My Thoughts on Deep Breath
Honestly….I liked it but I wasn’t a huge fan…
Let me preface by saying that I Had absolutely no problems with Capaldi as the Doctor. He was lovely and different, I think he’s the most unique Doctor we’ve had in a while, which should be quite interesting. He’s kinda like Three mixed with One and just a dash of Forth, since he has a simular kinda weird, older face, and pulls of that Forth-y kind of ‘I might like you, or hold you in total contempt, you will never know because my face is so hard to read’ kinda look.
I mean look at that face, he could just be listening to you passively, or plotting to throw you into the sun. He’s MUCH less readable than 11 or 10, which is fresh. I loved that ‘Attack Eyebrows’ comment, and a lot of his time on screen has some REALLY smart and clever dialog that you might not catch first time round.
Alright, now with that out of the way, let me say the biggest thing that bugged me about this episode.
This dinosaur. This dinosaur right here was a BIG problem for me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the moments where the Doctor was translating for her, and seeing him so broken up at the loss of a creature so alien to us (Figuratively) was great characterization. It made for a FANTASTIC opening that could really only happen in Doctor Who, but my problem was…after the dinosaur met it’s end…it really wasn’t properly addressed again. It’s never properly explained how they manged to BURN A DINOSAUR TO CINDERS, as a matter of fact the method of spontaneous combustion in general is kinda glossed over. It’s not a big part of the Half Faced Man’s character. Usually if the first half of your episode sets up spontaneous combustion as a large part of a murder plot, it’s delved into a little bit more, but it was just kinda glossed over once the Dino was out of the picture.
The problem, the big problem, for me was that after the dinosaur was gone, you could have totally forgotten it happened and if you changed one or two lines in the later half only slightly it wouldn’t have mattered. It could have been anything in the middle of London, there was nothing except for a few bits of technobable about eye-fluid that necessitated that it be a dinosaur.
And I know what you might be thinking ‘It helps explain just how long the Half Faced Man has been on earth’, and that’s true. But the same thing could have been explained any old way. The Doctor could have found an ancient plant or a bit of amber around the restaurant. The thing that bugged me is, IF YOU’RE GONNA HAVE A DINOSAUR IN THE MIDDLE OF VICTORIAN LONDON THAT BETTER BE YOUR MAIN PLOTLINE.
I’m sorry, but that is just not a sideplot. That is not something that you ignore for the rest of the episode. I mean sure, if you want to use that to explain the age of the robots in London, go ahead, but you still put a dinosaur in the middle of Victorian London. They try to kind of handwave why that’s not in the historybooks by having one guy say ‘It’s the government’ but I gotta call shenanigans on that. The fact that the people of London know what dinosaurs are in whatever time-period that was means that someone, somewhere in that town knows their dinosaurs and brought said knowledge to the masses. If that didn’t make a FOOTNOTE in modern history, you’ve got a problem.
I’m sorry if I seem really stuck on the dinosaur thing, but can you blame me? I was EXCITED when I saw that in the trailer, I thought that was the CLIMAX of an episode. ‘Oh God, a dinosaur in the middle of London, that can’t be good’, but nope, it’s gone halfway through and used to explain 5% of the villain’s back-story. I mean…just…just no! If you’re gonna do something that out there, that strange and that creative, you had better bloody well explain it all the way through, and there’d better be a satisfying pay off. By bringing that element into the world of your story the viewer expects something to be done with it. You can’t open with a T-Rex in the middle of London and have that as a SIDE PLOT.
Okay…Okay I’m done….
OKAY WAIT NO I AM NOT DONE
AGAIN I’M SORRY BUT I LOVE DINOSAURS OKAY? And Doctor who has only recently been able to do anything with dinosaurs, we got Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, which I liked a fair bit, but before that the most we got were the Silurians and a third Doctor Audiodrama/book:
If you’re gonna put a dinosaur in all your trailers, IN THE MIDDLE OF LONDON NO LESS, I want that dinosaur to be a main part of the plot. And that’s not just a personal preference, it is a legitimate pacing problem. If you watch the first half, and the second half of this episode, it seems like two different episodes. There’s just too much going on. It’s writing 101, if you introduce too many fantastic elements things get muddled.
I mean the episode should have been about robots running a restaurant that steals human body parts (Which is a GOOD set up) or about a dinosaur in Victorian London. If I said the sentence: I want to write a story about an organ stealing restaurant set in Victorian London, where a dinosaur chokes on the TARDIS and gets transported to that time-period and blown up in the middle of the city’ I’d get whacked on the head. It made the episode too busy and I didn’t like it.
Okay…now I’m done…I just…I really like dinosaurs okay?
Anyway, moving on from that, I liked a lot of the rest of the episode. I’ve had a really hard time connecting to Clara since she got in as companion, and I thought she had some really, really great moments in this episode, so I’m starting to warm up to her. There’s been this really weird habit of the writers (And while Moffat gets the brunt of my ire there are people beyond him) of kind of hand waving her durring the last few episodes. She was hardly there in the 50th, and her big moment in 11’s last episode was to cry against a crack in the wall and beg OTHER people to save him. That Clara and this Clara don’t even seem like the same person, this Clara out bluffed a robot who was wearing other people like a suit, into not hurting her in a metaphorical poker game where all she had to play with were Uno cards.
This doesn’t seem like the ‘Sidekick’ Clara we have been seeing since she came back from her Victorian death (Baring Rings of Akhaten and Hide.) This is the Clara that kicks fanny in her own right and if left alone by the Doctor could probably talk down the Daleks with a spoon. THAT is the Clara I’ve been wanting to see, and seeing it made me grin like a moron.
Now that’s not to say that Clara’s problem free. To me, one of the main themes of the episode fell a little flat. The theme is of her being so bugged by the Doctor’s change of face. Vastra is very harsh to her about this in a leagthy scene in which she calls her out for being shallow. The reason that scene doesn’t mesh with me is that…it really doesn’t seem like Clara of all people should be THIS shocked about it, if anything she should be taking it better than the Victorian crew. She lived an infinity of lives with EVERY Doctor, this should just be another week for her. And even if the defense that she may not remember all of that is posed (Which they should really address in-canon at some point, it seems like it’d be kinda important to her character) she was there durring the 50th, she stood in the same room with three of the Doctor.
I mean I don’t care if the War Doctor is younger than Capaldi as far as casting goes, he looks like ten miles of bad road in a hailstorm and she was hunky dory with meeting him. This could not feasibly have been a surprise to her. She had to be the most prepared of any companion in modern Who for this kind of thing, and a HUGE chunk of the episode is her reacting rather poorly to it. It takes the 11th Doctor calling her up (An admittedly touching scene I liked) to get her to really warm up to him. I mean sure, she saw her best friend change right in front of her, but she literally got pecked on the cheek by another version of him once, AND saw a version of him thought to have committed mass genocide. It just seems a bit odd to me to hinge such a large part of the episode on her reaction when she basically had a crash course in regeneration.
As for the ‘Victorian Crew’ as I’ve dubbed them. I like these characters, I liked them when they were introduced, and I like them now, but they need to evolve a little. I know Drax’s antics are funny, and that whole tossing Clara the paper scene literally made me pause the episode, but they need to evolve a little. They’ve been here since A Good Man Goes to War and they really haven’t changed much. We get the same jokes every time we see them. Moffat kind of points and says ‘Oooh Lesbians, how weird and funny’ to the point where I think Vastra and Jenny’s genuinely interesting relationship has become more of a gag than a legitimate part of the universe, and those funny Antics from Drax are getting predictable. When they were first introduced it made the Doctor’s universe seem huge. It was “Wow, he met all these people while we weren’t looking’, but returning to those same characters every time he needs a sulk or a rest makes the universe seem a bit smaller. I’d like some variance. I mean every season has a ‘Hub’ time period that’s usually the modern day, and I like that they’re changing it up so that the hub is a bit less familiar, but usually the characters at the hub are drastically affected by the Doctor’s actions, and have to change and adapt as a result. Thus, returning to that period of time has a bit of suspense. Sure this is because those characters are usually ‘Normal’, but even creatures from beyond the stars can change…They just seem kinda samey, to the point where when I see them in an episode I get kinda wary, which makes me sad.
Okay, away from that, back to the good stuff. In the end, though I think the Half Faced Man could have been served better as a villain if half the episode focused on him more rather than the dinosaur, I DID like him. The actor did a great job, and the villain fits thematically with the themes of the episode, amazingly so actually. If the episode focused purely on those themes, the man who steals faces being met by a Doctor dealing with his newest visage, it could have been amazing. The Doctor is wondering who he is now, and if his long life has made him so alien to his past self that he’s just not the same man anymore. That is a wonderful crises for the Doctor to have, and that speech about replacing the head and the handle of a broom was one of the best moments of Doctor Who I’ve seen in a while. The problem for me was they tried to do too much with it, the episode seems too busy and the pacing suffers. If they’d had more of a slow build instead of ‘Dinosaur in London’ as the opener, to build up the villain and build a structure upon those good themes presented later, I feel it would have been stronger.
All in all I just feel it suffers from some problems that the series has been plagued with a lot in its newest incarnation. They’ve begun to kind of handwave the effects the Doctor’s travels to the past have on the future (That is not a new problem, giant cyberman in ye’old London town? Come on, that’s gotta be pretty important when Light-bulbs aren’t even terribly common. 11 handwaves it, but never commits to explaining.), the series grows a bit too muddled at times (Again, not a new problem, but particularly noticeable with Moffat and his longer arcs). And Moffat continues to be really weird about women in general, I’m not sure I like that new (Possible) villian from the end of the episode. I think we kinda did the whole ‘Maybe evil, maybe not’ love interest business with River Song, but that seems to be the only kind of villain to appear in Moffat story-lines. The second I heard the word ‘Boyfriend’ I groaned audibly. I know he can do better than this, but as of late I’ve kinda lost faith in him as a person and as a writer. It’s really sad because I do love this show, and there are some sparkling moments of pure brilliance in here, but there’s so bogged down by a disjointed plotline, bad pacing and odd characterization as far as Clara’s delima that I kinda just lose my excitement.
I do look forwards to the next episode, and seeing Capaldi settle into his role more, but I’m kinda worried…That’s all I’ll say for now.