Adequate is an awful word. I hate using it. Especially when it comes to describing my favorite show. Double that when it’s the season premiere of my favorite show. Bonus points when it’s the introduction of the main character of my favorite show. Yet no other word springs to mind. Deep Breath is an adequate episode of Doctor Who. Not incredible. Not Terrible. Somewhere between Meh and pretty good.
After three seasons and two massive specials, we said goodbye to our raggedy Matt Smith. Tears were shed all over the globe. Many of them were my own. Matt was a spectacular Doctor. Everything the character should be. His time in the Tardis was too short. But so is the nature of Doctor Who.
Very little can compare to the excitement a Whovian feels when a new Doctor is set to take over the Tardis console. The sensation is similar to the show itself. Equal party scary and thrilling. Who will the new Doctor be? Young? Old? Funny? Grumpy? Will I like him? What will he wear? Please no technicolor! When the announcement is made, all take a Deep Breath (get it?) and wait for the next series.
In the case of Matt Smith, the Deep Breath was released as a squeal of pure joy. The Eleventh Hour is at the top of my list of first Doctor stories. Not only does it introduce a brand new Doctor perfectly, it also brings in the new companions, visual style, and tone the series would be taking, while making it all feel fresh again. A remarkable episode.
The same can not be said for Capaldi’s inaugural adventure. Don’t get me wrong, he has real potential as The Doctor. Being still in his regenerative state, we don’t get a full grasp of his character. We’ll have to learn along side him. Which is something I’m looking forward to.
Up until now there have been a lot of speculation that his Doctor will reflect more John Pertwee’s third Doctor, and Tom Baker’s fourth. I can totally see it. Add a few ruffles and his suit is a John Pertwee outfit. Make the hair a bit bigger and he’s Tom Baker. But I think there is another Doctor people are missing. His attitude, darkness, and uncertainty actually reminds me a bit more of the other Baker, Colin. He may not be trying to strangle his companion, convinced she’s a spy, but he doesn’t go out of his way to reassure her of anything either. This is a Doctor that challenges those around him, and us at home, if he can truly be trusted. For that, I am grateful.
Another standout character in the episode is Strax. Easily my favorite member of the Paternoster Gang, he is consistently amusing, and often insightful without intending to be either. Strax has the great talent of both being the butt of every joke while still upholding his dignity and appearing better than those around him. In fact, he’s the only character in the episode who seems to have a full grasp of who he is. Yes, that is the entire theme of this episode. But that’s not what I mean.
The episode falters with Clara, Vastra, and Jenny. Although I must admit it was nice to see Clara have to deal with her superficial nature, and have a companion have to be reminded that The Doctor is NOT her boyfriend. She still retains this cartoonish cockiness that makes her a bit of a parody of other “feisty” companions before her. Maybe it’s the dialogue she’s given, but I cringe every time she tilts her head to the side and tries to say something clever, or when she gives a speech intended to be powerful. The scene with her and The Doctor arguing at the restaurant and she tells him he isn’t allowed to smile really bothered me. It came off as not something anyone would say. Actually, a lot of what she says and does comes off that way.
Same for Vastra and Jenny. Their light flirtation and girl power comments used to be a lot of fun. Now it seems to be all they say to each other. I have no problem with a homosexual interspecies couple, but the constant remarking on it has almost reached the point of fetishizing it. As if Moffat REALLY has a thing for lesbians who love lizard people.
To be fair it’s not THAT bad. Most of it has to do with Moffat’s writing. I complained about this previous series of Sherlock pandering to it’s audience and becoming too self-referential. All the characters were SO aware of the fans that it took me out of the show quite a bit. Season four of Doctor Who had the same problem. There is nothing wrong with a show making a few in-jokes, deconstructing, or commenting on itself. When done too often the effect is isolating. Yes, we get that a gigantic dinosaur trapped in Victorian London is odd, and awesome, the characters don’t have to tell us that. We know Vastra is essentially Sherlock Holmes, we don’t need her to remind us yet again.
Nitpicking isn’t my thing and here I am indulging. To wrap up I’ll say the episode was fine. Not very scary or exciting, but entertaining enough, with promises of interesting things to come.
Oh, and the new title sequence kicked a lot of ass.