Doctor Who: Deep Breath

There was a time, about six, seven years ago, when this was one of the premier Doctor Who sites, at least according to Google. And lo there was traffic, and therefore there were comments, and mostly the comments were strange, or at the very least obsessed with whether Rose would come back, and then if Rose would come back again, and then if Martha was a better companion than Rose, and so on. It was very much about the companions, in the comments.

This mystified me a little; that's not really how I watch Who. I've always been more interested in the big plots, the aliens and their interactions, and the long-term continuity. The concept of the Church of the Papal Mainframe, and its Silent confessors, for example, is a fascinating one. But by and large, with the huge focus on the companions in the series itself over the last few years, I haven't been paying as much attention.

It is possible that I will be paying more attention to the Twelfth Doctor. Spoilers, of course, follow, for the first episode of Series 8: Deep Breath.

There were no stand-out moments where I was going "this is fantastic!". This is actually a good thing; I will take a general high standard throughout an episode over high points and low points. Which is not to say that there were not low points, and I feel like dealing with those first, so that I can get on with the better end of it.

So the things that really grated on me can be batched into one main area: the Doctor's attitude to Clara. He (that is, the overall character) went from Eleven's spaniel-y persuasiveness to something much more reminiscent of the First Doctor's strictness, which is frankly out of period for the twenty-first century. He called her an egomaniac and a narcissist, and seemed to think they were reasonable points - which is something you might be able to land on Amy, but not on Clara. And then he fully expected that she would be able to manage in a situation where he had, apparently, completely abandoned her without any idea of what the plan would be, and with only her complete faith in him - or at least, the previous version of him - to confirm in any way that he'd be back. That would work in mid-season. I don't think it worked well at the beginning.

Anyway. Much of the above can be passed off as a re-setting of the Doctor's character, and if they stick with it, keeping him as mean and grumpy as he is, I'll be more ok with it.

As one other aside, I think the dinosaur was wasted; there could have been far more done with it. As it was, there was "Look! We put a dinosaur in Victorian London!" and then it just sort of went away.

So, to things I liked: I do like Capaldi as the Doctor. He seems to be picking up much more on the older series, and as I said above, there are echoes of the First Doctor. If that results in some slightly older companions, I'd be good with that too - in the new series, only Donna gave an impression of being over 25, and I'm still not wholly convinced that Clara is out of her teens (although I see that Jenna Coleman is 28). The Scottish accent is of no harm at all, and the redecorated TARDIS pleases me.

I very much liked the reappearance of the Paternoster Gang, and would like to add my voice to the rising chorus of support for a spinoff series. Also, I have no objection to the Doctor passing through Victorian London a few more times; it's an important era in British history, and nobody complains about him appearing repeatedly through the later 20th and early 21st centuries.

The appearance of a villain who wasn't one of the same old set was pleasing. And the new darker streak in the Doctor which leads to us not being sure if the reverse-cyborg jumped or was pushed is very interesting indeed. I'm pretty sure Eleven would have talked the robots into leaving the planet, possibly even repaired their spaceship for them. Twelve just went "this won't do" and eliminated them. The organ theft schtick was also pleasingly dark - although admittedly it's not the first time that Whovian monsters have been harvesting humans for something.

I liked the slightly longer episode; it made the whole thing run more smoothly, and with less frantic running around. I accept that frantic running around is a Who thing, but mostly I have to grit my teeth through it. The idea that Twelve is going to be a Doctor who steeples his fingers and plots rather than a Doctor who runs around in circles barking is a welcome one, and the change of pace worked well. I suspect that the longer episode was a season-opener, though, not a permanent fixture.

So overall, I liked the episode, and I think the poorer things about it might improve in hindsight.

Posted by Drew Shiel at August 25, 2014 4:44 PM

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