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DOCTOR’S FINEST – Week 6: ‘Deep Breath’

Well, we’ve finally done it, friends. Tomorrow’s the big day: the Series 9 premiere of Doctor Who, but that also means today is the final installment of The Doctor’s Finest hosted by Hannah Hart. It’s been a pretty fun journey reliving some of the Doctor’s best adventures over these past six weeks, but it’s time to move on to the new. If you’d like to relive some of that now, you can read my reminiscence of all of the episodes here: “Blink” and “The Waters of Mars”, “The End of Time”, “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Doctor’s Wife”, “The Day of the Doctor”, and “The Time of the Doctor.”

But, to finish things up: we’re going all the way back to this time last year, with nine months having trudged by after saying goodbye to Matt Smith before we could give a proper hello to Peter Capaldi. The episode, “Deep Breath,” was going to give extra time to welcome the new Doctor, with a hefty 1hr 17min running time, longer than even “The Day of the Doctor.” Hannah Hart hosts that episode tonight at 8pm ET/PT only on BBC America, so say goodbye to Hannah and hello to Capaldi all in one fell swoop.

Keep reading for my full thoughts on “Deep Breath.”

Deep Breath 2

I had a bit of a weird time with “Deep Breath,” but it wasn’t what most people — including, I think, the production team — would expect it to be. I came in to Doctor Who in 2009, getting caught up right as David Tennant was getting ready to leave. For me, the show was always about change, and exploring the classic series while I was waiting for more new episodes meant that I was forever hopping around, experiencing the Doctors totally out of order. As a result, as much as I loved Matt Smith and consider him MY Doctor, I was more excited for the Twelfth Doctor than I was mournful of the Eleventh.

However, I recognize some people were new to regeneration, since the popularity of the series skyrocketed during the Smith years, especially outside the UK, so they had to ease people into it. The problem for me was that they overplayed it slightly. Clara’s smart, she’s with it, she shouldn’t have been so aghast or confused or needed Madame Vastra to do a weird veil trick to get her to understand anything. And while I enjoyed the moment, I don’t think we needed Matt Smith on a phone to tell Clara (us) to accept the older man with the grey hair and the attack eyebrows as the Doctor.

Anyway, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. There are lots of really nice things about this episode, which, thanks to the extra time, allows for a bit more time to explore characters—specifically Clara’s interactions with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, each of whom provides a different type of “friend” or ally. This episode is weirdly farcical at times, though I’m not entirely sure it works. Regardless, Clara and Strax make an interesting pair for a good portion of the beginning of the episode whilst the confused and in-crisis Doctor settles down.

For me, the episode really begins to pick up once the Doctor has his scene in the alleyway where he basically accosts that poor homeless man as he figures things out about himself. That’s then followed a few scenes later in probably the funniest scene Steven Moffat’s ever written (high praise indeed), wherein Clara and the Doctor meet again in the restaurant, each believing the other placed the hidden ad that got them there. Both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman give some of their best and funniest, banter-filled performances in this scene and it feels like a Victorian-set screwball comedy with clockwork people in it.

Deep Breath Cinema

Once they get into the larder of false restaurant, the tone immediately changes from silly to incredibly tense, and the Twelfth Doctor establishes for the first time that he’s not as compassionate as his floppy-haired predecessor. He leaves Clara seemingly to be devoured by the robots. She tries to hold her breath and failing that, she musters up all the courage she can to refuse to adhere to their demands. It’s another great scene for Coleman, who I hope we can all agree really knocked it out of the park in Series 8.

Capaldi’s Doctor did a lot of changing in Series 8, and the whole arc of it was really about the relationships between the leads, something that the show had really never done before. It means they had to start a long way away from where they’d end up. I think the last half of the series was heaps and gobs better than the first, and even that wasn’t too bad. It just means that the Doctor and Clara whom I grew to adore by the end is still a bit wonky in “Deep Breath.” Not the strongest episode, but definitely sets things off on a unique note.

That’s it. All done with The Doctor’s Finest. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts on these episodes as you watched them along with Hannah Hart. Now, come back tomorrow, Saturday, Sept 19, at 9/8c for the premiere of Series 9 on BBC America, and back here right after for my review of that episode.

Image Credit: BBC
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor, a film and TV critic, and the resident Whovian for Follow him on Twitter!

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