There are two types of post-regeneration stories – ones that feel as though they have something to prove, and the ones that don’t (there’s also the ones that really need to be proving something but fall flat on their face, but we won’t go into that now). For example, the Third Doctor’s debut in Spearhead From Space successfully worked to show the BBC that the show could survive and didn’t warrant cancellation, while The Eleventh Hour focused on proving to an audience of skeptical Whovians – both ones that were attached to Tennant and others who believed the new Doctor was too young – that Matt Smith would be a great Doctor. Deep Breath, however, had that feeling of content; it was more about establishing Capaldi as the Doctor than proving that he was capable of taking on the role. Because, let’s face it, nobody’s really skeptical about his performance – instead this year more doubt seems to lie with Steven Moffat’s writing.
A Few Initial Reactions
- I liked the pacing of this one – both literally and metaphorically. It seemed fitting that Twelve took a little bit longer than Eleven to recover from his regeneration and figure everything out, I felt as though it was setting a slower overall pace for Capaldi’s Doctor – more about working through the problem, and less about blowing everything up in the last minute like the most recent incarnations. It somewhat reminded me of the First Doctor, which made me happy as he’s one of my favourites.
- The episode length felt like a breath of fresh air (no pun intended). It really made me miss the two-parters, I liked how it had the time to spend 45 minutes properly establishing the characters before really digging into the plot. That’s really been missing from the series lately, it’s a shame the only two-parter this year will be the series finale.
- I’m not going to comment on the new credits right now. I need time to have a better look at them, but so far I prefer both the previous theme and visuals. I find the clock face annoyingly unnecessary, but I like Capaldi’s eyes.
- I’m really liking the new enemy (the one at the end of the episode). Theories that she’s the Rani are great, it would be cool if she also had some connection with the Valeyard. I like how it was made pretty clear that she was “the woman in the shop” in the 21st century that gave Clara the Doctor’s number, and again the one that put the ad in the paper in the 19th – she clearly has some sort of time travelling ability, which supports the Rani theory. I hope she becomes a clearly developed arc, and not just chucked to the side until the season finale “Dark Water/Death in Heaven“
- Once again, Clara proved herself as my second favourite companion ever (between only Romana and Steven), boldly standing up to Vastra, but later still willing to admit weakness when confronted by the droid. I really liked how regneration wasn’t a new concept for her, she really does “know the Doctor best”. At first I was taken aback by her reaction to Twelve – I expected it to be a bit more mature – but I realised that it reflected the reaction of a new-ish fan suffering the death of their Doctor. She was aware of the other faces, she’d even met some of them, but she still had trouble accepting the fact that her Doctor wasn’t the Doctor anymore – he wasn’t the one who she’d get to have new adventures with everyday. I still think she has a little while to go before she properly accepts Twelve, but the phone call definitely helped her along (more on that in a second).
- The Paternoser Gang annoyed me this time. Every time Vastra opened her mouth I wanted to shut her up. Strax is becoming less funny by the day.
- Really, this episode used the classic Moffat formula – bring back a monster, don’t really explain how it’s connected to the previous episodes, defeat them in a rushed and simplistic climax. Basically it was The Snowmen all over again – now don’t get me wrong, that’s one of my most favourite episodes, however the similarity was a bit underwhelming. It was about what I expected, which is fine, but I was really hoping for something mindblowing.
- I liked the TARDIS scene, I thought the way it established Twelve as a darker Doctor was cool. The costume looks really good, but I still can’t stand the button on that stupid coat…JUST UNDO IT FOR GOOD. PLEASE. Another highlight was the 50th anniversary jokes – “you’ve redecorated…I don’t like it” (that one goes all the way back to The Five Doctors) and “I need more round things on the walls…I used to have a lot of round things.”
- I’m going to become an immature fangirl now and say that this episode confirmed the existence of Whouffle. It’s not that I actually wanted Eleven and Clara to end up together, but I really liked them as a ship, and I loved how Twelve acknowledged that there was something there.
- On that note, I loved the phone call at the end of the episode, the fact that I knew it was coming was a bit disappointing but it was adorable all the same. Once again, that was placed there as much for us as it was for Clara – it sort of represents a plea to fans suffering the loss of their Doctor to accept Capaldi. It was a really nice timey-wimey touch.
- Finally, the “coffee” moment at the very end was perhaps my favourite of the entire episode. It represented my favourite type of reference in Doctor Who – ‘parallels’ (that is, referencing a previous episode by using the same lines or doing the same thing without making it obvious). I immediately noticed the similarity between Twelve and Clara’s conversation and Nine and Rose’s from The End of the World, and I loved that touch (I put the quotes below for comparison). It represented my initial assumptions about Twelve and Clara’s relationship – similar to that of Nine and Rose. I liked, however, that Clara chose coffee instead of chips, it feels symbolic of the difference between their friendships.
The End of the World
ROSE: I want chips.
DOCTOR: Me too.
ROSE: Right then, before you get me back in that box, chips it is, and you can pay.
DOCTOR: (shrugs) No money.
ROSE: What sort of date are you? Come on then, tightwad, chips are on me.
DOCTOR: Do you want to go and get some coffee or…chips or… something…or chips and coffee?
CLARA: Coffee. Coffee would be great. You’re buying!
DOCTOR: I don’t have any money.
CLARA: You’re fetching, then.
DOCTOR: I’m not sure that I’m the fetching sort…
CLARA: Yeah, still not sure you get a vote.
Next Week: Into the Dalek
Ugh, it’s a Dalek story. Which is fine, but I’m getting sick of them. I really need to have another good look at the next time trailer (which didn’t tell us much anyway), but it’s looking like coffee is becoming a bonding thing for Twelve and Clara (I love it, maybe I can make drinking coffee from a takeaway mug while watching Twelve a tradition). Other than that I think the story will be great, I’m excited to see it’s co-written by Phil Ford, who wrote some great stuff for The Sarah Jane Adventures (including Mona Lisa’s Revenge and The Curse of Clyde Langer).