the Doctor next to the Valeyard right here for you. Make of it what you will.

Peter Capaldi does a solid job of honing in his version of the Doctor and that transition from a regenerated Doctor into a fully-functioning one. One thing I've missed, as a Doctor Who fan or "Whovian," is an older Doctor. I grew up with Sylvester McCoy as my Doctor, and I like the idea much more of an older Doctor because it gives his wisdom some credibility, even though the face is just a mask for the character, an idea made very clear in this episode to possibly calm down viewers over the change. Capaldi gives us a promising Doctor, if only the writer could give us the same.

At some point, during this episode, things got cartoony and a lot of it comes from the dialogue. The episode was written by Steven Moffat, a very polarizing force for fans. In the grand scheme of this episode's story, the writing works, but scene-by-scene and dialogue line-by-dialogue line, it ca be very rough sailing. Strax's, a Sontaran, dialogue is way out there and too goofy for the episode. While Sontaran's dialogue in past episode is a bit "out there" because they are a war culture, it felt like he just came off as silly and a dolt here. The same happened, to a much smaller extent, with Jenny and Vastra, as Jenny is holding a pose and it sees Vastra is painting, but it's revealed Vastra isn't actually painting and Jenny wonders why she's posing. Oh wacky jokes...

However, the worst part of the episode takes place when the Doctor and Vastra do a mindlink, so she can get the Doctor to fall asleep, what follows is a noise that could have only come from a Looney Tunes cartoon. It's the silliest and most ridiculous thing on the show. Finally, on the bad side of things, and jumping into Clara for one moment. She's written very poorly. This may as well be her first ride in the TARDIS and first meeting with the Doctor because she seems completely new to everything. Yes, this is her first time dealing with or knowing about regeneration, but things she should be accustomed to, like The Doctor's need to solve mysteries, confuse her. She has become the voice of the viewer that just started watching the show. She is the question that demands an expositional monologue.

As a whole, Moffat does have very cool ideas for stories. We're dealing almost with a reverse-Cyberman antagonist here, but one with enough humanity and reason to listen to what The Doctor is saying. It is a good jump-on point for new viewers as well, since there's so much dialogue about what's happening with the regeneration. While this episode is over-the-top, at times, it still brings a smile to my face and keeps me invested with the series, mainly to see the direction Capaldi is going to steer this character. However, so far, so good. Now, can someone contact Neil Gaiman to write another episode? We need more outside-the-box type stories.

34 Comments Refresh
Posted by Kal'smahboi

It was alright. There were slow moments, but I really loved the good ones.

3.5/5 stars for me.

Edited by Life_Without_Progress

Malcolm Tucker is awesome as always

Posted by Lvenger

A fair score, I'd probably give it the same. Moffat is indeed much more of a grand schemer in writing style than he is a scene by scene scriptwriter. A lot of his dialogue dragged at times and things went way over the top. Still, the villains were interesting at least even if limited in dialogue and presence. Maybe that's down to Capaldi only just starting out.

Posted by TimeLordScience

I agree that the hijinks really didn't fit.

Clara however wasn't too terrible this episode. I think she had believable reasons for acting the way she did. And her exchange with Vastra where she asks "when did you stop wearing your veil?" Was great stuff.

Posted by inferiorego

I agree that the hijinks really didn't fit.

Clara however wasn't too terrible this episode. I think she had believable reasons for acting the way she did. And her exchange with Vastra where she asks "when did you stop wearing your veil?" Was great stuff.

I agree that the hijinks really didn't fit.

Clara however wasn't too terrible this episode. I think she had believable reasons for acting the way she did. And her exchange with Vastra where she asks "when did you stop wearing your veil?" Was great stuff.

I agree. The Vastra/Clara scene was awesome.

Staff
Edited by Yak0m0t0

I'm afraid I couldn't disagree more!, personally I feel the episode was perfectly written, great balance between the old and new, and as for Clara....fantastically written with great acting, if the rest of the season continues with this quality we're in for a real treat! :)

Posted by SpitfirePanda

I enjoyed it. I'm pretty new to the series, though I've seen several episodes from past doctors. This is a good place for me to really get on board as a fledgeling fan.

Posted by bladewolf

This was the first Doctor Who episode I've ever seen, and it did not make me want to watch the series. I thought "oh, it's a new Doctor, I should be able to jump in at least to a series I've heard more about." This episode was NOT new viewer friendly at all, which I disliked since, from what I understand, it's easy to start with any Doctor otherwise. It wasn't a bad episode...but it was just too steeped in previous continuity, and I felt like the writers were trying too hard to reassure new fans that the new Doctor is cool ("look guys, even the previous Doctor calls to say he's cool!").

Edited by EnSabahNurX

Well Clara's experience with regeneration is basically nonexistent because she only has vague, essentially fading memory of her past lives, Day of the Doctor isn't even really remembered by the Doctor let alone Clara. Which it's nice to see that Clara isn't "perfect" anymore because geez she just accepted EVERY THING that's ever happened to her with minimal reaction. Then again Clara never saw the Doctor regenerate in the past so given the name of the process she assumed he'd be younger like most viewers would assume given the new series standard. Clara being a control freak is also insanely accurate considering how she had the Doctor pick her up & drop her off on a rigid schedule for all of series 7b(not a bad thing just funny it was finally pointed out).

I actually enjoyed the Vastra & Jenny jokes because at least they seem more like a couple because they actually show Jenny not just being her maid. Also I found it funny that Jenny keeps Vastra on a bit of a leash when it comes to monogamy instead of how Vastra was always shown as the dominant partner.

Strax is one of those love him or hate him characters. My friend started watching Doctor Who with this episode & pretty much liked everything(she was a little confused but loved Jenny & Vastra) but she couldn't look at Strax because "He looks like a mutated potato thumb."

I'm leaning towards a 4/5 personally but a 3/5 is fair because for new viewers this was barely a jumping on point & a new Doctor's first episode should be the jumping on point. Plus the episode was drawn out with little to move the plot forward at certain points so the pacing needed a better balance.

Posted by leokearon

I enjoyed it, Capaldi is a great doctor and I like his suit. The references to past events was nice, and it was a bit sad that this doctor doesn't even remember things that were important to previous Doctors. Interestingly it seems to suggest that the Doctor subconsciously chooses his appearances, the way the Doctor talks about seeing his face before and it would tie in nicely with another Timelord.

Edited by judasnixon

I want Doctor Who's jacket.......

Posted by TommytheHitman

I really started enjoying this episode once they got to the Restaurant. That's when it got great. The first half? ...meh.

Posted by Devbob98

Been watching doctor who for 12 years and have to say this was just a terrible episode with the only good part being matt smiths camo and peter being a alright doctor, Clara is the worst companion in the reboot.

Edited by Wardishy

I would agree with this rating. Although Capaldi seems like he might take the Doctor in an interesting direction the episode itself didn't really do it for me. It wasn't nearly as exciting an episode as, say, "Christmas Invasion" or "The Eleventh Hour".

Most interesting for me are the references to the Doctor's new face. As some may know, Capaldi has played two other characters in Doctor Who and Torchwood and I'm intrigued that there seems to be an in-universe explanation for the likeness.

Edited by Z3RO180

I love the fact that the docter is fellow Scott

Posted by lagozzino

Clara was the only major flaw in the episode as far as I'm concerned. They gave her no development as a character last season, and now they're resorting to just giving her random character traits out of the blue. She's an egomaniac! She's been haunted by her first day as a teacher this whole time! She apparently thought the Doctor was actually her boyfriend and was only interested in his looks...? Has any of this been true before this episode? Not that I can recall...

The worst part is we don't learn any of this by just observing Clara, we're just told by other characters or flashbacks. Bless Jenna Coleman for doing the best with the material she's been given, but at this point it might be best to just abort the character and bring in someone else to keep the Doctor company. Hell, Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are already 10 times more developed and defined as characters than Clara is. There were points when it honestly felt to me like Clara was guest-starring in Vastra and Jenny's show.

Posted by Pwok21

I really, really disliked this episode.

I'm a new Who kid, however my Dad showed my a ton of the old Pertwee / Baker stuff so I can appreciate a slower episode but this was plain terrible.

Poor plot, idiotic sound effects, constant masturbatory self-references to prior Moffat episodes and an overall general feel of 'hey look he's the Doctor now, get over it!'.

I love Capaldi as an actor and feel that he did a great job with an absolutely atrocious script by actually having some decent moments.

2/5

Posted by redleader1

I really disliked this episode. It felt like a doctor light episode which is not a good way to introduce the new doctor. And when we see Peter and the doctor he is confused so we only get about the last couple scenes with the new doctor. And what also made that worse is that in 3's first story he only said shoes for the first 2 parts, and we still got a good feel for this doctor.

Clara was terrible. I agree that they act like she is a new companion, and that wasted time to get a feel for the new doctor.

Strax, vastra, and Jenny are dead weight. They just wasted more time. I'm getting tired of these 3, can we move past Victorian era London and this group.

Overall it's an okay episode but a bad introduction.

Posted by lagozzino

I thought "oh, it's a new Doctor, I should be able to jump in at least to a series I've heard more about." This episode was NOT new viewer friendly at all, which I disliked since, from what I understand, it's easy to start with any Doctor otherwise.

Well, I think you're a bit mistaken that its always easy to jump in at the start of any Doctor's run. Not every new Doctor works as a series reset/jumping on point (Especially not in the original run of the show). I mean, this IS season 35 of a series that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. There's a lot of story in this show.

If you want a recent Doctor that works as a better jumping on point, I'd suggest you check out the 11th Doctor (played by Matt Smith)'s first season. When 10 left and 11 came on, not only did they change the cast, but most of the production staff changed as well. As a result, the start of 11s first season feels like a pretty fresh start.

Posted by Jonny_Rogers

The only major problem I had with the episode was that it felt like it couldn't decide whether it should be a film or a TV programme - there are many allusions to ideas that probably will be explored later, as well as subtle anecdotes like the meta-contextual 'Ship of Theseus' paradox reference, but the conclusion felt somewhat like it was trying too hard to be cinematic, and inevitably felt weighted by their ignorance of the medium's own limitations.

In all fairness, I don't think I would have liked the episode as much if not my liking of director Ben Wheatley.

Posted by buttersdaman000

This is a pretty fair review. The premiere seemed more concerned with establishing the new Doctor/Companion relationship than it did with story. It's not necessarily a bad thing since we got some awesome moments of character development but I also would've liked better villain.

Posted by bladewolf

@bladewolf said:

I thought "oh, it's a new Doctor, I should be able to jump in at least to a series I've heard more about." This episode was NOT new viewer friendly at all, which I disliked since, from what I understand, it's easy to start with any Doctor otherwise.

Well, I think you're a bit mistaken that its always easy to jump in at the start of any Doctor's run. Not every new Doctor works as a series reset/jumping on point (Especially not in the original run of the show). I mean, this IS season 35 of a series that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. There's a lot of story in this show.

If you want a recent Doctor that works as a better jumping on point, I'd suggest you check out the 11th Doctor (played by Matt Smith)'s first season. When 10 left and 11 came on, not only did they change the cast, but most of the production staff changed as well. As a result, the start of 11s first season feels like a pretty fresh start.

Thanks for the suggestion, maybe I'll give that a try! :)

Edited by Russcovito

I felt like the “ easter egg “ if I can call it that was a bit too forced, yes I'm talking about the Madame De Pompadour one, anyway @bladewolf you should totally do what lagozzino told you to. That's exactly what I did, not only did I love it, but look at me now, a true Whovian. While waiting for the eighth season I watched the series since the beginning, I mean the 2005 beginning. I just hated the first season. Mr. Eccleston has nothing to do with Matt Smith who is definitely my Doctor + in the whole season I only liked the episodes that first featured Jack Harness. Coincidence ? These episodes were written by Stephen Moffat. I truly believe Moffat is the best. I also watch Sherlock maybe that's why. As for the Tenth Doctor there's nothing to say Tennant is a man but still not the man. Matt Smith all the way.

@timelordscience

Clara however wasn't too terrible this episode. I think she had believable reasons for acting the way she did. And her exchange with Vastra where she asks "when did you stop wearing your veil?" Was great stuff.

Totally agree with that. As I said earlier, Matt Smith was without a doubt The Doctor, and his last scene in The Time Of The Doctor was just grandiose. So the first ten minutes of Deep Breath I was very skeptical about Peter Capaldi. Just as Clara. So I don't think the fact that Clara “ has become the voice of the viewer that just started watching the show “ is a bad thing. I totally recognized myself in her and the phone call helped me just as it helped Clara accepting Capaldi. Know what I mean ?

Posted by timelord

I think the cast all did an amazing job Peter Capaldi sold me on his Doctor and can't wait to see where he goes. I just thought the over all plot for the episode was weak the Dinosaur was there just because lol Dinosaur.

I did like the though back to the Madam De Pomp adore though The Doctor does need a new horse :)

Posted by Ladyonora
Posted by War Killer

To me, Twelve is for Eleven what Ten was for Nine. Despite this being a new Doctor and this new season setting up to be a more darker and serious one, it still feels like a continuation of the Eleventh Doctor's run. Which in a way is similar to how Ten was also a continuation of Nine's run.

I thought the episode felt a little whacky, still having a bit of the feel we had during the Eleventh Doctor's run, because in a way The Doctor was still regenerating and shedding off his previous form. By the end of the episode though the jokes and "goofy" moments had run their course and the episode left us with a dramatic face-off (almost literally) between new Doctor and the villain over the city of London. Seeing the Doctor threaten to do things, things his previous selves might not do, all to save Humanity was a hint, I felt, at what kind of Doctor Capaldi was going to be throughout the rest of the season.

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

Haven't watched any Doctor Who ever, but it looks damn cheesy

Posted by War Killer

Also, going back to Clara's reaction, I feel it was justified in this episode. For Clara the Eleventh Doctor was her Doctor. He was the first Doctor she met and the one she had grown the closes to. It's apparently throughout the Time of The Doctor that she didn't want The Doctor to change, even begging him not to, saying "please don't change." But then suddenly she's staring at a completely different man, no longer the young, perky Doctor she knew but instead now an older, much more serious Doctor.

On top of that, due to him having just regenerated, this new Doctor couldn't even remember who Clara was, getting her mixed up with other characters. To me, if a someone I had knew for a while now suddenly changed into a completely different person, one who couldn't even remember my name, I'd be a little freaked out as well. So Clara's reaction, in my opinion, was very realistic.

This also explained why Clara was so confused by The Doctor's actions throughout the episode. When he jumped off the bridge for example, for all she knew he could have been jumping to his death. His actions were unpredictable, his way of thinking was erratic at best...so Clara being confused by The Doctor's actions also felt realistic.

Up until now, Clara had never witnessed a regeneration before. She knew The Doctor could change his face, but she had yet to experience this for herself personally. Like for Rose when Nine changed into Ten, this was Clara first regeneration and even though she knew a little more about it than Rose, it was still a new experience and something she honestly wasn't really prepared for.

Clara's confused and terrified reaction was both realistic and something I'd expect of any companion in her situation, and personally I feel it was justified and something some fans are unfairly bashing her character for. Clara isn't perfect, she hasn't experienced everything, and seeing her character grow and she comes to understand who The Doctor truly is, is something I feel fans should embrace rather than complain about.

Posted by Omega Ray Jay

It was alright.

Edited by Dru_zod

meh

Posted by sentryman555

I would've given this at least a 4 out of 5. I agree the looney toon sound when capaldi falls asleep was too cheesy rather than funny but it feels like since Capaldi's doctor is going to be much more serious than Smith's doctor the jokes are going to have to start coming from somewhere else and not the doctor being weird and awkward all the time. I tribute that scene to just moffat experimenting with the new tone of the show.

I 100% disagree with your take on Clara in this episode. This was the best she's ever been written! She is accustomed to some the doctor's way of thinking. Even figuring out the newspaper thing. Clara's problems in this episode are pretty reasonable. She's not sure this new doctor even cares about her enough to keep her around and really he's her only link back to the rest of her life. So of course she's freaking out when things aren't going how they usually go. A lot of this episode comes down to the fact that she felt safe with Smith's doctor and she doesn't know if she can trust the new doctor.

Edited by MightyMODOK

@inferiorego

In the beginning Clara was like most young teenage girl fans - "IT NOT MATT SMITH?! I'm out!"

Edited by MegaHGFan

As a big fan of the 1963-1989 classic series, I was excited that we would get an older Doctor again. However, this episode was absolute crap. It was slow, boring, and awkward, and I can tell the final scene will set up a very boring arc. Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are annoying characters, and I hope they don't show up in anymore episodes. I really dislike the direction Moffat has taken the show during his run, and I hope the next producer returns the show to something more like the classic series.

Edited by feargalr

Totally agree more with this. Remember when Moffat wrote killer episodes like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace.... now we get this dribble....

Clara is written awfully. In fact it seems to me that she's not really a character at all, not in the same way that any of the companions were during Davies run, or even Amy and Rory. She's just there to say things that the audience was thinking and sometimes act like a walking talking sonic screwdriver for the plot. But if you ask me Moffat's character work has been in the toilet ever since he had Amy and Rory break up and get back together in the space of a single episode in an event that was never referenced ever again (Why would you waste time with that?!!)