‘Doctor Who’ Series 8 Episode 1: Another ‘Deep Breath’ review

Sometimes, a change is better than a rest.

The closing triptych of Matt Smith’s tenure in the TARDIS promised a great deal but delivered only sporadically (‘The Name of the Doctor’ was mostly good, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ was mostly patchy, ‘The Time of the Doctor’ was mostly tedious) and while there’s always a possibility that further series of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures would have brought about a return to the consistently high quality of episodes produced in 2010 and 2011, the general consensus seemed to favour revolution over restoration.

Revolution? This is a revelation. Peter Capaldi is so instantly, irresistibly perfect that any lingering doubts about him being too old, too Scottish, too embedded in the public consciousness as Malcolm Tucker to make a convincing Time Lord are dispelled in a double heartbeat.

Doctor Who Deep Breath

From the nightshirted loon dancing over rooftops in pursuit of a dinosaur (‘Oi, you big sexy woman!’) to the eagle-eyed, low-voiced, hair-pulling Sherlock Holmes who realises he and Clara are on the menu in a robotic restaurant, Capaldi is the Doctor – in fact, he might be the Doctor. The definitive.

Of course, it’s a bit early to be making such grand claims; there have been more false dawns in Doctor Who than a French and Saunders cosplay event. Yet the exuberance of Series 8’s opener is such a (deep) breath of fresh air that it feels more like the beginning of a new era than an isolated burst of glory. It’s not just Capaldi’s commanding performance, with its echoes of Tom Baker and Billy Connolly; there’s a sense of rejuvenation across the board.

Jenna Coleman is finally given something to do as Clara, and she does it wonderfully. At last, she’s a character rather than a collection of interesting ideas.

Doctor Who Deep Breath Strax

Steven Moffat’s script reads like a greatest hits and comeback album in one, giving classic creations like the clockwork androids from ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ a new twist (or, if one is being scrupulously honest, updating an old one: the flesh-falling-off-the-face to reveal a blank robotic visage beneath is straight out of the 1975 adventure, ‘The Android Invasion’) and adding bold new strokes to the canvas.

We certainly haven’t seen the last of Missy (Michelle Gomez), the Nightmare-y Poppins of Heaven who claims to be the Doctor’s girlfriend.

Doctor Who Deep Breath

Whether she’s the new River Song or not, it’s clear that flirtation in Doctor Who is far from over, no matter what Peter Capaldi might say. It’s not the sexually-charged smouldering of David Tennant and Billie Piper, or the entendre-stuffed byplay of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, but the emotional vulnerability of the final scene between Capaldi and Coleman is almost achingly romantic.

When he says, ‘You look at me and you can’t see me,’ it’s almost like listening to Julia Roberts’s ‘I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy…’ speech from Notting Hill – only a dozen times more convincing. They may not be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, but the new Doctor and Clara make a hell of a couple.

images_Stars_4star

Aired at 7.50pm on Saturday 23 August 2014 on BBC One.

> Order Series 8 on DVD on Amazon.

> Order Series 8 on Blu-ray on Amazon.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know below…

> Follow David Lewis on Twitter.

  • Ylim

    I really like your review,OMG, how much I love this Doctor, the Doctor!!!Capaldi is such a great actor….

  • MAX

    I could have done without the poor usage of Vastra, Jenny & Strax. Why were they in this episode aside from the thinly veiled (read:pointless) exposition and slapping you in the face with [shakes hands in the air] “look we’re in Victorian England” ~MAX

  • caPOWdi

    Just my opinion but I didn’t agree with the first paragraph of the review, all in all, very good. I totally agree with Ylim’s comment, Capaldi pulled it off brilliantly. I thought the whole episode was well balanced, as it had me laughing, intrigued and I even cried near the end. You know the one thing that bothers me with some of the fans? Too bloody picky. There’s not one single episode that I’ve watched where I sit back and go,…. oh I don’t like how they did this and that, or a prime example of MAX’s comment. Sit back and enjoy the show and don’t deconstruct and analise it.

  • Eli

    Am I the only one that thinks the
    lady in heaven is river song- regenerated?

    • TimelordKev

      Seeing as River died in the library after she gave up her regenerations in ‘let’s kill hitler’ then yeah you probably are

  • joanie

    Capaldi and Coleman have the makings of an excellent team. Steven Moffat’s writing and plotting remains problematic – gosh I wish he had put something in there about Capaldi being old and not a flirt (opportunity missed methinks). I really really hope that the wise cracking woman at the end doesn’t end up being another of Moffat’s wise cracking sexually aggressive walking plot devices, or God forbid, any relation to that devil-spawn, River Song.
    Looking forward to seeing how the pair fare under other writers. The Frank C-B episode sounds particularly fantastic.
    A good 30 – 40 minute episode struggling under too much unnecessary gumph probably only included at the insistence of BBC in order to make this an Évent’ for cinemas. Çapaldi’s fabulous debut as the doctor was an event in itself and didn’t need the dinosaur or garbled and messy first 20 minutes to seal the deal. I do wish the BBC would have more faith in this show sometimes.
    Capaldi – A+, Coleman (for the first time ever) – A, Paternoster Gang (and this is a high score for me) – B-, plot – C, Appearance of Matt Smith (I do like the actor, but gee that was really unnecessary) – E
    Overall, a solid B from me.