Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 1 Review: Deep Breath

Deep Breath

At last, we get our first proper episode with our new Doctor! It’s been almost a year since we found out Peter Capaldi was to take the reins from the great Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, and while we’ve had teases and scenes here and there, Deep Breath is the first full story led by Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. Is it any good?

Well, yes! It has a few teething problems, but for the most part, this is a solid first episode for the new Doctor.

Directed by Ben Wheatley (director of great movies like Kill List and Sightseers, which most certainly aren’t kid-friendly) from a script by showrunner Steven Moffat, Deep Breath starts off with one heck of an introduction, then continues playing with a formula we’ve become comfortable with in a way that’s fresh and interesting and rightfully different from the previous incarnations of the show.

It’s the episode following Capaldi’s regeneration so of course we get a Doctor with an identity crisis. Much like previous episodes like this, there’s stuff to like and dislike. The journey of falling in love with a new Doctor is a bumpy ride, and while it might take a few episodes for people to truly accept Capaldi, some great groundwork has been made. He’s not an overtly silly Doctor, or a physically comedic one. He’s not there for the companion to fall in love with (thank the gods), he’s there… well, that’s for him to discover in this episode.

Accompanied once again by Jenna Coleman’s Clara and recurring fan favourites Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, The Doctor goes on an adventure in Victorian London in Deep Breath – one that starts with a T-Rex on the Thames and then gains terrifying looking clockwork baddies that harken back to Tennant-era Who.

In fact, there are a lot of hints and references to Tennant-era Who episodes in Deep Breath, which is curious. Whether it’s an intentional thing that’s going to recur throughout the entire series or not, in a way, it’s a nice move. It plays well with the fact that Capaldi had made an appearance on the show a few years back as a completely different character, which also creates a nice vein throughout Deep Breath, the constant question of “Why did I choose this face?” It’s an idea that makes for some great scenes in the episode.

And Deep Breath has many great scenes. Capaldi’s Doctor has funny moments and touching moments, and we’re right alongside him as we try to discover what sort of Doctor he really is. What really makes the episode shine, however, is how Moffat’s writing draws the characters into long, but engaging conversations that misdirect from a bigger picture. Coupled with Wheatley’s direction, Deep Breath is an instalment that creates tension and spins off into directions one doesn’t expect. Even going so far as a dark, sinister, horrific side of Doctor Who, which is a refreshing pace for the show to be in, especially coming after the 50th Anniversary and the Christmas Special.

But, of course, there are still some problems. Moffat’s writing of female characters has improved slightly, but his writing of Clara in particular is still not stellar. The Companion who had great chemistry with Matt Smith has to find it all over again with a Doctor who is still finding himself, but is stuck in a rut of non-progression. We’ve seen it before in Rose Tyler, but Clara in this episode keeps coming off as a greedy child going through circular loops of motion. A broken record of an inability to get used to this regeneration that a few odd writing choices works on trying to rectify.

All in all it’s a bit sloppy, and she falls into the usual traps her character always seems to fall into, still making her one of the least interesting and dynamic companions of recent memory.

The general tone of the show might also be a bit of an adjustment. It’s the course of a show like Doctor Who to reinvent itself in the way it does, but the leap is still a bit jarring, yet interesting. Wheatley was a great choice in director for this first episode, and there’s a want for more of the same. Hopefully Whovians will get into the swing of things and settle into this whole new world.

And for those who aren’t already fans: this is definitely the next good starting point for people! They can go in fresh and instantly find that this is the show for the next however many seasons, and that’s not bad at all!

Deep Breath has set a bar, now. It’s a little low and shaky, but the expectation is that the next episodes are gonna skyrocket above it. It’s different, it’s interesting, it’s exciting to see a new Doctor, new TARDIS, and a swanky new (heavily fan-inspired) intro.

Bring on Series Eight. When the next episode is called “Into The Dalek” and there’s an upcoming episode called “Time Heist”, you know we’re in for a great series.

Where hopefully Clara gets better.

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