TV Review: "Doctor Who" 8x01: Deep Breath

Written by: The Lord Gremlin

Season 8 of Doctor Who was something I have been waiting for with baited breath. While last season left me feeling underwhelmed, Matt Smith had endeared himself to me so much over the course of his tenure that I call him my Doctor. I was reluctant to see him go but also exhilarated at the prospect of another new chapter of the Time Lord's life being written, and when revered actor Peter Capaldi was announced, I had a feeling fans were in for something special.

With the first episode of the new season, “Deep Breath”, showrunner Steven Moffat largely ditches some his more annoying traits, which have grown tiresome for many fans. “Deep Breath” is Moffat scaling things back. While the episode is funny with many light-hearted chuckles, the over-the-top zany antics and more contemporary humor of past seasons is all but absent, replaced with a tone that is often moody and somber.  If the overall pacing and tone of this episode is any indication of what we have in store for the rest of the season, then fans can expect a more mature Doctor Who.

The personality of Clara (the current Companion, played by Jenna Coleman) is given much needed depth, adding to the basic “sassy buddy” rapport that has been her main trait up to this point. Clara is shown to be truly vulnerable, angry and brave here;  it comes off as more believable than it has in the past. With rumors of Coleman’s departure from the show at the end of the year circulating, let’s hope her writing remains a strong point, because the character deserves it.

What about the new guy, you ask? Well, it’s safe to say we have another great Doctor on our hands with Peter Capaldi. An actor considerably older than the last two insanely popular actors to inhabit the role, his casting was something of gamble in my opinion: David Tennant and Matt Smith embodied a certain “hip to be nerdy” appeal that was a huge hit with the younger fans, a big contrast with a new, possibly grouchier Doctor. I applaud the BBC and Moffat for going that route. It feels right, and the show was in desperate need of a facelift.

Capaldi knocked it out of the park. He had to be funny, confused, angry, even threatening, and sold every bit of it, sinking his teeth into it like the professional he is. A more serious, harsher, and possibly more aloof Doctor? I couldn’t be happier with that. Capaldi and Coleman work well off of each other and the new dynamic between the characters should yield some interesting developments.

The direction of the episode is solid, with impressive cinematography and SFX. The pacing of the first act feels somewhat rocky, as if it wasn’t sure exactly where it wanted to go, but soon found its footing and settles into itself with confidence, delivering a very satisfying season opener and new Doctor Introduction.

If you sit down to watch “Deep Breath” expecting the whimsy and energy of say, “The Eleventh Hour”, then you may be disappointed. This is a more mysterious Doctor. Steven Moffat appears to want to take things down a notch or two. His predilection for overly confusing plotting is nowhere to be seen. The last scene of the episode opens up a story-arc that I assume will last all season, but with luck Moffat won’t fall back into familiar habits, and keep the story as streamlined as possible.

Rating: 8/10. I very much enjoyed “Deep Breath” and am very excited about what Season 8 has to offer.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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