Monday, 25 August 2014

Doctor Who: Deep Breath ( review with spoilers )

"Where did he get that face? Why's it got lines on it? It's brand new. How can his hair be all grey? He's only just got it..."
After what seemed like an eternity in the Time Vortex, the Twelfth Doctor finally crashed to Earth last night, giving us the first proper look at the 100% rebel Time Lord. So, how was he? Take a deep breath...
The new Doctor and Clara make a bizarre entrance in this episode  -  the Tardis is vomited out of the throat of a T-Rex and onto the banks of the Thames in Victorian London. ( It's that kind of a story. ) Old friends Vastra, Strax and Jenny are on hand to help a bewildered Clara and an erratic, post-regeneration Doctor... or they would be if the wayward Time Lord hadn't run off into the London fog in his nightshirt like a demented Wee Willie Winkie. The new-look Tardis team and Victorian allies find themselves caught up in a grisly plot involving spontaneous combustion, a buried alien spaceship and a half-faced cyborg harvesting human organs. Clara also has to deal with the sudden and frightening change in the man she had come to know and trust throughout many adventures in space and time. This new, fierce Doctor with an older face, "attack eyebrows" and all, is a harsh, erratic presence... when he's present at all. At one point he even seems to abandon Clara to the not-so-tender mercies of the Half-Face Man and his clockwork army. It's a far cry from the days when Clara could twist the Eleventh Doctor around her little finger...
This first, feature length episode of Series 8 is far from perfect but is loads of fun. In a gambit reminiscent of Tom Baker's first adventure, Robot, this story surrounds the new Doc with familiar characters, themes and surroundings, seemingly to reassure viewers that, yes, this is still the same show. The tone of Deep Breath is still more or less that of the Matt Smith era, with plenty of running around and comedy courtesy of the Paternoster Gang, although a darker, creepier vibe is seeping in  -  not surprising when the director is Ben Wheatley, the man behind Sightseers and A Field In England. We can expect the mood to darken as the series progresses.
Unsurprisingly, much is made of the new Doctor's apparent age and older look. He is as much confused by this change as his companion. In a lovely scene he has a manic, rambling conversation with a tramp in a back alley, forcing said hobo to look at Capaldi's face in a mirror, demanding to know if the tramp has seen these lined features before, because he hasn't  -  "Who frowned me this face?" he asks in a moment of existential angst. The Doctor also confronts the Half-Face Man, himself made up of stolen body parts over a robotic interior, and, while questioning him, questions himself too...

"There's not a trace of the original you left. You probably can't even remember where you got that face from..."

This may all sound too grim and serious but there are plenty of Steven Moffatt's trademark witty lines, with Clara and the Doctor trading insults in a sinister restaurant being a standout scene. And, as for Capaldi... well, he's as excellent as I had expected. Managing to bring just the right amount of vulnerability and charm to a harsher Doctor who could so easily have alienated the audience ( no-one wanted to go the Sixth Doctor route ) he is a joy to watch, whether conversing with a dinosaur like a time-travelling Dr. Doolittle, cavorting around London's rooftops or coolly pouring himself a drink before facing his cyborg enemy. I can't wait to see what he does next. Oh, and Jenna Coleman is fantastic, finally getting some meaty drama to, er, get her teeth into. She really brings to life Clara's fear and bravery when, seemingly abandoned by the Doctor, she faces down the Half-Face Man and his clockwork killers, armed with nothing but anger and intelligence.
I've got a few reservations about this episode ( the Paternoster Gang probably need a rest now, the dinosaur in the Thames would surely be a major disruption to recent history, I don't like the new theme music ) but I'm feeling very positive about this new era so I won't dwell on them. Instead...

I'll give this episode Four Out Of Five Sonic Screwdrivers ( or slimy eyeballs )

Soundtrack: Deepest Purple: The Very Best Of Deep Purple ( old school rock! )


13 comments:

Kal said...

I thought they did a really good job in dealing with the age differences. Peter gave her a look at the end - when he says that 'It's me Clara'. Then I knew everything would be okay.

cerebus660 said...

Yeah, definitely. I'm sure there will be a small minority of fanboys / girls who won't be able to get over the whole "he's not hot anymore" thing... but the rest of us will just embrace this new, older and tougher Doc. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season...

Joanne Casey said...

Loved the new Doctor instantly...kinda think he's hotter than Matt Smith lol

Joanne Casey said...

PS Never noticed your page asking me if I wanted to leave, before. Googled it there, is there some 'beforeunload' html left behind in the template?

cerebus660 said...

Could be. I did have some problems with this blog recently but thought they were solved. Will look into it. Thanks Joanne.

cerebus660 said...

I've actually just left a comment over at "Hello I'm The Doctor" and had exactly the same issue. Strange.

Joanne Casey said...

Gonna investigate the comments settings...

Joanne Casey said...

errr I don't know what I'm doing lol

Kid said...

I preferred the second episode, but even then had reservations about Clara slapping the Doctor, which I felt showed no respect for the dignity of the character and turned him into an object of slap-stick comedy. Clara should hold the Doctor in awe, not treat him like her annoying little brother.

cerebus660 said...

I really don't think Clara should regard the Doctor with "awe" - that's hardly the basis for any kind of drama. The modern production teams have always made a point of the Doctor and companions being equals - very different obviously, but with equally strong personalities and abilities.

Kid said...

Time-travelling two thousand year old alien? If a human (companion or otherwise) isn't in awe of the Doctor, then something's wrong. Especially as the companions are the audience's conduit into the Doctor's world - stand-ins for us, in other words. The companion should set the pattern for how the viewers regard the Doctor, I'd say.

cerebus660 said...

I'm struggling to think of one companion who's been completely "in awe" of the Doctor. Possibly the long-forgotten Katarina from The Daleks' Master Plan?
If you look back even to the early days of the show, Ian and Barbara regarded the Doctor as dangerous and deluded and certainly not a hero...

Kid said...

Well, the definition of awe is 'a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder'. Some companions obviously respected the Doctor (without the reverence perhaps), but it was more the 'fear and wonder' aspect I was focusing on, which is in accord with Ian and Barbara's attitude to him. What I was getting at, was that some of the characters just don't seem to have the 'respect' (grudging or otherwise) for the Doctor that they should have. And for Clara to slap him (angry or not) just diminishes his 'authority'.

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