Home Featured Review: Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 1: “Deep Breath”

Review: Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 1: “Deep Breath”



Director: Ben Wheatley.
Writer: Steven Moffat.
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart, Dan Starkey.

He’s been a long old time coming. It almost seems baffling to think of just how long it’s been since, in last year’s Christmas special The Time of the Doctor, Whovians around the world bid a sad farewell to Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith…and an immediate dramatic hello to his angry-faced, eyebrow-toting successor. The BBC have been building this series up massively for a considerable amount of time, what with cleverly-planned and timed trailers, a worldwide tour to promote the show, and finally a worldwide cinema release of the Series 8 opener, an honour previously only granted to the 50th Anniversary special The Day of the Doctor. This is an unprecedented launch in terms of size, making things very exciting indeed!
So let’s get down to it. Take a Deep BreathDoctor Who fans, we’re going in strong.



The opener of the series begins in one of the more over-the-top fashions of any given opening episode. We see a glorious aerial shot of Victorian London, marred only slightly (or some would say improved) by the colossal and oversized Tyrannosaurus Rex that is currently slowly rampaging through the Thames. Given the time period, it’s only natural that everybody’s favourite trio of mismatched Silurian/human/Sontaran detectives are on the scene right away. Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax arrive to investigate the extremely unnatural occurrence, although the most immediately notable thing about the giant dinosaur is that it seems to be choking on something.
The question of how a dinosaur could time travel and find itself in London is swiftly answered when the creature quite literally vomits up a very familiar blue police box, which crashes into the ground below with a resounding ‘thud’. The Paternoster Gang quickly rush to the TARDIS, presuming that their familiar-faced Doctor is going to be inside after yet another madcap adventure…this, of course, is a presumption that is proved immediately wrong. Our brand new Twelfth Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi, still suffering from a case of regeneration sickness that rivals that suffered by Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, staggers out of the TARDIS, forgets everyone’s name among many other things, inadvertently flirts with a dinosaur, and subsequently passes out, unconscious.

“Well then,” says Madame Vastra, unwittingly echoing the Brigadier, “here we go again.”

191047It’s a fine and rather funny opening, but the plot it leads to is anything but. Deep Breath is, in many ways, a story with several plots. The one on the surface is, of course, the happenings in London. The mystery of the T-Rex is wrapped up almost immediately, leaving the episode to focus on our villain, the Half-Man, an incredibly-unnerving murderous cyborg with a penchant for taking body parts. He’s not alone in this, either, with several other suitably-scary robotic minions to aid him. As with so many great Doctor Who villains, we get to see the Half-Man take on the Doctor and Clara separately, and both scenes are the stand-out scenes of the episode. He’s an intimidating enemy with a surprising connection to the Doctor’s past, and the episode really makes you sympathise with him and fear him in equal measure.

The other big feature of the plot is, of course, the new Doctor and his relationship with those around him. Essentially everyone is baffled or somewhat troubled by his new nature, so different to that of his predecessor. In particular, the dynamic between Doctor and companion has changed dramatically, with Clara almost completely unable to adjust to the newest face of her travelling companion. There are several scenes that feel very tense, as a result, scenes where you’re not entirely sure where things are going with them, and that’s a very interesting thing to see happen. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this plays out over upcoming episode, and what road things go down.

doctor_who_deep_breathI suppose that allows me to segue nicely into talking about the performances, which are absolutely stellar throughout. In particular, of course, the new main duo of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, who play the new dynamic between their characters marvellously well. Capaldi is everything we’d have expected and more in the role; mad and exaggerated, even loopy at times, but able to slide almost effortlessly into quiet and somewhat dangerous. Coleman, meanwhile, gives quite possibly the best performance she’s yet given in Doctor Who in this episode, really portraying Clara’s confusion and fear at the unwelcome new state of affairs she’s found herself in. They’re going to be a very interesting duo to have on-screen, I’ve absolutely no doubt about it, and I can’t wait to see more of them.

Finally, I suppose I should talk about the man of the hour, and that’s the Twelfth Doctor himself. For months we’ve been told that this incarnation is going to be a very different beast of a Doctor to what we’ve seen previously, and now having seen the episode, I can safely say that the transition is about as dramatic as the one between Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor and Colin Baker’s Sixth. The new Doctor spends much of this episode trying to find out who he really is, and we gradually see him go from excitable if forgetful as a result of his regeneration, to more reserved, more calculating, a very thoughtful Doctor.
There are two absolutely beautiful scenes in this episode, one being a discussion between Vastra and Clara about his new demeanour, and the other being a calm chat over drinks between the Doctor and the Half-Man, a cleverly two-sided discussion that the Doctor uses to analyse the Half-Man and himself at the same time. Both of these scenes put the Doctor’s character on a pedestal, as it were, using well-written analogies and metaphor to subtly show us the first hint at the depths of what we’re in for.


All in all, Deep Breath is a cracking opener for a series, but more than that is a fantastic introduction for our brand-new Doctor. It’s got a different feel to it, almost shockingly so in fact, with a slower, more methodical pace and different dynamics in play, but that’s no bad thing. Change is the essence of Doctor Who, after all, and in this case it’s more prominent than ever. It’s been a long wait for Peter Capaldi to make his debut, and he absolutely blew it out of the water, no questions asked.

If you ask me there’s never a more exciting time to be a fan. The new Doctor gets a massive 10/10.