Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review - "Doctor Who: Deep Breath"


Warning: The following review will contain spoilers. Continue at your own risk...

Hopefully I didn't scare you away with that melodramatic opening. Deep Breath has been an anxiously anticipated episode of Doctor Who, coming after eight very long months of waiting. It also introduced viewers to the new Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi. Did the episode live up to our expectations, or leave us a bit wanting? Let's take a closer look...

The newly-regenerated Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) arrive in Victorian London where they quickly meet up with their old friends, the Paternoster Gang, the trio of detectives led by Madame Vastra. It seems that the Doctor couldn't have arrived at a better time as London is in the midst of a mysterious series of spontaneous combustions. What is causing these incidents, and are they, as the Doctor suspects, a series of murders? All-the-while, Clara is coping with the Doctor's dramatic change and she fears that she no longer knows who the Doctor is anymore as they embark on a dangerous journey and come face-to-face with deadly foes.

In all, Deep Breath was a good episode, and I'd like you to remember that throughout this review. There was much to like about the episode, but it wasn't exactly perfect. I suppose I should tackle the elephant in the room first with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I can really only describe him as "wow!" Already, I can see that Capaldi's Doctor will be markedly different than Matt Smith or David Tennant. Capaldi seems to be a darker character, rough-around-the-edges and more inclined to push the envelope of his own morality. There is a brilliant bit when confronting the Half-Faced Man, pouring the both of them two glasses of scotch, telling him that he truly has no qualms about killing him. Jenna Coleman also shines in the episode. Her character of Clara is added new depth, especially in her own confrontation with the villains. Clara proves to be a strong, able companion.

Peter Capaldi is the Twelfth Doctor
The Paternoster Gang made yet another appearance. While they are interesting characters, I think they have been used too much lately. The characters are also I think too closely linked with the Matt Smith era and I suspect that their only real purpose in Deep Breath was to have a few familiar faces around to welcome in the new Doctor. It doesn't seem as though the creative team behind Doctor Who has any intention of letting the gang go anytime soon as the trio are to appear in the upcoming Twelfth Doctor novel Silhouette which has been written by Justin Richards.

Deep Breath was directed by Ben Wheatley, making his Doctor Who directorial debut. Under his direction, the episode looked beautiful. There were some exquisite visuals and Wheatley managed to portray a suitably dark environment in Victorian London. While the episode looked fantastic, Wheatley didn't handle some of the set-pieces quite as well. The death of the dinosaur by the Thames wasn't handled very well, nor was the fight beneath the restaurant handled very well either and it lacked a lot of tension.

The last point which was somewhat disappointing was the tremendous missed opportunity of seeing the Doctor's final confrontation with the Half-Faced Man. There was simply too much ambiguity in the scene and we the audience don't know whether the villain jumped to his own death or if he was pushed. While ambiguous scenes can work if handled right, this one didn't sit well with me as it would have been the perfect opportunity to show the Doctor's new darker character. Did he push the villain? Did he persuade him to jump? What happened?

As I said at the top of this review, Deep Breath was a good episode. It was very-well handled by director Ben Wheatley and the rest of the crew and Peter Capaldi has the makings of a brilliant Doctor. It wasn't a perfect episode, so I award it 3.5 out of 5 stars. In my mind, that is excellent for a show which is trying to radically redefine itself.

Next Week - Into the Dalek by Phil Ford

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