It ends with another mysterious woman, another predatory dominatrix older female. She represents another story arc which we, the viewers, have no possibility of guessing or understanding until the inevitable ‘twist’ becomes self-evident just before being served up to you on a plate several episodes later than it could’ve been.
She speaks as if she is one of the audience and saw what we saw. Like us, she couldn’t see if the Doctor persuaded Half-Face to commit suicide or if he pushed him to his death. Again, a metatextual trick is used as a signifier of the enemy.
Another physical endurance test or test of skill becomes part of the nature of the monster-of-the-week. The Weeping Angels were based on how long you could go without blinking. The Sredni Vashtar (or whatever they were called) were based on how long you could go without touching a shadow with your own shadow. The droids in ‘Deep Breath’ were based on how long you can hold your breath (a slightly dodgy thing to encourage in the playground possibly).
How much you like all this probably depends on how much you like repetition.
I said: how much you like all this probably depends on how much you like repetition.
(To be fair, RTD was hardly unrepetitious – how many eleventh episodes ended with robotic things swarming in the sky and swooping down to shoot milling people? Quite a few, as I recall.)
The business with the droids stealing bodies hooks into the corpse economy of Victorian London, but strips it of class significance. Rich and poor alike get predated upon. It’s not like in ‘Bad Wolf’ in which the Daleks harvest the tramps and the sick and the outcasts… and then start feeding on the TV audience which tunes in to watch bodies punished.
The episode has lots to say about faces, and how we acquire them. The Doctor chooses (unconsciously, presumably) his new face as a way of being honest with Clara and trusting her. He initially finds it hard to recognise as himself. Vastra’s face is also the key to understanding and accepting her. You perceive a veil if you are unprepared to see and accept who she is. The droid has half a face (why couldn’t he have become a Springheel Jack-style urban legend called Jack Half-a-Face? – that would’ve been awesome) because he unconsciously recognises that it is not his own. He is contrasted with the Doctor and Vastra in that his face is a lie that he essentially rejects despite his attempts to accept it, whereas they performatively reject their own faces as a way of making others accept their honesty.
Vastra’s larder mirrors the larder of the droids, their store cupboard of human bits and bobs. It also mirrors the remark the Doctor makes to Clara about all restaurants being slaughterhouses, and his not remembering her becoming a vegetarian. (As a longstanding veggie myself, I liked that bit – though his attitude was condescending… but then, let’s face it, the Doctor is often morally condescending, and so are vegetarians.) …