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Doctor Who Recap: “Deep Breath”

Doctor Who Recap: “Deep Breath”
  • On August 27, 2014

Welcome to my obsession. All the spoilers ahoy.

When last we saw Clara and the Doctor, he was super confused and the TARDIS was crashing. He also had new kidneys.

Deep Breath opens in Victorian London, a favorite haunt of the reboot and home of my favorite lizard lesbian, Vastra. She, along with her wife Jenny, are in London investigating a giant dinosaur’s sudden appearance. Yep. Sometimes I wonder what people in that time think about their world.


Another day, another dinosaur.

Eventually the dinosaur coughs up the TARDIS, and I feel like I’m watching the same Doctor Who I’ve always watched–corny, outrageous, somewhat silly but with an undertone of darkness. I am happy. The TARDIS has dino-slime all over it, poor girl.

Vastra and her team go to collect the Doctor, who pops out of the TARDIS knowing no one’s name and raving (a lot like Matt Smith would, sentences crowding into each other. He’s all limbs, too, flailing around and pointing at people.) Clara is not as frantic, but she looks pissed when she comes out. The Doctor has forgotten her name–he calls her “thingy.” Regeneration has made him an amnesiac, apparently. After everyone stares at him for a while, he passes out. Cue opening credits.


The fuckity fuck are you?

Side note: I like the new opening credits a LOT. They speak to the theme of the first episode and create a steampunk feel to the whole show beginning. Also the theme song has kind of reverted back to a closer version of the original and I LOVE it. It sounds like a theramin or something.

At Vastra’s place, the Doctor is ranting about the wasteful nature of a room intended only for sleeping. Seems kind of hypocritical from a guy who has infinite rooms in his time machine, but what do I know? I particularly like the line “don’t look in that mirror, it’s absolutely furious.” Lines like this are so quick and blow by so fast, but are at the core of what we’re learning about the new Doctor’s personality. He’s still acting like Smith, I think, sort of all over the place and foolish but these hints start to drop as the story unfolds.

He’s also deeply uncomfortable with anyone who isn’t speaking in a Scottish accent. Vastra eventually has to fake one to get him to pass out again, because CLEARLY he needs sleep. He did not go full coma like 10, but catnaps when people are talking and he’s bored. I like Vastra’s mind meld sleep trick but I do NOT love her flip comment about men being monkeys. *PROBLEMATIC*

Remember how they told Tennant he couldn’t use his Scottish accent, and then taunted him by putting in a lot of words that were hard for him to say?


Why, guys? Why?

Clara is understandably upset by the Doctor and confused by his regeneration. He appears different to her.

Side note: I read a LOT of whohaters who were complaining that Clara should have been totally fine with his regeneration because she knows he changes and she’s been in and out of all his lives. They said Moffatt made her weak, or naive, or whatever and they did not like it. I disagree. A lot of fans threw a hissy when they cast Capaldi, and Clara is acting as a stand in for them (and thereby getting schooled by Moffatt who wants us to understand that the Doctor can be any evident age, and that he has reasons for the faces he chooses). A more interesting reason to me is that he’s regenerated when he shouldn’t have. He got magic time dust from Gallifrey in the last episode, allowing him time he isn’t supposed to have. I wonder if Clara can see past his face. Maybe he looks different to her because he IS different, fundamentally changed by the weirdness of extra regenerations. Also–he’s terrible to her for most of this episode and it’s possible she fucking misses the dude who was always kind to her and called her his impossible girl. Just a theory. In any case, her discomfort with his new face didn’t feel like ignorance to me.

Vastra takes Clara in for questioning in her conservatory (with the candlestick). I think what she’s doing here is walking Clara through the grief of losing 11. In not so many words she tells her to get over it–be the Doctor’s friend because of him, not his face. She also says more about the Doctor choosing his faces–why would he choose to look so young, then so old? Clara gets pissed at the assumption that she only liked the doctor for his pretty face, and all is forgiven. Okay then. This could have been more fleshed out.


Veils and faces and shit. Deep.

Meanwhile the Doctor sneaks out of a window (doors are not “him” and I still think he’s acting like 11) to visit with the dinosaur. Before he can get there, she gets spontaneously combusted. The Vastra team goes after the Doctor and when they find him he’s angry and quiet. He’s calling humanity stupid, accusing his friends of “not asking the right question.”

Side note: Can we talk about the perfect circle from the ultimate question of the last few seasons (Doctor who?) to this–you’re not asking the RIGHT question? I do not hate this writing.

In any case, he spots a man not reacting to a giant flaming dinosaur as he should be, then dives into the Thames and disappears. He’s abandoned Clara in Victorian London without a second thought to her safety (at least, on the surface). He’s kind of a douchebag, and NOW I think he’s not acting much like 11 anymore.

Somewhere around here, we see a clockwork man steal another man’s eyeballs. Ew.

In the next scene, Strax brings Clara the morning paper. He tosses it to her and knocks her out. Good times. He also gives her an amusing medical exam in which we discover Clara likes to think about men doing “sport.”


Shall I send it up?

The scene moves to the Doctor rummaging around in an alley for trash. We’re not sure what he’s looking for, but he encounters his face in another mirror. It looks familiar to him, and seems to think it isn’t his–“who frowned this face for me?” He has an encounter with a man, talks to him about his confusing face and demands that the man hand over his coat because the Doctor is cold. This is not the Doctor we know. This regeneration appears to be disturbing to the Doctor as much as it was to Clara. “It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something.” I’ve never considered that the doctor chooses his appearance for a reason, and I’m pretty excited to see where this idea takes us.


Also, he’s Scottish. He’s very excited to be Scottish.

Side note: The man in the alley is the late Elisabeth Sladen’s husband. Sniffle.

The Doctor and Clara independently discover an ad in the Times, inviting the Impossible Girl to lunch. They both think the other placed the ad, but they discover when they meet that neither did. Creepsauce. Clara’s still really mad, and the Doctor still doesn’t seem to care much for her. He calls her an egomaniac needy game-player. There’s actually a fascinating dynamic here–he calls her names, he says she fell for a “vanity trap,” that she was so busy congratulating herself for figuring out the riddle she fell right into the trap. I think he’s not talking about her, but it seems like he is and damned if he isn’t being a HUGE asshole.

I think I love the new Doctor.

The restaurant where they meet turns out to be filled with clockwork android people pretending to eat. The Doctor thinks they ring a faint bell in his mind, but he can’t remember why. When Clara asks what’s going on, he again tells her she’s not asking the right question. The pair tries to leave, and the androids all get up and make creepy advancements toward them. They wind up being dispatched to the “larder” where the androids are cannibalizing humans for spare parts. The Doctor puts a face made of human skin on Clara’s face. She’s not thrilled.


could you not?

The leader, the one who stole the eyeballs earlier, wakes up and the Doctor runs. Clara is left behind.

She makes a bold attempt to escape, pretending to be an andriod and holding her breath so they don’t spot her. Sadly, she has to breathe sometime and they catch her, dragging her back to King Eyeball. What follows is an incredibly well-acted scene where she confronts King Eyeball Android and is at the same time talking to the Doctor, whom she’s decided to trust despite his erratic and downright cruel behavior. Jenna Louise-Coleman is at her absolute best here, emotionally compelling and strong (not Strong like a Strong Female Character but actually strong–and scared). For once, we see Clara as more than just a prop in the Doctor’s life. She’s got her own needs, her own life story, and her own way of dealing with issues (learned in part from her experiences with 11–she definitely negotiates like a Doctor).


She does not negotiate with eyeball stealing creepazoids

I wonder if maybe the Doctor was observing her here, and remembering who he can be through her. But I think about stuff like that. I also think it’s a dick move to leave her there, not sure. I think he’s gotten a lot more selfish. At the same time, he pushed her into being more than a prop. I don’t know, really, but I like it.

The Doctor shows up for her, rescuing her at the very last second before King Eyeball is going to do something Very Bad. Then we find out she didn’t even need rescuing, she had back up all along in the form of Vastra and her crew. They set themselves up to fight all the androids and the Doctor leaves them to chase after King Eyeball who decides he can make his escape pod fly to the promised land. I’m not too clear on that decision-making either.

The Doctor has a conversation with King Eyeball in the escape pod, which turns out to be a freaky hot air balloon made of human skin.


another day, another skin balloon

The Doctor still can’t figure out why human-cannibalizing clockwork androids seem familiar. To help the audience out, he discovers they were on a ship that crashed around “the dawn of time.” They are from the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the SS Madame Du Pompadour. OH YEAH. Clockwork repair droids that use human body parts to rebuild their ship. I remember that. That’s one of my all time favorite Who episodes, in fact. He never does seem to remember. I find that as tragic as I found the original episode.

So King Eyeball and the Doctor have a discussion about whether the androids should still be repairing themselves, and what they might even be at this point since they’ve been stealing from humanity since it crawled out of the trees. The Doctor says he has to kill the android in order to protect humanity, and he says he will always protect humanity (which is a sharp change from earlier when he was calling all of us pudding-brains).

He suggests the android kill himself, and give up the dream of reaching “the promised land” it keeps referring to. In this sequence there’s a very cool moment when the Doctor sees himself again in a mirror, nicely foiled with the android who has forgotten his purpose and just kept on doing what his program said. It’s hard to explain but it’s hella cool.

Meanwhile, Vastra and the Jets are about to be overrun and murdered by robots.

Before they do, though, we see King Eyeball fall from the skin balloon and impale himself on Big Ben.


A little over dramatic for a robot if you ask me

All the other androids shut off since he was the “control node,” and everyone is saved. Hooray! But… did he jump, ending his endless search/replacing, or did the Doctor push him?

In the end, Clara isn’t sure he’s coming back for her, but he does. She tells Vastra “I don’t think I know who the Doctor is anymore.” Way I see it, this boosts my theory that he’s more changed than normal. Still, when he shows up to get her, she heads into the newly redecorated TARDIS. It’s very dark. She doesn’t like it.



And then he asks her to stay, he tries to reach out but it’s like WAY too late. He’s been a right ass and he’s not her Doctor anymore. She tells him she’s out, she’s leaving, and on her way out she gets a phone call from…

MOTHER FUCKING TEAR JERKING MATT SMITH. On Trenzalore. Dying. God damn it.



And then I cried for like five minutes, while the Doctor asked Clara to stay with him. He told her he knows he must be very different, he feels the regeneration coming and it’s a “whopper.” He asks her to stay, to help the Doctor who is more scared than she is, and tells her not to be afraid. I HATE ALL OF THIS SHUT UP IT’S DUSTY IN HERE WHAT.

Capaldi asks her to stay, but he’s hurt that she can’t see that he’s still the Doctor. He kind of has a little Doctor meltdown, but a real one rather than all the bullshit he was pulling earlier. She decides maybe okay, she’ll stay for a while. But he needs to buy her coffee. The dynamic is much more interesting than it has been. I approve.

Weird end bit: the King Eyeball android wakes up in a beautiful garden with a woman named Missy. She claims he’s in the promised land, heaven. She calls the Doctor her boyfriend and says he loves her very much. She’s definitely not okay in the head. Is she the person what left the ad in the Times? We do not know.


Cracked out Mary Poppins, kinda?

And that’s all. We have been left with a puzzle, some really fantastic moments, and a Doctor none of us are sure of.

I liked it a lot.

(screencaps from

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  1. Cat

    Also, look closely at the Doctors droid mask before he rescues Clara. It’s based on Matt Smith’s face – great for when he rips it off and becomes less like Eleven.

    • AWESOME now that you say it I totally see that!

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