Published on October 3rd, 2014 | by admin
Doctor Who Deep Breath DVD Review
Summary: So, all up, Doctor Who Deep Breath doesn't live up to what we expect from a story per se, however, the direction and the acting from the leads, are reason enough to give this story a go
Doctor is in
Doctor Who Deep Breath
Director – Ben Wheatley
Actors – Peter Capaldi
Film Genre – TV Sci-Fi
Label – BBC
Audio – English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Aspect Ratio – 1.78:1
Region Coding – 4
TV Standard – PAL
Rating – PG
Year of Release – 2014
Primary Format – Movies/TV – DVD
Reviewer – Robert Mammone
The title of this, the first Peter Capaldi story as the Twelfth Doctor, tells you everything you need to know about the intent of writer and showrunner, Stephen Moffat. After the success of the Matt Smith era, which broke the show finally into America, the BBC and the prodcution team literally took a deep breath of anticipation in the casting of Capaldi. Would casting an older actor turn off a significant proportion of the audience (and frankly, dry up the merchandise money raining down on the BBC coffers). Or, against all expectation, would Capaldi continue to lift the show to new heights of success?
Regeneration stories in Doctor Who tread an interesting line. While everyone is interested to see how the new guy handles the role, the writer still has to create an interesting storyline for the audience to watch along with. It’s interesting then, and perhaps revealing of the nerves within the BBC, that the entire storyline of Deep Breath is sidelined, replaced with an out and out effort to sell the idea of an older actor playing the role of the Doctor to the audience.
The companion is often talked about as being the audience’s viewpoint character, someone to look at to see how we should be reacting to the wonders shown on the television screen. Here, Clara (Jenna Coleman) is co-opted in the role of disbelieving Doctor Who fan-girl, disappointed and confused as to why the young, hip, energetic Matt Smith has been replaced by his seemingly angry great uncle. Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) comes across as the wise old owl Stephen Moffat, shaking her head at Clara’s silliness, reminding her that the Doctor is the Doctor, no matter the face he wears.
This is all taken further, with the Doctor’s final confrontation with the leader of the human part’s stealing androids first seen in The Girl in the Fireplace. Here, Capaldi is given lines that ask the android how much of the original version of itself is left, given it has been replacing itself bit by bit over millions of years. The reference here to the idea of regeneration and how that impacts on the Doctor is stark.
And finally, as if to ram home the point for those too stupid or blind to understand what has been going on in the previous 75 minutes, we see a literal callback to the last Matt Smith era. In the smoking ruins of Trenzalore, just before his regeneration, the Eleventh Doctor takes the time to ring forward in time, for Clara to answer the call, and beg her to give his future self a chance.
All these attempts to convince the audience to similarly give Capaldi a chance mean the actual storyline, of murders and spontaneous combustion in Victorian-era London, is flaccid and lacks menace. The reappearance of the Paternoster Gang, in the shape of Vastra, Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and the deeply, deeply unfunny Strax (Dan Starkey) simply serves to continue the effort to ease the audience into accepting the new Doctor.
Against this, the direction, by noted British filmmaker, Ben Wheatley, is interesting and exciting to watch, often elevating the material above what it really deserves. There’s a mood and menace to what he brings to the screen, particularly the scenes in the underground bunker where the androids reside. Also of note are the CGI effects involving the Tyrannosaurus Rex early in the episode, though some of the green screen work involving Capaldi against the London skyline is noticeably ropey. Of interest is the new title sequence, inspired (and credited) to a fan made set of titles available on Youtube. Unfortunately, the realisation isn’t as striking as it could be, and the reworked title music, which is whiney, thin and intensively irritating) needs to be changed immediately.
What this story does do, and does very, very well, is firstly revive Clara as a character. As The Impossible Girl of the last half of series seven, Clara Oswald was a plot device, an anomaly in search of a problem to solve. With that problem solved in Name of the Doctor, Moffat suddenly turned the corner with her character. There were improvements in her motivation in Day of the Doctor and now cast against Peter Capaldi’s sharp tongued Time Lord, we saw a different, feistier side to Clara.
And speak of the Devil himself. What to make of the the Twelfth Doctor? After all, the other side of the coin of regeneration stories is to see how the new actor handles the role. Capaldi is amazing, channeling a little bit of Matt Smith’s rapid tongued incarnation at the beginning of the episode, before falling into confusion for the middle stretch of the story. When we see the Doctor and Clara together again in the restaurant scene, Capaldi has the character nailed down tight. Arrogant, confident, not given to suffering fools (or anyone, really) gladly, the Twelfth Doctor is exceptionally entertaining to watch. We’ve become a little too used to pretty, silver tongued boys in the lead role of the show. Now it’s well past time that we got someone with a bit of grunt, not afraid to tell it as it is, and more than a little dangerous to know.
So, all up, Deep Breath doesn’t live up to what we expect from a story per se. However, the direction, and the acting from the leads, are reason enough to give this story a go. For those happy to wait, however, the story will be released later with the series 8 boxset.
Visual: as mentioned earlier, Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, A Field in England) is a well regarded UK filmmaker, so getting him to work on this episode, and the following (Into the Dalek) was something of a coup for the BBC. Picking up on the script, he allows the camera to linger on Capaldi, complementing the more considered, and less manic, portrayal. This is evidences most in Capaldi’s knowing look to the audience near the end of the episode. Most of the story is set at night, or underground, so the mood is dark, fogbound and claustrophobic. 4/5
Sound: the audio is rich, with Murray Gold’s soundtrack happily complementing the visuals, instead of drowning them, and the dialogue, out. Reproduced very well on my television set up.
Special Features: preceding the cinema screenings of Deep Breath was this deeply unfunny infodump hosted by Strax. Ostensibly reporting back to his Sontaran monsters about the different incarnations of the Doctor, this short basically makes fun of the appearance of the actors playing the role since 1963. Juvenile and not worth your time. 1/5
Behind the Scenes: when the show first came back, it was accompanied by Doctor Who Confidential, a 45 minute behind the scenes look at the making of each episode. Budget constraints saw the series cancelled after a few years, and in its place, the BBC have instigated these smaller featurettes. 10 minutes in length, its a pacey look at some of the behind the scenes work that went into the making of the episode. As with other similar episodes, there’s a samey feel to it – quick interview with main participants, a peak at the read through, then finished off with the usual bland comments about how everyone enjoyed the process. 3/5
Doctor Who Live- The New Doctor: such is the celebrity drenched world we live in, it came as no surprise whatsoever that casting of Matt Smith’s replacement would be announced not with a press release, but with a 30 minute live show on BBC1. Before an enraptured studio audience, host Zoe Ball handles the interviews with aplomb. The final reveal, with Capaldi coming out amidst a blast of smoke and lasers, is so over the top as to be hilarious. His pleasure at being announced in the lead role of a show he has cherished since being a boy is evident. The hug he and Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor) share at the end as the credits roll is a delightful way to end the episode. 3/5