Is this the best beginning to a new season of "Doctor Who" with a new Doctor? Not really, but in a way, Peter Capaldi gets a better introduction than Matt Smith got a farewell. Just as we're still figuring out who the new Doctor is, 12 is trying to figure out who he is – and it takes him quite some time to do just that, even when it comes to placing his accent. "I can probably blame the English," he says once he's realized that he's Scottish and can complain about things. Make no mistake about it, "Deep Breath" can't feel more like the start of something new if it tried, as everything feels different and it's like standing on shaky ground for us, the Doctor and Clara, with Madame Vastra serving as the much-needed voice of reason.
The one major flaw of the episode? The plot, even with a dinosaur in London, a dinosaur that coughed out the TARDIS in the middle of London. It's hard to even care what's going on with the spontaneous combustion of people and a dinosaur/cyborgs/robots trying to become men/fake restaurant/organ harvesting spaceship/hope for promised land. Maybe that's for the best. Maybe that's what's needed because we need to get used to Capaldi as the Doctor first. That's because what's more important is what's happening with the Doctor and how that's affecting Clara. That dominates every single scene, so that even when she's left in a precarious position, with her life threatened, all we can wonder is how the Doctor is going to get her out of it because even though he's changed, we, like Clara, believe that one thing has stayed the same: the Doctor has his companion's back.
As stated above, everything feels very different and the Doctor is very different, though he's brilliant enough and mad enough to still be the Doctor, even as he gets his footing, and this is all in done in a way that while it may not be very easy to accept a new Doctor yet, certain moments, like the phone call from 11 to Clara, just as she's leaning heavily towards saying goodbye to the Doctor, do just what they need to to make us be willing to give 12 a chance, just like it is what Clara needs to decide to stay.
As much as "Deep Breath" is the introduction to the Doctor finding himself in this new regeneration, it's also about Clara finding herself when it comes to the Doctor's new face, and that's something she struggles with in the beginning, leading to some of the best scenes of the episode, the conversations between Clara and Madame Vastra, as the latter gives her a lesson in the veils that hide the true nature of a person. Despite his last face, the Doctor is anything but young, but he too wants to be accepted. With each regeneration, the Doctor must change, but so must the Doctor's relationship with his companion, and it looks like it's going to be a joy to watch the Doctor and Clara's relationship re-forming and redeveloping, and while that begins when they sit at that same table in the fake restaurant, it truly starts when she reaches back and he grabs her hand because he has her back.
Other than the age difference between 11 and 12, the premiere also does a good job of addressing another major question: the familiar face of the Doctor to "Doctor Who" fans. The Doctor asks himself why he chose that face, remarking that it's like he's trying to tell himself something. (Oh, and don't forget the "attack eyebrows." Those things are dangerous.)
"Madam Vastra, I'd wager you've not seen anything like this before." "Not since I was a little girl." – Madame Vastra, reminiscing about her childhood
"All dinosaurs were mostly this size." "No, they weren't. I've seen fossils." "I was there." – Madame Vastra and Jenny, comparing experiences with dinosaurs
"It just laid an egg." "It dropped a blue box marked police out of its mouth. Your grasp of biology troubles me." – Madame Vastra is understandably worried about the Inspector protecting London
"You used to be a little robot head and now you – you've really let yourself go." – The Doctor as he has trouble remembering who's who
"I wear a veil as he wears a face. …The oldest reason there is for anything: to be accepted." – Vastra's words of wisdom.
"Sorry, sorry, it's al my fault. My time machine was stuck in your throat. It happens, I brought you along by accident, it's mostly how I meet girls." – The Doctor apologizes to the dinosaur
"He doesn't do puzzles. He isn't complicated, really doesn't have the attention span." – Clara on the Doctor
"I'm the Doctor. I've lived for over 2000 years, and not all of them were good. I've made many mistakes, and it's about time that I did something about that." – The Doctor
"It's me, Clara, the Doctor. …I think you might be scared, and however scared you are, the man you are with right now, the man I hope you are with, believe me, he is more scared than anything you can imagine right now, and he needs you." – 11's call to Clara
"You can't see me, can you? You look at me and you can't see me. Do you have any idea what that’s like? I'm not on the phone, I'm right here. Standing in front of you. Please, just – just see me." – The Doctor to Clara
"Doctor Who" season 8 airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America. What did you think of the premiere, "Deep Breath"? What do you think of Capaldi's Doctor so far?