I will gladly say to anybody who listens, I will shout from the rooftops that “The Eleventh Hour”, which started the Matt Smith years, is a flawless masterpiece, one of the best stories in Who‘s history. And “Deep Breath”… isn’t. It’s bloated at 75 minutes, topped and tailed by some of the worst that Who has ever been. Now, everything between the bookends, basically the chunk of the story that is set in and outside Mancini’s Family Restaurant, is completely terrific, but everything else is such a massive disappointment.
I kept my fingers crossed hoping things would get better, and they did. And they didn’t. Right in the middle of Smith’s run, there was the big Demon’s Run business with the ads with Alex Kingston talking about how the Doctor would climb higher than he’d ever climbed and fall farther than he ever had, which wasn’t borne out by the events of that episode at all. But it sure fits the Peter Capaldi era to a tee. Before it comes to its far-too-early end, Capaldi would star in several of my all-time favorite Who installments, and at least two of the absolute worst.
Naturally, therefore, because loving Doctor Who means embracing things that aggravate the living daylights out of you and make you cringe along with all the other things that bring you so much joy, these three series are my favorite era. Somehow. Nobody ever said that love was logical.
I’ll tell you what I love: the Doctor and Clara each thinking that the newspaper ad was placed by the other. The egomaniac line. The astonishing makeup job on the Half-Faced Clockwork Man. The Doctor offering the villain a drink. The callback to “The Girl in the Fireplace.” Did the kid spot it? No. Did the kid even remember “The Girl in the Fireplace” until we reminded him of it? No. But he said he otherwise really liked it, especially the stuff with Strax. Take a bow, Dan Starkey, as this is – to date – the character’s last on-screen appearance. He was, however, confused by the coda, which introduces Michelle Gomez as Missy, who will, like her era, make me cringe and bring me joy in equal measure.
What I absolutely cannot stand is the Doctor needing so much help in his regeneration, and that Clara – of all people!! – should have trouble with the Doctor having a new, older face. It’s like Steven Moffat somehow forgot that over the course of the last three episodes of the show, Clara has met, seen, or interacted with every single known incarnation of the Doctor, including two or three who might look as old, or older, than the new one.
Then again, there’s a beautiful little bit of symmetry right at the end. Clara wants to know why the Doctor has an older face and gray hair? Because she gets a call from Matt Smith’s Doctor and she tells him that he’ll be regenerating into a man with an older face and gray hair. Overall, no, I do not like the heavy-handed attempts at wringing emotion out of their relationship, but I do love that the reason this Doctor looks like Peter Capaldi is, in part, her own fault.