The irony here is that despite Capaldi being the new star, we feel like this episode was just about as much geared towards Jenna Coleman. Clara is who really pushed the narrative forward in the final twenty minutes, and also learned just who was behind the mysterious dinosaur disappearance. (The fact that a dinosaur appeared in the first place was surprising enough.)
The 12th Doctor, at least so far, has some of the same humor and spirit as the Matt Smith incarnation … though this guy seems to be a little more aloof, a little more awkwardly confrontational, and also a little irritable from time to time. Peter Capaldi plays the character well, but we actually wish there was a little more of him in this episode than there was. We still don’t get enough of a sense of him to say whether or not he is great in the role or not.
Ultimately, where “Deep Breath” failed as an introduction episode was in the plot. It took more than 45 minutes before we started to understand what was really going on, and Steven Moffat at times has a tendency to make things complex to the point where they don’t even make sense. That is what happened here. We’d rather have more of a genuine introduction than a story that could have worked in the middle of the season just fine.
The story did pick up near the end, and as the Doctor faced off against his newest foe (a droid using human / animal remains for his own benefit), we touched on questions of humanity, and the value that comes with knowing and feeling. There was some great action in here, talk on how life matters, and proof that The Doctor does still care about Clara … though his methods are still to be questioned.
The part that really brought us around, and hit us right in the emotional gut, was near the end, when Matt Smith returned for a brief cameo telling Clara that the new Doctor is far more afraid than she is. This was the perfect true send-off for Smith, especially for those who didn’t like what happened in the Christmas Special.
Despite our early issues with the episode, “Deep Breath” brought things around with a fantastic end and set-up for the future. It will not be in our top ten list, but it’s certainly far from the worst. Grade: B.
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