It was with great suspense that we sat down as a GYCO family to watch ‘Deep Breath‘ the feature-legnth (or slightly longer than normal) opening episode for the eight season of ‘Doctor Who‘ which premiered on 23rd August 2014. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will be well aware that ‘Deep Breath‘ marks the full debut of new Doctor, Peter Capaldi and when the Doctor regenerates the whole UK watches with bated breath for him to succeed or fail.
We’d call this opening episode a success but one that isn’t without its flaws. Lets start with Capaldi, an excellent choice to replace Matt Smith in the titular role. After a run of younger leads over the last few years many felt it was time for a grumpy old man to take over the role however Capaldi is anything but, he actually comes across as quite the cool dude.
A new Doctor’s first episode is always a tough one to gauge due to that inevitable confusion that comes with the regeneration both for the Doctor and for the audience. For him, if you recall the Christmas special, he had forgotten how to fly the TARDIS and for us after the extremely emotional goodbye to Matt Smith we’re all feeling a little hurt before rebuilding our relationship with character.
Casual members of the audience often forget that the show is really seen through the eyes of the companion and so some viewers were a little put off by the fact that much of this episode focussed on Clara rather than the Doctor himself but actually it worked brilliantly the parallel the emotions of the audience. We saw Clara almost grieving for the Doctor that she knew and her elation at receiving a call from him at the end of the episode worked to give her closure but also to poignantly hand the torch over to Capaldi.
We’ve heard Steven Moffat say previously that this series would take the Doctor to darker territory and that’s abundantly clear just from the personality that he is already exuding. That’s not to say that comedy element has been drained from the show, it’s still there and much of it does come from the Doctor himself but there’s a coldness in his eyes and his delivery which is going to be interesting to see develop.
On to Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) who has divided critics and fans alike since her introduction. Many whom I’ve spoken to since this episode aired have said that this is one of her best moments in the series. The problem for the companions is they are easily overshadowed by a strong Doctor which was the case for Clara with the Eleventh Doctor.
Here Moffat has given Coleman a chance to shine and really written her some good material to sink her teeth in to and in many ways she carries this episode through it’s first two acts. Coleman has had some unfair criticism for her acting on the show but actually I think that any flaws with Clara are due to the writers not giving her the level of material that previous companions have had which is sad considering how her character has been connected to all the twelve Doctors.
There’s a recognisable supporting cast in this episode by bringing back the Paternoster Gang; they’re not characters with the strength of Captain Jack and Mickey Smith from earlier seasons and as a collective if they were to be given the spin-off some fans crave it would be more akin to ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ rather than ‘Torchwood‘. It’s nice to surround the Doctor with familiar faces and over the years Moffat and his predecessor, Russell T. Davies, have done a great deal of work to create characters who can freely enter and exit the universe but for the show to move on fully from the Smith and Tennant years then Capaldi will need his own cast of characters.
The villain of ‘Deep Breath‘ is a throwback to classic David Tennant episode ‘The Girl in the Fireplace‘ with the tick-tock men found on the SS Madame de Pompadour although here they’re from the sister ship the SS Marie Antoinette. If I’m being honest the villain story is very much shoehorned in to this episode because it plays off the similarities with the Doctor, both have been replaced and upgraded so many times over the years they have little memory left of who the originally were. It’s tenuous but does allow the show to draw some great parallels.
If you remember this episode for anything it will be the Tyrannosaurus in London and Capaldi’s brilliant performance. The special effects remain passable for a British TV series and Murray Gold’s score stands out from other home grown shows by miles, the newly updated version of the theme has moved on from the orchestral overtones to reflect the more electronic years of the show. It’s a great change which I hope may be reflected in the main score also.
If you’re new to ‘Doctor Who‘ then it’s always easiest to start your journey with a new Doctor so this is a great jumping in point. The show remains great fun for all the family.