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06 September 2014 @ 04:09 pm
Deep Breath  
Deep Breath was, I felt, a bit of a messy episode very much a story with two halves and a coda which didn't necessarily all mesh together very well.

At one point it was received wisdom in Who fandom, that regeneration stories failed if they focused too much on the Doctor's instability following regeneration. This was primarily based on the fifth and sixth Doctor's debuts both of which I'm quite fond of (while acknowledging that The Twin Dilemma is poor quality even for a sixth Doctor story). However neither could be counted as an unqualified success so I thought it was odd to see the same thing being tried again. I'll confess I rapidly got a bit bored with it and was relieved when the second half kicked in at the moment the Doctor and Clara met in Mancini's. I didn't feel it was particularly showcasing Capaldi, the Paternoster gang jokes were not really worth the amount of screen time they got, and even Clara's confrontation with Madame Vastra felt a bit forced to me. It looked more like a heavy-handed attempt to underline the new "no hanky panky in the Tardis" (to borrow a phrase from old Who) status quo than a genuine attempt to explore Clara and Madame Vastra's characters and their relationship to each other. That said, I did like the shading in of Jenny and Vastra's relationship and the hints of the inequalities embedded within it. mondyboy (here) notes that the first half of the story is "a bit rubbish" and I can't help but agree with him.

The second half was much better, nice idea, some cool moments, not enough time for the plot to fall apart and the Doctor's confrontation with the villain was truly excellent. In fact I'm a little disappointed that we've not seen more of that side of the Doctor (rather than the "babbling fool" persona which both the eleventh and tenth Doctors also adopted to greater or lesser extents) but the moment where he sits still and is suddenly conspicuously the adult in the room was a great contrast to what had gone before. I wonder if it is deliberate that it was a side of himself he only revealed to someone he believed would not survive the encounter, and possibly was not equipped to appreciate what he/it was seeing.

[personal profile] ed_rex (here) very accurately sums up the coda. It was written as fan service and, at that level, it does the job admirably. But the cost is that it robs Clara of any real character development. She doesn't come to accept the new Doctor in her own right, but because the old Doctor tells her to. A number of people have noted that Jenna Coleman does a really good job with Clara given how thin a lot of the character's writing has been. Playing the "companion who won't accept the regeneration" is a pretty thankless task and she handled it well, making this viewer, at least, sympathetic to her point of view and care about how it was resolved. The resolution we got, in purely dramatic terms (taking out the Matt Smith squee!! factor), was deeply disappointing.

So, umm, a bit rubbish (or at least over-long) at the start, a very nice second half, and a coda that jettisoned character development for fannish squee points. It wasn't egregiously bad by a long shot, but I wasn't excited by most of it.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/126279.html.
bunnbunn on September 6th, 2014 03:47 pm (UTC)
I saw a number of comments from people who are not long-time fans, but had started watching around the David Tennant period, that they found it baffling, and I kind of felt the same : I watched old Who as it came along, but I've forgotten most of it, and I found myself turning to Pp (who is a proper fan) for elucidation. I hope they don't have so many people steeped in Who myth on this now that they have lost the ability to tell an accessible story.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 6th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC)
That's interesting, because I didn't notice too many references (but I was possibly just tuning out a lot of the Doctor's dialogue in the first half on the grounds that it was deranged post-regenerative babbling). Beyond the remark linking the robots here to those in The Girl in the Fireplace the rest seemed fairly stand alone to me.
bunn: Dark Agesbunn on September 6th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
I thought maybe it was just me not focussing very well - I find I have a gnat-like attention span when it comes to Who, for some reason things don't stick in my brain as they do with many stories - but I saw I think 3 people comment on a similar perception on Facebook, so then I thought maybe it was more than that.

I liked Robin Hood. Very simple storyline, plenty of swashbuckling, even I can cope with that sort of plot :-D
louisedennislouisedennis on September 7th, 2014 01:01 pm (UTC)
Not seen the latest one yet - we were too busy shooting esoterrorists somewhere near Wigan last night. You know, as you do.

I have a feeling that both Deep Breath and the Victorian era story from last season were a bit jumbled. Not particularly because of a love of fan references, but jumbled like an overfull Victorian living room. But I'd be hard pushed to articulate that feeling coherently.
fredbassettfredbassett on September 6th, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
Good review, thanks. I was bored by the first half and think I might actually have fallen asleep!

I think I'll like Capaldi (I couldn't bear Smith in the role), and Clara is improving a bit.

I think the scripting is getting dire, though. When I saw it was more Victorian England, I groaned, even though I really do like Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 6th, 2014 05:22 pm (UTC)
I seem to be the only person I know who is, as yet, unconvinced by Capaldi. I want to like him but I don't think he does the frenetic manner very well.

ed_rex has, in the past, made the point that the idea of Vastra, Jenny and Strax is a lot better than the execution, which I do think accounts for a lot.
fredbassettfredbassett on September 6th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
I disliked Matt Smith so very, very much that I was predisposed to like just about anyone in the role, I'm afraid.
Kerry Louise: tardiskerry_louise on September 7th, 2014 09:40 am (UTC)
When I watched Deep Breath, I was really on the fence about Capaldi as the Doctor. With Into the Dalek, I was a touch more convinced but still not totally.

I rather enjoyed last nights ep though and I'm hoping that will continue, because I really enjoy Capaldi as an actor and it was really disappointing after Deep Breath when I realised I wasn't overly enthused about his Doctor, because I really wanted to love him.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 6th, 2014 10:21 pm (UTC)
I think I liked it more than you did, but I've been a little underwhelmed so far this season, although today's episode was more enjoyable. I think it is only with Robot of Sherwood that I've even begun to get an idea of who the new Doctor is, which seems a bit too long, similar to the fifth Doctor not feeling defined for too long in his first season. However, new Who often has a weak start to a season and picks up part-way through, so I remain hopeful.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on September 7th, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC)
I've not seen Robot of Sherwood yet (maybe this evening), but so far I've felt two much of Capaldi's performance seems to be aping Matt Smith and I realise I'm sort of hankering for something a little more restrained. But you are right that New Who seasons do tend to improve as they progress.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on September 7th, 2014 04:06 pm (UTC)
I think there is a certain basic 'new Doctorishness' shared by all the new Who Doctors (including Eccleston), just as there is a certain basic Doctorishness shared by the original Doctors (I don't care what Russell T Davies and Steven Moffatt say, the original Doctors never spoke as colloquially or made as many pop cultural references as the new ones).

That said, I thought Peter Capaldi has been a little more alien and bad tempered than we've seen in a while, though that may be Capaldi's take on dialogue that Matt Smith or David Tennant would have played differently.