‘Doctor Who’ Recap: ‘Deep Breath’

The Doctor and Clara take tea in 'Deep Breath' (Pic: BBC)

The Doctor and Clara take tea in ‘Deep Breath’ (Pic: BBC)

The story so far: the Doctor has a new face and new kidneys, the TARDIS is crashing and poor Clara Oswald is trying to make sense of things. Read on, if the word “spoilers” holds no fear…

A female tyrannosaur is invading Victorian London, and the Paternoster Gang have arrived to see what’s what. It seems the poor thing has something unpleasant stuck in its gullet, a mysterious blue box that looks suspiciously TARDISy.

Madame Vastra gives a perplexed policeman the means to keep the dinosaur contained while the gang go and knock on the door. The Doctor emerges. A new man and very confused. Names aren’t happening yet, as Clara—“the asking questions one”—is finding out the hard way.

With a flourish, and a certain amount of shouting, the Doctor faints, and is taken back to the Paternosterers’ lair. When he awakes, he’s forgotten how bedrooms work, can’t work out why no one is Scottish enough and is scared of his own face.

Luckily Madame Vastra can do a passible Scots accent and tricks the Doctor into knocking himself out, before taking offence at Clara’s wish to put him back the way he was and sweeping off majestically.

Still out cold, the Doctor begins sleep-translating the tyrannosaur, who is lost and afraid in her new environment. Meanwhile, a man called Alfie has his eyes stolen by a gentleman with a metal face, and Strax arrives to take Clara to see Vastra, There’s a tense exchange over Clara’s ability to see the Doctor for who he is, not for what he looks like, one that Clara eventually wins.

But while all this is going on, the Doctor has sniffed out some chalk and has commenced doing math on the floor and the walls, until the anguished moans of the tyrannosaur force him to leave (by the window, obviously) to go and apologise for bringing her here. Sadly his calming words do not stop her from catching fire, and the Doctor rushes to the riverside, with the Paternosterists not far behind. They discuss how best to investigate this dinosaur extinction and then the Doctor jumps in the river to give chase to an aloof man he spotted crossing a nearby bridge.

The next day, while Clara takes a Sontaran health-check and Jenny poses while Vastra thinks, the Doctor gets into a discussion with a homeless man about who he may be. Has he seen his face before? With the angry eyes and the attack eyebrows and the Scottishness? Who can say. However Clara has discovered an advertisement in the paper that she believes is from the Doctor, and a riddle that takes her to an Italian restaurant for a date.

When he arrives, the Doctor is wearing the homeless man’s clothes—which stink—and he and Clara proceed to have a row. Both believe the other placed the advert and are feeling peeved. This proves to be a distraction, so neither will twig they’re in a trap. They suddenly realise all of the other diners are robots, and when they stand up to leave, are surrounded. Only sitting back down restores the room, and that’s when the waiter comes over. The Doctor rips his face off, and he’s a gas-powered robot underneath and suddenly he and Clara are held down by straps and their seat sinks into the ground.

The basement turns out to be a centuries-old ancient spaceship, they work out that someone is harvesting bits of humans and then burning the bodies. After some shenanigans with the sonic, they are free to explore the larder in which they’ve been left. There are dormant robots here, and the metal-faced gentleman the Doctor chased after earlier, the same one who stole Alfie’s eyes, is recharging in a chair. The Doctor realises these robots aren’t men replacing their parts with metal ones, but robots replacing their worn out metallic bits with biological ones.

As they try to escape, a door closes between the Doctor and Clara. She begs for the screwdriver, but he keeps it and leaves her to figure out how not to get caught. This involves a simple trick, Clara simply stops breathing. And for a while this is enough to confuse the metallic gentleman and give Clara chance to escape. Except she can’t hold her breath forever, and is captured as soon as her lungs give out.

When she awakes Clara is interrogated by the metal-faced gentleman, but a memory of her own empty threats as a teacher gives her the strength to take charge, and she soon works out that the robots have been rebuilding themselves for millions of years. And then the Doctor arrives, hailing the “rubbish robots from the dawn of time.”

Although it very quickly transpires that the metal-faced gentleman did not put the message in the paper either. The Paternoster Gang arrive, and a fight ensues. Upstairs, in the ship’s escape pod (raised above the streets by a hot-air halloon made of human skin), the Doctor and the metal-faced gentleman discuss metaphysics and the finer points of their own personal programming.

Downstairs, the robots surround the Paternosterers and Clara, leaving them once again holding their breath and trying to stay conscious long enough to stay alive.

And then, it’s over. The robots all collapse and the metal-faced gentleman is speared on top of Big Ben. But did he fall, or was he pushed by the Doctor? Even the attack eyebrows won’t say.

So then the Doctor disappears for a bit, and comes back with a redecorated TARDIS to try and convince Clara he’s himself and that she might want to stay. But the only person who can convince her, in the end, is his last incarnation, the Eleventh Doctor, who’s on the phone. There’s a hug, it’s unreciprocated but it doesn’t matter, and the Doctor and Clara go off to get coffee.

And then, a curious postscript. The metal-faced gentleman wakes in the grounds of a country house, where he meets a lady called Missy who claims the Doctor is her boyfriend and that he has made it to the Promised Land, to heaven itself.

What can it all mean? Let’s wait and see if we see, shall we?

See more:
‘Doctor Who’ Recap: ‘The Time of the Doctor’
‘Doctor Who’ Recap: ‘The Day of the Doctor’
‘Doctor Who’ Recap: ‘The Name of the Doctor’
‘Doctor Who’ Recap: ‘Nightmare In Silver’

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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