Doctor Who Re-Watch: Looking back on the Twelfth Doctor’s opening story Deep Breath

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Doctor Who

Over five years after Deep Breath was first broadcast, we look back on that episode and see how well it works as a new Doctor story in hindsight.
(Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

After celebrating five years since Peter Capaldi’s first episode of Doctor Who, we decided to watch his era from the very beginning, starting with Deep Breath.

Deep Breath. It’s a meta title to an episode that delves us firmly into a new era of Doctor Who. An episode that serves well as a debut story to a very different type of Doctor. On a more macro level, however, it’s not so much of a radical shift given the holdover of companion and the return of previous supporting characters. More pertinently, Deep Breath marks the first time since 2005’s The Christmas Invasion that a showrunner has remained during the transition to a new Doctor.

Yes, Steven Moffat remained to steer the time-travelling ship post-Matt Smith, perhaps even stubbornly to some fans who viewed a lot of his recent creative efforts as subpar. On the other hand, Moffat had recently pulled off the 50th Anniversary to much acclaim, bolstering his reputation to much of the fandom.

Whilst re-watching Deep Breath for the first time in a long while, I really did notice an interesting dichotomy of familiarity and freshness. So to celebrate half a decade since the airing of this pivotal story, here is a collection of my musings as I revisited it…

Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor

In the run up to Series 8, the PR machine was churning the phrase “100% rebel Time Lord” to excite and set fans up for the arrival of Peter Capaldi. You can definitely see that vision come to fruition with potency in this story – the phrase “Attack eyebrows” sticks out in my mind.

By now we are all accustomed to Capaldi’s interpretation of our Time Lord hero. But, it’s easy to forget how much of a clean break from Matt Smith this was at the time. It’s true Smith was very different from Tennant, though he retained a similar youthful vigour and quirky mania that made the two incarnations a tad more interlinked than most.

No such overt connections can be made here and I love that. Grumpy, dry, acerbic, less amenable and more aloof. It’s a shift more reminiscent of the First Doctor than an incarnation from modern times (the closest comparison obviously being Eccleston).

Looking back upon Deep Breath, now that we recently got the Thirteenth Doctor, it ends up being a thought exercise of comparing and contrasting. I didn’t appreciate it all too much at the time, but it’s clearer to me that Moffat established Twelve and handled post-regenerative trauma very well here. Both are achieved with a confidence and balance that Chris Chibnall failed to adequately deliver in The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

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