I wouldn’t call this a review so much as a ramble. It got quite long: I loved rather a lot about Deep Breath, and what are blog posts for if not to natter on interminably without the cruel shackles of editorial oversight!
Anticipation levels of self were Exceptionally High for this episode. Which was quite scary as ever since I’ve been aware of a new Doctor being announced, I’ve always thought they’ll be crap, and then got convinced otherwise when I actually saw them in action. Being utterly convinced beforehand that not only was the new Doctor going to be not awful, but quite, quite brilliant? Worrying. Thank goodness for confirmation bias… and Peter Capaldi being actually brilliant, course.
Anyway, Deep Breath starts with a dinosaur, hurrah! I like dinosaurs, and this one looks splendid. Doctor Who’s come a long way since Invasion of the Dinosaurs, not that I’d ever diss the ones there (they look *fine*, considering), but, yes, this one looks somewhat better. Oh, it’s going to eat Big Ben, oh no! Oh…no apparently dinos don’t eat buildings, never mind. There’s a rather neat swooping shot down that takes us to The Londoners, who are a cunning mixture of gawky and freaked out. Which seems fair enough. Bit annoying when Past People are made out to be fools and idiots.
And Vastra has a Lestrade! Lovely! Such was excitement over The Capaldi, that I didn’t really spare much thought for Team!Vastra beforehand but now seeing them again brings a warm fannish glow to my melancholy inner being. I love Neve McIntosh. There’s something fabulously regal about her Vastra. And I did lol at her indignation when Jenny insists dinosaurs weren’t this big: “I was there!”
“Your grasp of biology troubles me.”
That line cracked me up too. And it struck as quite Sherlockian, or, at least, our less warm Peter Cushing-like modern day Sherlocks. And the fact that the Doctor’s currently pseudo-family aren’t located in the modern day? So much love.
OH CAPALDI. Just that glimpse of him opening the TARDIS and going “shush” may have convinced me that Everything Was Going To Be Okay, re Capaldi’s Doctor. Yes. That’s a lot to assume based on less than a second of screen time you might think, but never mind.
There’s a fair bit about Deep Breath that has a bit of a Robot (that’s Tom Baker’s first story) feel about it. (Even just opening and closing the TARDIS doors on Sarah.) And I could definitely hear Baker delivering the line about giving the dinosaur the slip. (I could hear Tennant and Smith saying it too, but not nearly so well.) Vastra and team are playing UNIT, with Vastra even getting the Brig’s line “here we go again” re getting a new Doctor. And, like Robot, the story is, y’know, it works, I enjoy it, but it’s nowhere near as exciting as the character stuff with the Doctor and Sarah…or Clara who, like Sarah with Baker, is suddenly tons more interesting.
He walks beautifully in this dinosaur scene, Capaldi. It delights me. I hope there are lots more shots of him just walking.
“Argh! You’ve got a dinosaur too!”
Giddy with joy, that made me. The surprise and sort of delight and fear, and that slight high pitch at the end, and the running away. THE BEAUTIFUL RUNNING. “I’m not flirting by the way,” says the Doctor. Because sometimes New Who is a subtle as an anvil to the back of the head. Sadly, it looks like, as with Ten and Donna, the more you deny it, telly show, the more I believe it’s true. He so flirts with that dino. It’s quite touching really.
And then there’s More Capaldi being just too fucking awesome when he accuses Clara of regenerating and that she used to be Handles and, oh, the confusion and fear and his expressions.
And then there is a single clang of the cloister bell as the Doctor collapses because subtle pandering to classic Who fans is best, yes.
Opening credits! Love them, the time stuff. Less thrilled about the very CGI TARDIS, and I’m not keen on the music…or I wasn’t anyway, listening to it for the *mumbleth* time, I think it’s growing on me. Like a friendly mould.
“Don’t look in that mirror, it’s absolutely furious!”
The bedroom! Did anyone else think of Castovalva and the mirror keeping time-space weirdness out? That wasn’t just me, right? I mean, yes, it’s a reference to his beautiful face, but…anyway, again, so much perfect Capaldi-ness with the confusion and the hands and the moving, but this scene hits me hard in another way because he’s suddenly noticed everyone else sounds weird. Why? They’ve got English accents, and his is Scottish now, and so Scottish is the default and London accents are other. There’s still that assumption in the UK: English – specifically Home Counties accents – are neutral, default, while Scottish, Welsh, the North etc, are other.
And the old stereotypes are still there: Scottish means thug, Welsh means idiot, and Northern Irish doesn’t exist. And one thing RTD and Moffat have both done is a fair bit of work countering that, with getting more Welsh and Scottish accents onscreen, and in non-stereotypical roles (clearly, what we should be looking for next is a Northern Irish producer.) So seeing the Doctor not just have a Scottish accent, but that being explicitly acknowledged and seeing the regarded-as-default English accents being other to him? Fuck yeah.
And Neve McIntosh gets to use her own accent for a bit too, yay!
(I’ve a friend who watched the whole of classic Who in-between New Who seasons one and two, and she was thrilled when Harry Towb turned up in two stories: a minor character both times, quickly killed off both times, but by gum, he was speaking with a Belfast accent and therefore awesome!)
“Where did he get that face? Why’s it got lines on it? It’s brand new.”
Jenna Coleman, I knew from watching in her other stuff, is an excellent actress. And last season it never really felt like she got much of a chance to show that, at least as modern-day Clara. This episode, thank goodness, tosses tons at her, and she does awesome things every time.
I like that she’s not confused about regeneration, since she’s met other Doctors, but the idea of him renewing himself and becoming older is what she fixes on too. Her friendly, chirpy, good-humoured buddy is gone, and she’s got a very confused, much tetchier Doctor to look after. And, surely, it would make more sense to regenerate into a younger body if you were renewing yourself, and watched only proper sci-fi instead of Doctor Who? It’s a legit question, and at the same time addresses both the audience worrying about a new Doctor, and an audience that’s also going to be focussing on the differences between the two, and the most obvious one is the new one looks a lot older. Pretending that hasn’t happened, that that isn’t going to be what people notice, seems daft.
And then there’s another favourite bit: Clara asking about Jenny liking Vastra if she changed, and Jenny’s gentle correction that she doesn’t like Vastra, she loves her. And it’s just…I dunno, it gets to me, this quiet, steady reminder that this is a gay married couple, on your telly screens, saving the world. (Incidentally, given two women living in marriages in Victorian times was a thing, I wonder if they might me less acceptable to their society not because of their gender, but because Vastra is playing the part of an upper-class woman, and Jenny is working class.)
Ah, and then Vastra is getting well-judgey at Jenny.( Which lets Coleman show off some smashing acting ways.) Vastra’s going to have had to put up with a lot of crap about her own appearance, and those Victorian manners, that upper class way she has of interacting with the world is something she had to have learned in order to function in society. She’s taken advantage of upper class privilege in order for her “disfigurement” to be less unacceptable. It might be unreasonable for her to expect Clara to accept the new Doctor so quickly, but it’s understandable that she’s disconcerted by it, that she sees it as Clara putting too much stock in appearances. But that doesn’t mean she’s right: she sees it as the Doctor revealing a ‘truer’ face, but that’s based on her own perception of the Doctor. And she is being kind of a jerk (and Jenny agrees, heh.)
And I don’t think that scene is about tutting at fangirls who only watch the show cause they fancy the Doctor. We’ve had years of New Who telling us it’s totally great to fancy the Doctor. Fandom might give unpleasant bullshit pushback to women watching cause the guy’s hot, but the show is on their side. But there’s also the fangirl who’s watching because she enjoys the show and getting hacked off because it’s *assumed* she’s only watching cause she fancies the Doctor. And if that scene is about any real world fannish ways, that’s what it’s about. At least to me, since I’m so Clara there. (Minus the picture of Marcus Aurelius on my wall: a healthy interest in Roman history, yes, having emperors as pin-ups, no.)
Clara brings on the righteous anger! But imperfectly so, cause she makes a well-bitchy comment. It’s not nice, but it feels real. They’re both good people, they both care very much for their friend, but Vastra is arrogant and, understandably, a bit prejudice against humans; Clara is unsettled and confused by the Doctor changing and indulging in a bit of self-pity. And they’re both a little better by the end. One hopes.
And in the middle of that Capaldi runs to a door and calls it boring, and then a window and goes yay, and I don’t know why I love it so much, because on paper it would have me rolling my eyes, but omg Capaldi, how does he make that work? Does he actually find the door boring, or is he remembering to play a bit of the part of the Doctor, as he perceives it himself?
Ah, the villains have turned up! Excellent. And relatively low-stakes villainy too, hurrah! Stories where less than the world is at risk are very pleasing. I like these droids in the same way as I like the K-1 Robot. They’re very shiny and amuse me but I’m much more interested in the lovely new Doctor and how they interact with their companion. It’s nice though, that both the dino is all sad and alone, like the Doctor, and the robots are renewing themselves again and again, like the Doctor. The concept of what these robots are doing to themselves raises some interesting points. There’s the ‘there’s more to living than simply existing’, and the idea that they’ve taken so much of humanity into themselves that they’re on the brink of becoming truly alive – they’re more human than machine – and yet can never tip over, never escape their programming. These are monstrous creatures, unrepentant and unable to give up their murderousness, and still they are tragic: they are alone, slaves to what their creators made them, trying to find meaning in their futile existence via the nebulous hope of a promised land.
It begs the question: how long can the Doctor go on renewing himself before his life ceases to have meaning? What could tip the balance between him living and him going on just for the sake of it?
Have I mentioned the pacing? I love the pacing. Admittedly I also miss the days when the first twenty minutes of the story were the Doctor and co doing sod all but wandering around and poking stuff, but heh. The feel of Clara settling into not!221B Baker Street, and getting to see a bit of Team!Vastra’s daily lives, the domesticity beside the adventures, it’s nice, dammit. There’s a lack of frenzy which, if nothing else, makes a pleasantly novel change.
Strax and melting acid made me lol. So did sending up the Times. Stop judging me. Thorax! (This is how Sontarans have told the difference between human men and women since 1974.) And he’s trying to be a buddy to his new comrade-in-arms; it’s really quite sweet. Favourite bit of that scene though is “you must stop worrying, my boy, by now he’s almost certainly had his throat cut by the violent poor.” Ah, a wee dig at classist bullshit! Strax, prone to making statements we regard as ridiculous due to a love of OTT violence, and yet that attitude – those, brutish, uneducated dangerous poor people out to get us! – isn’t exactly unfamiliar to our own society.
And in the next scene we get our “violent poor”: a rather sloshed and genial old tramp. It’s bloody good: might have been tempting to put some sort of ‘worthy poor’ type here, but no, it’s just some dude who’s wandered into an alley and doing his best not to be scared out of his wits by the strange person digging around in the rubbish.
“You are definitely Scots, sir, I hear it in your voice.”
YES. THE DOCTOR IS SCOTTISH NOW. IT IS AWESOME. Scottish agenda ftw! Scottish jokes ftw! Eyebrows metaphorically Scotland!
The Doctor complaining about his face bit is incomplete however. It is very sad. The Doctor is – in my head anyway and onscreen several times and most especially when he’s Capaldi dammit – supposed to be judgey at his new face and then decide he actually looks amazing, and they forgot the amazing part. FOR SHAME.
(The “why have I got this face?” I find sort of interesting now I see it onscreen. Reading about it made it sound like tedious fanwank. Probably Capaldi makes everything better.)
I hope Vastra really does paint Jenny. And that’s so a scene that could just fall into Sherlock, if Sherlock and John ever got together.
The restaurant scene! Magnificent! My favourite scene! Everything about this is beautiful. Capaldi and Coleman both make me want to draw little hearts around them. The rubbish fibs! Her seeing through the rubbish fibs! The snark! Oh, the precious snark! I LOVE IT SO MUCH. “Sorry, it was the only one out of place. I was sure you would want it killed.” FAVOURITE LINE. This is a Doctor/companion team I can love. MORE SNARK. BRING ON THE SNARK. Why is the scene ending? Stop that…no! Dammit, scene.
One thing I assume I’m not the only fan to do in regeneration episodes is work out which old Doctors they can see bits of in the new one. One of the great joys of Deep Breath is so much feels Totally New in the way Capaldi delivers stuff. The closest I feel is at all similar is sort of vaguely in the Tom Baker region (Oh, Doctor and Clara both scream!yell as they fall to the larder, approval.) The abandoning Clara (which I may have verbally exclaimed at the awfulness of) I can only see the Sixth Doctor doing in that way and it definitely wouldn’t be one of his better moments, and thank goodness Clara decides she will RESTORE MY FAITH in the Doctor a wee bit later on.
“It’s times like this I miss Amy.”
Cause she is tall, ha! Not cause she will somehow magically know all the plot answers despite two years that prove otherwise. (Yes, if you get that reference, I’m still bitter.)
So even though I know of course the companion is going to be fine, Clara’s attempted escape was pretty scary. I think cause it felt so visceral: she held her breath, so I held my breath , and I couldn’t do it and, omg, I’ve killed Clara!
And the thinking she’s escaped and then turning the corridor and there’s another fucking corridor of robots. Dude. Cruelties.
Course the really magnificent bit is after she’s captured. Bloody hell, Coleman. SO GOOD. And the bravery: being so utterly terrified she can’t stop the tears but fighting through it to get the information she might use to survive. CHARACTER CATNIP POUR MOI.
And then the bit where her faith in the Doctor means I forgive him for the shocking abandonment bit. And, yes, if there’s one thing that should be true about the Doctor to his companion, it could be oh-so-much worse than “he will have my back.” Might have cheered when he took her hand. SHUSHT. Totally understandable.
“Destroy us if you will, they’re still going to close your restaurant.”
And then Vastra and Jenny unfurl, superhero-like, with swords. Yay, swords! Don’t judge the cavalry, Doctor! The cavalry are awesome!
Ah, drinking with the enemy. Always a good sign when your hero can sit down and have a drink with the villain…even if robots don’t drink, the spirit is there (spirit, haha! Get it? …whatev) Another scene that delights unreasonably, and is different. Has he offered the bad guys a drink before, or has he only pilfered their sandwiches?
The Doctor should try and talk his enemies down. Often, that’s often, it doesn’t work and he ends up resorting to violence and killing and death and the occasional genocide (though given genocides are reserved for Daleks, mostly, and they’re pretty much a sentient virus, you could argue that’s morally justifiable) so, on the grand scale of the Doctor’s character, does it make all that much difference if the robot was killed or pushed? In The Christmas Invasion, the Doctor effectively pushed the leader of the Sycorax over the edge of the spaceship and we were meant to see that as a Moment of Cool. I much prefer this…and I suppose it isn’t so much about who the Doctor is, as what kind of a person the Doctor is now. And the scene has quiet, serious Capaldi and that is rather a bit great.
Aren’t we all brooms though? Our cells replace themselves over and over again; it’s the consciousness that’s continuous. A broom isn’t sentient, but the robot is, isn’t it?
Vastra/Jenny kiss! Yeah, yeah, it’s to save her life, but I don’t care, so were lots of the Doctor’s kisses, and they still count. It was on my list of Stuff I Want, Pander To Me Show, Dammit, and thus small dance and chair twirl celebration, yes.
The idea that the Doctor is searching for Paradise but never expects to reach it, that’s new too, and I rather like it. I mean, if it gets referred to ad nauseum for the next five years a la Lonely God, the shine will wear off, but at the moment, a poignant image.
“I think there should be more round things on the walls.”
Clara runs into the TARDIS and quotes Troughton, hurrah! And then minutes and minutes of character stuff. Lovely! It’s nice the Doctor’s finally aged a sensible amount. And the thing that is best about “I’m not your boyfriend…I never said it was your mistake” is it’s STILL ambiguous exactly what he means by that – witness the arguments fandom is already having about interpretation. Many of the best things about Doctor Who are ambiguous. Which is yayful for both the vigorous fandom discussion, and getting to pick whatever interpretation you like best. Also, the self-awareness re his behaviour? Well done, Doctor. Have a cookie.
And then the end, the bit at the end, the bit at the end that left me with feelings all over my face. All of it was just magical. I do like Clara is doubtful enough to walk – though I’m convinced she’d have turned around again without a phone call – cause new things are difficult and scary, dammit, and the Doctor once tried to strangle his companion and she still didn’t say anything about “gosh, actually I’d rather be home.” But, obviously, since the companion is The Audience, it’s kind of narratively thingummie if she doesn’t end up accepting the new Doctor.
THE PHONE CALL. Have come to conclusion that given my reaction was almost exactly the same as Night of the Doctor (“Um..hang on…don’t I know that voice…who is it?” *telly shows me who it is* “OMG!”) that my voice recognition is fucking awful, and this is partly why I hate and fear the telephone. Anyway, yes, I cried a quite unsensible amount. It’s not my fault, okay? I really didn’t think I missed Eleventy all that much, and that he was DEAD FOREVER (or at least until the sixtieth anniversary) and then he’s right there telling me everything is going to be okay and the new Doctor is going to be all right and OH.
(It does bring up the question of “how well would this have worked for any other regeneration?” Than answer is mostly “omg, no” or “lolariously”.)
And then, just because that wasn’t quite enough feelings, Capaldi decides he should try very hard to thieve all remaining emotions from self. The Doctor being so nervous, so uncertain, so very scared that his friend’s going to reject him…argh! And then she hugs him and he’s so awkward and the hesitant, unsure body language at the coffee and chips bit. OH. Well done, lovely show.
So, yeah, I loved it.