Doctor Who season premiere recap: 'Deep Breath'

A new Doctor contends with a series of strange murders, his companions, and himself.
Ep. 01 | Aired Aug 23, 2014

BBC

The plot has to start back up again, though, since we can’t have the Doctor introspective for too long. (What fun would there be in seeing how he reacts to things in future episodes if he makes himself predictable now?) Clara spots an ad in the newspaper asking for the Impossible Girl to go to a restaurant where she meets with the Doctor. Some banter later they realize that they have been set up and they all get dragged into the belly of an ancient spaceship under London. By my count, this is the fifth or sixth ancient spaceship stuck underneath London in the new series alone—maybe the Tube's winding layout is the result of being built around these things.

Here we discover what the villain du jour really is: an ancient robot that has been replacing itself with biological body parts since the prehistoric era so that it can wait to enter the Promised Land. So, for the first time in what feels like ages, a Doctor Who landmark episode does not involve a plot to save the entire world from crisis. And it feels so damn refreshing. Instead of getting another grandiose tale where the world is saved through the power of love (again) or sci-fi words pulled out of a hat (again), we get a more personal story of a being who is trying to find happiness against a being trying to find himself.

Clara herself is given her time to shine as she is thrust into an impossible situation and is forced to face almost certain death. For the first time in her run, we see Clara facing a hardship relying solely on her own wits and mettle. And does she ever hold up. As feisty as Amy and Donna were, and as capable as Martha was, Clara has them all beat in terms of sheer braveness without needing the stiff upper lip that people usually mistake for it. Through fear powerful enough to bring her to tears she stands her ground and breaks down the situation so well that even a logical robot is brought into her terms of engagement. This is the second time in the episode that Clara has to prove herself and she wastes no time doing it. Her ability to hold out is rewarded with a surprise entrance by the Doctor and the rest of the companions to save the day and fight off the army of robots.

What follows is perhaps the single most captivating scene of the episode and what will likely be one of the most amazing moments of the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure. When he confronts the villain alone, he has none of the debonaire showmanship of the previous Doctors. No big speech, no flourish, no secret weapon, and no magic answers. The Doctor simply pours two glasses of scotch and insists the Half-Faced Man join him because "it’s the human thing to do." That’s it. A character we watched mindlessly run around London for an hour struggling to find out who and what he is sits down and calmly takes hold of the situation with all the confident air of a man who is sure of himself and everything around him. If anyone were searching the episode for a trait unique to only Twelve, here it is. No other Doctor would have been able to channel James Bond’s smoothest moments so effectively.

NEXT: A battle shakes, not stirs

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