Deep Breath is a double whammy first; it is the first episode of season 8 of the revived series and the first adventure for the 12th (or 13th depending on how you classify John Hurt) played by Peter Capaldi. While it is not as strong a debut story as The Eleventh Hour, Spearhead from Space or Power of the Daleks it certainly ranks as one of the better debut stories, with few subtle nods to previous debuts. The post-regeneration 12th Doctor jabber wildly in much the same when Tennant does in The Christmas Invasion complete with a snatch of the exact same dialogue “Where’s the Doctor?”, “He’s there, that’s the Doctor” and madam Vastra echoes the Brigadier’s last line in Planet of the Spiders: “Here we go again.”
Again, as with Christmas Invasion the Doctor spends a good amount of time at first asleep with the companion having a mini fit as she tries to comprehend what has happened to her friend and how a man can physically and mentally change before her eyes. The principal difference here is that the Doctor gets directly involved in the story out of his own will, rather than a contrived plot device to give him a hero shot introduction. The episode has two separate plotlines which become linked in a logistical way, 1. the post regeneration Doctor has unwittingly bought a T-Rex into the heart of Victorian London and his friends have to find a way to contain it. 2. There is a series of murders where body parts are harvested by the mysterious Half-Face Man, this is first illustrated by a guy with perfect vision having his eyes balls removed as replacements for the Half-face Man’s failing eyes. I did mention that Doctor Who is a tea time family show didn’t I?
The plot lines get linked when the T-Rex is killed by the Half face man to gain the ligaments to bind his new eye balls in his face, prompting the Doctor to track him down. Conceptually the story is pretty horrific when you realise that the story is about organ harvesting by robots to replace their defective parts, so each of the droids’ faces are an actual face they have removed.
Visually, the half-face man is a technical achievement, kudos to the effects boys for keeping him in shot in a brilliant mix of CGI and animatronics: you always see bits of the droids mechanism working
So the significance of the title? Robots don’t breath and the only way to avoid them is to not breath, how long can you hold your breath?
Each debut story tries to give a handle or hook up to the new Doctor compared to the previous Doctor and this comes in one the final confrontation between the Doctor and the half face man. The half face man is bounded by his programme as leader to maintain his self and his droids no matter what, the Doctor doesn’t not cold bloodly kill. One of them has to break their core ideals: if the Half-face man is destroyed all the other droids are deactivated. It happens off screen but it in the climax in the hot air balloon made from skin (family show remember) I think the Doctor’s expression here answers was the Half-face Man pushed or did he jump?
So we are presented with a much more ruthless old school Doctor akin to William Hartnell and Colin Baker, a fact underlined by a cameo by the previous Doctor.
We once again have a proper Doctor, much I loved Matt Smith, the Doctor needs to be an older man.