Deep Breath: Who Frowned Me This Face?
Now that series 8 is over, and we only have the Christmas special to go, I thought I’d do a rewatch of the series to see all the little nuggets of goodness that Moffat has left for us that we missed on first viewing. Like all other who fans, I was very excited, and a bit trepidatious, to see what this new doctor would bring.
I think it’s more than just a gimmick that Deep Breath starts with a dinosaur. I think it’s a reminder that the doctor, even though he has been a young man for the past couple regenerations, is really an old and ancient creature, and now his new face better reflects his actual age. The theme of faces, as a reflection of the true nature of individuals, seems to caries throughout the episode.
Capaldi just explodes out of the TARDIS, he owns the stage from the first word. At first he can’t seem to differentiate the faces of his friends. He doesn’t remember Clara’s name, and he calls Vastra and Jenny the “green one and the white one”, referring to the colors of their faces.
Back at Vastra’s we get face references, “the mirror is furious” and Vastra covering hers with a veil as a judgement against Clara. Clara throws Vastra’s arguments back at her by commenting about her own “pretty face,” and we are again reminded that Jenna Coleman can talk really really fast.
Is it just a funny joke when Clara gets hit in the face with the newspaper or is it a symbol of what this experience is like for her? Then Strax gives Clara an exam, looks in her eyes and tells her about her own personality. Amazing the things we can tell about people by looking them in the face.
In the alleyway, the doctor refers to the air as “bitty” – another face reference. Then the doctor gives a great speech about faces. “Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something.” The conclusion of the speech is that he doesn’t like his face. He doesn’t like his new self, and this is a theme we see developed throughout the series with the “Am I a Good Man?” arc introduced in the next episode.
Clara finds the newspaper advertisement for the Impossible Girl. We know now, that that ad was placed by Missy. So somewhere, Missy is running around Victorian London. Perhaps that is where she got that smashing dress and hat? This whole aspect of the Missy plot is a bit weak, but as they say on Verity Podcast, we will do some “hand wavery” and not worry about that.
On to the table scene, one of the best scenes in the whole series. This is our first really good look at the fabulous chemistry that Miss Coleman and Mr Capaldi have. And have you noticed how low Jenna Coleman’s voice can get? This sexy low voice coming from such a small woman? Anyway, the Doctor finally exposes the truth of what is truly going on in the restaurant by ripping the face off of the waiter, seeing what’s behind his face. Clara calls is a “mask” but then the Doctor puts the face on Clara saying, “look, it’s a face.” Clara is disgusted by the idea of the false face, and casts it aside.
Now we meet the clockwork faced man. Half human face, half robot face (amazing special effects here). It’s a robot that is trying to change who he is inside by changing his face on the outside. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? The Doctor comments that the robot’s eyes look “fresh.” There is some great eye symbolism in this room and we see both Clara and the Doctor become the pupil, or focus of the eye. If eye’s are the windows of the face to the soul, then both Clara and the Doctor take that role. We see Clara’s inner eye, in her flashback of her first day of teaching, and then Clara awakes, the center of a circle, made of circles – the center of an eye made of eyes.
The Doctor enters wearing a false face and then removes that face to confront the clockwork man. The Doctor has revealed his true face, which also reveals his true nature as the hero of this story. He tosses the face to Clara who, for the second time this episode, casts the false face aside. She is unable to hide her face, or her true feelings of unease with this new Doctor.
The Doctor and Clockwork Man have a great conversation about trading faces. Of course this is all a discourse about the Doctor and his regenerations. Can you change faces the same way you change broom handles? If you change your body 13 times are you still the same man? “There’s not a piece of you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.” And then there is that great camera shot of the clockwork man looking at his face in the mirror, and on the other side the Doctor is also looking at his own face in the mirror. They are the same.
After the phone call at the end the Doctor accuses Clara of not seeing him and begs her to “Just see [him].” She responds by walking up to him and looking very intently at his face. Then she hugs him. We learn in Death in Heaven that the Doctor doesn’t like hugs because it is a way to “hide your face.”
Clara will spend the rest of series 8 trying to see the Doctor’s face, to see the Doctor for who he really is, at the same time, Clara will try on a few new faces of her own. At the same time the Doctor will spend the rest of series 8 questioning what his own face means, what kind of man is he?