Every time a new Doctor is introduced, there is naturally a lot of hullabaloo. The vast majority of fans, being who they are, are extraordinarily excited and act like the new guy is destined to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. This time around, I was part of the minority that was a little less excited, mostly because I think Matt Smith was the finest Doctor since at least Patrick Troughton, if not ever. He is a nearly impossible act to follow. Still, I forced myself to go into the new series with an open mind, convincing myself that it would be just as great because I trust Steven Moffat’s judgment when it comes to the direction of the series.
Not unlike “The Christmas Invasion,” the special that introduced us to David Tennant as the Doctor, “Deep Breath” relies a lot on supporting characters to keep things interesting while the Doctor is out of his mind or sleeping. It was a great idea to include Vastra, Jenny, and Strax in the festivities, as with the big change of a “new” Doctor coming along, it eases the transition for those of us with some concerns. Jenna Coleman was given a lot of room to flex and be awesome, and she pulls it off wonderfully. We were supposed to watch “Deep Breath” for Peter Capaldi’s debut but I ended up appreciating it more for Coleman’s excellence.
Despite the relatively long run time, we don’t get a lot of Peter Capaldi being his Doctor yet in “Deep Breath.” He is really disjointed for more than half of the episode, as he goes through the typical period where the Doctor is indisposed and still figuring out his own personality. He does have a couple of memorable scenes though, one where he harasses a homeless person and another towards the end when he faces off with the clockwork robot folks after Clara is temporarily captured. These villainous cyborgs make their second appearance, after also being the featured baddies in “The Girl in the Fireplace,” way back in Series 2 of New Who. They are okay, but hardly awe-inspiring, which is pretty much how I felt about “Deep Breath” as a whole.
There are a LOT of fans who were already singing Capaldi’s praises after “Deep Breath,” and I frankly don’t get it. The episode on the whole is decent, with some good comedy and a few other decent bits, but the pacing was pretty awful and Capaldi doesn’t really do much worth writing home about. I was glad to hear him using his Scottish accent (unlike David Tennant, who for some reason uses an English one despite actually being Scottish), but aside from a couple of chuckles there wasn’t much about it that I could get enthusiastic about. I’m thrilled that other fans are getting tons of enjoyment out of it, but it’s not there for me yet.
As everyone who cares knows by now, there’s a pretty wonderful cameo of Matt Smith right at the end. It’s handled perfectly, and is exactly what I as a viewer who loved Smith needed. Coleman once again shines, and there is definitely a moment where you’re forced to acknowledge that yes, Peter Capaldi is the Doctor. Between the appearances of Vastra, Strax, and Jenny, as well as the Smith cameo and Coleman’s performance, it felt like comfortable and familiar territory. Unfortunately, the episode is badly paced and ultimately not particularly exciting otherwise. Hoping things get better from here on out.
Final Grade: C-