Deep Breath

Doctor WhoA live dinosaur in the Thames proves to be quite a spectacle, one that calls for the expertise of Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. No stranger to prehistoric reptiles, Madame Vastra has just the trick for pacifying the dinosaur, but when the dinosaur coughs up a blue and apparently wooden box, Vastra and her entourage instantly know that more trouble will follow. Clara stumbles out of the TARDIS in the company of an older man wearing the Doctor’s clothes: the Doctor’s new face.

As the Doctor recovers from his recent regeneration, Clara questions whether she can continue her travels with him. Madame Vastra scolds Clara for basing her initial impressions of the Doctor’s new incarnation on physical appearance, but before the conversation can continue, the dinosaur in the Thames stirs before spontaneously combusting. The Doctor, having already awoken and gone to the scene, is angered at the creature’s death, and wonders if there have been other recent deaths by spontaneous combustion. Surprised by the question, Vastra admits that there have been. The Doctor, still behaving in an erratic manner, leaves on his own to start investigating.

A newspaper advertisement draws both Clara and the Doctor to a restaurant, each thinking that the other placed the ad, but once they arrive, they are trapped by the restaurant’s mechanical waiters. They are taken to meet the being behind the string of deaths by spontaneous combustion, a mechanical creature harvesting organs and other body parts to keep itself functional in hopes of continuing a mission that was interrupted when it was stranded on Earth. The Doctor has regained enough of his senses the challenge the robot to avoid killing… but in trying to prevent the robot from taking another life, must he take one himself?

Order the DVDwritten by Steven Moffat
directed by Ben Wheatley
music by Murray Gold

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Dan Starkey (Strax), Nigel Betts (Mr. Anderson), Paul Hickey (Inspector Gregson), Tony Way (Alfie), Maggie Service (Elsie), Sean Ashburn (Restaurant Droid), Peter Ferdinando (Half-Face), Michelle Gomez (Keeper of the Nethersphere), Matt Smith (The Doctor)

Doctor WhoNotes: The Doctor, in his tenth incarnation, encountered similar self-repairing robots aboard the S.S. Madame du Pompadour in The Girl In The Fireplace (2006), also written by Steven Moffat. This is the first post-regeneration story in the history of Doctor Who that features a new scene shot with the previous Doctor.

Maggie Service provided the voice of the ship’s computer in the BBC SF comedy Hyperdrive. Peter Fernandino was the Black Knight in Snow White And The Huntsman, and has also been seen in 300: The Rise Of An Empire and Hyena.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Clocking in at slightly longer than Day Of The Doctor, Deep Breath is a strange gear-shift in pacing for modern Doctor Who. With almost 80 minutes to kill, the pace of this episode is almost languid, and there’s time to follow the new Doctor as he ponders the significance of his face, and time to follow Clara as she tries to work out her feelings about the Doctor’s change of appearance (though after The Name Of The Doctor, one would expect that she’s better equipped than any companion in the show’s history to handle this). There’s time for the robots to do creepy things, and for Doctor WhoVastra, Jenny, and Strax to be both heroic and, at times, goofy. It’s almost like – gasp! – old school Doctor Who, minus the cliffhangers.

It’s also interesting to see a callback to a David Tennant episode; then again, the Davies era is ripe for callbacks: the episode which introduced the clockwork men is, at the time of Deep Breath‘s premiere, eight years old. It’s like Arc Of Infinity making Omega (a character introduced ten years before) its main villain. But the most eyebrow-raising callback is the appearance of the eleventh Doctor calling Clara and asking her to stick with the new Doctor. It’s charming in its own way, and it doesn’t really break the universe (after all, when Capaldi’s eyebrows join the fight in Day Of The Doctor, anything is possible).

But Matt Smith’s cameo does almost break the fourth wall: this isn’t so much the eleventh Doctor asking Clara to stay with the Doctor, it’s Steven Moffat and the BBC asking fandom to stay with the show after its first-ever transition to a non-one-off Doctor who is clearly older than his forties. It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the new show’s meteoric rise has been accompanied by a new policy of casting photogenic and relatively young male actors as the Doctor, which was not always the case with the original series. It would seem that the show’s makers feel that Capaldi, as the new show’s first Doctor over the age of 50, needs a special pleading for the younger segment of the audience to stay loyal to the show. (That’s Doctor Whofunny, the original series never needed that – the companions provided the youth appeal.)

And as for Peter Capaldi? That’s like asking what one thinks of Sylvester McCoy with nothing more to go on than Time And The Rani, or Colin Baker after only The Twin Dilemma. So much of Deep Breath’s focus is on characters other than the Doctor, it’s hard to tell anything about the new Doctor; the script may well have made the new Doctor too dark, too fast. And as for “paradise”, obviously something was being set up for the end of the season here.

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