Deep Breath (Doctor Who)
|242 – "Deep Breath"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The newly regenerated Doctor asks the Half-Face Man if he can remember where he acquired his current face, while at the same time wonders the same question about himself.
|Directed by||Ben Wheatley|
|Written by||Steven Moffat|
|Script editor||Derek Ritchie|
|Produced by||Nikki Wilson|
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||23 August 2014|
"Deep Breath" is the first episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, first broadcast on BBC One and released in cinemas on 23 August 2014. It was written by showrunner and executive producer Steven Moffat and directed by Ben Wheatley. The episode was watched by 9.17 million viewers and received positive reviews from critics.
The episode stars Peter Capaldi in his first full episode as the Twelfth Doctor, alongside Jenna Coleman as his companion Clara Oswald. It also features Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart, and Dan Starkey reprising their roles as Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax. Capaldi's predecessor, Matt Smith, also appears in a cameo.
A dinosaur materialises in Victorian London and spits out the TARDIS onto the banks of the river Thames, from which emerges the newly regenerated Twelfth Doctor—suffering from post-regenerative trauma—and Clara Oswald. They are greeted by the Paternoster Gang, consisting of Silurian Madame Vastra, her human maid and wife Jenny, and Sontaran butler Strax. Vastra instructs the police on how to calm and contain the dinosaur and takes the Doctor and Clara to their residence. While the Doctor rests, Vastra confronts Clara about her prejudiced attitude to the Doctor's changed face. Clara admits that she is struggling to adapt to the new Doctor, due to his stark difference to the old one, particularly his apparent age. The Doctor awakens to hear the dinosaur's pleas for help. He leaves his room and, gambolling along London's rooftops, he calls out to assure the creature that he will return it to its proper time, just before it bursts into flames. Stealing a horse to reach the dinosaur, the Doctor then joins Clara and the Paternoster Gang, who have followed him to the river, and learns from Vastra that this is not the first recent incident of spontaneous combustion. The Doctor spots an unfazed man across the river and jumps into the water to investigate. Clara returns home with the others to start their own investigations, hoping they will cross the Doctor's path.
The Doctor, still somewhat addled, roams the back streets for answers the next morning, questioning how his body chooses a new face during regeneration, feeling like he's seen his current face before, and is trying to tell himself something. Both Clara and the Doctor find a message reading "The Impossible Girl" in a newspaper, directing them to meet at a specific restaurant. They reunite, but learn that neither planted the message for the other, as they had both assumed. They discover that the room is filled with humanoid robots that prevent them leaving. They are then descended into a lair where they see the man from the river surrounded by other idle humanoid robots. Observing mismatched body parts, the Doctor surmises the man is a long-lived cyborg, but in an unusual sense. It is a robot trying to make itself human by replacing its mechanical parts with biological ones taken from spontaneous combustion victims, including the dinosaur. The robot's own 'face' is only half-covered with skin, exposing part of its skull's mechanisms.
The Doctor seemingly abandons Clara after escaping himself, just as the Half-Faced Man and the other robots begin to awaken. Recalling earlier advice he'd given upstairs, Clara holds her breath to hide herself from the robots. However, she is soon captured and taken to the Half-Faced Man, who questions her about the Doctor's whereabouts. Upon Clara's prompting, he reveals that he is trying to reach the "promised land" by prolonging his life via parts replacements. The Doctor returns for Clara, having actually disguised himself as another of the robots. They signal the Paternoster Gang, who arrive and fight the robots with Clara while the Doctor chases the Half-Faced Man back to the restaurant.
The Half-Faced Man deploys his escape pod — in reality, a hot-air balloon made of human skin—lifting the restaurant into the sky with him and the Doctor inside. The Doctor discovers that the Half-Faced Man and parts of the restaurant are from the SS Marie Antoinette, the sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour ("The Girl in the Fireplace"). The Doctor claims that the Half-Faced Man has replaced his components so many times that he no longer exists in his original form and that he secretly wants to end his existence. He then warns him that he will either have to kill himself, or the Doctor will be forced to kill him to protect the humans. Clara and the Paternoster Gang are nearly overwhelmed by the other robots when they see them go lifeless. The Half-Faced Man is then shown to be impaled on the spire of Big Ben.
After regrouping, Clara finds that the Doctor and the TARDIS have vanished. Vastra later assures her that the Doctor will return, pointing out that Clara — the person who knows the Doctor best — is already prepared to leave. The Doctor does reappear, revealing a new TARDIS control room and his new outfit. He asks Clara if she wants to continue travelling with him. Clara, however, expresses misgivings about the new Doctor's character and is unsure about continuing with him. After leaving the TARDIS, Clara gets a phone call from the Eleventh Doctor, made moments before his regeneration, encouraging her to stay. The Doctor then emerges from the TARDIS stating he made the phone call, resulting in Clara embracing him.
In the epilogue, the Half-Faced Man awakens in a beautiful garden and meets Missy, a mysterious woman who claims the Doctor as her boyfriend. She tells him that he has reached the promised land at last.
Madame Vastra's line, "Well, here we go again", is a reference to a line uttered by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as the Third Doctor regenerated into the Fourth Doctor in Planet of the Spiders (1974). Realising he needs clothes, the Doctor considers getting an extremely long scarf, which he immediately rejects; the Fourth Doctor habitually wore such a scarf. While struggling to release their bonds, the Twelfth Doctor remarks that he misses Amy Pond, last seen in "The Angels Take Manhattan" (2012). Towards the end of the story, the Doctor speculates on the identity of the person that wrote the "Impossible Girl" newspaper ad; the Doctor postulates that this may be the same person who gave Clara the number for the TARDIS phone, claiming it was a computer help line, as shown in "The Bells of Saint John" (2013). The Doctor, while confused about his new look, recalls how it appears similar to another that he has seen; the Tenth Doctor met a man named Caecilius in "The Fires of Pompeii" (2008), also played by Capaldi. The similarity was later explained in "The Girl Who Died" (2015). The call from the Eleventh Doctor to Clara is shown from the Eleventh Doctor's perspective from his final moments before regenerating on the planet Trenzalore, which reused footage from "The Time of the Doctor" and included a surprise appearance by Matt Smith. The closing dialogue between Clara and the Doctor about chips, and the Doctor's inability to pay for them, recalls a similar exchange between the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler at the conclusion of "The End of the World" (2005).
Matt Smith's scene as the Eleventh Doctor was filmed on 5 October 2013, the last day of shooting for "The Time of the Doctor". Moffat had written Smith's scene prior to the rest of the episode. The readthrough for the episode was held on 17 December 2013, and shooting began at the Maltings in Cardiff on 7 January 2014. Shooting later took place at Mount Stuart Square on the 13th, Scenes were also filmed on Queen Street and on the 28th. An uncredited Rachel Talalay directed the Missy scene, as Wheatley was unavailable; she consulted him and tried to incorporate his ideas. The shoot finished on 18 February 2014.
Steven Moffat has said that this episode would be a "big introduction" for Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. He said that there will be "plenty of action and nonsense and jeopardy, as there ever is in Doctor Who."
Brian Miller, who plays the tramp Barney, was the husband of Elisabeth Sladen who portrayed long-time companion Sarah Jane Smith. He had previously appeared in Snakedance in Season 20, as well as playing Harry Sowersby in The Mad Woman in the Attic, an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and providing Dalek voices for both Resurrection of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks.
Broadcast and reception
On 6 July 2014, the scripts for the first five episodes of the series (including "Deep Breath") were inadvertently leaked online from BBC Worldwide's Latin America headquarters, prompting a plea from BBC Worldwide to keep the storylines of the five episodes secret. Also leaked was a black-and-white rough cut of "Deep Breath", missing most of the visual effects but otherwise mostly complete. The BBC blamed the leak on the fact that the files had been stored on a publicly accessible server in its new Miami-based headquarters. Steven Moffat, speaking at the London Film and Comic Con, called the leak "horrible, miserable and upsetting".
The episode was a simulcast in the United Kingdom and many other countries on 23 August 2014, and was broadcast later that same day in other locations such as on BBC America. On 31 August 2014, the episode was broadcast on Prime TV in New Zealand.
The episode had its world premiere in Cardiff on 7 August 2014 as part of the series 8 world tour. As part of the tour, advance screenings were also held at other destinations on the tour. As with "The Day of the Doctor", "Deep Breath" received a worldwide cinema release at participating cinemas on 23 August 2014. The episode received a midnight screening in 12 cities across the United States on 23 August, and a larger showing in 550 cinemas on 25 August. The cinema screenings of the episode were accompanied by a five-minute prequel.
Upon airing in its 7.50pm timeslot, the "Deep Breath" simulcast entertained an average audience of 6.79 million in the United Kingdom. The episode reached a peak of 6.96 million viewers, watched by nearly a third of all viewers on the evening of broadcast with a 32.5% audience share. The final ratings for the week, (which does not include BBC iPlayer viewers but does include viewers who watched the programme within a week of its transmission), showed 9.17 million viewers (37.9% audience share) saw the episode, making it the second highest rated programme for the week on British television. This was also highest the final viewing figures for a regular series episode of Doctor Who since Matt Smith's first full episode,"The Eleventh Hour", was broadcast in April 2010, although Christmas specials and the 2013 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor" had scored higher viewing figures. Its chart position meant it became only the eighth episode of Doctor Who to be one of the weeks top two most viewed programmes. In terms of L+7 ratings "Deep Breath" had 10.76 million views.
In the United States, the premiere airing on BBC America had an audience of 2.19 million viewers, the highest Saturday ratings for the network and just under the highest viewership from "The Day of the Doctor" special, combining for a total of 2.6 million viewers, a significant increase from the 1.5 million that had watched the Series 7 premiere in 2012. In Australia, the episode had a total of 1.19 million viewers on ABC. In Canada, "Deep Breath" had almost 1.4 million viewers overall on Space, becoming the second most-watched broadcast ever on this channel.
The episode received positive reviews, with many critics praising the performances of Capaldi and Coleman, Moffat's script, and the introduction and stylisation of the new Doctor. Matt Smith's cameo, however, was met with mostly mixed reviews. The episode was nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Individual Episode.
The Guardian responded well to the episode, labelling Capaldi's performance as "intimidating, bold and unsettling", and praising Ben Wheatley's direction in the episode's tenser moments, calling it "the stuff of true terror and wonderment". Matt Smith's cameo as the Eleventh Doctor was criticised by The Mirror. However, it ultimately labelled the episode "impeccable" and stating that Capaldi "has all the hallmarks of a great Doctor". Michael Hogan while writing for the Telegraph, praised Moffat's writing for second guessing viewers opinions about the new Doctor and for stating clearly that there would be no flirting for this face. Hogan notes that "the tone seemed different, too, quieter and more thoughtful – less about running down corridors holding hands, more about self-discovery and redemption." Hogan also stated that the script was similar to Sherlock, that Moffat also writes for, and was a bit slow in places, but still combined behind the sofa action with humorous comments about ITV and the Scottish Referendum.
Brian Lowry of Variety praised Moffat's script, stating that it "emphasizes storyline continuity and easing faithful viewers into the regeneration transition" and closed his review by saying "It’s a skillful tonal balance that defines the best of “Doctor Who,” and exemplifies the ethos that keeps the series going strong, nodding to the past with all eyes on the future". David Wiegand of San Francisco Chronicle heavily praised the episode, particularly Moffat's writing, saying that his script "masterfully manipulates audience expectation". He ultimately awarded the episode a perfect 4/4 stars.
The scene in which Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint exchange a kiss was controversial for some viewers, and generated six complaints to Ofcom. Some people criticised the BBC as promoting a "blatant gay agenda", and called it “unnecessary”. However Ofcom decided not to investigate the matter further, judging that the complaints did not "raise issues warranting investigation." The scene received even more controversy when the BBC cut the scene from the Asian broadcast of the episode in order to comply with Singapore's broadcast code.
"Deep Breath" received a standalone DVD and Blu-ray release in the United Kingdom on 8 September 2014, the United States on 9 September, and Australia on 10 September. Thereafter, it was released in the Complete Eighth Series DVD and Blu-ray boxset in the United Kingdom on 17 November 2014, Australia on 19 November, and in the U.S. on 9 December.
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