Doctor Who - Deep Breath - My Proper Review
The new season starts off with an "interesting" episode, this is not the typical post regeneration episode we've seen before, if anything it has more in common with "The Christmas Invasion" than it does with any of the others.
In a nut shell, the TARDIS lands in Victorian England during a frozen winter where the Thames is rock solid. You can faintly hear the sound of Stevie Wonder playing in the back ground, but don't tell him that. Now when I say the TARDIS arrives, I mean to say in the throat of a dinosaur, which has come along for the ride. And by dinosaur, I don't mean an aging old fossil like Captain Jack, I mean a living breathing T-Rex like dinosaur that spits out the TARDIS. From which the Doctor emerges in a confused state, something that often happens after regeneration.
The opening isn't bad, the dinosaur is huge, and looks really well done, the moments leading up to the Doctor fainting are cute here and there, but poorly paced. But we had to get to the opening credits somehow and this is how it's done.
The opening credits are completely different that any we've seen before and certainly any for the modern day Who. They were designed by a fan, and when Moffat saw them, he asked if he could make a broadcast version of them to use in the new series.
Probably one of the best things to come out of new Who is the teaming of Vastra, Jenny and Drax, and it's nice to see the opener is based around them, as much as it is the Doctor. We also have Clara, who is seriously trying to wrap her head around this new Doctor, well this old Doctor with the grey hair and wrinkles. The Doctor is trying to figure out what is wrong with his friends since they don't appear to have a Scottish accent, and in his fugue state assumes whatever is wrong, is spreading. While a bit cute, this is where the episode and I start to part company.
Regenerations are a tricky business in Doctor Who, either they are easy and painless like 1 to 2, or they are difficult and miserable like 4 to 5. They often involve ranting and shouting or being quite ill, but I can't recall a single regeneration having some of the these apparitions.
The story moves along it spits and spurts, and goes from trying to help the Doctor, to the tragic death of the dino, to the introduction of a man obsessed with getting some new human parts.
The Doctor quickly splits off from his companions and sets out on his own with a dip in the river Thames. The rest are left looking for clues as to what is happening, in an attempt to find the Doctor again, and figure out why the dinosaur was killed, and why the Doctor is acting so strangely.
Now the Doctor acting strangely is a really polite way of talking about what's next. I think any hope of this episode winning me back was lost here in the coat scene. In this scene the Doctor is seen in his dressing gown looking for clues and some new clothes. When a hobo or wino (not sure which is more politically correct) stumbles upon the Doctor. While the scene does play a little with the Baker era, and it makes a nod to "The Fires Of Pompeii" the Doctor gets more and more angry, he also references the Scottish independence vote and determines he is in fact Scottish. Not just from the North, lots of planets have a north, but actually Scottish. Does this mean he's human? He's acting very human, he threatens the hobo in a very human way, has the Doctor lost everything that made him compassionate with this regeneration? This scene more than any in the opener bothers me, because it lacks any real kindness. At one point it seems like the Doctor might actually beat the shit out of this poor man over his coat. Admittedly the Doctor flips back to Holmes mode, but not before the poor hobo is deeply frightened. The crux of why this scene bothers me, and the whole episode in general is the tone of it. If the Doctor wants to beat the crap out of someone who is bad, or a Dalek, or whomever, great. But when he goes at this poor hobo in a way, that the hashtag #YesAllWomen comes to mind, that's not good. This was a vicious moment that should have been saved for the main bad guy here.
This leads to Clara finding an ad in the paper that she thinks the Doctor has posted. She follows it to a restaurant where she meets up with the Doctor, who has found some new threads... well hobo threads that he may or may not have beaten the shit out of someone to obtain.
Anyway, the Doctor and Clara meet up and exchange a few barbs, only to discover that no one is breathing in the restaurant, but a loud ticking can be heard, because these people who aren't really eating here are in fact, Clockwork Robots, they are the same kind (roughly) that first appeared in "The Girl In The Fireplace". The Doctor and Clara are captured, but they have a plan. While trying to figure out and escape from the leader of the clockwork people. Had the Doctor been wearing his actual clothes he might have some anti-oil handy. Eventually after a bit of breath holding, comes a scene that is also, more scary for grownups than kids. This is the potential torture of Clara, and not just we'll kill you, but we'll hurt you, we'll cause you proper pain and suffering with a blow torch type of thing. As I'm often told... this is a kid's show. I don't recall any of the Teletubbies threatening to burn the fur off each other at any point. This scene like the hobo scene is meant for adults clearly, but it's also meant to be very dark and cruel, which is why I watch "True Blood", it's not why I watch Doctor Who. Sure if you are a bad guy, take over the world, the universe, the galaxy. Kill a ton of people like "Man Of Steel" we get that, because we don't see the personal threat. But light up a blow torch, and threaten the companion, that seems well over the mark. Between Coleman's wonderful acting here, and the robot's cold demeanor, this is a very rough scene.
The Doctor returns and he's brought friends. Not sure how they get into the basement, did they cut three holes in the floor and then Cirque Du Soleil into the room? This confused me a bit. And while the super trio managed to dispatch a whole room of clockwork people in the restaurant, they can't kill even a single one in the basement. A fight ensues, and the Doctor and the clockwork leader have a chat back up stairs and then float in a balloon made of human skin attached to the escape pod/restaurant (no really they do, really I swear) at which point the Doctor either kills the robot or the robot kills himself. Now I didn't hate this ending, I thought it was OK to be ambiguous here, although the Doctor seemed to get back on his game really quickly after going all hobo fights about an hour earlier in the day.
But for a show that goes, on and on and on about how there are budget cuts, they show the effect of the clockwork half headed robot about sixty times. It's a great looking CGI effect, but it's completely unneeded. If you are pleading poverty, as both the Moffat and the BBC has done, show the effect once early on, then cover up his face and bring it back once or twice at the end. Back in the day, the transporter in "Star Trek" was invented, why? Not because it was cool, not because it was very Sci-Fi or anything, but for budgetary reasons. There was no way they were going to be able to afford to land that ship every week. So they created a simple conveyance, a super cool looking, and impossible conveyance, but one that saved them some money. Each time the Transporter was used it cost around $1500 (that's mid 1960's $1500). So if you are telling everyone how poor you are, how budget cuts are getting to you, then why the hell would you do an effect for sixty shots? And I'll bet this cost more than $1500 to do each time. There's such a thing as being pennywise and pound foolish.
After the battle the Doctor leaves for a bit, and Clara, like Amy has to contemplate her life (now in Victorian London) without the Doctor. Of course he returns, the Doctor is very private about trying on clothes in front of companions. (mostly Sarah Jane being an exception) He doesn't do it often. Plus he has redecorated the TARDIS interior with some fake book cases and what not. Confused Clara and the Doctor fly home, just in time to get a phone call from Matt Smith hoping to make Clara accept this new much older Doctor, one that is still him, even though she can't flirt with him anymore. This scene, this ending I hated a lot, you have spent millions of pounds touting the new Doctor and how Peter is the best thing to come along since sliced bread, then you bring Matt Smith back for one last bow. Don't get me wrong, I love Matt Smith, his Doctor was a lot of fun, but his day is done. He got the 50th, (which PC infringed on for about 3 seconds), he got to grow old and die/regenerate, it's time to move on. The idea that after an hour and ten minutes of setting up the new doctor, to bring the old one back, just feels wrong to me. I never tire of seeing Matt Smith, but he wasn't needed here. This scene works perfectly without hearing/seeing who Clara is talking to. Peter knows, it's Matt, because he remembers it, he knows what's being said, because he said it. Let Coleman who is a fine actress convey that she's talking to HER Doctor with her acting, not with showing him. And yes, in the theater with a bunch of press people everyone gasped when they saw Matt, which just proves even more why they shouldn't have done it. Are we expected to see Matt Smith turn up every time something goes haywire? Is Matt Smith going to become "Old Spock" and show up with how to fix shit, and possible future plot points? For me, this was weak writing at its best. For me, this was the final nail that killed this episode.
As the episode ends they hug each other and go off for a coffee. The En... oh wait, there's more... One of the concerns the clockwork robot had, was getting into heaven or "The Promise Land" which apparently he does, and there's a woman who thinks of herself as the Doctor's girlfriend waiting there to ease him along. Now Moffat has promised no long arcs so I'm sure that this type of scene will not be played out time and time again, like Amy's pregnancy was. I'm sure this is just the only time we will see this type of scene before the series finale. Yea right...
Our longtime reviewer “Kelvington” says Saturday’s season premiere of “Doctor Who” “really, really sucks.”
Dear Fellow Whovians,
(Minor Spoilers) I love 'Doctor Who', I love it so much I've spent hundreds of hours praising it, commenting on it, and making videos about it. I love it so much, I went to the 50th Celebration for all three days, and Cardiff just to step on the TARDIS set. I, like most of you, love 'Doctor Who'. That said, I'm begging you NOT to watch the first two episodes of this series. At least not until the end of the current series, something to watch while waiting for the Christmas episode. Why you ask?
Well, a month or so ago, the first episode leaked, then the second, and the third. As an editor I was very curious to see what I thought, was a rough cut. An hour and fifteen minute version of what was surely was going to be fifty minute episode. Like every rough cut I've ever seen or worked on, there was lots of good stuff, and stuff that would be removed before the final version. But I was wrong... dead wrong... the leak is the final version. And it's horrible. To quote Doctor Forrester, "Wait, I can't imagine... I shan't, because it isn't true, but it is... oh this sucks.
Yea, it really, really sucks, I've seen lots of rough cuts, and I know the music will make a difference, and finalized effects (which I couldn't care less about) and ADR, but normally I can see the good in something and roughly know what needs cut out to make good, into something great. In this case there might be a good episode here at fifty minutes. Hell, I even thought about cutting the leak myself, but then whom would I show it to?
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot in this episode to like, the intro, and several clever moments. But holy christ, there's shitloads that needs cut out. Without being too spoilerish, the boy's medical exam, looking for a coat, the fight scene goes on for far too long, etc. There are at least five scenes that just don't really move (or barely move) the story along. The Doctor acts totally out of character here, and don't say it's because of the regeneration. That's rubbish! He acts well out of bounds for The Doctor's character. They make HUGE mistakes in this episode, including at the end, with the phone... you'll know what I mean later.
However, I hated the second episode less, regardless of how poorly it was done. Forget the fact that "Lost In Space" did nearly the exact same episode over forty-five years ago, and they made it look better back then. It's just not a great episode, it has awkward pacing, the basic premise is rubbish, it could all have easily been done from the 'outside' and been at least as good if not better. Imagine vivisection of a Dalek, how cool would that have been?
That said, the third episode is brilliant, wonderful and fun. It has laughs, and scares, and robots, and Anthony Ainley, or at least someone who is made to look exactly like him. I loved it, it reminded me why I love 'Doctor Who'. Clara and The Doctor have their footing, the timing is perfect, and it's the best season opener in a long time. Unfortunately, it's the third episode of the series.
So what I'm asking, what I'm begging is, save yourself some pain, save yourself some head scratching, save yourself the constant defending you will have to do of these two episodes, and skip them. (Just until late November) You will feel better, yes you will miss the premiere, yes you will miss some hype. But at the end of the day, you will thank me for saving you some heart ache. You'll save yourself from screaming at the TV saying... The Doctor would never do that... he's not human! He would never say that... why is he acting like this? WHY! Why is this so terrible? What have we done to deserve this pain? So just skip them... save them for Thanksgiving or Christmas day. We've waited almost a year, we deserve better, you deserve better. So just say no, to Who!