by Shawn Carter
***Warning: Slight Spoilers are abound!!! ***
Peter Capaldi took his first steps in the role of the Doctor and already, he has given us a taste of things to come for the new Doctor.
First and foremost, the zany wacky friendly antics of Matt Smith’s Doctor have been shelved for a stranger and slightly demented version. From scaring old men for their coats to discovering he is Scottish, the Doctor has regenerated into something that promises a much darker ride. He does things we aren’t used to the Doctor doing; including leaving a companion to fend for themselves and not worry about whether or not they are killed. Sure he makes up for that interesting choice of judgment quickly but there is something just off in a positive sense about the way Capaldi is tackling the role. He confronts the villain in an even creepier and stranger tone, a twisted explanation delivered to a being that is not all that friendly (the poor Dinosaur). The look he gives the camera following the resolve of the confrontation, which is left open to questions as well, gives a peek behind the veil into the thoughts inside the mind of our favorite Time Lord and we aren’t sure if we are going to like seeing what this man has in store or not. That’s the beauty of the new Doctor and somewhat of a curse leaving many of us asking are we going to be able to handle a Doctor whose methods are so opposite of our previous new looks?
There is no question this episode may be a bit of a shocker for fans who have been along for just the rides of Eccleston, Tenant and Smith. Capaldi’s Doctor has glimpses of those Doctors but he is his own man now and becoming something even he doesn’t quite understand. Everything about him is still a mystery, including giving mixed messages about whether or not he likes humanity much anymore. His memory is spotty and seems broken, almost like he cannot remember things he knows he has seen leaving him in a position we aren’t used too. The Doctor right now is at a disadvantage and all of his talents are not available to him. Will that trend continue as the Doctor finds out more about the new him? Hard to say, but the first steps seem to be setting us up for a Doctor who isn’t afraid to do the things that need to be done even if sacrifices need to be made to achieve them.
His interactions with Clara are decidedly different with the Impossible Girl deciding she doesn’t know who this Doctor is and doesn’t know if she can trust him. A message from a friend (Spoilers) convinces her to give the new look a chance, even though the episode has her being twisted, insulted and left in a horrible spot by the new face. The scene in which she decides this is especially well done with Capaldi delivering the message about the true lonely reality the Doctor is constantly facing. Convincing people you are the same man with a different attitude and face has to be tough and it is an emotional pin for the evolution of the Doctor over the decades. Capaldi and Coleman share a perfectly fine on screen chemistry, never giving you that feeling of something new is in front of you even with the knowledge the way they speak to each other is so incredibly different. Both deserve a round of applause for making the transition feel natural and not the jarring change some were expecting from the switch.
The villain for the episode is a slightly creepy foe with a simple wish of returning to a special place he cannot explain beyond calling it the Promised Land. What can be said though is while the villain is creepy, most of the first episode he is left in the background. He pops up here and there until the final half hour but before that it is about how the Doctor is coping with his change. Even though his ways of continuing to survive are morbid and a bit cruel, the villain doesn’t feel that threatening for a first run appearance. In fact, for something that can supposed do what it has the ability to accomplish, it is easily fooled and tricked making it feel like one we can just leave on a shelf somewhere and not concern ourselves with his return. What happens to the leader of a robot army is somewhat of a puzzling conclusion likely setting up the season long arc for the Doctor. Who is the new foe? Are they actually a friend? And what has them so hung up on the Doctor?
The show stealer for comedy has to go to our favorite butler Sontaran Strax. His exchanges with Clara are priceless and worth a good laugh. Madame Vastra is a bit of a sassy lady in this episode, bringing the slaps to the face of Clara that she probably needed even though Clara proved she can slap back just as sharply. Vastra’s wife Jenny brings her own brand of innocence and punchy nature as well, even when she is getting tricked by her wife to pose for a painting that isn’t even happening. Enjoy the both of them getting to defend Clara and the Doctor in a cool drop in sequence that proves once more just how useful of allies they all make.
My final thoughts on Deep Breath:
Our new Doctor is here and he’s a bit of a jerk already. Lost inside his own mind with a face he knows he has seen before, the Doctor is struggling to find not only himself but what was his greatest weapon; his intelligence. With a new design for the Tardis, a new set of threads and a slightly worried Clara, Capaldi’s Doctor is here. Even with a so-so villain and a British population that doesn’t seem fazed at all by a T-Rex walking around, the episode remains a solid first take into the new realm of Doctor Who. Hold on tight folks, because this horse we just jumped on doesn’t have a saddle and the ride could be a bit bumpy.