On the 4th August 2013, Peter Capaldi was announced as the newest actor to take on the role of The Doctor, taking over from Matt Smith. After 384 days of waiting, we finally got to see his Doctor emerge from the TARDIS… and boy, was it worth the wait.
There is no waiting about in Deep Breath, the opener to Series 8 of Doctor Who. Right from the word go, we have a dinosaur, in the Thames, in Victorian London. After vomiting up the TARDIS, Peter Capaldi emerges and we’re off on the whirlwind adventure that is Deep Breath. Packed with equal parts of tension and laughter, this is, in my opinion, very close to a perfect series opener. Clara (Jenna Coleman), Madam Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey) all return, meaning that, unlike The Eleventh Hour, the new Doctor is not a complete shock to the system.
The episode was also never afraid to reference the show’s past, with Amy Pond and Steven Moffat’s previous episode The Girl In the Fireplace being among many references made. Having said this, the show has moved on and the new Doctor is NOT Matt Smith’s incarnation, much to Clara’s dismay. There is none of the flirting that plagued much of last series and allows the show to mature, with the Doctor being a lot darker and a lot less reliable.
Seeing it in the cinema did lend this series opener a sense of grandeur. We were treated (alongside the episode) to a special prequel from Strax the Sontaran, a screening of the new companion show, Doctor Who: Extra and a live stream of the Doctor Who Q&A from Leicester Square. The dinosaur from the opening moments was also awesome on the big screen- something that may have been lost on the television. In fact, the entire episode felt ‘made for the cinema’- hardly surprising as director Ben Wheatley is, most predominantly, as film director with credits such as Kill List and Sightseers to his name.
The feature length episode also meant that Deep Breath did not suffer from the biggest issue of the last series: pacing. With a whole 76 minutes to work with, Moffat could really get his teeth into the story. There was one point, during the final confrontation which I feared the ending would once again be rushed, but the story ploughed on and concluded in a satisfying and much more elaborate style.
The villain, known only as The Half Faced Man (played by Peter Ferdinando), is suitably creepy. Unlike many Who monsters, Ferdinando’s performance means that his creature is believable, helped by the very under-stated use of special effects adding to the realism of his monster.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi. His incarnation of the time lord is very different from anything we have seen since the show’s revival in 2005, brimming with experience, able to switch between comedy and drama in a flash. I almost felt a little guilty when (SPOILER ALERT) Matt Smith makes a small cameo, at how quickly I had moved on to this new, grumpier, less trustworthy incarnation. Having said that, Smith’s touching farewell affected me more here than at any moment during his departure in Time of The Doctor.
Close behind Capaldi was companion, Clara. Many people (myself included) have criticised Miss Oswald for coming across as bland last series. In Deep Breath, the developments made in Day of the Doctor continued and I actually began to enjoy the dynamic between The Doctor and Clara – no longer love interests but friends.
I cannot wait for the rest of the series, hoping to see both the Doctor and Clara grow as characters and in their relationship. Though the cinema release of Deep Breath may seem to some a bit of an unnecessary publicity stunt, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, with many of the biggest mistakes made in Series 7 having been rectified.