Doctor Who “Deep Breath” (Season 8, Episode 1) review (BBC AMERICA, Saturdays 9/8 Central) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi in "Deep Breath"

Doctor Who “Deep Breath” (Season 8, Episode 1)

(BBC AMERICA, Saturdays 9/8 Central)

Aug 25, 2014 Web Exclusive
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, “Deep Breath,” then read no further.]

The new season of Doctor Who is here, and with it the highly anticipated debut of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. For the uninitiated, The Doctor is a time traveling alien whose appearance changes occasionally to ward off death or bored actors and audiences. Capaldi is the twelfth actor to take on the character in the official continuity (not including John Hurt’s The War Doctor in the 50th anniversary special), and is notable for being considerably older than the most recent incarnations (again, not including John Hurt’s War Doctor); a fact that plays a significant role in this week’s plot.

The episode opens with a dinosaur trampling around Victorian London. Eventually, she coughs up The Doctor’s physics-defying time machine, the TARDIS, which is also permanently disguised as a bright blue police box. The newly regenerated Doctor takes a rest, but when he comes to he witnesses the dinosaur burst into flames over the Thames. In an effort to solve the case, The Doctor and his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) find themselves in the belly of a spaceship belonging to prehistoric robots who harvest humans for parts. They are clearly related to the Clockwork People of the Tenth Doctor story “The Girl in the Fireplace,” even if the newly regenerated Doctor was having trouble remembering his previous encounter with them, and it was a nice surprise to have them back (and an even nicer surprise to have Matt Smith return one last time as the Eleventh Doctor near the end of the episode). As a standalone episode, the danger is convincing enough, and the setting is a beautiful steampunk dystopia. The main villain—a cyborg missing half a face—is rather lackluster, but ultimately insignificant. There is an interesting twist to The Doctor’s victory here, when the half-faced robot’s death is purposely ambiguous. Did he fall of his own volition? Or did The Doctor kill him?

Ultimately it feels inconsequential, as the story serves as little more than set pieces to the real conflict here, which is Clara’s relationship with The Doctor. The show goes out of its way to make it very clear that there will be no romantic tension between the two, and Clara even delivers a convincing argument that she is more than a pretty face accompanying the dashing hero, but a character of her own merit. Clara’s conviction is believable, but it’s given during an episode that hosts a lesbian couple, one of whom doesn’t speak an ounce of dialogue that serves any other purpose than reminding the audience that they are a lesbian couple.

But back to The Doctor and Clara. Capaldi is brilliant from the start, and quickly eases any apprehension by addressing the nagging questions about his age and Scottish-ness head on, while still leaving some mystery to his regeneration process or personality. As other characters and plot devices are dragged down by the same problems that critics have squirmed at all throughout show-runner Steven Moffat’s tenure, the episode’s best moments are these dives into identity, and offer a decent glimpse of what we can expect from Capaldi’s brooding, angry Doctor.

Next week brings the return of The Daleks in an episode intriguingly titled “Into the Dalek.” Here’s hoping that Moffat has found something truly new and exciting to do with The Doctor’s most iconic, fearsome, and somewhat overused adversaries. (

Next week’s trailer:

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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