Dr. Moo looks at the children's menu.
We begin with a big dinosaur in the Thames next to Big Ben. Big effects shot to launch the series? Check! Now on we go; here, have a new Doctor and new title sequence. Have the Poternaster Gang back for more hi-jinks and escapades and an oh-so-unsubtle ham-fisted reference to the then-upcoming same-sex marriage vote in parliament. Have Clara, someone familiar with every Doctor, somehow struggling with the concept of regeneration...
Actually that last one is totally called for. Not for Clara but for the fans and the mainstream media! Clara is our surrogate so when she gets it from Vastra for judging the Doctor to be eternally youthful it’s really a put-down directed at the audience members who complained he was too old after young men Smith and Tennant. Even though at that time 73 year old John Hurt had played the part less than a year ago. How fickle some people are! Matt Smith’s final scene cameo appearance encouraging Clara to accept the new guy is more of the same but it totally worked so I can’t complain.
Then, as if to prove further that he’s still the same man, we find out the villains of the piece are clockwork droids from Tennant story The Girl in the Fireplace. Moffat puts them to good use here, and while the former story is the better of these two I think they feel like scarier villains this time around. Scary had been missing from the latter day Smith era so when Capaldi came on the scene the return to scariness was a welcome change.
And scary is the right word! This is “behind the sofa” stuff at times. The scenes where Clara and the Doctor go to the restaurant where they are the menu is unsettling, and then the subsequent moment when the Doctor leaves Clara to her own devices underground surrounded by the droids, where even her own breath can give her away to them, only goes and trumps it.
Oh yes, the 12th Doctor is a hard-arse all right! He can handle himself in a fight and can go investigate mysterious goings on, and no matter how hard you try to contain him he will find a way out. Vastra tried it – the Doctor ended up riding a horse through London and then stole a coat from a homeless man (played by Mr Elisabeth Sladen, trivia fans). You see his suspiciously familiar face with the eyebrows and the cross expression and try to figure out what’s going on inside it, but you can’t. He’s a totally unpredictable man this time and that’s a good thing. The Doctor is an alien and Peter Capaldi proves it.
And perhaps never more than in his final confrontation with the Half-Face Man. He pours the droid a drink and than tells him “I’ve got the horrible feeling I’m going to have to kill you” and when he says it you don’t question it. He isn’t boasting or declaring victory. He’s simply done trying to reason with unreasonable people. Long gone is the man who never would. We don’t see if he convinced the Half-Face Man to jump or if he pushed him – we can make a pretty good guess but the answer may prove uncomfortable.
And then out of nowhere comes the ending. Missy is demented from the word go and makes no lie about some dubiously romantic connection to the Doctor – the good ship Doctor/Master has set sail! – and though it’s a tonally jarring scene after the gritty and dark episode that precedes it, I think that’s the point. This is supposed to be a What The Hell Was That moment, and it certainly is so you’ll find no complaint from me. This is a moment that’s supposed to generate post-episode discussion and debate and it succeeded in dividing people into two camps: “Missy is short for Mistress so she’s the Master” said most of us, “Moffat wouldn’t dare” said others, “That’s far two obvious” they added. Funny how things worked out there, I’ll go into that when we get to Dark Water/Death in Heaven in a few weeks.
Overall then Deep Breath is a successful debut for the 12th Doctor. It establishes with relative ease what the new Doctor will be like and what Peter Capaldi can bring to the table whilst also telling a decent story in its own right with scary moments and a strong role for the companion. I can’t really find much fault with it. It’s not Spearhead From Space or The Eleventh Hour but it’s a darn-sight better than all the other debut stories through the years and I am in no doubt that it will hold up well. One of Steven Moffat’s best works.
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.