Doctor Who Review: “Deep Breath”

The Doctor returns and, as in days of yore, he’s an older fellow and clearly alien. He finds himself in late Victorian London again, with a dinosaur, some familiar allies, and a very peculiar mystery.

Title: “Deep Breath”

Cast and Crew

Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Steven Moffat

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald
Neve MacIntosh as Madame Vastra
Catrin Stewart as Jenny Flint
Dan Starkey as Strax
Peter Ferdinando as Half-Face Man
Paul Hickey as Inspector Gregson
Matt Smith as the Doctor
Michelle Gomez as the mysterious Missy

Additional cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

The Doctor, suffering from Post-Regenerative Stress Disorder, arrives in Victorian London with Clara and a T-Rex, and quickly finds himself embroiled in a mystery involving the Paternoster Gang, a clockwork cyborg, spontaneous combustion, and a family restaurant.

High Points

After a run of young, romantic-leaning Doctors, we’re returning to the more classic style of Doctor Who. Capaldi plays an older and more clearly alien hero, and I heartily approve. He also brings a gravitas to the role (even when he’s being silly) that could work well. At the very least, we’re going to see a new sensibility, and the series has always thrived on its ability to regenerate itself.

Low Points

The episode meandered a bit, with Capaldi’s Doctor spending most of the time in post-regenerative confusion, and it felt rather jumbled and confused.

I know the show’s reality isn’t our dull one, but the Victorian Londoners appear just a tad too blasé about the presence of a dinosaur and aliens. Even as a series joke, it doesn’t quite work here.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 We have a mix of elements, old and new. Intentionally or not, the villain’s death steals the most (in)famous death scene in the history of newspaper comic strips, that of Dick Tracy’s Nazi spy, the Brow (1944). On the other hand, we’ve probably watched the first reptilian lesbian kiss in television history, so that should score some points for originality—and, as a bonus, really set off David Icke and the Tinfoil Hatters.

Effects: 5/6 TV dinosaurs, like Doctor Who, have come a long way, and the half-faced clockwork man was pretty convincing, as half-faced clockwork men go.

Story: 4/6 Challenge: compose a brief plot summary of this episode that would make sense to someone who has never watched Doctor Who.

Acting: 5/6 Good overall—Capaldi in particular. The semi-regulars have their characters developed and their shticks down.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The clockwork restaurant managed, in the middle of so much craziness, to be disturbing. The story had a number of good moments, in fact, though the pace and feel were uneven.

Production: 5/6.

Overall: 5/6 We explore, once again, the relationship between Doctor and Companion. The parallels involving false and changing faces may seem a bit forced, but they work.

In total, “Deep Breath” receives 34/42

Notes

We’ll have more than one reviewer for the current Doctor Who series—but mostly Matt.

9 replies on “Doctor Who Review: “Deep Breath””

  1. I see a lot of Pertwee in Capaldi, just as I saw Troughton in Smith and Davison in Tennant.

    My high point: offering a drink. That’s not something any other Doctor would do. I think that’ll be a defining moment.

    My low point: Euclidean geometry in the floor scrawled math. No matter how fried the Doctor’s mind is, he doesn’t do Euclidean.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Good catch on both!
      The math didn’t even register with me, but you’re right.
      And yeah, I made a mental note about the drink, and then forgot about it when I wrote my review. I was thinking of how typical it was of a number of other pop heroes, but not the Doctor (thus far).

      • Kiersten says:

        I didn’t see him drink it, though….

        And I’m pretty sure there was a Doctor who had done something similar before….

        I don’t see it being revisited but I could be wrong!

  2. Kiersten says:

    I did enjoy the bitchslap of the “fan girls” through Vestra to Clara..
    *evil grin*
    But I am evil like that…

    I really enjoyed it.
    Totally looking forward to next week’s episode. I can’t wait to watch him grow into the Doctor.
    I can’t wait to find out “why he chose that face”

    The eyebrow comments were hilarious!! :)

  3. Kiersten says:

    Oh, I just read that the bum was played by Elisabeth Sladen’s widowed husband!
    Very cool.

    I miss Sarah Jane Smith so badly.
    I’d like to think, had she been alive, she would have been in the 50th..
    *sad sigh*

  4. crow says:

    I’m surprised that the review made no mention of the phone call scene. That was a high point for me. Overall, though, post-regeneration episodes are usually weak, and this was no exception. The befuddled post-regeneration Doctor just doesn’t do much for me.

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