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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

64 Comments

  1. David Faggiani
    March 26, 2018 @ 9:27 am

    So good to have TE back! Yayyyyyy!

    I know you’ve got ample opportunity to come, but, on a number of levels, am surprised this essay doesn’t mention Missy’s introduction!

    Of course, later episodes have more to work on with this, but it occurs to me that Clara’s doubt about the altered carbon of ‘her Doctor’ (and his changed face) are an interesting stir of future echoes – ripples of anxiety about a future, about to be unveiled(!) transformation Prestige.

    Reply

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  2. mx_mond
    March 26, 2018 @ 9:56 am

    Rewatching this recently, specifically with the context of how the Capaldi era would eventually lead to Jodie Whitaker in mind, a few things jumped out to me.

    First was how tired the “cranky genius” trope felt. I loved Capaldi in the role and I loved what the Twelfth Doctor eventually evolved into, but the House-ian version of the character was dated, I think, even in 2014. And the episode even seemed to position the Doctor in a slightly obsolete role, situating the story in Victorian London and him in the role of the detective (“The Doctor has taken the case!” Vastra shouts at one point). All this made me feel even more acutely, that casting a woman in the role in 2017 wasn’t revolutionary – it was necessary.

    The interrogation scene marks the first time, I think, when Clara steps into a Doctor-ish role in the narrative. Wrestling control from the captor by talking and figuring stuff out on the fly is very much his modus operandi. Much like in Kill the Moon, this has to be traumatic to an extent: it’s an initiation. But she does well. And her struggling for control in that scene recalls what Davies wrote, possibly in The Writer’s Tale: Rose, who’s selfish, shines when she’s selfless. Martha, who’s quiet, when she speaks. It fits, then, that a big moment for Clara is when she’s not in control. That’s when we get to see what she’s made of.

    Your remark about the audience’s affect not lining up with Clara’s re: Capaldi is interesting. I don’t remember how it was in 2013/2014, but I think there is always a desire among fans to see one more season of the previous Doctor. I saw that with Capaldi among the Polish fans and I would expect that it was similar with Smith, although it’s true that it might have been lessened because Capaldi was already tremendously popular and liked in Whovian circles.

    The confrontation scene was very interesting for me because of the broom monologue from Capaldi. He was talking about the androids exchanging their parts for human, but also about himself and there was a lot of tiredness in his voice. I don’t know to what extent it was planned, but it did create a very strong tie to The Doctor Falls for me. The seeds of Twelve not wanting to go on were there from the start and I kinda want to rewatch his whole era to see if and how it manifests in other episodes in series 8 and 9.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      March 26, 2018 @ 11:24 am

      Yeah, Twelve never really gave off the “new Doctor at the beginning of his new life, excited for adventures” vibe, did he? His first series is mostly him being kinda grumpy about having to be the Doctor. (And then his last one has him being vaguely suicidal).

      As for the cranky genius, I don’t remember if it felt dated at the time but I remember the scene with Capaldi scribbling mad ciphers on the bedroom floor sticking out like a sore thumb. He never really gets a scene like that later and it just seems so… clichéd. Regeneration trauma, I know, but still.

      You’re also spot on about the Twelfth Doctor being kinda obsolete in his own first story. But what’s more, even in this episode he at times seems actively hostile to the idea of being the main character. He disappears into the night, wanders around London wondering who he is, abandons Clara and defeats the baddie ofscreen. Part of it, of course, is the fact that we, the audience, are supposed to watch him from Clara’s point of view and slowly get to know him again. But he’s also deliberately spiky to the audience. “You want to watch a dashing hero save the world? Well, too bad”. For all that Eleven rambled about “becoming too big, too noisey” and wanting to step back into the shadows, he couldn’t resist getting involved. Twelve (at least in Series 8) is at best reluctant to participate in any given adventure. That makes him a very reactive Doctor – which was definitely interesting coming after Smith.

      Reply

      • BenJ
        March 26, 2018 @ 4:48 pm

        Whether the “cranky genius” thing was tired or not, I think casting Capaldi meant they had to go there. “Malcolm Tucker who can travel time but doesn’t say ‘fuck'” isn’t the only thing he can do, of course, but it’s in his wheelhouse and much of the audience would feel cheated if they didn’t get to see it. Once that was out of his (and Moffat’s) system he settled into a largely different, more paternal character.

        That’s why to me Jodie Whittaker being a woman is almost secondary to Whittaker being the kind of actress she is. Capaldi’s best known role going into the role of the Doctor was a terrifying backstage power player. Whittaker is most associated with roles – like Beth Latimer, Ffi from Black MIrror, her Adult Life Skills character – that are just coping. This gives her and Chibnall different expectations to play off of.

        Reply

        • Przemek
          March 26, 2018 @ 7:43 pm

          Interesting. So Tennant’s charming Doctor can be seen as partially shaped by the expectations of the audiences who saw him as Casanova? That fits, I guess… It was certainly the case with Eccleston. His Doctor was very much influenced by the kind of roles he was previously associated with.

          Reply

    • Janine
      March 26, 2018 @ 3:44 pm

      About the broom — it’s definitely interesting how the metaphysical problem of identity over time becomes something else for the Doctor. It’s always had a moral dimension — “am I responsible for the things I did in my past, are we capable of change”, etc. But the Doctor seems to see it as a problem of agency, as regeneration replaces so many of his “parts” (mental and physical) whilst keeping the essence the same. I think he worries that the agent he calls his “self” now will one day lose control, and be driven by a new personality, belief system, etc.

      A bit like Ten’s concerns in End of Time… except this isn’t death. It’s in many ways worse (and certainly more horrific).

      Reply

      • Przemek
        March 26, 2018 @ 7:45 pm

        I cannot imagine changing being worse than dying.

        Reply

        • Janine
          March 27, 2018 @ 11:12 am

          Change is a broad term with a wealth of implications (as is death). I’d certainly argue that the sort of violent and uncontrollable change regeneration is (sometimes) described as might for some be worse than death.

          But it’s all a matter of perspective.

          Reply

  3. Fraser
    March 26, 2018 @ 10:09 am

    For all the distance that’s put between us and the Doctor this season, it’s interesting how that early alleyway scene completely lets us into his head and connect with him.

    We see him cold, wet and vulnerable, appearing to be completely raving mad (although making sense to us) with only a sweet old tramp’s hesitant sympathy. We totally empathize with the Doctor, who is probably more vulnerable than we’ve ever actually seen him.

    Then the scene goes through this arc of him piecing his new persona together, realising his intimidating, heavily-browed scottish power, so by the end of it we have the colder, darker, brusque Doctor, but with our completely earned empathy. People say Moffat isn’t good with character work, but that’s fucking genius characterization if you ask me.

    Reply

    • Daru
      April 12, 2018 @ 10:04 am

      Yeah Fraser I love that alley scene a lot. The sense of space with how Wheatley shoots it, the colours feeling drained out, just like the Doctor.

      You said it all, the scene nails it for me and I always look forward to seeing it when I rewatch.

      Reply

  4. William Shaw
    March 26, 2018 @ 11:50 am

    Fantastic essay, and I second everyone saying it’s nice to see Eruditorum back.

    One thing I think is interesting about Capaldi’s big villain confrontation is the line ‘Don’t underestimate how far I will go to protect them’. That does some thematic setup for series 9 and 10 – Hell Bent is explicitly about him ‘going too far’ to try and save Clara, and series 10 has things like Oxygen (and indeed Lie of the Land) where he seemingly tips over the edge.

    ‘I’ve gone too far’ is the moment in Waters of Mars where Tennant’s Doctor realises he has to die – he’s interesting that Capalid’s Doctor is defined by that kind of excess from his very first episode.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      March 26, 2018 @ 7:54 pm

      Interesting indeed – and he’s also the Doctor that (due to the regeneration limit) wasn’t supposed to happen, and one that kind of wishes he didn’t happen. He can keep going too far because he already died. He just didn’t stay dead.

      (Also, I’ve never realized before that his blindness in “Oxygen” was the result of going too far in protecting his companion but you’re completely right. Huh. I’m not so sure about “The Lie of the Land” but I guess we can discuss that when we get there…)

      Reply

      • William Shaw
        March 27, 2018 @ 3:28 pm

        Thanks very much – the ‘fourteenth regeneration’ thing hadn’t actually occurred to me, so good point. Also a good point is the Oxygen thing – I had been referring more to his pretending to want to kill everyone towards the end, but going too far to save Bill also works.

        The Lie of the Land I think shows the Doctor’s ego/desire to protect the human race going too far – his initial confrontation with Bill has that whole ‘fascism is for your own good’ thing going on before the regeneration fake-out.

        I’m sure some would argue that the real going too far was in doing that storyline in the first place.

        Reply

  5. Marshy
    March 26, 2018 @ 11:58 am

    It is SO exciting getting to read eruditorum in real time, which I’ve never experienced before.
    I watched Deep Breath again recently for the first time since it aired, and was struck by how much of his performance Capaldi steals directly from his own performance as Malcolm Tucker. You get a whole bunch of micro-gestures and mannerisms here that disappear as his era goes on. Even his voice changed!
    I hadn’t noticed, but a not-we friend mentioned that he’d tuned in to TUAT after having not seen any Capaldi since 2014, and was shocked to discover how not-Scottish Capaldi was. And he’s right!
    It’s not just that, as people often observe, Capaldi’s Doctor slowly grew softer in his characterisation as his era went on. It’s actually that you can see Capaldi morphing from being one iconic TV character to another (physically even! Look at his hairdo!)
    One thing somebody said to me on the podcast I host was that it’s a shame we never got to see PCap in the Matt Smith tweed. It’s a great image that really would have re-emphasised the change and made Capaldi seem like more of an intruder. We might have been on Clara’s side a bit more.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      March 26, 2018 @ 12:17 pm

      Very interesting! I’ve never seen him as Malcolm Tucker but now I just might watch some clips to compare performances.

      You’re very right about the image of Capaldi in Smith’s tweed being way more powerful than the one we got. It’s like Smith’s Series 7 costume never became iconic in the same way his tweed jacket was. Which is interesting because I feel the same way about his second TARDIS interior which Capaldi inherits without changing much. It feels to me a bit like a not-so-successfull attempt to reinvent the Eleventh Doctor without actually regenerating him. Now I kinda wish they waited until Capaldi to introduce the new “cold” TARDIS interior…

      Reply

      • Janine
        March 26, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

        Wasn’t it less about inventing the Eleventh Doctor and more about regenerating the show? I always understood the 2013 changes (new costume, TARDIS, title sequence, theme tune, companion…) as marking the anniversary year. But it is a little strange that we go from a very cold TARDIS interior in Time, to a much warmer and homelier one in Breath — contrary to the reading of the new Doctor as being icier and more detached than his predecessor. (There’s still a lot of blue around the edges of the console room, so I suppose that’s what they were going for? Warmer as you get closer to the heart? I don’t know.)

        I do recall reading in an interview that the 2013 TARDIS redesign was meant to reinforce that the ship was a “dangerous” place, as the previous design had been especially whimsical. (Not entirely successful, as Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS ended up being too bland to really sell that.) Perhaps they leaned a little too heavily on the ship’s more “machinelike” qualities and decided to scale things back for 2014, but I always liked both in their own way.

        Reply

        • Lewis
          March 27, 2018 @ 2:07 pm

          It’s worth remembering that the ‘cold’ second console room for 11 was introduced in The Snowmen, during a period in which the Doctor had essentially retired and given up on the universe. The coldness of the more machine-like interior replaced the old whimsy; the Doctor had lost his spark, and the TARDIS had lost its magic. It’s a shame the interior didn’t develop with bits and pieces as 2013 went along, I think.

          Ultimately, I think the warmer change (and addition of bookshelves, and furniture) for 2014 was more about a new director coming in and Capaldi’s Doctor requiring a more ‘professorial’ set up (work benches, books, chalkboards) etc. But I do think early Capaldi would’ve been more at home in the 2013 version until it slowly ‘warmed up’ as he grew more comfortable in himself.

          Reply

          • Przemek
            March 27, 2018 @ 4:58 pm

            It’s funny, I never really considered Capaldi’s TARDIS to be warmer than Smith’s last one. I mean, sure, the light went from blue to orange but for me that interior is still very cold and industrial compared to Smith’s first or Tennant’s “coral” TARDISes. The furniture and the bookshelves only added to the coldness for me, making the place seem more like a university hall or a museum. Then again Twelve was never really shown as being “at home” in the TARDIS in the same way that Eleven was.

          • Leslie L
            March 27, 2018 @ 5:38 pm

            It looked more lived in than any consul room, next to the Seventh/Eight one from the movie.

            There were like several places for The Doctor, like his work bench or his couch chairs.

    • Aylwin
      March 26, 2018 @ 2:58 pm

      It is SO exciting getting to read eruditorum in real time, which I’ve never experienced before.

      I like how this experience, which a few people have mentioned, mirrors becoming a fan as Elizabeth did, in the Wilderness Years, and now hitting 2005.

      Reply

      • Aylwin
        March 26, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

        Only without a 1996 moment, obviously.

        Reply

        • Leslie L
          March 27, 2018 @ 1:16 pm

          Well, if you can consider 2016 the Wildness year for New Who fans, and there was content coming out at that time.

          Reply

          • Aylwin
            March 27, 2018 @ 4:42 pm

            I was likening the Tardis Eruditorum to Doctor Who, with the period after the original run of the blog finished as the Wilderness Years.

        • ScarvesandCelery
          March 27, 2018 @ 7:02 pm

          Didn’t the “Night of the Doctor” post get released after the original run of Eruditorum finished?

          Reply

          • Aylwin
            March 28, 2018 @ 12:24 pm

            Also Listen, the first time around. But I meant a 1996 moment in the sense that the TV movie was distressingly shit.

  6. Przemek
    March 26, 2018 @ 12:06 pm

    You’re completely right about “Deep Breath” being “ostentatiously cautious”. At the time it even felt a bit insultingly so. While watching it for the first time I kept wondering if Clara’s objections were meant to mirror the objections of some part of the audience – the mythical “hordes of teenage girls in love with Tennant/Smith” who supposedly “didn’t want an old Doctor” I kept hearing about but never actually encountered. The phone call from Eleven was very sweet and touching but to me felt like assuming that the audience needs the previous Doctor’s blessing to accept Capaldi. Whereas most of the people I knew were over the moon about him well before the first episode aired. Your interpretation that the audience’s affect don’t line up with Clara’s in “Deep Breath” makes sense – but at the time it was hard (at least in Poland) to see it that way. With no way of knowing what the casual audience thinks of Capaldi I think many of us just assumed that Moffat is responding to some real apprehension on the part of the viewers.

    Clara definitely gets her second wind in this story. I agree that under scrutiny her Series 7 persona is probably consistent with her Series 8 one but at the time it definitely felt like a soft reboot of the character. Too much of Series 7 was wasted on making Coleman play the generic companion and even rewatching those episodes I find it hard to find Clara particularly well thought-out or engaging. I know your theory (mentioned in one of the audio commentaries) about her trying to be the perfect children’s book character but to be honest I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean so for me Clara’s just a mess in Series 7. The fact that despite not living in the TARDIS she barely had any life outside of it certainly didn’t help.

    In Series 8 Clara gets to be opposed to the Doctor and that does wonders for her character. Even in “Deep Breath” she can define herself as the one who can question the Doctor and try to stand up to him. This dynamics then lets her define herself however she pleases as she’s finally not in the Doctor’s (or her mystery’s) shadow. Which, of course, is just the first step on her way to becoming the Doctor herself.

    Finally, rooting this story in the elements of the Smith era makes for quite a surprise when the monster of the week (and indeed, the first monster Twelve fights) turns out to come from the Tennant era. And even more shockingly, the Doctor doesn’t remember it. Given the fact that the “who frowned me this face” scene also deliberately sets up this era as something the Doctor forgot it begs the question: what exactly did he forget? Clockwork androids suggest he forgot how to fall in love, the face from “The Fires of Pompeii” suggests he forgot how to be a hero. (Am I missing more throwbacks to the Tennant era?). That’s a very bold statement to make about your Doctor.

    (Which makes the fact that by the end of Series 9 Twelve barely remembers which companions did he take to the American diner even more poignant. Nevermind what the Moment said in “Day of the Doctor”, Twelve is truly the man who forgets.)

    Reply

    • mx_mond
      March 26, 2018 @ 12:23 pm

      “Clockwork androids suggest he forgot how to fall in love”

      The androids reflect Twelve’s struggles with his identity and questions of “goodness” and “kindness” (thus prefiguring the defining monsters of his tenure: Cybermen). They are robots constructing person suits for themselves, and at this point in the story it definitely seems like that’s what the new Doctor is: a cold, heartless being in an ill-fitting, constantly-slipping human disguise. Of course, that will eventually change, the human and robot layers switching places. But that’s another story and we’ll tell it another time (i.e. when we reach Dark Water/Death in Heaven).

      Reply

      • Przemek
        March 26, 2018 @ 12:32 pm

        You’re right about their meaning in this episode but I was focusing more on the fact that they returned at all. I mentioned falling in love because that’s what the story the androids come from is ultimately about. The fact that the Doctor can forget the time when he was devastated by the loss of Madame de Pompadour says a lot about him without any exposition at all.

        Your comment about the Doctor wearing “a person suit” is very interesting in the light of Capaldi’s own comment that he views the Doctor as an inhuman being who only puts on a human mask and therefore cannot be fully understood in terms of human psychology or emotionality. It also, I think, sets up an interesting connection with “Hannibal”…

        Reply

        • mx_mond
          March 26, 2018 @ 12:38 pm

          Okay, yeah, now I see what you meant re: the androids. And I suppose there is something to the love connection. Here it does indeed seem like he forgot how to love or care for his companion, abandoning Clara, but then he comes back for her (similarly to how he was leaving and coming back to Mme de Pompadour?). He will do it again in Kill the Moon, but then we see how much he cares for her in Dark Water (just when we switch to Cybermen, to tie it back to my previous point).

          Reply

    • Janine
      March 26, 2018 @ 4:05 pm

      I don’t think I agree with this reading. (The start, that is. The stuff on memory is superb.)

      For Clara to stand-in for that (fictitious) part of the audience, she’d have to be a fundamentally different character. She states (in this episode) that her childhood pin-up was Marcus Aurelius — that whole scene is about her establishing that she’s not just drawn to “pretty” young men — and besides, we already know that she’s met (and got along with) several previous Doctors, including Hurt’s, the oldest Doctor there’s been. Rather, I think she’s meant to stand in for the sort of fan who is devoted to the show but struggling to deal with the loss of their Doctor. That’s a real contingent of fans — in fact, that’s virtually every fan at some point.

      I’ve always taken issue with the phone call being scene as Eleven’s “blessing” or “validation”. The fact that Eleven and Twelve mirror each other (“Is that him? Is that the Doctor?”) says to me, at least, that we’re not meant to read them as different characters at all. It’s just a direction to Clara (and any viewers struggling with the concept of such a radical regeneration): this is the exact same man. Crucially, though, Eleven has to be the one to say that. Twelve just doesn’t have the language — there’s a communication barrier in this episode (and series) that prevents him from telling Clara what he really means. Eleven puts into words what Twelve is desperately trying to tell her.

      Well — that’s how I took it.

      Reply

      • Przemek
        March 26, 2018 @ 6:32 pm

        Well, I don’t agree with this reading of Clara either, especially since Elisabeth presented a much better one. But at the time “Deep Breath” aired this was what me and some of my friends thought so I wanted to present that point of view.

        As for the phone call scene… I dunno. I mean, you’re right that the scene is clearly meant to emphasize that both Doctors are the same character but at the meta level they clearly aren’t. They’re the universally loved and deeply missed previous Doctor and the uncertain new one. Imagine the same scene in “The Eleventh Hour” with Tennant calling to assure the companion (and the audience) that Smith is still him. Or even worse, imagine Capaldi calling during Whittaker’s first episode. I understand the storytelling reasons for including that scene in “Deep Breath” but I still feel like it was a mistake.

        Reply

        • Janine
          March 26, 2018 @ 7:53 pm

          I can’t help but feel that in your objection, you’ve identified what I was trying to say in the first place. The characters are different at the meta level; but on the surface level, and I’d even say given the show’s ethos, they’re very much the same. You might see a contradiction in that – fair enough if you do. But I think you can have different relations of identity on different levels.

          And, importantly, it’s Capaldi’s very specific nature that means you can have that scene. As you say, the tension is at the meta level. You couldn’t put Tennant on the phone, because he’s so wrapped up in the success of Doctor Who in popular culture that it would completely undermine Smith. You couldn’t put Capaldi on the phone to Whittaker, because there would be some very obvious, very unpleasant undertones.

          It just happens that there isn’t that tension with Smith and Capaldi (in my view, anyway) — Capaldi is a powerful enough presence not to be undercut by his predecessor. And it just so happens that there are, as you say, adequate storytelling reasons for the scene to exist (Twelve struggling with articulating his feelings and anxieties).

          I do wonder whether I’m more generous to the scene because I knew it was coming — I’d seen the phone call (but not the whole episode) in the leaked tape, and was virtually on the edge of my seat waiting for it. Maybe it’s worse when you’re caught off-guard.

          Reply

          • Przemek
            March 26, 2018 @ 8:10 pm

            Maybe. I didn’t know the scene was coming so that probably contributed to my reaction.

            I can agree that there is much less tension between Smith and Capaldi than between any other new series Doctors (save maybe for Nine and Ten, I can kinda see Eccleston calling Tennant without derailing him completely. It probably has to do with both pairs of Doctors being introduced under the same showrunner, thus avoiding unfortunate implications). I just wouldn’t say there is no tension whatsoever. For me it’s always there when the Doctors meet. But that’s very subjective, I guess.

            Before “Deep Breath” I only saw Capaldi in “The Fires of Pompeii” and in “Torchwood” – that probably influenced my reading of the phone call scene as well. I knew he was a well-known and respected actor but for me he didn’t have that kind of powerful presence you’re describing. Nevertheless, I’ve never felt that he was at risk of being undercut by his predecessor. If anything, the scene undercuts Smith as he gets brought back not for his Doctor’s sake but for the Capaldi’s Doctor sake. But I still felt that that sort of bridging the gap between the previous and the current Doctor just wasn’t needed.

          • Leslie L
            March 27, 2018 @ 1:41 pm

            To me, the phone call was needed, for Clara’s sake.

            In Eleven’s last full episode, the story was focused on The Doctor, who lived basically 1000 years living on a planet to protect them.

            From Clara’s point of view, in a span of a few hours, she went from inviting the Doctor over to pretend to be her boyfriend to Trenzalore, and aged rapidly, and died, reborn into a new face, after saving him from total destruction.

            But the narrative couldn’t compellingly focus on Clara’s, by necessity, It was Smith’s last episode, on the anniversary year.

            When I saw the few seconds they focused on that phone, I knew there had to be a payoff somewhere with it.

            I loved the Matt Smith era, and the Capaldi era, for two very different reasons.

            Smith’s era was, especially in series 7, fast paced, to the point of determent, at their low points. And I liked every single episode.

            Capaldi’s era lets you have time to breath. Even at their low points. Deep breaths, everyone.

          • Lewis
            March 27, 2018 @ 2:16 pm

            I think, as a side note, there’s also an element of reassuring younger viewers of the change in Doctor. The hype around 2014 seemed to be all about how ‘Series 8 will be the biggest/boldest change since 2005’ and Peter Capaldi was the first markedly different Doctor (notably: older than his predecessors, and set to be more stern, ‘back to basics, no frills, no scarf, no messing’), so perhaps – as well as for storytelling reasons – it was also designed as a passing of the torch.

            It’s also not completely new. ‘Born Again’ opened with a reminder of the Series 1 finale, and ‘The Eleventh Hour’ had Smith stepping through David Tennant’s face after a montage of all the previous Doctors. The phone call was a new take on an old idea.

  7. Gabriel
    March 26, 2018 @ 1:26 pm

    So excited to have a new Eruditorum that I’m forcing myself to leave a comment, which is hard for me since I usually feel like I don’t have a lot to contribute and I’m not very confident on my English. Anyways, congrats on the great essay, El!

    When this aired, It really felt to me like an episode that’s holding itself back. I loved Capaldi for The Thick of It and his role on Skins, but he didn’t really manage to grab me until the last scenes, and his defeat of the baddie is really harsher than his Doctor ended up being. I also agree with the point that this is where Clara gets her reboot, yeah.

    But both Deep Breath and Into the Dalek left me a bit cold, it wasn’t until Robot of Sherwood (or maybe Kill the Moon) that I was grabbed by the Capaldi era.

    Reply

    • Kat
      March 26, 2018 @ 2:23 pm

      Your English is excellent, Gabriel!

      Reply

  8. Kazin
    March 26, 2018 @ 1:39 pm

    At the time, I had only seen Capaldi in Fires of Pompeii and Children of Earth, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having since watched Thick of It, he does channel Tucker quite a bit in season 8, though that influence gets harder to see starting with season 9.

    This is also the last episode I watched on BBC America, having watched Time of the Doctor there as well. Inserting commercials does terrible things to Doctor Who, so I remember not liking this episode very much upon transmission but changing my mind once I rewatched without random insertions of ads (this was also the case for Time of the Doctor, as well). Besides those two episodes, I had watched everything else on DVD (and in Day of the Doctors case, on download), so seeing the show with commercials was really quite a different experience.

    I remember feeling this episode focused quite a bit on Clara, which worried me since I didn’t think she worked very well in season 7, but I quickly changed my mind and by The Caretaker – an episode I still quite like, by and large – I was completely sold on her.

    Reply

  9. Aylwin
    March 26, 2018 @ 2:28 pm

    I think the aspect of the use of the Paternoster Gang that you mention, their having little to do with the Doctor and mostly interacting with Clara, fits quite closely with the way they had been used in their previous appearances (as the Gang, that is – I agree that those characters’ original appearance in AGMGTW is a rather different animal).

    The Gang were always an odd sort of quasi-spinoff that appeared only in crossovers with the main series (in this sense, I would say that they’re less like another UNIT than a kind of Victorian Lesbian Torchwood, except that that would create confusion due to there already having been an actual Victorian Lesbian Torchwood). As such, the pattern of each of their three previous stories was that to begin with the Doctor would be in one way or another “out of it” (not so much in Name, but he was at least not in it), leaving them to take centre stage and deputise for him, investigating whatever was going on, interacting with his companions (in all cases a version of Clara, and in Name also River), and working to bring the Doctor into the action for the latter part of the episode.

    That recurrent structure makes them a natural fit for a regeneration story, and especially a highly companion-focused (and specifically Clara-focused) one. Indeed, their first story as the Gang had a soft-reboot quality to it, kicking off the brief second phase of the Eleventh Doctor – new companion, new costume, new control room. The similarity also diminishes the distinctiveness of this story, reinforcing its cautious, continuity-stressing, backward-glancing tendency.

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      March 26, 2018 @ 3:12 pm

      Pithier version: in one context it’s a regeneration episode that just happens to feature the Paternoster Gang, but in another it’s a typical Paternoster Gang-featuring episode that just happens to include a regeneration as its Doctor-marginalising device.

      Reply

    • Lewis
      March 27, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

      Indeed, their first story as the Gang had a soft-reboot quality to it, kicking off the brief second phase of the Eleventh Doctor – new companion, new costume, new control room.<

      Neat observation. I hadn’t spotted that before. Both episodes also feature a somewhat reserved, moodier Doctor and Vastra guiding the companion (Victorian Clara/Clara) in ‘finding’ the Doctor again.

      Total sidenote: I could picture Capaldi as the Doctor in ‘The Snowmen’. Sat in a new, darker TARDIS, initially reluctant to get involved, grumpy at the pudding brains who can never sort themselves out.

      Reply

  10. Janine
    March 26, 2018 @ 3:31 pm

    That was a lovely read, El. More in your wheelhouse than reviewing, but still quite a gentle and accessible start to your commentary on the era. (I’m very excited about your Kill the Moon entry.)
    I’m glad you mention that the veil scene is a “cracked mirror” of the one-word game from The Snowmen. It’s worth taking any scene in Vastra’s ‘garden’ at more than face-value. It’s a place in which everything is symbolic, and verbal interactions reveal more about the characters’ unconscious psyches than they do about their conscious thoughts. It’s a place of growth, organic and psychological, where figurative veils are lifted from any who enter.
    I loved the Paternoster Gang in this episode, incidentally. Easily their best outing – particularly Jenny telling Clara that she loves Madame Vastra, correcting Clara’s analogy. It’s unusually tender for characters who tend to be far more ostentatious (in a good way) about their sexual orientation.
    Some nice katabasis with the restaurant – “into darkness” indeed. And how fitting that the Doctor reveals himself to Clara during the interrogation by pulling off a dead young man’s face. The veil (with an uncanny resemblance to Matt Smith), lifted – everything connects, and there’s a lot more to be said about the imagery in this episode (and season), but I expect you’ll probably delve into the alchemy of it at a later date.
    Something you didn’t mention: I don’t know about other countries, but in the UK, this episode was available as a cinema screening too. I suspect that was a last-minute decision, following the success of the anniversary special. I don’t know how well it did in comparison, but the atmosphere at the Shaftesbury Avenue screening (my local at the time) was still just as vibrant. I only bring this up because you’ve focused on Doctor Who as event television in the past. With the increasing popularity of subscription services and the availability of whole seasons on BBC iPlayer at this point, there’s an argument to be made that Deep Breath was the last real example of the show as ‘event television’ until, I’d say, Twice Upon a Time. And whilst I enjoy the convenience of on-demand television, I do miss participating in Doctor Who as a sort of collective experience.

    Reply

    • Random Comments
      March 26, 2018 @ 5:35 pm

      By the way, it is actually a mask of Smith’s face.

      Reply

      • Janine
        March 26, 2018 @ 5:52 pm

        It is? Did everyone know this except me (and that’s why no one mentioned it)? I’ll have to look out for that next time.

        Reply

    • Tom
      March 26, 2018 @ 9:58 pm

      I actually found Jenny’s response to Clara a little unfortunate, because surely Jenny would like Vastra. That she loves her is in addition to liking her, not instead of it. I’ve heard people saying of their partners that they love them but they don’t think they like them, and those relationships are generally toxic.

      I mean, I’m sure that’s not the point of the line: Vastra and Jenny’s relationship clearly isn’t toxic, after all. But still, the line jarred with me the first time I heard it.

      (PS: It’s nice to finally be able to take part in a “live” discussion on this page — typically great stuff from El — having only found the blog after the original completion. I hope I’ll be able to contribute more than an awkwardness over a single line in future!)

      Reply

      • Janine
        March 27, 2018 @ 11:18 am

        Personally, it reminded me more of times when gay/bisexual people I know have had to reassert their identity when people choose to skirt around the issue.

        It’s like when your homophobic aunt comes over and refers to your other half as your “friend”. They are your friend, clearly — but that’s not in any way a sufficient (or even respectful) way to sum up your relationship.

        Reply

  11. Daniel Kukwa
    March 26, 2018 @ 4:02 pm

    Another thing to point out about not remembering “The Girl in the Fireplace” is that, by the Doctor’s personal time line, it was an event in his life that took place over a thousand years ago. Even the memory of a Time Lord will ebb and flow, bits of info shunted away into the mist of time, as opposed to some technical recall. I like that even he starts getting a bit hazy about certain things…

    …unless of course he’s deliberately choosing NOT to remember, which is a entirely different can of worms.

    Reply

    • Janine
      March 26, 2018 @ 4:09 pm

      Apparently it made a lot of Ten/Rose fans on tumblr cross, because it was meant to suggest that he’d forgotten his adventures with her.

      I don’t know how many fans of that era really thought that – I’m one, and I certainly didn’t – but I saw a few.

      Reply

      • BenJ
        March 26, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

        That would seem to me more like his forcing himself to forget about Reinette than forgetting Rose, but maybe that’s just me.

        Reply

        • Janine
          March 26, 2018 @ 5:24 pm

          I’m doubtful that any deliberate force even comes into the equation. But I take your point — if there’s any hidden intention, it’ll have more to do with Reinette than Rose.

          Reply

          • BenJ
            March 26, 2018 @ 10:04 pm

            The word “force” was probably an unnecessary embellishment on my part.

      • Leslie L
        March 26, 2018 @ 6:47 pm

        From I remembered, from Tumblr 2014, I think it was more about ‘Moffat is trying to erase RtD’s era, Don’t you think he looks tired?’

        Like, Do you remember a fling you had that was an equivalent of a few hours?

        There was a moment in this episode where Twelve smelled a yellow flower, while he was talking about the clockwork droids, and he threw it away. And a sizable amount of people viewed it as The Doctor remembering/forgetting Rose.

        Reply

  12. William Shaw
    March 26, 2018 @ 4:24 pm

    Also, one of my favourite fan-theories-of-the-moment-that-was-later-disproved of all time was that Missy would turn out to actually be the Dinosaur from Deep Breath.

    Reply

  13. Erorikok Lolinonusos
    March 26, 2018 @ 10:23 pm

    I’m very pleased to have a steady stream of Tardis Eruditorum entries to look forward to again. I’ve been enjoying this project quietly for years now. It’s introduced me to a lot of new ideas and a lot of new ways of thinking. It has led my mind down avenues that I doubt I would ever otherwise have explored. I can’t wait to follow along in your narrative of the Capaldi years.

    Anyway, Deep Breath. I remember my initial reaction to this episode fairly well. I was, of course, simply blown away by Jenna Louise Coleman. Her performance was great, and the script gave her a lot more to work with than the previous half-season had. By the end of this episode, Clara felt like she’d come into her own as a character. Honestly, after Deep Breath, I was probably more interested in her than I was in Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

    Capaldi was good too, of course. But by the end of this episode, I hadn’t really gotten a handle on him. I enjoyed his performance from day one. But it took a while before I felt like his Doctor added up to a consistent character. Early on, a lot of his darker moments seemed a bit arbitrary. To me, his character only really came together in the latter half of series 8. I think Mummy on the Orient Express was where all the pieces of his Doctor started to fit together. And, I mean, that episode feels very much like it was supposed to be the episode where we really start to understand the Twelfth Doctor.

    Other than that, I remember enjoying Deep Breath, but not being overly impressed with it. It’s a solid episode, and there’s a lot of stuff in it that I really like. But, when compared with Moffat’s previous effort at introducing a new Doctor, it does feel a little tame. Now that I think back on it, though, I find it to be a very memorable episode. It’s got a lot of nice set-pieces and a lot of strong scenes. Clara’s confrontation with the half-faced man is just wonderful, and it’s very much the heart of the episode.

    Reply

    • Nindokag
      March 27, 2018 @ 5:48 am

      Totally agree with you about what this episode does for Clara as a character. I love how she calls on her teaching experiences to find a strategy to survive the droids’ interrogation. That was the first time I felt Clara had a definable personality. (I never thought “bossy control freak” described her well at all.) That one scene did more for her characterization than all of Series 7 put together!

      Reply

  14. AntonB
    March 26, 2018 @ 11:20 pm

    I’m not sure which is worse, the amount of people who tediously predicted that Capaldi would be the sweary Doctor because of Malcolm Tucker or the amount of people wearily proclaiming that of course Whittaker crashed the Tardis because she’s a woman.

    Anyway, Deep Breath is okay in the way that most newly regenerated Doctor’s stories are okay. The Doctor must by necessity (because the actor is still finding their take on the character) be a bit post regen flaky and slightly unlikeable. As well as performatively opposed to their predecessor. This only became a problem when it became apparant that Moffat/Capaldi would carry this on through the whole season.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      March 27, 2018 @ 8:35 am

      Yeah, the decision to prolong this period of the Doctor being lost and unpredictable is a questionable one for me as well. I think it worked out in the end but it still feels like we didn’t really get the “proper” Twelfth Doctor until fairly late on.

      I rewatched the episode last night and I was struck by how tedious I’ve found the “post regeneration craziness” scenes. I dunno, with Eleven they felt like a part of his character – manic energy, eccentricity, goofiness. With Twelve they felt like more of a chore that needs to be done with before we can get to the fun stuff.

      Reply

  15. Leslie L
    March 27, 2018 @ 12:53 am

    This was the first episode I saw live. Technically, I saw it via BBC entertainment in Mexico, but it was on the same day that the episode aired in the U.K I managed to see the rest of the shows live via this TV app, that was free during the first two years of Capaldi.

    My expectations were low, but I kinda was with Capaldi from his very first scene. I was against Clara for a good chunk of the episode, just because /obviously She should have accepted her best friend changing and not have any problems accepting him that way/ Sarcasm.

    I was blown away from the ambiguity of Twelve here, he had his funny moments, flirty moments with the Dinosaur and Clara (I was in denial of the ship tease moments between any Doctor and Clara, until Mummy on the Oritant Express), and the first plot based climax, involing The Half faced man.

    Reply

  16. Andrew PG
    March 27, 2018 @ 2:35 am

    Excited to read along with these as they happen. I was down on Moffat for a while and didn’t really give series 8 its due at the time, but I was won back over by Death In Heaven, and then I loved Last Christmas so much that it got me to go back and reappraise what had come before.

    I still don’t like the first half of Deep Breath (sorry, I know it’s petty but a dinosaur the size of Big Ben is a deal breaker for me, and a lot of the early scenes feel weird and offputting tonally) but the latter half is great, and I like the villains more in retrospect as both a callback to an early Moffat episode (and I note him being careful to only have the Doctor dismiss an episode he himself wrote) and a sort of inverted foreshadowing of the Cybermen later on. While Capaldi’s character definitely evolves over his time on the show, I’d say his core is very much established by the end of this episode. The guy who killed the Half-Faced Man for the sake of “those people down there” is absolutely the same man who would go on to usurp the presidency of Gallifrey to save Clara, and the speech about the broom and his plaintive “I’m not on the phone, I’m right here!” to Clara sow the seeds for his eventual refusal to regenerate.

    The making up scene with Clara still feels a little weird, by the way. One gets the sense that she’s talked herself into accepting the new Doctor rather than actually accepting him. That Matt Smith cameo probably did more harm than good, as she ultimately stays with the new Doctor because the old Doctor (who she considers the Real Doctor) asks her to. A good start to one of the more impressively dysfunctional relationships on this show.

    Reply

  17. Nindokag
    March 27, 2018 @ 5:40 am

    Sounds like my experience of this episode was very different from most of you. See, Tennant was my first doctor, and after the switch to Matt Smith I lost interest and stopped watching, only catching up much much later.

    I know a lot of people (including our host) love the Smith era but I could never warm to it, despite wanting to like it. I’ve gone back and watched the episodes deemed most classic but noen of them do much for me. The “narrative acceleration” to me feels like “rushing past the interesting parts”; “narrative substitution” feels more like narrative bait-and-switch. The 11th doctor has a quality of forced quirkiness and arm-waving childishness that really just grates on my nerves, and many of the stories feel like a lot of ostentatious “look at me!” cleverness followed by hand-wavy “who cares” resolutions. It was hard to care about anything when any consequences were likely to be either undone by time shenanigans or just kind of forgotten.

    I don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade, just explaining my own opinion. When I read the Eruditorum posts about the Smith era, I wish I could love it as much as you guys do, but I just can’t. Was never a Moffat-hater but I did not enjoy his work as showrunner.

    It was only much later, after I discovered this website, and did a deep-dive into classic Dr. Who, and started thinking of myself as a fan, that I said “Oh yeah isn’t there another doctor after Matt Smith? I wonder what he’s like?”

    So I started watching the Capaldi era in 2017, when it was almost over, with no knowledge of how fandom had received it. I got to watch it with virtually no preconceptions, and no idea what the Twelfth Doctor would be like (having never heard of Peter Capaldi).

    After Deep Breath I still didn’t know what the 12th Doctor would be like ( 😛 ) but I noticed that all the Moffaty stylistic tics which annoyed me most about the Matt Smith era had been toned way, way down. Scenes had time to breathe. There was subtlety and ambiguity to the character interactions. It wasn’t in your face going “look at me I’m clever!!” anymore. Most importantly it seemed like a show that was interested in charcters again instead of arbitrary time-travel puzzles.

    I gained a huge amount of respect for Moffat when I realized that he was intentionally reinventing his style, putting away his old bag of tricks and trying to create new ones. This went on to be one of my favorite eras.

    Reply

    • Daru
      April 12, 2018 @ 10:34 am

      “I gained a huge amount of respect for Moffat when I realized that he was intentionally reinventing his style, putting away his old bag of tricks and trying to create new ones. This went on to be one of my favorite eras.”

      Even though I was one who enjoyed the Matt Smith era deeply, I have come to feel at times less patient of the sped up moments then, and I did with the appearance of this take appreciate the huge difference in style that grew. So yes, it is a huge reinvention as far as making room for the characters and so much more.

      Reply

  18. BeatnikLady
    April 2, 2018 @ 8:05 pm

    I too have never been a Smith fan, so I was quite happy to move on and see Capaldi (who I have a lot of regard for as an actor, much like Eccleston.
    Deep Breath was interesting…ish. It’s fair to say it’s unclear how The Twelfth Doctor will turn out from what happens in this episode and the signs aren’t immediately encouraging. Vastra may chastise Clara for her reaction to the changed Doctor, but on watching this again recently I found myself in sympathy with her reaction. Let’s face it, this is how most humans would feel in the situation – especially given Clara is apparently abandoned for a time.
    Anyway, I see a new episode was covered today, so time to move on.

    Reply

  19. Daru
    April 12, 2018 @ 10:30 am

    So good to be reading you in Eruditorum mode again El. I remember going to see this in Edinburgh when it was released in the cinema, and even though I enjoyed the experience of sharing it with other fans at the same time, it was a little less of an experience than the 50th, due I think to the carefulness in the episode.

    I thought that the early trailer was quite brilliant and it created a really good build up. Initially I did have the feeling of being slightly underwhelmed, but the careful and slow pace that makes a lot of room for the character moments (such as the alley scene), and now I like it a lot more that I did at the start.

    “We’re also in the last month of the campaign for the Scottish independence referendum, which isn’t technically the sort of thing that goes in these sections since it’s just sort of an ongoing thing, but clearly I’m out of practice and anyway it’s kind of relevant.”

    This felt very highlighted for me during the alley scene where he came to realise the power of his Scottishness, and I felt a warm tingle when the Tardis arrived at what looks like Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow – so yeah, very relevant, especially with such a Scottish Doctor.

    Reply

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