The episode in short? You can take this dinosaur and put him in London, but that doesn’t make him a human and it never did, so take a deep breath and let your expectations go.
In “Deep Breath,” the new Doctor enters our lives in a big way when a Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping through Victorian London coughs up the TARDIS at the feet of the Paternoster Gang—Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Out tumbles the Doctor, befuddled from his regeneration, and Clara, similarly confused. He can’t remember anyone’s name, calling out to the displaced dinosaur before passing out in the sand. Resting back at Vastra’s home, he settles into his new body, as Clara struggles to accept his change, confronted by each of the Gang over her resistance. When the dinosaur bursts horribly into flames, the Doctor sets off alone to find who is behind this latest in a series of similar murders.
The Gang and Clara work separately to put the “why” together, surmising that someone is trying to conceal what’s missing from the bodies. Searching for clues in the newspaper, they come across an ad for “The Impossible Girl” and an invitation to lunch. Clara meets the Doctor at a restaurant whose patrons soon turn out to be robots covered in human parts. The pair is trapped in a basement below where the Doctor manages to escape, but the door closes behind Clara and she holds her breath to mix in with the ancient robots. She passes out and is captured by the lead robot, but the Doctor appears, disguised as a robot, and the Paternoster Gang arrives from above with a flourish.
As they fight the growing horde of robots, the Doctor chases the lead robot back up into the “restaurant” which is revealed to be a spaceship now transformed into a hot air balloon as it lifts off. Still discombobulated, the Doctor wonders where he’s seen this kind of robot before—the ship is the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the clockwork robot ship SS Madame du Pompadour. He realizes that because this robot is searching for paradise, he has become more human than robot, so the Doctor appeals to its soul: kill itself or be killed to protect humanity. The robot falls, impaled on Big Ben, and all the robots stop just in time to save Clara and the Paternoster Gang, but it is not clear which choice was made.
The Doctor disappears afterward, Clara fearing again that she has been left behind, but Vastra assures her that she knows the Doctor best. And she does: he returns, but she’s not sure who he is anymore and wants to go home. As she walks away, the phone rings—it’s the Eleventh Doctor calling in his last moments on Trenzalore, encouraging her to help his new self. Twelve asks if she will help him; taken aback, she scolds him for listening in. He says rather that he remembers the conversation because he was the one that called, that it is still him. She relents, agreeing to stay and go for “coffee and chips.”
Finally, the robot awakes in a garden, greeted by “Missy,” a woman who claims to know the Doctor rather well, saying the robot is in Heaven, which of course we know is far from true.
Questions going forward:
Who and what is Missy and why does she want Clara and the Doctor together?
- The Paternoster Gang, being awesome and irreverent as usual.
- The Doctor’s struggles to be understood.
- The Doctor flashing the red lining in his jacket, asking, “What do you think?”
What didn’t work:
- The villains. A vague and a bit sloppy use of fan memory, and overall unnecessary.
- Eleven calling Clara clunkily interrupted a fairly smooth unfolding of Twelve’s identity.
- The new TARDIS and theme. I wasn’t really a fan of the fake Steampunk, but then again, neither was he.
What we learn about the Twelfth Doctor:
- He’s still very lonely because he’s not yet been seen for who he really is.
- In his sleep, he softly translates the moans of the dinosaur from the river, and in his translation, we hear his own voice: I am alone. The world which shook at my feet, and the trees, and the sky have gone. And I am alone now. Alone. The wind bites now and the world is gray and I am alone here. Can’t see me. Doesn’t see me. Can’t see me.
- When Clara stares at him after 11 calls her, he confirms: You can’t see me. You look at me and you can’t see me. Do you have any idea what that’s like? I’m not on the phone, I’m right here. Standing in front of you. Just, just see me.
2. He’s not our boyfriend anymore.
- In the opening moments, he yells to the female dinosaur off-screen: “I’m not flirting with you!”
- Madame Vastra calls Clara out for her judgment of his regenerated state, accusing her of not understanding that his young face was only flirting, not just with her but with everyone, in a bid to be accepted. That despite his previously young appearance, he is older and has seen more horror than anyone can imagine. Clara begins to comprehend, suddenly asking, “When did you take off your veil?” Vastra smiles, replying, “When you stopped seeing it.”
- At the end, back in the TARDIS, the Doctor says that he’s made many mistakes he has to remedy, stating, “Clara, I’m not your boyfriend.” When she says, “I never thought you were,” he replies, “I never said it was your mistake,” reminding himself a little reluctantly that he isn’t what he or anyone else wishes.
3. He’s not afraid to be critical, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.
- Reviewing his new countenance, he wonders, “Who frowned me this face?” He then launches into a hilarious diatribe on his eyebrows, announcing that they’re Attack Eyebrows and probably want to cede from his face and form an independent state of eyebrows.
- When Clara wonders who would place such an ad in the paper, he assesses, “An egomaniac, needy game-player.” She’s outraged when she realizes he means her, but he correctly points out that their predicament is more important than her “egomania,” but reassures her that he doesn’t want her to change. Later he labels her a control freak, and when she protests, he jests, “Yes, ma’am!” In his naming and accepting of her faults, she is freed to accept his true self as well.
4. He’s searching for a happy ending. In both of the devices of this episode, the lonely dinosaur and the humanized robot, he finds a hope to return or find their own version of paradise, and he wishes to make that happen, but it proves futile for both. We can hope he does find a happy ending, but should we?
5. He’s Scottish, so he can “REALLY complain about things now.”