Saturday, 29 January 2022

Story 243 - Deep Breath

In which the Paternoster Gang assemble on the banks of the Thames after a call from Inspector Gregson. A prehistoric Tyrannosaurus Rex has appeared in the centre of Victorian London. The creature appears to be choking, so Jenny uses a device to scan it and she sees that it has something stuck in its throat. It coughs this object up - and they see the TARDIS fly out and land on the river foreshore. Vastra gives Gregson a number of sonic devices which will stop the dinosaur from leaving the area, then she, Jenny and Strax descend to the TARDIS. They are reunited with Clara and meet the newly regenerated Doctor. He appears older than his previous incarnation, with sharp features and short grey hair, and speaks with a strong Scottish accent. On regenerating, the Doctor had crash-landed the TARDIS in prehistoric times where it was eaten by the Tyrannosaurus, which was then transported here when the Doctor dematerialised again.

The Doctor collapses and is taken to Vastra's home, where he is put to bed. Clara reveals that she is unhappy that the Doctor has changed, and Vastra realises that she can't accept his new persona.
That night the Doctor hears the dinosaur calling and goes up onto the roof, where he sees the creature suddenly burst into flames. He descends to street level and steals a horse to carry him to the Thames.
At Westminster Bridge, the Doctor notices that, despite the spectacle, one person is not looking at the dinosaur. This man is watching a member of the crowd, a man named Alf. When Alf demonstrates keen observation skills, the man kills him and removes his eyes.
Clara and the Paternoster Gang have followed the Doctor. He leaps into the Thames, determined to track down the killer who he thinks may have been responsible for the dinosaur's destruction.
With the Doctor gone, Clara returns to Vastra's home, where she continues to express her doubts about the new Doctor. She is concerned that his attitude towards her may have changed.
The Doctor has found himself in a dingy alleyway where he meets an old tramp. He is questioning his new persona - wondering why he looks so old when it is a new face. He takes the tramp's overcoat as he was only wearing a nightshirt when he left Vastra's, then spots something in an old newspaper.
Clara and Vastra have decided to start investigating, rather than sit waiting for the Doctor to turn up. They see the same newspaper item - an advert which each thinks comes from the other. This advert takes them separately to Mancini's - a restaurant in the centre of London.

Clara has her first opportunity to properly talk with the new Doctor, and she remains unconvinced that she wants to remain with him. She doesn't know if she can trust and rely on him as she had done up until now. Twice in one night now he has run off on his own. The Doctor draws her attention to their fellow diners. None of them appear to be actually eating the food from their plates. All move with a jerky clockwork motion. They discover that the menu isn't what you can order to eat - but body parts that can be taken from people. The customers and staff are all clockwork 'droids, who are attempting to pass as human. The table they are sitting at locks them in their seats, then descends down a lift shaft to a chamber deep beneath the restaurant. The man whom the Doctor had seen in the crowd is here. He has only half a face, and is currently dormant as he recharges.
The Doctor manages to free them both, but they are trapped in the chamber, surrounded by many clockwork 'droids. He asks Clara how long she can hold her breath and then runs off - seemingly abandoning her yet again.

Clara has to hold her breath - pretending to be one of the 'droids. She can only keep this up for so long, however. The Half-Face Man wakes, and begins threatening Clara. All of the other clockwork 'droids activate and start to fill the chamber, but one of them removes a mask to reveal the Doctor. He confronts the Half-Face Man and learns something of their history. They are using parts of human beings to become human themselves, in order to reach some "promised land". That they knew that a dinosaur could offer them a useable part, the Doctor deduces that they must have been on Earth for millions of years. The 'droids attack, but they are saved by the sudden arrival of the Paternoster Gang. Gregson and the police are also on their way. The Half-Face Man escapes up to the restaurant, but the Doctor is already here waiting for him.

This is also part of their buried spaceship - the SS Marie Antoinette. The Doctor is sure he has encountered 'droids such as this before but, post-regeneration, he can't recall his earlier meeting with similar clockwork 'droids in the far future and in 18th Century France. The restaurant is actually an escape capsule, fitted with a helium balloon made from human skin. It takes off and travels across the London skyline. The Doctor argues with the Half-Face Man about what it truly means to be human, and that the 'droid can never achieve this, even after millions of years of trying. He suggests that the 'droid bring a stop to its plans, by bringing a stop to itself. It should kill itself, or the Doctor will kill it. The 'droid becomes impaled on the top of Big Ben. Without their controller, the others deactivate.

The Doctor leaves in the TARDIS on his own - seemingly abandoning Clara once again. He returns to collect her some time later, however. 
Back in her own time, Clara is contemplating leaving the TARDIS, unable to trust the new Doctor. She receives a phone call from his previous incarnation, made whilst he was still on Trenzalore. He urges her to accept that this is a new version of himself, and to give him a chance. The Doctor goes to fetch her a cup of coffee...
The Half-Face Man has found himself in a beautiful garden, and a woman dressed in Victorian garb tells him that this is the promised land which he had been seeking.

Deep Breath was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on Saturday 23rd August 2014. 
As the opening story of Series 8, and the first to star Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, it had a 76 minute running time. As well as introducing Capaldi, it also featured an unannounced appearance by Michelle Gomez, who wasn't expected until the end of the series. She would make a number of cameo appearances in several stories prior to her full reveal at the finale.
The story is a sequel to Moffat's Series 2 story The Girl in the Fireplace, featuring as it does another group of clockwork maintenance 'droids, from a spaceship named after a character from French history.
As well as being the sequel to a popular David Tennant story, Deep Breath also features the Paternoster Gang to help smooth the transition to the new Doctor. Add to this the scene of Matt Smith's Doctor calling Clara from the previous story to urge her to accept him, and it looks like the production team are worried that Capaldi won't be accepted by the viewers - that they'll be as unsure as Clara is.

They needn't have worried, as Capaldi owns the role from the start. It's a regeneration story, so he's initially very confused and erratic. Unlike Tennant he uses his own Glaswegian accent, and makes a feature of this. This is an often crabby, rude version who will be the least human we've seen since the Sixth. Indeed, the Twelfth Doctor is a successful version of what had been attempted with Colin Baker.
We only get to see the new costume at the conclusion of the story, and it appears to be tailored on the Third Doctor's Season 7 look. Capaldi even essayed some Pertwee poses in the publicity photographs.
The TARDIS console room has been given a slight make-over, with warmer lighting and bookshelves making it a much more homely space.

Most of the cast are people we have already met before - even Paul Hickey as Inspector Gregson had previously featured in Vastra Investigates, the prequel to The Snowmen. Of the guest cast special mention must be made of Peter Ferdinando, who portrays the Half-Face Man, leader of the clockwork 'droids.
One of his victims is Alf (the character with the observational skills). He's played by comic actor Tony Way. 
The Doctor steals the overcoat from an old tramp named Barney. He's played by Brian Miller - Elisabeth Sladen's husband. He had previously featured as a fairground showman named Dugdale in Snakedance, as well as The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Madwoman in the Attic.
As mentioned, Michelle Gomez also appears, though only briefly at the conclusion and we have no inkling of who she is or what role she has to play in proceedings.
Someone else who features only as a cameo, who will feature more prominently later in the series, is Ellis George as schoolgirl Courtney Woods, who appears in a flashback scene.

Overall, it's a very strong start to the Capaldi era. We get a hint of what this Doctor is going to be like, but not too much all at once. As he does with Clara, he'll grow on us. It's nice to see a sequel from within the new series, rather than always looking to the classic era.
Things you might like to know:
  • Did he fall, or was he pushed? Is the new Doctor a murderer, or did he convince the Half-Face Man to take his own life? Personally, I think the former.
  • Talk of murder and suicide suggest sentient life - yet the clockwork 'droids are supposed to be simply advanced machines. The Doctor must have admitted they have become human for him to have suggested suicide, or to commit murder.
  • Further proof of his humanity comes in the fact that he has reached the "promised land" at the conclusion. We will later discover that Missy is harvesting dead people for the Matrix hard-drive, so they can be downloaded into Cyberman bodies. To be here, the Half-Face Man must have been human after all.
  • The latest Blue Peter competition was to design some special sonic devices for the Paternoster Gang. These devices feature in this story. These were a gauntlet for Jenny (used to scan the T-Rex), a lorgnette for Strax (used as a medical scanner on Clara), and a hatpin for Vastra (which acted like an electronic key for her carriage).
  • Inspector Gregson featured in some of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Mention is made of the Paternoster Irregulars, as in Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars. Some Sherlock Holmes cases are also referenced in the episode - the Camberwell Poisoner and the Conk-Singleton forgery cases.
  • Who placed the newspaper advert, which the Doctor and Clara think comes from the other, is not revealed in this episode.
  • The mask which Capaldi tears off is actually one of Matt Smith's features. This wasn't planned - the mask they were going to use broke, and the nearest alternative to hand was one made from a cast of Smith's face.
  • The new titles were the result of Steven Moffat seeing a fan-produced version on YouTube. The creator, Billy Hanshaw, was invited to work on the professional version which would appear on screen.

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