Doctor Who S8E1: Deep Breath
Original Airdate: August 23, 2014
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
Hard to believe it’s been eight months since Matt Smith faced the Daleks and made the ultimate sacrifice. But it’s time to welcome Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. The 12th Doctor. Wow. I’m pretty sure the world (or at least the Americas) slowed down as soon as 5pm rolled around. And as a Pacific Time Zone inhabitant, thank goodness for the East Coast feed of BBC America!
A T-Rex is approaching Big Ben. Below, the people of Victorian London are in a panic. Thankfully, Madame Vastra and Jenny are there. She hasn’t seen dinosaurs since she was a little girl. It must have time traveled, she suspects. And then, suddenly, the T-Rex starts gagging. From its large mouth, out pops the TARDIS. Madame Vastra assures the Detective Inspector that she’s on the case. She, Jenny and Strax go down to investigate. Strax knocks on the door and claims the box for the Soltaran Empire. The Doctor pops out. “Shush,” he says, then he goes back inside. When he pops out again, he tells Strax that he’s being chased by a giant dinosaur but he’s finally given him the chase. The Doctor runs out and immediately sees that Strax, too, has a dinosaur. The Doctor is very confused and doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on, and he’s having trouble keeping track of Clara. She does seem to resemble Strax…or at least they’re the same height. And it would appear that the Doctor can speak dinosaur. But no, he’s not flirting with her. No, not at all.
After brand new opening credits with a Steampunk flair, we return to the house where Clara, Vastra and Jenny are trying to convince the Doctor that he needs to sleep. The Doctor won’t have any of it. Why is he in a room with just a bed in it? Clara points out that it’s a bedroom, after all. Nonsense. And why is everyone speaking with different accents…they’re so English, when clearly the Doctor has a Scottish accent. Vastra knows just the thing to get the Doctor to sleep. She speaks to him in a Scottish brogue and he immediately responds. She tricks him into “helping her” sleep, when really she sends him to sleep. Clara can’t understand why the Doctor looks different. Vastra tells Jenny to meet her in their room. Clara asks Jenny how she’d feel if Vastra was different. But that’s just it…Vastra is different. She’s a lizard, but Jenny loves her all the same. While the Doctor sleeps, he starts translating for the sad dinosaur outside. She’s lonely. She’s all alone in a strange land.
The people of London are out in the street watching the dinosaur, speculating that the government owns it. There’s a man on the street whose face is partially made of machines. He strikes up a conversation with a man who brags about his good eyesight. The man accepts the challenge and plucks the eye from the man’s face.
Vastra has her veil on, and she’s making Clara relate the tale of how they came to be chased by the dinosaur. She uses her veil as a metaphor for how Clara is seeing an older Doctor, but he’s actually the same man. Vastra suggests that the young Doctor’s face allowed him to be accepted by everyone. And she wears her veil for the same reason he flirted with everyone: to be accepted.
Upstairs, the Doctor awakens and smells something. He goes around the room until he finds some chalk.
Vastra continues to explain that she and Jenny are married, but for the sake of pretense she has to pretend that Jenny is her maid. Clara becomes angered when Vastra hints that Clara doesn’t like the fact that he’s older. Clara loses her temper and says that she would never judge based on appearance, and furthermore if Vastra is attracted to her, that’s her own fault. Her outpouring earns her applause from Jenny (who in turn gets a hiss from her lizard wife). Vastra says that she wondered all along what Clara would be like when she lost her temper. The veil between them has gone away, now that Clara can see things clearly.
The Doctor has been writing all over the room. He runs onto the rooftops and tells the dinosaur that he promises to return her to her time. But then she erupts into the same regeneration flames he did. The Doctor rushes over the rooftops, falls into a tree, steals a horse, and rides the horse through the streets until he arrives at the bridge, where he looks over the edge into the flaming water below. “I’m sorry,” he mutters over and over again. He laments that the dinosaur was scared and alone and he brought her to London. He says that there are questions about this event that need to be asked. Are people (aka pudding brains) watching? Yes. But then why is the man across the river not paying attention? Before anyone can answer, the Doctor dives into the water. Vastra assures Jenny that there has been a murder, and so the Doctor must do his job to right the wrong that has been done.
Poor Clara, having to adjust to the primitive Victorian times, and the lack of plumbing. She wakes up to hear Strax outside. He’s fetched the TARDIS, which is a surefire way to attract the Doctor. He tosses the Times up to her, hitting her dead in the face. Clara dressed in a brilliant emerald gown and goes out to find Jenny, who says that Madame Vastra is getting ready for a case where she’ll be eating her guests later…. Downstairs, Strax gives Clara a “mandatory” medical examination, which he says is necessary because they are going to serve together. He says that by now, the Doctor has probably been killed. Ah, Strax. Such diplomacy.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is most certainly alive. He’s out wandering in his dressing gown, and it’s cold. He encounters a man in the street and asks if the man has ever seen his face before. The man says no. The Doctor needs clothes, but not a scarf. Those are stupid. Eventually they settle on a conversation about accents. The Doctor is most definitely Scottish. That means he can be angry about everything. The Doctor demands the man’s coat, but then he gets distracted by the newspaper. Spontaneous combustion. That’s what he saw.
Jenny is posing for Vastra, who is positing that the spontaneous combustion is a means to confuse the evidence. She spins the canvas around and shows Jenny that she has a map of the locations of the four previous incidents. Jenny thought Vastra was painting her, but she wasn’t. She was working, and Jenny helps to serve as art. Clara bursts into the room and says that she’s got a message from the Doctor in the paper. He’s left an ad for her saying “Impossible Girl: Lunch on the other side.” They all three wonder what the message is, but then Clara reasons that the Doctor isn’t as complicated as the riddle might sound, so she flips the paper around and sees that the ad for her is on the other side of an ad for a restaurant. So that’s where she goes.
While she waits, Clara hears someone sniffing. The Doctor appears in an old coat, and it must smell because Clara doesn’t like it. She wants to know where the coat came from, and he says he sold the watch to the tramp for the coat because he was in a hurry. He smiles at Clara, and this makes her mad. She says she’s going to smile first, after he explains. He wonders if she’s mad at his new face. Then he says that he was happy to come meet her for lunch. But she thought he placed the ad. So who placed the ad? Everyone in the room is acting strangely. “Look without looking,” he tells her. They seem to be mechanical. They aren’t eating or breathing. And then, suddenly, the Doctor and Clara start working together. They stand to leave, but everyone else stands as well. The mystery people get closer until Clara and the Doctor sit down again. The people don’t seem to be the problem. The bigger question is what type of establishment they are in. Suddenly a waiter approaches. The Doctor asks for children’s menu, and the waiter starts doing a scan, talking about their body parts as if they will be part of the menu. The Doctor is able to get behind the waiter and pull his face off. Inside his face is a flame. Suddenly metal straps wrap around Clara and the Doctor and they descend in their booth down a shaft. Very efficient, the Doctor notes.
When they reach the ground floor of the space ship, the Doctor tells Clara to catch his sonic screwdriver. When she drops it, he makes a comment about missing Amy. She kicks it into his lap. Once they’re free, they see that there are dormant people all over the chamber. In the center of the chamber the mechanical man sits and recharges. “Captain, my Captain,” the Doctor says. They note that his hands don’t match. He’s made up of different pieces. He has fresh eyeballs, though. When the robot shifts, they decide to leave. But the Doctor stops, believing that he’s seen the room before. What is he missing with his new head? When Clara pushes him out into the corridor, the door slams shut, closing her in with the robot. The Doctor says there’s no point in them both being captured. He runs away and leaves her in with the robots, who are waking up. She’s stunned that he left her. She turns around and recalls the Doctor saying that none of the robots are breathing. Then he asked her how long she can hold her breath. She takes a deep breath and holds it as the head robot inspects her, but then, seeing that she’s not moving, he loses interest and goes into the booth chamber with the other robots. Once they’re gone, Clara goes through a different hallway. There, she holds her breath again and runs through another chamber full of robots. But holding her breath has taken its toll. She finally inhales as her vision goes away, and the robots capture her. She starts to have visions of her time as a teacher. “Do it,” one of the students says. The robots take her to the leader.
Clara awakens on the floor in front of the robot leader. He wants to know where the other person is. He says she will be destroyed if she doesn’t tell him. She has the vision of her student again. So she tells the man that he’ll have to kill her. His threats are empty until he does something. If he kills her, then she can’t tell him where the other person went. The robot knows that humans can feel pain, so he uses that as a threat. He removes his hand and turns it into a torch. She tries to negotiate with him by asking why he burned up the dinosaur. He says that the optic nerve of the dinosaur is helpful to them. They needed it to rebuild. They have been trying to rebuild themselves. They have time traveled to see the dinosaurs before. When Clara admits that she doesn’t know where the Doctor went, the robot advances on her. She says the Doctor always has her back, and when she reaches behind her, he’s there, wearing another face. He thanks the robot for the “gratuitous” information, then he tells Clara to call for reinforcements using the special code word: Geronimo. Vastra and Jenny gracefully glide down from the ceiling, and Strax follows less gracefully. They take arms against the robots. The robot leader says they have been buried for a long time and it’s time for them to leave, because the ship has been repaired. So he leaves, but the Doctor is in pursuit.
The Police arrive at Mancini’s, just in time for the robot leader to tell them the restaurant is closed. The leader finds himself alone with the Doctor, who has poured himself some Scotch because he’s got a horrible feeling that he’s going to be forced to kill him. The Doctor doesn’t think the ship will actually fly, but apparently they have a balloon made with skin. It turns out that these renegades are leftover from the same ship the Tenth Doctor encountered in “The Girl in the Fireplace,” in which the Doctor saved Madame de Pompadour from the robots that were pursuing her. As they fly over London, the Doctor tells the robot that he must die because he has been replaced so many times that he can’t remember his original face. Self-destructing isn’t in the robot’s programming, but neither is murder in the Doctor’s genes. They fight in front of the open door, high above the city.
Clara tells everyone to hold their breaths so that the machines cease their attack. That gives Clara enough time to use the sonic and deactivate the robots. When Jenny can’t hold her breath anymore, Vastra gives her oxygen in the form of a kiss. Strax is about to lose it, but then the robots stop.
Outside, the robot’s hat falls in front of Big Ben, and the robot himself is impaled on the spire.
Strax stops the carriage outside the townhome, but the TARDIS is gone. They’ve missed him.
Vastra welcomes Clara into her parlor. Clara is back in her future clothes, but she asks Vastra if she can stay. Vastra says that the Doctor will be back for her. The TARDIS lands outside and the Doctor calls for her. “Give him hell. He’ll always need it,” Vastra says with a smile. Clara hurries into the new TARDIS to see that he has redecorated. She doesn’t like it. He agrees. It needs more round things. He tells Clara that he’s not her boyfriend, but there is the matter of the ad in the paper. Someone wants to keep them together. Her phone rings, interrupting them. It might be her boyfriend, he says. She doesn’t have one.
Outside, she answers the phone. It’s the Doctor. Not the 12th Doctor, but the 11th Doctor. He’s about to regenerate back on Trenzalore and he needed to explain to Clara that this new version of himself is going to need her help more than ever. 12 steps out and asks if it’s the Doctor. 11 thinks he sounds old, which would be the worst thing imaginable. Is he grey, 11 wonders. Clara gets the confirmation that she needed, so that when she hangs up, tears falling from her face, she is able to see 12 in a new light. 12 says that he’s the one who called her. They’re the same man, and they need her. She hugs him.
Clara points out that they’re not in London. No, he admits. They’re in Glasgow. He hesitates and then asks if she would like to get coffee. Or maybe chips. (Hello, end of Rose) They walk off together, laughing. I think they’re going to be just fine.
Meanwhile, the robot wakes up in a garden. A woman named Missy greets him and asks if her boyfriend was rough with him. She welcomes the robot to Heaven.
So ends the first episode of Series 8.
I think that Peter Capaldi is going to be fantastic. My only beef with the episode was that there was a ton going on and frankly I would have liked seeing more of the Doctor getting settled in and less of everyone else. That said, I think it was a well written episode with tons of Easter Eggs that tipped their hat to the past and provided clues as to what is coming up in the Doctor’s future. Did anyone notice that 12 had a wedding ring on? What was that about?
I’m eager to hear what you think about the new Doctor. Leave your comments below!