Doctor Who S8E1 - "Deep Breath" Recap

After much anticipation and a promotional tour spanning the globe, Doctor Who returned for Series 8 with Peter Capaldi taking over the role of our beloved Time Lord. To kick things off, we find the Tardis being coughed up by a dinosaur accidentally time-travelled to Victoria London. The Doctor and Clara are reunited with the Paternoster Gang, including Silurian Madame Vastra, her human wife Jenny, and Sontaran (that's the one that looks like a potato) Strax.

The new Doctor is psychologically disoriented, and struggles to remember the names of Clara and others before collapsing. He is brought back to Madame Vastra's home so they can look after him and Vastra gets into an argument with Clara over her struggling to adapt to a newer, much older Doctor.

The older Doctor witnesses the dinosaur spontaneously combusting and through further investigation, learns that this isn't an isolate incident. He begins investigating and Clara meets him at a restaurant after receiving a message in a newspaper that references "The Impossible Girl." However, she learns that the message wasn't sent from him. They're trapped inside by evil robots done up to look like humans and lowered into a lair where The Doctor gets them free with his sonic screwdriver. The robots are trying to make themselves human by replacing their parts with biological ones from the spontaneous combustion victims. The cyborg says it is searching for "the promised land."

The Doctor seemingly abandons Clara but not before advising her to hide her humanity from the cyborgs by holding her breath. She utilises this tip but passes out after running out of oxygen and is taken captive. She is threatened with death and torture but refuses to give up the location of The Doctor, who reappears disguised as one of the cyborgs. The Paternoster Gang arrive to help them fight off the cyborgs before they all escape together in a hot-air balloon made from human skin, bringing the lead cyborg along.

The Doctor questions it and learns that parts of the restaurant are from the sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour, the SS Marie Antoinette. The Doctor doesn't remember this adventure yet but tells the cyborg it must kill itself or The Doctor will kill it to protect mankind. We then see the cyborg fallen and impaled on Big Ben. The other cyborgs then 'die'.

The group finds that The Doctor and the TARDIS are gone but Vastra assure Clara that he'll return, which he does to bring Clara home. The TARDIS travels to contemporary Glasgow, where Clara's mobile goes off. She steps outside and answers. It's Eleven, right before regenerating on Trenzalore. He tells her the new him needs her and she agrees to help. The Twelfth Doctor recalls the conversation, asks if she'll help, and they head off to get some coffee.

In the epilogue, the cyborg awakens in a garden and meets Missy, a woman who claims that the Doctor is her boyfriend. She tells him he has reached the promised land at last and then departs.

Though it wasn't the strongest start to a new Doctor, Capaldi's enthusiasm for the role and the show in its entirety has me slightly more optimistic for what's to come in his run. The incorporation of the difficulty in adjusting to an older Doctor was a smart move. Despite the initial backlash to Matt Smith's being significantly younger than all his predecessors, Capaldi is now facing classic ageism. The references to past adventures was a nice touch, as it wove more of the Who mythologies together. One of the greatest problems Moffat's era of Who has is the inability to have female characters without absurdly fantastical back stories, thus separating them from being as relatable to female viewers. Only time will tell how the Twelfth Doctor will forge his own legacy but personally, I'm most anxious to see how they explain Capaldi's appearances in both Pompeii and Torchwood.

Doctor Who airs on Saturdays on BBC One.


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