Matthew Welcome, once again, to The Companion Piece Hex Dimension ‘s very own weekly Doctor Who discussion feature. Series eight kicked off this week with a dinosaur loose on the Thames, a troupe of bodysnatching robots, and a very confused and slightly angry new Doctor.

We’ll be plunging quickly into spoiler territory here, so don’t read on unless you’ve seen the episode Deep Breath .

It’s an episode that mixes things up a bit. There’s a lot of changes already, just one week in, and hopefully we can cover all of them. But lets start by looking at the first thing we even see – a brand new intro sequence!


Cookie Ok so I like the new titles, they give it a fresh feel, yet the theme – what the fudge have they done to it?

It just sounded broken!


Paul I actually kinda didn’t like the titles. Felt too much like they were going for symbols rather than an interpretation of some sort of time conduit.

As for the music, I think they tried to de-modernify it. If that makes sense. It was kind of weird. Which is a pity, because I kinda liked the Matt Smith one.


Matthew I have a feeling that the intro may be slightly different each episode, based on the cogs and gears at the beginning of an episode with clockwork men. There was a bit of that last series, actually, with the title having a different texture every week based on what happened (the title for Asylum of the Daleks had Dalek-bumps, etc).

On the whole I appreciated the classic look of the eyes and patterns, but I’m not sold on the flying-through-a-clock thing.


Cookie That would be neat, if they did change it every episode. Quite like the idea of that. Can they change the theme music as well then!


Matthew But after the credits we’re back into Victorian London, which I know some of us didn’t want, but lots of Madam Vastra’s detective gang, which I know some of us did . Maybe it’s a way to ease viewers back in, but what did we think of returning immediately to old settings and characters (and villains, in fact) rather than giving us new ones?


Paul I think I was fine with it. Though I thought Vastra’s gang we actually too much in the open. Nobody seemed to care about neither Vastra’s gang nor a dinosaur in the Thames, but they still had to keep up the pretence of the maid/master relationship…


Cookie I quite like that the Doctor returned to Victorian London, Vastra and her gang are for me, some great characters. After everything they went through at the end of the last season, it was good to see their reactions to the new Doctor.

Was also nice to see a little more of Vastra and Jennys relationship.


Emily I didn’t care for the return of setting. I was fine with clockwork people being on the scene, but their whole existential dilemma took far too long to get to the root of.

Also, the T-Rex felt rather inserted. Like the spider robots in Wild Wild West .


Matthew In the trailers, the T-Rex in London was one of the things I was really looking forward to, so I was a little disappointed that it was ( a ) in the very first episode and ( b ) so inconsequential to the plot. Bit of a shame.

I loved the throwaway line about dinosaurs being far bigger than we thought, though. Lots of great stuff like that this episode.


Emily T-Rexes were 15-20ft tall, so I found the throwaway lines about their height rather frustrating.

I really liked dinosaurs as a kid, so it really sounded like utter dribble.


Paul I kinda wish they would have at least had a few scenes set in the prehistoric era. If nothing else than to justify bringing in the T-Rex.

But the dialogue seemed okay. I think it was the plotting and the gaps that are the problem with me.

The gap between the Doctor jumping in the river and the alleyway. The gap between the Doctor in the alleyway and the “sobering up” of inside the restaurant. Oh, and not to mention the fact that at the last episode, the Doctor didn’t realise he was going to regenerate until the very last minute, so how did he know Clara would be with his regenerated self?

I kind of liked the way that scene worked, but I hated the fact that they tried to resolve it in this one episode rather than having her gradually come to the conclusion that he’s essentially the same Doctor.


Cookie That’s a good question regards the phone call. However I thought it was a great moment, a definite nice little twist. Certainly helped pull on the emotional strings. Was also nice to see Clara not just accepting the doctors change. To have her doubts about this new person.

I quite liked the dialogue, especially the one liners. It helped bring bit more mystery to the doctor. Showed off his erratic side, reminded me at times of Tom Baker. That’s no bad thing.


Paul I liked the banter (apart from the bit with Vastra and Clara). The dialogue seemed quite dense, but I felt it was at the very least, an aspect of the episode I could get more out of a second time around – which is something I like in a series.


Emily The standing up to Vastra bit was… It felt so ridiculous. “Let’s jam all this frelling exposition in a slanging match,” Moffat said, “No one will notice we did that, because they’ll be distracted by the cat fight.”

And Vastra revealing she could store oxygen was just… I was happy they kissed, but there was a better place and time for that to be shown.


Paul Agreed. It was a cop out. I just think if they had an embrace and such after the battle, I think it would have shown more tenderness. You know, like it doesn’t have to be a life-or-death situation for them to kiss.


Matthew I agree with that, and I do see what you both mean, but the kiss still worked for me. The fact they felt the need to keep explaining the relationship bothered me a lot more. There were about three different conversations devoted to it and, as a friend said after the show: They’re married lesbians – we get it!

I do like that Moffat gets to write a version of Sherlock where Holmes and Watson are actually a couple, though. Tumblr must love it!

There’s another weird skill Vastra has that I’d like to ask Cookie about, which is that psychic mind-meld thing. Have Silurians, which are a (drastically redesigned) legacy monster, always been able to do that or is it new?

DWCompanionPiece01-01


Cookie That they have, they have a third eye which allows them to see in infra red as well have telepathic abilities.

I agree with Matt, I can see where you’re coming from but it worked for me. Was another little moment that made the episode for me.


Paul But speaking of romances, did anyone else get fed up with the shoehorning of the romance between Clara and the previous Doctor? They didn’t flirt anywhere near as much as they made out. I think they just added that in to “differentiate” between the two Doctors and I felt it actually did a disservice to Matt Smith’s Doctor.

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t think Matt Smith’s Doctor was really that flirtative with Clara. Definitely not as much as they were making out. I think people saw a single guy and a single girl, both looking youngish and just made assumptions.


Cookie Not as much as he did with Amy in the beginning, but there were some undertones.

I think they did put too much emphasis on that subject. It did need to be addressed, yet they seemed to focus on it a little too heavily

It was interesting to see Clara realise just how old the Doctor really is though.


Matthew There’s another subject they put a lot of emphasis on, and that’s Peter Capaldi’s previous appearance on the show. What did we think of that?


Paul I actually have a theory about “why he chose that face”.

So, just for the record, if I turn out to be right, I’m calling it right here: He picked that face because it reminds him of that one instance of when the Doctor decided to trust his companion’s advice over his own better judgement (i.e. The Fires of Pompeii , where Donna convinces the Doctor to take the family away – where the father was played by Peter Capaldi).

You know, just in that “Moffat” style moment.


Cookie Sounds like a pretty good theory, especially with his comments at the end about not having enough Roman items on display in the TARDIS… Another hint.


Paul I thought he said “Round items”…

Either way, I hope it gets explained.


Emily I wish they didn’t have to tie it in at all. It’s like Star Trek having to give vague explanations as to why the Klingons changed in appearance, because fans couldn’t handle it. This despite it obviously being that the makeup techniques improved and they made use of it.

So they made use of Capaldi because he’s a capable actor.


Matthew I’m with Emily. The whole episode seemed far too interested in explaining, or drawing attention to, things it didn’t need to. It talked about the flirting, it talked about Capaldi’s face being familiar, it talked twice about how he’s Scottish now, it talked about Jenny and Vastra a bunch of times, and it talked about the Girl in the Fireplace connection until it was almost silly.

And yet there was also brilliant dialogue and subtle writing like the stuff in the restaurant, the Doctor’s abandonment of Clara, and the ambiguous death of the robot.


Cookie They did seem to try and explain things a little too much, at times it made the episode feel fragmented. Overall though I enjoyed the show. It’s showing a lot more potential and I do like the darker tones at times. It’s going to be interesting to see the season develop.

What did we think to the whole “did he push the android or didn’t he”? Quite like the fact they left us to guess. Added a little more mystery to the proceedings.


Paul I think he did. They seem to be going in a darker direction. Though the editor in me screamed inside when they cut too soon after he broke the 4th wall and looked at the camera in that scene.


Emily I liked the did he or didn’t he moment. It was the only piece of the episode I found really interesting. Everyone else, other than Clara, seemed too sure of themselves and the transpiring events.

Or rather, they seemed too sure of themselves except when it mattered most. Like, I hated how badly south their situation went. They all seem capable right up to the moment where their life really depends on them being capable. It really, really pissed me off.


Paul That’s true. I would have thought Vastra’s trio would have done a better job of fending off the attack – or at least battled to another location perhaps?


Cookie The fight scenes did seem a little rough, compared to previous seasons. Strax in particular seemed a little slower and less agressive than we have seen. Considering he’s a Sontaran.


Matthew I didn’t mind the fight, but I do agree that the faster, actiony scenes were the episode’s weakest. But once the dinosaur died, everything seemed to slow down a little, and I did appreciate that. Introducing this new Doctor with a crazy running-around episode, with no time to breathe (heh), would have meant we got to know him less. This way, over-expositiony diologue aside, we at least got a better idea of who he actually is.

But there’s one character we don’t know anything about. A mysterious new woman who appears out of nowhere but seems to know the Doctor quite well. I am talking, of course, about… Clara Oswald .

After a series of Clara being whatever the episode needed her to be (remember battle-hardened, military Clara from Nightmare in Silver ?) this episode seems to write an entirely new character for her. Apparently she’s a control-freak now, and nothing is more important than her egomania! Did we think it works?


Paul Maybe Clara is actually a fragment of the Doctor…? Like an aspect of his personality…?

I still think they’re going to do something with the character like that. Some sort of “and she was this all along”. I just have that feeling.


Emily Clara is actually a Horcrux.


Cookie Clara was interesting last night, it was rather weird to see her have her doubts about the new series Doctor. To forget who he is and where he’s from. She felt like she had been written as a real companion this time, not just as a plot line, if that makes sense. She seemed to have a new depth to her character as a whole.


Matthew Sorry, but I think the end of last series moved us past crazy Clara theories. She was just really inconsistently written.

I agree though – the new depth really helped me warm to her. I may have even liked her, for the first time ever! She’s scared and confused, but she doesn’t let that keep her from being strong and figuring stuff out. She felt like a less obnoxious Donna – she even argued with the Doctor – and I’m all for that!

Not sure about that classroom flashback, though…


Paul Yeah, that was quite out of place.


Matthew But enough about the characters we know and love and feel vaguely indifferent to, there’s one new introduction that I know someone is dying to talk about.


Cookie Me, me it’s me! So, who is Missy?!

DWCompanionPiece01-02 There’s a few theories that spring to mind, and that have appeared online. One is that she is a reincarnation of renegade Time Lord the Rani. That would be cool but she seems to have become quite a bit deranged in her regeneration. The other, which is just not on my like list – a female version of the Master!

But then it could be a whole new character! Ohhh I do like a mystery!


Emily She also appears to inhabit a form of afterlife.


Paul Wasn’t it hinted at that they can regenerate into the opposing gender? (although I think it was hinted at that he chose the face/body of the Capaldi’s Doctor, whereas it seems the previous Doctors were all surprised at how they regenerated)…

I was actually thinking, it might be River Song – and the robot got “downloaded” into the same database when River Song was finally resting. But not 100% sure on that theory.


Matthew Gender-swapping was confirmed in The Doctor’s Wife , I think, when the Doctor talks about a Time Lord he used to know.

I’d be very disappointed if it did turn out to be River. Her story ended with that final kiss last season, and I’d hate to see them backtrack on that great emotional moment.

But everyone does seem to be assuming Missy is someone we’ve seen before, and she does claim to know the Doctor intimately. I actually hope she’s not – and I’m hesitant to believe that this “afterlife” is anything of the sort. I doubt the robot is dead, honestly, I just think his body’s been taken somewhere else and booted up again.


Emily I would like to point out that Missy has a Scottish accent, because Michelle Gomez does is in real life, and now so too does the Doctor…

Considering they made Tennant hide his.


Matthew That’s because, in the words of Chris Eccleston, “Lots of planets have a Scotland!” …or something like that.

Anyway, overall we seem cautiously positive about this episode, the mysteries it hints at, and the new Doctor it gives us. As a closing question, based on the strengths and weaknesses of what we’ve seen so far, do we think series eight is heading in a direction we like?


Cookie I do indeed, it’s a shift that for me was long overdue. Capaldi bought back some mystery and eccentricity to the character, and he also had some great one liners. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they can throw at us.

Missy is definitely a conundrum, which I have a feeling will turn out to be the big baddie of the season. I’m intrigued to see how that will unfold.


Emily

I have no comment.


Paul I know I’ve seemed more than a little pessimistic about this episode, but on the whole, I did like Capaldi’s performance. I think I just didn’t like the plotting in this one, more than anything.

I think Capaldi will make a good Doctor though. He’s got potential, and if they continue on with a darker Doctor then I’ll enjoy it. I hope that they actually do a morally darker Doctor – as long as he remains a problem solver who doesn’t use violence.

I think there’s certain things they should quit doing, like the whole “they’re not going to flirt any more”. Don’t comment on it. Just have them not do it.

I do like the idea of having a single nemesis that goes throughout the season. Though it makes it more like conventional shows, like Buffy .


Matthew I always appreciate the longer arcs in Doctor Who . The slow exploding-TARDIS revelation in series five was wonderful, and I think Missy has the potential to replicate that, if they handle her well.

You mention the darkness, and I was genuinely afraid this episode would be oppressively dark, which is what some articles and announcements seemed to be implying. But I was pleased to see that, though there’s definitely something more serious bubbling under Capaldi’s surface (when he saw himself in that tea-tray I got chills), it’s still the joyful, ambitious, slightly mental programme that I love, and I’m definitely interested to see where they take it.

We’d love to hear where you readers think it’s all heading, too, and what you thought of Capaldi’s first adventure. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, on social media, or by sending us cryptic messages in the newspaper. And please join us next week, as our new Doctor faces his oldest foe for the first time, and The Companion Piece follows him Into the Dalek .