Sunday, August 24, 2014

'Doctor Who' Recap: 'Deep Breath'

Images Courtesy of the BBC
BY NOWAL MASSARI

After what seemed like a nerd-ternity, the series eight premiere of "Doctor Who" has finally arrived. As with all post-regeneration Doctors, we enter the first episode with a touch of sadness and slight caution. As pointed out by Chris Hardwick and Wil Wheaton on "After Who Live," we nerds are living in a post-Phantom Menace world and we do not like change. However, we always warm to the new Doctor as time goes forward (or backward). So now, hold on to your sonics and take a "Deep Breath."
Instead of recapping an entire regeneration, like many regens before, the series eight premiere jumps right into the fray, after a snazzy new fan-created intro, of course. A Tyrannosaurus Rex is wandering the streets of Victorian London, apparently choking. In the commotion, Madame Vastra and her lovely wife, Jenny, calmly appear and muse that the dinosaur must have time travelled somehow. Once the prehistoric behemoth dislodges the TARDIS from her throat, the Paternoster Gang rush to meet the Doctor and find out what shenanigans he's gotten them into this time. Much to their surprise, the mad man in the box is unfamiliar, and more mad than they are used to. As he wanders out of the TARDIS, it's quite clear that he is suffering some post-regeneration side affects; including extreme confusion and mild amnesia. A bewildered, disheveled and mildly irritated Clara steps outside. Her eyes bright with tears, she explains that he is the Doctor, though she doesn't sound convinced of this herself.

After coercing the Doctor into a mind-link induced sleep, Clara asks Madame Vastra and Jenny how they're to go about changing him back to the way he was before. Vastra informs Jenny that she would like her veil brought to her. An unusual request, Jenny asks if they are expecting strangers. Some serious Silurian side-eye is cast in Clara's direction, with a curt "there's already one here." The shade has been thrown. Sitting at the Doctors bedside, Clara begins to wonder aloud about this new face. Why does it have lines if it's a new face? How can his hair be grey since he just got it? Despite seeing him change with her own eyes, and crossing through his time stream to save him, it's clear that Clara is having some trouble accepting that her Doctor is gone.

During a somber sit-down, Madame Vastra reveals to Clara that the Doctor's youthful face was no different than her own veil; it was a means of acceptance. She continues on to say that she doesn't wear her veil to cover her "disfigurement," but instead it's used as a judgement in the quality of those that would condemn her. As far as the Doctor's new appearance, he trusted Clara enough to regenerate in front of her, dropped his veil, and she instead of embracing him, she has judged him harshly. Fired up, Clara confronts Vastra saying that she isn't distracted by pretty young men, which earns her applause from Jenny and the disappearance of Vastra's veil.

Upstairs, the Doctor awakens and begins feverishly scribbling across the floor. He escapes out the window to the roof, where he speaks to his dinosaur lady friend (not flirting), telling her that he will get her home and keep her safe in the meantime; at which point, she bursts into flame. Rushing to the scene, the Doctor and his compatriots begin to question what has just happened. Question one is if there have been any recent murders, and wouldn't you know it? There have been. While all the "pudding-brains" are standing around gawking at the remains, question two arises when they spy a stranger casually strolling away from the flames. Mind you, this is the stranger that recently accepted the gift of new eyes by scooping them out of a mans face, but more on that later. With the revelation that something is rotten, the Doctor jumps into the Thames and disappears. Now that the game is afoot, the Paternoster Gang and Clara will begin their own investigation while the Doctor conducts his own.

The TARDIS is brought to Paternoster Row for safe-keeping, and as a means to ensure the eventual return of the Doctor. Strax examines Clara, just to make sure that she is fit to work beside him. He tells her to stop worrying about the Doctor and tries to comfort her by saying that he's sure by this time his throat has been cut by the violent poor. That Strax always knows what to say. Fortunately, and predictably, Strax was incorrect.

Throat in tact, the Doctor is wandering the alleys of London in a night shirt. When he is happened upon by a homeless man, he states that he is cold (wet and bitey, rather), that he needs clothes ("A big, long scarf...no, I've moved on from that.") and then asks the man if he's seen this face before. Confused, the stranger says that he hasn't, but the Doctor continues; he, himself, has seen his new face before but can't place it. He says he never knows where the faces come from, but this time it seems to be some kind of reminder. What point is he trying to make to himself that he can't just come out and say it? The Doctor is uncomfortable with his new face as well, especially his independently cross eyebrows. However, he seems to enjoy the fact that he is now Scottish and that he can complain about things. After terrifying the homeless man, and eventually trading his favorite watch for the smelly coat, the Doctor discovers a news paper article about recent bouts of spontaneous combustion. What devilry indeed, coatless homeless man.

Back on Paternoster Row, Vastra eventually reveals that she has been piecing together bits of information surrounding the supposed combustions. There have been multiple cases in only a couple of months, leading her to believe that whoever is behind it has been destroying the bodies to hide what pieces have been taken. Clara charges into the room with a newspaper, showing off an advertisement that appears to be a message from the Doctor to her. "Impossible Girl: Lunch on the Other Side." With no time or place listed, Vastra remarks that Clara knows the Doctor well enough to solve the puzzle. Scoffing, Clara says that the Doctor doesn't play games and he isn't that complex, so it would have to be a very simple solution. She turns the advertisement page over and, there it is...an ad for Mancini's Family Restaurant. Though his face has changed, Clara still understands him and she heads off for their lunch-time meeting.

Their initial awkward banter is awkward, but it is cut short when they realize that neither one of them placed the ad to get them to the restaurant. Forcing Clara to look around the restaurant without looking, it dawns on them that the ret of the patrons in the establishment aren't actually eating or breathing. A familiar ticking and winding acts as the background music when they try to leave. Their macabre Maitre'd begins rattling off body parts, which are clearly not part of the menu, when the Doctor reaches up, removes the face, and exposes a cold metal structure. Oh good, droids wearing human skin and organs.

The petrified duo are then lowered into a subterranean chamber, which turns out to be the larder of an ancient space craft. After managing to Sonic them out of their bindings, they realize that they are surrounded by dormant droids. As Clara pontificates on what droids would need to harvest human organs and skin for, the Doctor seems to have heard this all before, though he can't remember why it sounds so familiar.

The half-faced robot man at the center of the room, who looks Roman and is made of old/mismatched parts, begins to awaken from his dormancy. As they make a quick escape, the Doctor goes back in to look at the machine that he knows he has seen before. It has a new head, but something familiar keeps drawing him to it. Clara rushes back in to collect the Doctor before the droid is fully awake, but as she shoos him from the room, the door drops and locks her inside.

He tries to Sonic it back open, but it only lifts a tiny bit. As the lead droid rises from his charging station, the Doctor tells Clara that she was too slow and there's no point in both of them getting caught. A tearful, wide-eyed Clara peeks through the barred window and demands the Sonic Screwdriver, however the Doctor says that he may need it. He then Sonics the door shut and he walks away.

Left alone in a room full of Ed Gein-esque robo-people, Clara does her best droid impression. Only one thing is giving her away though...her breathing. As the curious, murderous skin wearing mechanical beings draw closer to her, she remembers a conversation she had with the Doctor up in the restaurant: "How long can you hold your breath?" Taking a very deep breath, the droids forget her. Eyes watering as they lose interest, she stiffly walks out of the now opened door. As she runs around the corner, she's confronted with a hall full of robots. Her vision begins to fade, lungs aching for air, she takes a breath. Alerted to her humanity, the Captain droid commands that she be brought to him.

As she passes out, she recalls her first day teaching when a student challenges her threat to get them all kicked out of school if they don't start behaving. "Go on then. Do it."

When she comes to, the leader demands to know where "the other" is, or she will be destroyed. Echoing the sentiments of her student, she tells him to go ahead and kill her. She won't answer his questions, so he may as well get it over with. Trying to bargain with him, she says that if he kills her, he won't ever find out where the Doctor is. Under the threat of torture, Clara begins to crack, but her continued bid for a negotiation seems to work when one of her questions is finally answered. The robots killed the dinosaur because of useful material inside of its optic nerves. The knowledge that this optic fossil fuel would aid their computer systems means that they have encountered this situation before, meaning that they are, in fact, an ancient form of space being. Disgusted, Clara asks how long they've been rebuilding themselves and what the point is, considering there isn't much of their original structure left.

The leader tells her that they will reach the "Promised Land," then demands to know the whereabouts of the "other one." She tells him she doesn't know where he is, but she does know where he always will be; if he's still the Doctor, he will have her back. Her hand stretched behind her is suddenly gripped as the Doctor rips of his disguise and places his Sonic Screwdriver into the main power source, warning the "rubbish robots from the dawn of time" that if he sees even one thing he doesn't like, including karaoke and mimes, that he will blow up the whole ship.

When the half-faced man asks why the Doctor and his companion are there, it becomes clear that he didn't put the advertisement in the paper either; though there is no time to discuss it further as the droid has his sights set on burning them alive.

Apparently the Doctor and Clara have an emergency word, which will bring in reinforcements. With a sarcastic "Geronimo," Vastra and Jenny gracefully twirl into the room on silks, with Strax dropping from above like a hot, Sontaran potato. Upon learning that the restaurant has been closed, effectively ruining their harvesting ability, the robots begin to fight.

The leader, hell bent on making it to paradise, gets into an escape pod, with the Doctor tagging along. Calmly, the Doctor pours two very stiff looking glasses of bourbon, offering one to his mechanical enemy as a condolence for the fact that he's about to die. He then comments that the 51st century ship must have gotten stuck in the past and that the inhabitants are trying to return home by taking the long way, but it will never fly. The dapper droid tells him that the escape pod itself, is viable, but the Doctor doesn't see how a ship can be patched with human remains. Struck yet again with Deja Vu, the Doctor learns that the escape pod is powered by a balloon made of human skin.

As the ship floats off into the sky, Clara and the Paternoster Gang are valiantly fighting the rest of the robots.

Back in the escape pod, the Doctor discovers a sort of battery labeled the "SS Marie Antoinette," claiming that out of control repair droids cannibalizing humans is familiar, but he just can't place it. Even discovering that it was the sister ship to the "SS Madame du Pompadour" rings no bells. Sitting down for a drink, despite their lack of true humanity, the Doctor and the droid discuss how the leader (and control node) will die. He claims that he doesn't want to die, that it can't end and self destruction is against his programming. A scuffle begins and the Doctor says that murder is against his.

As the two fight above, the fight below is drawing to a close. The group is surrounded, when Clara tells everyone to hold their breath. As they struggle, Clara grabs the Sonic Screwdriver to try and open the doors.

Above, the half-faced man wonders if the Doctor could follow through with killing him. The Doctor angrily states that he would do anything to protect the people below, all of them, and he has already gone through a lot in order to do so. Testing him is rather unwise, as he doesn't expect to reach the promised land like his metallic counter-part. He then points out that they both know one of them was lying about their basic programming, and they both know which one.

The crew below are quickly running out of oxygen, but before they are killed, all of the robots shut down. We then see the body of the half-faced man, impaled upon a spire. The Twelfth Doctor knowingly looks into the camera, though viewers are left wondering: did he jump or was he pushed?

Back on Paternoster, the TARDIS is gone and Clara is left behind. After asking if there are any vacancies, Clara is told by Madam Vastra that even though she would make a welcomed addition to their home, the Doctor will be returning for her shortly. After stating that she doesn't think she knows who the Doctor is anymore, the TARDIS lands nearby. Before disappearing, Vastra tells Clara to give the Doctor hell, because he always needs it.

Clara enters the newly decorated TARDIS, and expresses her dislike of it instantly. The Doctor agrees, stating that it needs more round things. He tells Clara that he is the Doctor, not her boyfriend, to which she quickly replies she never thought he was. Changing the subject, she asks who put the advert in the paper, and the Doctor asks her from where she got the phone number to the TARDIS. Someone out there is intent that they stay together, but when asked how she felt about that, Clara apologizes and says she doesn't think she knows who he is anymore. About to step off the TARDIS, possibly forever, her phone rings. The Doctor tells her to answer it, as it's probably her boyfriend. Taking the call outside, a familiar voice comes through. "It's me Clara. The Doctor."

Before his regeneration, he calls Clara from Trenzalore, to make sure that she knew he was still the same man. He says that he knows she's scared, but that the man he hopes she's with is more scared than she could believe and that he needs her more than ever. As she's speaking with him, he steps out of the TARDIS and asks who is on the phone. His previous incarnation hears him and moans that he sounds old and asks Clara if he's got grey hair, trying to make light of the situation. With a smile that only the Eleventh Doctor could pull off, he asks Clara to help the new Doctor, for him, and tells her to not be afraid before saying goodbye and that he misses her.

The call now over, the Twelfth Doctor asks if she'll help him. She says that he shouldn't have been listening to her phone conversation, and he tells her he didn't need to because that had been him talking. He pleads then for her to see him as he is now. Upon close inspection, Clara smiles and thanks him. When he asks what for, she tells him for calling her as she throws her arms around him, finally accepting that this is still her Doctor. Relieved, he suggests that they go for coffee and/or chips, despite not being home (they've ended up in Glasgow), they walk off with all seeming to be right in their world.

The half-faced man awakens in a beautiful garden, with a raven haired woman named Missy flitting about. She asks if her boyfriend had hurt him, stating that he can sometimes be mean, but she likes his new accent. Confused, the robot asks where he is. "Where do you think you are? Look around you, you've made it. The promised land. Welcome to Heaven...paradise."

Who is this crazy-eyed Mary Poppins-a-like and what is she scheming? What lies in store for the Twelfth Doctor and Clara? Stay tuned and let us know your thoughts and theories on the newest season of the BBC classic! While you're here, check out the trailer for next weeks episode, "Into the Dalek."

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