Doctor Who Recap: Deep Breath
By Edwin Davies
August 26, 2014
I feel like I have to rate this episode on two scales: As both an episode of Doctor Who and as an introduction to a new version of the character. As an episode of television, it was pretty uninspiring. The villains were creepy, both in their physical appearance and their vaguely religious fervour for killing people for spare parts, but it felt very familiar. As with the use of popular recurring characters, that familiarity might be part of a way of easing audiences into a new era of the show, but that doesn't wholly excuse its workmanlike quality. Yet it did give Capaldi plenty of opportunity to demonstrate what he will bring to the role and how his performance is tonally different to Matt Smith's, while still feeling like The Doctor and allowing the show to make lots of sly references to its own history around the main action.
It didn't have the exhilarating high of Matt Smith's introduction in "The Eleventh Hour", but it also wasn't as bloated and shapeless as David Tennant's in "The Christmas Invasion." "Deep Breath" is neither a triumph nor an embarrassment. It's just business as usual for Doctor Who, which ultimately may be the best way forward for the show; to stop making such a big deal of everything, and just tell stories.
-This episode was directed by Ben Wheatley, the very prolific British film director behind the ultra low-budget crime films Down Terrace and Kill List, the excellent dark comedy Sightseers, and the forthcoming J.G. Ballard adaptation High-Rise. I like Wheatley a great deal as a director, and friends of mine who have worked with him say that he is a pretty lovely guy, but I didn't feel that he brought much to the episode apart from a suitable grubbiness to the scenes set in the streets of London. The show occasionally makes the past a little too clean, so an episode that recognises that dirt isn't a modern invention is a welcome change.
-OH MY GOD MATT SMITH CAME BACK! Well, briefly. I'd managed to avoid any of the plot details that leaked out in the weeks before the episode aired, so I had no idea that he had filmed a goodbye telephone call to Clara. That made for a really quite lovely little surprise. I got a little bit misty-eyed, I have to admit.
-Moffat's turn as show runner has dialed down some of the broad comedy that defined Russell T. Davies' tenure, instead focusing on rapid-fire dialogue and playful banter. That made the scene where Strax seemingly knocked Clara out by throwing a copy of the Times at her head feel really odd and out of place, and further underlined how unfocused the episode as a whole felt.
-"I hate being wrong in public. Pretend that didn't happen."