When it comes to making an entrance, very few people (human or otherwise) really take the time to consider being coughed up by a fully-grown female tyrannosaur in Victorian London. And that seems a shame, because if there is one thing we can learn from “Deep Breath,” it is that dinosaurs attract attention.
Other things we can learn include the fact that bedrooms aren’t always useful, that Clara Oswald was a fangirl for Marcus Aurelius, and that it’s impossible to hold your breath long enough to confuse androids, but you can confuse them with angry logic.
“Deep Breath” is the story in which it all happens, everything from “Shh!” to “The not-me one, the asking-questions one” to “attack eyebrows.”
Here’s BBC AMERICA’s recap of the story, and assuming we’re all caught up with everything, here are your 10 facts:
1. The credit sequence, in which we (and the TARDIS) travel through the inner workings of a spiraling clock, various Gallifreyan engravings and out into space and the time vortex, was designed by Doctor Who fan Billy Hanshaw, from a very similar video he made and uploaded to YouTube as a fan of the show. Steven Moffat saw it, and got in touch, as he explained to BBC News: “It was the only new title idea I’d seen since 1963. We got in touch with him, and said, ‘OK, we’re going to do that one.'”
2. Steven Moffat’s early ideas for the post-regeneration scenes included a sequence where the Doctor couldn’t find a way to see his own face and kept asking Clara how he looks, with Clara trying to be diplomatic despite being vaguely horrified by what had happened to her best friend. In the event, lines such as “Don’t look at that mirror, it’s absolutely furious” conveyed a similar sense of comic dislocation.
3. There are a couple of subtle gags about the English and the Scottish nations in the section where Peter Capaldi speaks to the tramp about his new face. Falling into a rant about his eyebrows, the Doctor talks of them wanting to set up a new independent state of eyebrows, a reference to the 2014 vote on Scottish independence that was still on the way the show was broadcast. Then, when the Doctor realizes he’s Scottish, the tramp replies, “Yes, you are definitely Scotch, sir. I hear it in your voice.”
Although historically accurate to the speech of a Victorian tramp, it’s considered very poor form in the British Isles for anyone—particularly anyone English—to refer to a Scottish person as “Scotch,” as the term has negative connotations, and may awaken ancient antagonisms.
4. Speaking of which, Madame Vastra’s attempt to communicate with the new and truculent Doctor involves using a Scottish accent. This is not the first time a Scottish actor—in this case Neve McIntosh—whose character has an English accent, has reverted to their usual way of speaking. In “Tooth and Claw,” the Tenth Doctor drops into a Scottish accent when he and Rose are arrested on the Scottish moors. His accent is impeccable because that’s David Tennant’s usual speaking voice. Rose Tyler’s, however, is not.
5. As the Doctor passes out on the shores of the Thames, the TARDIS sounds the Cloister Bell, the sound used whenever residents of the TARDIS (or the TARDIS itself) are in danger. It was first introduced by the Fourth Doctor in “Logopolis,” who told Adric to ring it if he needed him.
6. One of the things the Doctor has to work out is why he chose the face he now has, a reference to the fact that Peter Capaldi has already played a character in Doctor Who, the Roman Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii” as well as John Frobisher in Torchwood. There is a precedent for Time Lords choosing their looks based on people they have already met. Romana—the Fourth Doctor’s Time Lord companion—changed her appearance in “Destiny of the Daleks” to that of Princess Astra of Atrios, a friend they had only just met in “The Armageddon Factor.”
7. Clara’s very first and very last adult communications with the Eleventh Doctor take place on the TARDIS phone. She rings him in “The Bells of St. John,” and he rings her shortly before he fully regenerates in “The Time of the Doctor,” to try and reassure her about his new personality.
8. Not for the first time, a Doctor Who adventure set in Victorian London references Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes. There are the Paternoster Irregulars, a gang of informants used by the gang to find the Doctor and a clear echo of Holmes’s Baker Street Irregulars; there’s Inspector Gregson, a minor character in the Holmes stories; plus references by Jenny to “the Conk-Singleton forgery case” and “the Camberwell poisoner” both addressed by Sherlock Holmes; and of course there’s Madame Vastra’s exclamation, “The game is afoot!”
9. Sontarans clearly have a thing about thoraxes. Strax looks at Clara’s thorax “such as it is,” in much the same way that Commander Linx did when examining Sarah Jane Smith, in the Third Doctor adventure “The Time Warrior,” and Commander Skorr did with Martha Jones in “The Sontaran Stratagem.”
10. Peter Capaldi’s audition for the role of the Doctor involved acting out three specially written scenes, based on some former dialogue for the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, respectively. Steven just wanted to see if he could sell the fantastical elements, the things that real science has not yet discovered, without looking either lost or metaphorically winking to the audience. Peter left the audition thinking he’d done a terrible job, but that he’d at least got the chance to play his childhood hero. Steven’s recollection is slightly different: “I could show you that footage, and he was fantastic. Obviously it’s him, look at him, he’s been rehearsing in his bedroom since the age of four!”
“Deep Breath” airs on BBC AMERICA on Friday, September 18 at 8:00 pm ET.
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