Doctor Who: Deep Breath (2014)
By: J.R. McNamara on November 20, 2014 | Comments
BBC | Region 2 & 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 76 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Neve McIntosh, Dan Starkey, Catrin Stewart
Screenplay: Steven Moffat
Country: UK
I have to say, the greatest thing to happen to Doctor Who since it was relaunched in the new millennium occurred in 2014, and that was the casting of Peter Capaldi. The first Doctor, Christopher Eccelston, played the role with gusto, but after only a year in the role he wasn't really given a prime opportunity to make the character his own. Next we had David Tennant, who was given some fine Doctor Who stories to tell, but eventually turned into a self-loathing existential wuss who cried every time a companion left, or when he might regenerate, or really at every opportunity. Next we had Matt Smith, who played the role as an insane clown and was fun, but for this lifelong Who fan, he was always too young for the role and was really given some obtuse, ridiculous, and honestly just bad stories, not to mention horrible companions in the ever obstreperous Amy and the permanently useless Rory.

Now, though, change has come, and not a moment too soon, as the Doctor has regenerated again, but this time into Peter Capaldi.

Oh, what's a regeneration? I must give you a quick rundown of Doctor Who. Doctor Who is a TV show that has been around, on and off, for 50 years and tells of an alien man who flies through space and time in a machine called the TARDIS, which looks like a London police box. This man, the Doctor, when under duress, can regenerate into a new reinvigorated body, which is a great deux ex machina to have new actors play the role, rather than just inexplicably replace him like they do James Bond's.

As a side note, Peter Capaldi says that Doctor Who is the reason he got into acting, and this role has been a dream for him. If you go back to an early issue of the English version of TV Week, the Radio Times, he even has a letter printed talking about his undying love of the show.

This disc is the first episode of season 8, released in anticipation of a full series release for November 2014, and is called Deep Breath, and features everything but the kitchen sink!

For some reason, in Victorian London, a dinosaur has appeared in the Thames with something caught in its throat, and that something happens to be the TARDIS. When leaving one of the dinosaur periods, the Doctor has accidentally dragged a passenger with him, but the newly regenerated Doctor is having trouble with the regeneration, which is causing him to act in a manner out of sorts. Luckily, a group of the Doctor's friends from this period, known as the Paternoster Gang, are there to help the Doctor and his companion in their time of need, and they might even be able to help with the dinosaur problem as well.

Meanwhile, a young man watching the dinosaur is attacked by a clockwork android who wants to steal his eyes, and soon after the dinosaur is destroyed by what seems to be spontaneous combustion. Quickly the Doctor and Clara discover that others, albeit more human, have died in a similar fashion… but what is going on in Victorian London? Who is the strange android, and how will Clara get back to her own time if the Doctor has become a sociopathic nutjob with no respect for others?

Straight up I have to compliment Stephen Moffat (a man whom I have criticised for giving Matt Smith some terrible scripts) for the choice of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor. My favourite Doctor of all time was the sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, who started his career by trying to strangle his companion and appeared to be completely insane, and Capaldi is playing the Doctor in a similar manner. Capaldi is foul tempered, insulting and dissatisfied with everything around him, and is an absolute breath of fresh air. Some of his dialogue is fun and references previous Doctors, which give a nice synergy to the proceedings.

The design of everything in this episode is sublime. Being a lover of all things steampunkish, the Victorian setting is pleasing, and the return of the Paternoster Gang is welcome as well as they are both enforcers, and comic relief, with a bit of controversy and open minded commentary thrown in. Also the newly redesigned TARDIS is a sight to behold.

Unfortunately I have one big criticism of this episode, and from watching it on TV, the succeeding episodes as well. Clara, played by the deliriously gorgeous Jenna Coleman, is out of place. In this episode she kind-of works, as she doesn't 'get' how the Doctor has changed from a young man to a cantankerous old one, but I think an actor of Capaldi's caliber is going to need a stronger companion. Don't get me wrong, she was fun with Matt Smith, and an extraordinarily delightful piece of sugar for the eyes, but neither her nor her acting abilities are a match for Capaldi's intensity. Clara was designed as a companion for Matt Smith, and was a relief after Rory and Amy, but she just doesn't 'fit'.

That being said, it is my only criticism of the production, as I loved every minute of it. To this old fan, it was a return to vintage Who, but with modern stylings. Thank you, Stephen Moffat for giving me back my Doctor Who.
The Disc
Doctor Who: Deep Breath looks absolutely magnificent in it's 16:9 ratio, and sounds just as good with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

There are a couple of extras on this disc.

The first, titled Deep Breath Intro, is an amusing interstitial explaining who the Doctor is to those only just getting to the show. This introduction is told from a member of the Paternoster Gang, the Sontaran (an alien race) known as Strax, in the form of a blog. Who fans will get a kick out of this.

Behind the Scenes looks at the making of this episode, including a read through, costume reveal and the first day on set.

Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor is a TV special revealing Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor. It features various interviews and prepares us for the eventual reveal.

All this sugary love must be sickening you though for a nerdy TV show, dear reader, so I will slam this disc release on one thing. When the new Who's first started, the distributors of Doctor Who DVDs were releasing these absolute rip off discs that had three episodes per disc for about 30 bucks a pop, so a whole season, 4 discs, would cost about $120. Eventually they got canny to the fans displeasure, and started releasing half seasons for a more moderate price. This disc is retailing for anywhere from $17 to $22 and for one episode of  a TV show, which we all know will be re-released in a series box set later,  and is nothing short of an opportunistic, money grubbing piece of fan abuse.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
This ultimate nerdy Doctor Who fan is absolutely in awe of the choice of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, and this episode makes me have to eat a little bit of humble pie when it comes to my slamming of Stephen Moffat being the head of writing for the series. As I stated though, I am disappointed that this release has only one episode and a couple of extras.
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