Doctor Who 'Deep Breath' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

One year after its release, here I am ready to review the Series 8 opener and then follow it with the rest of the season in preparation for Series 9. After the fall of the eleventh in 'The Time of the Doctor', the twelfth Doctor was born and ready to kick some ass in a whole new way that we had not seen very much of in the new series. Now history have told us that the introduction episode of a new Doctor is usually not very good ('Robot', 'The Twin Dilemma', 'New Earth' etc...) but after the magnificent 'The Eleventh Hour' I had faith that Steven Moffat could pull it off again with 'Deep Breath'... but does he?

Short answer; Yes. Long answer; Yes, and then some. 'Deep Breath' is the second longest 'Doctor Who' episode to date (with the 50th Anniversary 'The Day of the Doctor' being only like a minute longer) because Series 8 got 12 episodes instead of the usual 13. Stretching 'Deep Breath' into 75 minutes ended up being both a positive and a negative towards the episode which I will get into shortly. Suffice it to say though, the length can be an issue if you are looking for the tightest screenplay possible as this episode could probably have been cut down to at least an hour. What the length does allow for though is some very needed character development for Clara and more relaxed scenes as it does not have to move a long at such a fast pace that the new series usually does. 'Deep Breath' takes its time when necessary and shows that just because it is the 21st century, 'Doctor Who' does not need to move along at a fast pace compared to the classic series all that much. This is a very welcome return to form after a quite wobbly series 7 with a very interesting and captivating story and some wonderful moments.

Peter Capaldi is magnificent as the Twelfth Doctor, quickly making the character his own while also staying true to what we already know about him. There was not a single second with him on screen where I did not buy that he was the Doctor. As soon as he steps out of that TARDIS next to the London river and hushes Strax - Matt Smith is no more and Peter Capaldi is most definitely the Doctor and I hope he will be for many more seasons to come. I think it is time we get a Doctor that stays for at least five seasons and Peter Capaldi really feels like the Doctor that could stay for a longer time as both David Tennant and Matt Smith felt like they had done what they could do with their incarnations when they left after three seasons (would be possible argue that Matt Smith could even have gone for a fourth though). Peter Capaldi is the first Doctor since Sylvester McCoy (seventh) to really embody how I see character and I hope we get more like him in future incarnations as I do not think 'Doctor Who' needs to change the leading character just because of the change in time - afterall, the Doctor is pretty timeless. I love the way he talks and all his movements. 

This is another return for the paternoster gang who are always a lot of fun to watch but it is starting to feel like treading familiar ground seeing as the joke with those characters have remained the same since 'The Snowmen' - but I do not agree that they are overused seeing as they have only shown up in three other stories between this and when they were first introduced in 'A Good Man Goes To War' (which came out in 2011). They are also just not thrown in this episode for no reason, they fit in perfectly with the themes of the episode while also serving as a bridge between the Smith era and this new Capaldi one. I would like to see something new with them though, some actual complications with the characters that could develop them a bit further. As of right now, it definitely does not feel like Steven Moffat is shoving them down our throats. If they had shown up in 'The Day of the Doctor' that might have been a valid argument but they were not even mentioned (and neither was River Song apart from her red shoes from 'The Time of Angels' being seen in the black archive for you people thinking Moffat is trying to shove her down our throats too).

The episode was directed by Ben Wheatley who also did the following episode 'Into the Dalek' and simply put; he is a masterful director for 'Doctor Who', these are two of the best looking episodes of the new series. So many wonderful shots and so many great uses of visual storytelling scattered throughout. I really hope he makes a return one day (although it does not seem very likely in Series 9 which is a shame). The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and truly shows that 'Doctor Who' has evolved so much since the black and white age in the 60's. Now it does not need black and white to hide bad effects. Even with a relatively low budget for a TV-Show with this popularity - 'Doctor Who' looks better than ever in every single way.

The biggest flaw of the episode though is that at times it can feel a bit too long as they do not really get into the actual story of the episode until about 30 minutes in (but those first 30 minutes still allowed for some great character moments and hints at what was to come). The scene when Strax performs his "mandatory medical examination" on Clara definitely feels tacked on and it does not really go anywhere apart from getting Clara to question whether or not the Doctor would actually take her with him now that he has changed. Cannot say that the scene did not make me laugh though.

When this was released it was definitely Jenna Coleman's strongest performance in the series as she finally gets something more to do and she nails every single scene. Definitely one of the best actresses to have played a companion in the new series. The scene were she is trying to escape the robots by holding her breath ('Deep Breath', get it?) and then enters a corridor that is just filled with robots and she realizes that it is just not going to work, there is just no way for her to hold her breath that long is such a wonderful scene and thanks to her performance we are kept on the edge of our seats.

The absolute best scene in the episode though is the Doctor and the half face man's conversation in the restaurant. Moffat is definitely not a slacker most of the time when it comes to layered dialogue and this is definitely not an exception.

What are you doing?

I have the horrible feeling I might have to kill you. Thought you might appreciate a drink first, I know I would.

This is such a Doctorish line. None of that bullshit "I never would" stuff from 'The Doctor's Daughter' - this is the Doctor and he will kill if neccessary. When he shows the half face man a reflection of himself and tells him that he has replaced so many pieces of himself for such a long time that none of his original self is left - and the kicker is that the Doctor also sees a reflection of himself at that same time and Peter Capaldi's look right afterwards just says it all. It is such a smartly written and executed scene that I really want to see more of in the show.

While I am on the subject of the Half face man I feel it is quite neccessary to mention that Peter Ferdinando's (the actor) performance is excellent. He truly embodies the movement and voice of a robot trying to act like a human. It is quite a shame he probably won't turn up again in the series but for what we got, a very memorable and very good villain for this episode. Definitely the best one out of all the Doctor's first stories (even stronger than the nestene consciousness in 'Spearhead from Space'). The half face man really is not just a bad guy wishing terrible things upon people, he has just been repairing himself for such a long time that it has made him become obsessed with "the promised land" (basically heaven) that the Doctor says he picked up from all the humanity he stuffed inside himself.

'Deep Breath' is a fantastic episode albeit a bit too long but even the filler is still fun to watch and they are the scenes I find myself re-watching the most so I cannot hate on them too much. Peter Capaldi is most definitely the Doctor and he got the third best opener out of them all (right behind 'Spearhead from Space' and 'The Eleventh Hour').


- Lucas


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