BY CHRISTOPHER HEIM
I can only imagine how exciting and intimidating it must be to assume the role as the writer for a Doctor Who story. Exciting in the sense that the show is essentially one huge blank slate, which is amazing considering its crazy premise: the misadventures of a millennium year-old humanoid alien as he travels through time and space in his police-box time machine (TARDIS). The show can essentially be a period piece one moment, a social commentary-based sci-fi next; it can be horror and sometimes even fantasy. This is probably the primary reason I’ve fallen in love with this show in the past year, because it’s a series in which literally anything can happen.
I mean, how many shows open with a gigantic T-Rex walking through Victorian London? Bizarre yet? How about said Jurassic beast regurgitating the TARDIS, which somehow got stuck in the Jurassic beast’s throat? Well, that’s what happens in the memorable opening scene of the Season 8 premiere “Deep Breath,” which marked the debut of the twelfth actor to play the Doctor, Peter Capaldi.
In recent times, given the show experiencing unprecedented levels of popularity, the news of a new actor playing everybody’s favorite Time Lord has become about as big as whenever a new James Bond actor is announced. Capaldi was an intriguing decision on the part of show runner Steve Moffat, especially since Capaldi is the oldest actor to play the part, running contrary to the previous actor Matt Smith (youngest). However, the single element that has always kept the show fresh is its ability to constantly re-invent itself whenever the Doctor regenerates with new appearance and personality, so casting an older actor is a nice change of pace for the revived series.
Thankfully, this episode puts to bed any concerns fans may have had because “Deep Breath” proves to be very entertaining season opener. From the very opening scene, depicting the Doctor and his companion Clara Oswald emerging from a smoky TARDIS, Capaldi wastes no time making his mark on the character. Capaldi’s Doctor is just as wildly eccentric as previous incarnations but there is a much darker twist to the character this time around (Don’t worry he doesn’t choke his companion). That’s not to say Capaldi doesn’t get to have moments of witty hilarity, especially with one-liners such as “I am Scottish. I can complain about things.”(Capaldi is a Scottish actor) and “I hate being wrong in public. Everybody forget that happened.” However, his climactic confrontation with the cold and calculating clockwork android hints at a vicious Doctor who is not afraid to kill if deemed necessary. Whether the Doctor actually pushed the android to his death or not at the episode’s end is left up in the air.
Speaking of the creepy clockwork android, it is a marvel of make-up design and practical effects. The show is commonly mocked for its low-budget effects (especially the original series) but the effects in the episode as a whole hold up remarkably well, especially the T-Rex.
The supporting cast also does a very good job keeping the proceedings interesting. Jenna Coleman, (Doctor’s companion Clara) does a very good job holding the story on her shoulders, especially considering Clara’s struggles to adapt to the new version of the Doctor is the center of the episode’s drama. There is also the delightful Paternoster Gang, who give wonderful banter with both the Doctor and Clara. Not only that, but there is also a great Matt Smith cameo.
Overall, a very efficiently entertaining episode and a promising beginning to Capaldi’s tenure as the Twelfth Doctor.