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Review - Doctor Who Season 8 Premiere: Deep Breath

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Last night on BBC America, the premiere of Series 8 of Doctor Who was met with both fear and trepidation, not only by the Doctor’s Companion Clara Oswald, but the Doctor himself, now played by Peter Capaldi. Feeling his new, harsher personality, the Doctor isn’t all that sure he likes himself, and Clara doesn’t know if she does either. And that’s where we start, with “Deep Breath.” But if you haven’t seen the premiere episode of season 8, I have to warn you … there’s SPOILERS here.


Deep Breath has all kinds of references to previous episodes of Doctor Who, especially the opening scene which has a T-Rex stomping through the streets of Victorian London. Investigating the sudden appearance of this extinct behemoth is a trio of familiar faces … the Paternoster Gang, which consists of Sularian Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny, and the always entertaining Sontaran butler Strax.

I’m glad that Moffat decided to bring back the Paternoster gang because they provide a sense of familiarity in a very unsettling episode – the transition from one Doctor to another. And they are so familiar in this episode, that it’s almost like the Doctor and his companion are the guests hosts in their series … almost. Vastra and her Scoobies are investigating the sudden appearance of the dinosaur and it’s clearly in distress, coughing up and literally vomiting up the TARDIS, and Vasta concludes that the Doctor has returned and brought the Dinosaur with home.

But while Vasta seems nonplussed abuot the Doctor’s new face and personality, the Doctor’s companion Clara seems in genuine distress, crying out a desire for him to change back. She just witnessed his regeneration and she genuinely doesn’t know who this man is anymore. She wants her Doctor back. But that Tardis has sailed and with the mystery of the dinosaur, there’s no time to waste on such trivialities, since the Doctor passes out and needs rest. While he’s asleep, though, he channels the dinosaurs moans because, afterall, the Doctor speaks Dinosaur. He awakes suddenly and steals a horse because the dinosaur is in trouble. When he arrives at the dinosaur, he tries to assure it but the dinosaur spontaneously combusts and dies. We now have a murder mystery.

The Doctor asks Vastra if this has been happening all around London, and of course, it has. It’s been her current mystery case. We learn that there are robots that are harvesting human parts and setting the victims on fire to cover up the crime. This seems very familiar to the Doctor, but he can’t quite put his finger on it. He jumps into the Themes River and vanishes, but Vastra assures Clara that he’ll be found again, for he’s on the case. At this point, Clara reveals that she doesn’t think she knows who the Doctor is anymore. Vastra says she’s judging the Doctor by his appearance much like others can judge her and that’s why they see her behind a veil. But the veil suddenly disappears when Clara sees Vasta for who she really is, and as such, that’s what the Doctor sees in Clara and why he trusts her regardless of his change. It’s a great scene between them.

Clara responds an ad put in the London Times which she believes is from the Doctor. This is just after a hilarious scene with Strax, where he knocks her out by throwing the newspaper at her. And it stands as a good piece of comedy to relieve the tension. She thinks the Doctor wants her to meet him at a restaurant and so she steels away and finds him there. Only he didn’t leave the message, he thought she had. They are then captured by the robots and the Doctor learns that these robots are the same kind of maintenance robots as were on the USS Madame du Pompadour from the episode “Girl in the Fireplace,” but are part of their sister ship the Marie Antoinette, which was lost in ancient times and has been “taking the long road,” as the Doctor says back to the future.

But in order to learn this, the doctor has to leave Clara as bait in a trap, and it provides some dark and scary moments for Clara as she realizes the Doctor may have abandoned her to her doom. She engages in a battle of wits with the main robot, who threatens to kill her if she doesn’t tell him where the Doctor is. She calls her bluff, recalling a pesky student in her class – who reminds me of River Song before she regenerated – who did the same and caused Clara to back down. The robot doesn’t understand and then decides to torture her. Clara doesn’t back down, saying she’s terrified of dying but she won’t tell him what he wants to know. And then the Doctor rescues her, having been in disquise all this time as a fellow robot.

The Doctor grapples with the head robot, which he says has changed so many times that he’s no longer a real robot, but more human and as such should understand human nature. And if the robot is looking for “the promised land,” he’s in for a disappointment as it’s a myth. Meanwhile, the Paternoster Gang has come to the rescue. But they are soon overwhelmed by battling robots and just when it looks like they will meet their doom, the robots suddenly deactivate and fall down. The Doctor has prevailed over the main robot and we don’t know if he killed him or if the robot fell to his doom himself.

The mystery solved, the Doctor disappears again, this time in his TARDIS. Did he leave Clara behind in Victorian England? She doesn’t realize it, but she’s changed back into her modern clothes and Vastra says she believes the Doctor will return for her and Clara knows that deep down. She then hears the sound of the TARDIS and knows he’s come back. But he’s redecorated – including new clothes that make him seem standoffish. And, of course, Clara doesn’t like it (that’s a running joke). He says he’s not her boyfriend. She’s stunned by that.?She still doesn’t think she can trust this older Doctor and is thinking of leaving. The Doctor takes her “home,” and that’s when she gets a surprise call.

"It just felt utterly right for what we were planning for Peter's Doctor -- and right for Matt's Doctor that he would think of that as he was just about ready to go out the door. And you think, well it's never been done before -- why not?" – Steven Moffat

And this is really the best part of Deep Breath. For Clara gets a call from the Doctor, as played by Matt Smith, who’s calling from Trenzalore (in the final Smith episode “Night of the Doctor“). He’s about to regenerate and wants to say goodbye. He asks her to help this new Doctor. And it’s a very eloquent hand off from one Doctor to another.

And this is really what this episode is all about. The episode is really about us, the audience, dealing with the uneasiness of transitioning from one Doctor to another. And by having Smith in a cameo asking Clara to help this new Doctor, we are essentally being tasked with the same thing. And it totally works.

Then, at the end, the chief maintenance robot who was looking for the promised land awakes and he told by “Missy,” which the BBC says is The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere, to welcome him. And it looks like she has an unhealthy obsession with the Doctor, who’m she calls her boyfriend. But who is she? Could the Rani be making a return to Doctor Who? That’s my guess. Some think it may be the Master, regenerated as a woman. No matter, it looks to be someone we’ll definitely be seeing again.

All in all, Deep Breath was a very well written and acted episode and it sets the tone for what lies ahead as the Doctor heads into Darkness. And Clara is right along with him. For how long? Well, that depends on if you believe the rumors. But nonetheless, it looks like another brilliant season of Doctor Who.


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