We end 12 Days of Doctors with “Deep Breath” the first adventure of the 12th Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. So, how did it hold up? I’ll go into that in the review, but the short version…I was inspired and impressed. It’s nice to see Moffat back in form after the terriblish “Time of the Doctor.”
Speaking of which, this episode was written by Steven Moffat who is still the current showrunner, much like Davies was through the 9th and 10th Doctor. Ben Wheatley directed the episode and Nikki Wilson produced it.
This will be a SPOILER review, so warning. It is hard to talk about the Doctor and characters without giving away what happens.
The story begins with the TARDIS being swallowed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex and accidentally transporting it to Victorian England where the story takes place. The 12th Doctor has just went through being given new regenerations and is not all there, and Clara his companion doesn’t know what to make of him. From here the story unfolds as Vastra and her Paternoster Gang (Strax and Jenny) try to solve why people have been exploding all over town after the Tyrannasaurus Rex is exploded too, all while trying to help the new Doctor find his bearing and stop the crimes.
Here is the assessment of the episode:
Pros: The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor – Peter Capaldi is fantastic in this role. His Doctor has the manic and egotistical without being hurtful and cruel. You see his heart shine through on multiple occasions, such as mourning the Tyrannosaurus Rex that was killed and his connecting with Clara over the course of the episode. He’s the Doctor who was aware he was young and is also aware that he’s cheated. “I’ve made mistakes, it’s time I start correcting them.” This sums up the 12th Doctor in a nutshell and he is brilliant. Peter Capaldi owns this role and is well deserving of the mantel of the Doctor. Also, he loves dinosaurs.
Clara – Clara is someone who for much of this series has existed as a meme and some of the worst of Steven Moffat’s writing. She’s “The Impossible Girl” whose destiny it is to save the Doctor. That isn’t really a character, or at least not a human one…that is the idea of a character. We finally get to see a Clara that isn’t all whimsical and actually feels like a human being and companion! At one point she crosses into a room where she feels overwhelmed and where Clockwork Droids are around her…you see her as a teacher (which wasn’t established until “Day of the Doctor” really) and her being overwhelmed. We also see her questioning what her relationship is to the Doctor and what it means…and she does great! I can genuinely say I like Clara after this episode, when before there wasn’t much to like or dislike.
The Paternoster Gang – I love this group. Mostly because Vastra and Jenny are such a great couple. They were actually there to show what loving someone who isn’t human is like since Clara was dealing with the fact that Eleven might have felt for her in that way (which the 12th Doctor apologizes for). Vastra is also there in an advising role and she is fantastic! She is one of my all time favorite characters in “Doctor Who” and her story has been handled much better than how Harknesses was butchered in “Torchwood.” All of them have roles, except for Strax who is a good fighter but mostly comic relief, honestly he isn’t needed. At one point we even see them ready to take Clara onto the Team after the Doctor has disappeared. It is quite cool and they have a great character arc. They grow into accepting Clara and helping her accept the new Doctor. The companionship and marriage between Vastra and Jenny is contrasted between the friendship and companionship between The Doctor and Clara. They have a great standoff against the Clockwork Droids too near the end.
The Half-Face Man – Is the leader of the Clock Work Droids (think the episode “Girl in the Fire Place” also written by Moffat) who are trying to fix their ship and themselves and reach Paradise. They do this buy capturing humans and taking their organs, they also do this to the Tyrannosaurus Rex to help repair their ship. He is a great baddy is creepy as he uses his restaraunt as a front and is human, he speaks as an individual and is compelling enough that your left wondering if the Doctor convinced him to take his life since he knew what he was doing was wrong to reach Paradise. I like that. We later see him speaking to a mysterious Mary Poppins lady in “Paradise” who calls herself the Doctor’s girlfriend. It is cool and continues the mysterious creepiness of the episode. I liked him as a bad guy, he was a robot doing everything to fulfill his orders to repair the ship but was seeking paradise because of the humanity he’d implanted into himself. It was very well done.
Okay: The Music – The music is alright, not nearly as memorable as “The Eleventh Hour” soundtrack though. It was more neutral in regards to this new series.
The 11th Doctor Calls Clara – I honestly didn’t know what to think of this. How would Eleven know he’d become Twelve? Did he remember “Day of the Doctor?” This part was confusing, but touching…but because of the confusing bit, can’t really call it a pro.
Con: Clara and the Boyfriend – This point was brought up way too much, from Clara saying that Vastra is jealous of her for having the gall to think she liked the Doctor as lover (When Vastra is questioning her on why she is being so standoffish to the Doctor), to the 12th Doctor saying “Is your boyfriend calling?” When she gets a call from the Eleventh Doctor at Trenzalore….it was annoying. We get it, you don’t need to bring it up all the freaking time. She wasn’t interested in the 11th Doctor and isn’t interested in anyone currently.
I highly recommend this episode. Definitely in the Top 3 First Doctor Adventures (which I’ll write my list rating them all together later). It is fun, the enemy is interesting, the Paternoster Gang is always fantastic, even in episodes that aren’t great and Clara is finally a good companion…Also Capaldi owns this role. It is worth it just to see his unique and fantastic take on the Doctor.
Final Score this episode is 9.3 / 10. Here is to hoping that the rest of Series 8 can hold up as well as this episode did. The 12th Doctor and Clara deserve a great season.