The reviews are in, and the critics have had their say on Capaldi’s debut in Deep Breath. Time to find out what those who are paid to give their opinions think of the new Doctor and the show’s new era.
Four stars from The Telegraph, with Michael Hogan full of praise for Capaldi:
“A blend of Doctor Doolittle and Sherlock Holmes, he crackled with fierce intelligence and nervous energy. Whether riding a horse in his pyjamas or dismissing Earth as “planet of the pudding brains”, he was a class act. His unpredictable air added dramatic tension. Twice he abandoned Clara and it was uncertain whether he would come back for her.”
“In some ways, this episode resembled Moffat’s other show, Sherlock, with its twisting plot, cryptic newspaper ads and London landmarks. Although the pace sagged in places, as a debut for a new Doctor it worked well with some old-style behind-the-sofa scares and sly humour… It all augurs well for Capaldi’s stint at the control console of that famous blue box. A Doctor who is older than the show itself? It adds another dimension. About time.”
In The Observer, Euan Ferguson echoed both the plaudits for Capaldi and the doubts about the story:
“This was a wise and thoughtful opening gambit from Moffat, and from the wonderful Capaldi – if you can utterly disregard the demented plot. Granted, this might be like saying “apart from that, 6 August was a typically pleasant day in Hiroshima”, but the underlying, and cleverer, theme was of age, and ageing, and looks, and perception, very nicely summed up when Clara (Jenna Colman, in a performance of great nuance if you can forget that last faux-Scots diphthong) asks the pretty lesbian lizard-lady, “When did you suddenly stop wearing that veil?
Peter Capaldi absolutely failed to nail the character completely, and for that we should be immensely heartened.
“Capaldi has spoken now of his desire to fail to nail the character completely, to instead imbue it with a sense of freshly wayward surprise. In this opener, he absolutely failed to nail the character completely, and for that we should be immensely heartened, given how much good it bodes for the rest of the series (and I am looking forward in particular to the Frank Cottrell Boyce episode about trees).”
SFX’s Dave Golder writes on his blog that the episode “was overlong and a bit flabby” but is intrigued to see where Capaldi’s Doctor is heading:
“I like this uncertainty. It’s thrown me out of my comfort zone and it makes me genuinely curious about where the show is going. Plus, if Moffat has the balls to go against the pretty-boy young Doctor flow and cast Capaldi, I also trust him to let Capaldi off the leash. What’s the point in casting him, otherwise?”
“I keep wondering, though, if in a classic piece of Moffat misdirection, Capaldi may the first Doctor with a built-in expiration date? I’m not saying I’d want that, but it wouldn’t surprise me.”
SFX’s Nick Setchfield notes a change of tone for the series:
““Deep Breath”. Is it a title? Or a statement of intent? Armed with “attack eyebrows” and a taste for the grisly, the Peter Capaldi era arrives with a tale that delivers a literal change of pace for Doctor Who, trading the giddy, pirouetting, breathless energy of Matt Smith for something slower, darker, altogether more considered – a tumbler of fine Scots whisky in place of a long, tall glass of pop.”
“There’s a sense in which this feels like a restatement for Doctor Who, a return to earlier principles, to the dark teatime shudder of the early Tom Baker era. The gaslit Victoriana helps, of course – hello, “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang” – but there’s a newfound edge to the threat, a blood and thunder sincerity powering this ripping yarn.”
Den of Geek’s Simon Brew says Capaldi is “really rather great”:
“It’s too early to call definitely, of course, but on the evidence of the (surprisingly) limited screen time he’s given in Deep Breath, Capaldi is the Doctor we wanted him to be. Steeped in the tradition of the older Doctors, from his costume to his demeanour – noting himself that he’s not got a very long scarf – he’s a slower, slightly grumpier, and far less romantic Doctor. As a consequence, he feels a less predictable one. When he says to Clara at the end “I’m not your boyfriend”, that noise you heard was a bunch of hardened Who fans clapping their hands.”
Radio Times‘s Patrick Mulkern reckons Capaldi is “terrific throughout” and that Jenna Coleman “proves she’s a natural, with impeccable comic timing, great at chippy dialogue” but has his doubts about the Matt Smith cameo:
“Did you blub? Or did you feel, as I did, that this moment subtly renders Smith the interloper, the old man, yesterday’s Doctor?”
Did this moment render Smith the interloper, the old man, yesterday’s Doctor?
Heading over the pond, Variety’s Geoff Berkshire thinks switching to an older Doctor won’t be an issue:
“What Capaldi lacks in youthful energy, he more than makes up for in gravitas and wry eccentricity, whether marveling at his “independently cross” eyebrows or gleefully embracing his Scottish accent as a license to complain. And, since being fiftysomething isn’t what it used to be, Capaldi eagerly throws himself into the action, confirming his Doctor won’t miss a beat when it comes to a smashing fight or chase sequence.”
The LA Times’s Mary McNamara is pleased to see the episode confront one of the essential home truths about the Doctor:
“And there it is, right up front, what so many previous episodes have danced around. The Doctor is a Time Lord, more than 2,000 years old. He has saved humanity countless times but he has also killed and banished and damned. He has (or thought he had) destroyed his own planet for the good of the universe.”
It seems the critics are united in praise for the show’s leads, intrigued by the different direction the programme is heading, if doubtful about the storyline we were presented with.
But enough from them! What did you think of Deep Breath?