TV REVIEW: Doctor Who, S8, E1: Deep Breath (Spoiler-Free)

The anticipation practically took physical form and drifted around the auditorium at the BFI as fans, old and new, waited to see Deep Breath, the feature-length debut of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. I’ve always had a fascination for those first few episodes with a new Doctor, that odd feeling of abandoning an old favourite and a slight guilt for enjoying a new one.

I’ve also traditionally enjoyed the disorientation of The Doctor as he comes to term with his new self and on that level this episode does not disappoint. There is a touch of Smith’s whimsy and a lovely dose of Colin Baker’s antagonism. And of course, Capaldi brings himself to the role in oh such lovely ways.

As we explore the new Doctor, his friends and companions are doing the same. I had a conversation recently in which a friend said that he was looking forward to a show that was more focused on the Doctor rather than the companions but alas if you place yourself in that group then you might be a little disappointed, this is very much a companion’s adventure.

Madame Vastra and her crew are delightful though and I can’t help wonder as Naeve Campbell is so on top of her role that I may actually fancy a lizard. Jenna Coleman is given some hard work to do in some very emotional scenes as she comes to term with the Doctor’s regeneration and in my opinion she delivers the goods.

What surprised me was the adult nature of this episode and I don’t mean in terms of Capaldi’s portrayal but rather the differing cinematographic elements that came into play. Director Ben Wheatley’s influence is clearly seen here. The pacing was perhaps the most striking of these elements. There was no hurry, a few set pieces of quite heavy head to head dialogue with no ultra smart quips or cuts to action. The plot took its time in getting to where it was going and enjoyed the scenery along the way. Camera angles and techniques I expected more from adult thrillers or abstract borderline art house films than Dr Who came into play. Added to the aforementioned pacing I did wonder if some of this new ‘concept’ would go over the heads of younger fans.

Moffat has, in this episode, dealt head on with all the issues that fans have been talking about from kissing to flirting to being an older Doctor, and the episode is richer for it. If Deep Breath is anything to go by, then Doctor Who will still embrace diversity – unless your black that is. The point is a bit laboured here though and here’s a drinking game designed to get you fairly tipsy – simply drink something strong every time you hear the word ‘wife’. You’ll get it when you see it.

There were some heartrending moments of conflict and action in this episode and I’ve come out of it loving Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. This is possibly because I am a grumpy old man and his vibe has a direct contrast to the Doctors we have been used to over the last few years. Deep Breath has a nicely executed and well-rounded plot, which all comes together to create an enjoyable watching experience. There are hints (well a little bit more than hints) to a meta plot, something I’m not sure how I feel about yet but I am optimistic. Moffat also assured us that the series will have the same feel throughout as this episode did.

In summation, I enjoyed the episode with a few reservations, I enjoyed the companions, I am thrilled with the Doctor, I am intrigued by what’s to come – apart from the Daleks – I’m a bit bored with them. The last of my fears were put to sleep by turning to the ten-year old behind me to find out what he thought, to my surprise he loved it.

Well then, job done.

Rating: 4/5
Blogger: Monts


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