Why hello again, Whovians. It’s been a few months since last we met to discuss our mysterious Gallifreyan hero and his crazy adventures. Series 8 has begun, and it’s brought with it a new Doctor and a new feel. Deep breath*, friends, and let’s jump in.
(But, of course, If you haven’t watched the episode yet, don’t keep reading. There will be spoilers, after all.)
*I’m so witty.
Here We Go Again
The first episode of Doctor Who’s series 8 begins … with an extremely large dinosaur wandering about in the middle of Victorian London. The Paternoster Gang—Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax—show up to investigate. The local police question what would have brought such a creature to be wading around in the Thames, and Vastra suggests it was something she ate, right before she coughs up the TARDIS.
The three make their way to the TARDIS, which is looking a little worse for wear. Strax knocks on the door, and a very different Doctor opens the door. He’s a bit confused, and isn’t making a whole lot of sense. A bedraggled Clara follows soon after, and tries to explain what happened, but doesn’t get very far before the Doctor passes out. The Doctor is taken back to Vastra’s house, but he’s still confused. He’s complaining about the bedroom and it being strange, and everyone’s accents, which are much too English. Vastra puts him to sleep, and Clara asks how they can change him back. The room suddenly grows ten degrees cooler, and Vastra leaves in a huff.
Clara can’t deal with the Doctor’s new look, and is busy feeling sorry for herself when the Doctor begins translating the dinosaur’s cries. (Why knew he could speak dinosaur, too?) In the streets below, townspeople are milling about gawking at the dinosaur. A man announces that he thinks it’s all fake, and a strange man with half a face comments on his good eyes. And then takes them.
Clara has an audience with Vastra, and complains about how the new Doctor is “older.” Vastra takes her to task for being superficial and missing the flirty young Doctor Clara knew so well. Clara is offended, and makes her case, saying that she’s never really been interested in pretty young men. (Side note: I scoffed, out loud, at this point. I mean, really.) Meanwhile, the Doctor wakes up and sniffs around till he finds chalk. He begins drawing diagrams and crazy business all over the room. He then notices the dinosaur’s cries and goes out the window to apologize to her for getting her into such a mess, but as he does, she goes up in flames.
Everyone heads toward the commotion. When Vastra, Jenny, Strax ad Clara reach the banks of the river, they find that the Doctor has beaten them there. Madame Vastra asks who or what could have done this, and the Doctor says that’s not the question. When the others try to figure out what the question is, the Doctor laments that he’s visiting the Planet of the Pudding-Brains. The proper question is: Have there been any similar murders? (DUH, guys.) As Vastra is commenting that yes, there have been, the Doctor notices Half-Face lurking on a nearby bridge. He thinks it odd that Half-Face isn’t interested in the burning corpse, and then jumps in the river to investigate.
In the morning, Clara wakes up and makes herself presentable, Victorian style. Clara goes looking for Vastra, but she’s busy with other cases. (I would SO love a Paternoster Gang spinoff.)
The Doctor is elsewhere in the city, still a bit confused, rooting through garbage in alleyway. A tramp comes upon him, and is forced to listen as the Doctor makes a lot of realizations about his new self. For one, his face is familiar. Two, his eyebrows are extremely cross. And three, he’s Scottish. He tries to take the tramp’s coat, but the tramp will have nothing of it. The Doctor then remembers he’d seen something important in the pile of trash, and finds a morning paper with an article on the recent spate of spontaneous combustions.
Back at the house, Jenny’s posing in Vastra’s studio. Vastra seems to be painting her, but is actually just putting together an evidence board; Jenny just brightens up the room. (Those two. ADORABLE.) Vastra makes a hypothesis that the burning of the bodies is actually concealing what’s missing from them. Clara comes in to show them a message she found in the paper addressed to “Impossible Girl.” She assumes that it’s from the Doctor, so she heads out to meet him for lunch.
The Doctor shows up to lunch in smelly clothes he “traded” the tramp for. He and Clara have a bit of a row, during which he calls her an egomaniac, needy, gameplayer. She, of course, thinks he’s talking about himself. They soon realize that neither of them placed the ad, and as they do so, the Doctor also notices that they’re not in a normal restaurant, that none of the patrons are eating … or breathing. They try to leave, but the automatons block them. They’re then strapped into the booth and taken below, onto the bridge of what the Doctor realizes is an ancient spaceship. They get loose, and find that they’re surrounded by other dormant automatons. Half-Face is there, too, recharging. The Doctor realizes that Half-Face has pieced himself together with human parts, and Clara and the Doctor are next in line to be harvested.
Half-Face starts waking up, and Clara and the Doctor try to flee. The door shuts in between them, however, and so Clara is left with the robots. (Or, rather, the Doctor leaves her there.) She tries to hold her breath to escape, but doesn’t make it very far. Half-Face threatens her if she doesn’t tell him where the Doctor went, but she tries to be strong, saying “If the Doctor is still the Doctor, he will have my back.” Thankfully, he’s still the Doctor, and he does. Jenny, Vastra and Strax have also been waiting to lend aid. The automatons attack, and Half-Face flees back up to the restaurant with the Doctor in tow.
The Doctor and Half-Face have a conversation about life and death as they float into the sky in the ship’s escape pod, which Half-Face has created a skin balloon to lift. (Uh, GROSS.) The Doctor doesn’t want to kill him, but neither does he want to die. The Doctor says some things that have a huge amount of double meaning—“I bet you don’t even remember where you got that face.” being one particularly poignant moment—but the two fight, regardless. Half-Face says: “Self-destruction is against my basic programming.” The Doctor says: “Murder is against mine.” But one of them is lying. And Half-Face ends up impaled on a building spire.
Back on the ground, Vastra, Jenny, Strax and Clara are in danger of being overrun by the automatons. But when Half-Face dies, they shut off. After a search for the Doctor—who disappeared after the scuffle—Vastra, Jenny, Strax and Clara head back to the house. Clara is worried that The Doctor has left her completely, but Vastra reassures her that he’ll be back. Suddenly, the vworp-vworp sounds, and the TARDIS—with a new look?—appears. Clara runs to to enter, but slows when she gets inside and realizes that the Doctor’s appearance isn’t the only new thing. (Darker TARDIS interior = darker Doctor?)
The Doctor shows off his new outfit and tells Clara that it’s time he makes up for his mistakes. Clara’s still unsure of him, however, so she leaves once they’ve landed back in her time. Her phone begins ringing, and once she’s outside, she answers it. It’s the Doctor—her Doctor—calling from Trenzalore. He pleads with her to stand by the new Doctor, to not be afraid; he’ll need her help. The Doctor exits the TARDIS and reiterates the question, asking her to “see him.” She finally (finally) does, and then gives him a hug. They then head off for coffee.
The episode ends with Half-Face waking up in a lovely garden, being greeted by Missy, who comments that the Doctor is her boyfriend before saying, “Welcome to Heaven.”
Don’t Blink or We’ll Exterminate
The villains in this episode—Half-Face and his automaton goons—were familiar. (The Doctor thought so too … here’s why.) When compared with other Who villains, they were like the inverse of the Cybermen; instead of wanting to be less human, they wanted to be more. They were also single-minded, like the Daleks, and had a pretty obvious “pause” button, like the Weeping Angels. Still, they were pretty frightening all on their own, particularly the fact that they seemingly couldn’t be killed.
The New Face
As a new Whovian, I’ve now been through three regenerations (not counting the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration into the War Doctor). My first time was so sudden—Christopher Eccleston only had the role for one season—that I didn’t have the time to really make a connection. David Tennant’s goodbye was absolutely heartbreaking, however, and therefore I was certain that I wouldn’t like Matt Smith at all. He was too young, too hipster, and he had a giant forehead.
After watching him in the role for three series, he’s still young, hipsterish and has a large forehead (Sorry, Matt!), but he did delightfully well in the role. Still, I was hesitant about the change to Peter Capaldi. For no other reason than that he was an unknown. With every new actor playing the Doctor comes a nearly entirely new character. You never know what they’re going to be like.
Thankfully, after the bit of the mind reboot at the start of the episode, I found myself really enjoying Peter in the role. Specifically, these bits:
Twelve: “I just do standy-up catnaps … Well, generally whenever anyone else starts talking. I like to skip ahead to my bits. Saves time.”
Twelve: “Door—Boring. Not me.” [looks out window] “Me.”
Twelve: “It’s covered in lines! But I didn’t do the frowning. Who frowned me this face? … Why’d I choose … this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point? But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking? … Well, I don’t like it either! But it’s all right up until the eyebrows. Look at the eyebrows! They’re attack eyebrows. I could take bottletops off with these. They’re cross. They’re crosser than the rest of my face. They’re independently cross. They probably want to cede from the rest of my face and set up their own independent state of eyebrows!”
Twelve: “I hate being wrong in public. Everybody forget I said that.”
Twelve: “I don’t think that I’m a hugging person now.”
I think having an older, Scottish Doctor will be interesting, and there’s certainly an undercurrent of something darker about him (that whole was it murder or suicide thing in particular). It’s only been one episode, but I’m on board so far.
Companion Annoyance Level: Rose
Companion Annoyance Advisory System
Clara: Severe Risk of Annoying Entitlement
Martha: High Risk of Ridiculous Mooning
Donna: Significant Risk of Overbearing Bossiness
The Ponds: General Risk of Bothersome Smothering
Rose: Low Risk of Irritating Smugness
Surprisingly, Clara wasn’t totally awful during this episode. Yes, she was self-centered and superficial, but that’s to be expected. A majority of this episode seemed to center around telling her just how awful she is, too, which—to be totally honest—I rather enjoyed. Doctor Who is not supposed to revolve around the companions, and for much of Clara’s run, the opposite has been true. My husband puts it well when he says that Doctor Who is about the companions (and the viewers) going on an adventure with the Doctor. The companions are just that: companions. Series 7 got off this path in a big way, but “Deep Breath” went a long way toward fixing that. Or, at least, making us aware that the showrunners are aware that they’ve strayed from the formula.
Until that phone call at the end. Sigh.
Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax aren’t companions, exactly, but Vastra had some seriously great quips this episode. Including:
Vastra: “People are apes, men are monkeys.”
Vastra: “Give him hell, he’ll always need it.”
I’m really happy that Doctor Who is back. I was super disappointed with the last series, and worried that one of my favorite shows was going to become something I watched because I felt obligated to. Now, “Deep Breath” wasn’t perfect. A friend brought this to my attention, and I noticed it even more the second time I watched the episode, but what was with the slapsticky bits? (I.e., the “bonk” noise when Vastra puts the Doctor to sleep, Strax hitting Clara in the head with the newspaper, Clara hitting the Doctor in the junk with the Sonic Screwdriver…) And the romance stuff at the end had me rolling my eyes. That said, I think Peter brings an interesting new gravitas to the role, and I’m excited to see where this series goes.
What did you think of “Deep Breath”? Do you have thoughts on the steampunky new show opener? (Which was actually inspired/created by a fan!) What are your initial thoughts on Peter Capaldi? And who the heck is Missy?! Let’s discuss in the comments.
Next on Doctor Who: The Doctor and Clara go on a fantastic voyage … into a Dalek named Rusty, natch.