Opening stories for a new incumbent are always difficult to gauge. The viewer is arguably more concerned with engagement and character introduction, rather than a particularly impressive story – and that is probably just as well, because Deep Breath is a fairly weak offering.
I accept that I’m old fashioned insofar as I like a story to be just that... a beginning, a middle and an end. The programme has become obsessed with interwoven plot lines that can be tenuous and confusing. Add to that the regular nods to past episodes and you reach a point where you can be all-too-easily distracted from the basic enjoyment of the on-screen spectacle.
We get the: “Well here we go again!” as said by the Brigadier in Planet of the Spiders, as well as the: “You’ve redecorated... I don’t like it!” line that’s now been used to within an inch of its life. The third Doctor made specific mention of his new eyebrows etc. You spot one link, so you instinctively start looking for more... was the “Promised Land” the same set used for the garden in The Girl Who Waited for example?
On the downside, the clockwork/mechanical beings have been done before, and holding your breath is simply a variation on not blinking.
In addition, I really do not see the need for what I believe is known as the Paternoster Gang. Strax is clearly there purely for comic asides, but whilst correcting himself after blurting out some proposed Sontaran killing method is funny enough the first time, and calling Clara “boy” is probably good for a couple of laughs, the humour wears off pretty quickly. And, just to keep it short and sweet, Vastra and Jenny are totally unnecessary.
As far back from the mid-60s, we’ve seen how hard it is to write for multiple companions or associates. Attention is naturally deflected away from the action, or the characters that really matter. The good thing (and saving grace) as far as Deep Breath is concerned is that Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are magnificent.
Regeneration sparks extreme and irrational Time Lord behaviour, and no more than the roughest guide of future development. But there was enough in Capaldi’s performance to suggest that storylines notwithstanding, the role of the Doctor is going to be in pretty safe hands.
I’m not too sure about the focus on the accent. David Tennant’s natural accent is Scottish, which he very capably changed for his portrayal. So why is being Scottish suddenly so important now, when not being Scottish was seemingly so necessary a few years ago?
I have no problem with any accent, natural or otherwise, so long as it suits the role and sounds convincing (ie not The Tomb of the Cybermen...), but there is guaranteed irritation ahead, due to the fact that Capaldi sounds way too similar to that most annoying Dragon, Duncan Bannatyne.
For the record, I will never watch another episode if the Doctor ever says: “I offered you a quarter of a million for a forty percent stake in Skaro. Any less and I can’t see how I’m going to make any money. I’m not prepared to negotiate so, for that reason, I’m out... Davros...”
Right from the gratuitous dinosaur through to Missy (the obvious plot link that will doubtless keep everyone guessing as the months progress), the story didn’t work for me. What worked however was the superb interaction between Clara and the Doctor. Clara was allowed to shine, and the new Doctor was afforded enough time for an encouraging combination of strength and vulnerability (viz after Matt Smith’s telephone conversation) to be revealed.
The stories can only get better, but character-wise, it could be a really strong season.
For the story... 4/10. For the performances of Capaldi and Coleman 9/10.