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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Doctor Who Companion: The Twelfth Doctor - Volume One > Deep Breath

Deep Breath

A Tyrannosaurus rex appears in the middle of Victorian London in Deep Breath (2014).

Story synopsis

Tyrannosaurus rex has appeared in the middle of Victorian London near the Houses of Parliament. This is a case for the Paternoster Gang: Vastra, Jenny and Strax. They join Inspector Gregson on the riverbank. Vastra observes that the dinosaur has something stuck in its throat. The TARDIS flies out of its mouth, landing on the muddy shore.

Vastra despatches Gregson to position some sonic lanterns to restrain the dinosaur. She approaches the TARDIS with Jenny and Strax. The newly regenerated Doctor emerges in a distracted state, followed by an alarmed Clara. The Doctor tells Vastra to turn down the lanterns and collapses.

The Doctor is given a bedroom in Vastra’s house. He remains maniacal until Vastra pacifies him by linking their minds. Clara asks how they can change the Doctor back. “Where did he get that face? Why’s it got lines on it?”

Down by the Thames, a gentleman called Alf is observing the dinosaur when a Half-Face Man appears and takes his eyes.

Vastra reminds Clara that the Doctor trusted her by regenerating in her presence. Meanwhile, the Doctor climbs out of his bedroom window, steals a horse, and goes to see to the dinosaur. Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax chase him to Westminster Bridge. The Tyrannosaurus appears to spontaneously combust. The Doctor tells his friends the question to ask is “have there been any similar murders?” and leaps into the Thames.

Vastra reminds Clara that the Doctor trusted her by regenerating in her presence. Meanwhile, the Doctor climbs out of his bedroom window, steals a horse, and goes to see to the dinosaur. Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax chase him to Westminster Bridge. The Tyrannosaurus appears to spontaneously combust. The Doctor tells his friends the question to ask is “have there been any similar murders?” and leaps into the Thames.

Vastra has collated reports of nine similar cases. She suspects the bodies are being destroyed to conceal what is missing. Clara spots an advertisement in the paper: “Impossible girl. Lunch on the other side?” On the other side of that page is an advertisement for Mancini’s Family Restaurant.

The Half-Face Man (Peter Ferdinando)
Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh).

Clara finds the Doctor waiting for her in a booth in the restaurant. They realise that neither of them placed the advertisement. The Doctor notices there is something extremely wrong with the other diners; they are not eating, they are clockwork robots. A waiter scans them, then sends the Doctor and Clara’s booth down to an underground chamber full of robots.

The Doctor realises the chamber is an ancient spaceship and the robots have been harvesting organs. The Half- Face Man is seated in the centre of the chamber. He awakes and locks the Doctor out. The Doctor disappears, seemingly abandoning Clara.

Clara defies the Half-Face Man and he admits that they took the dinosaur’s optic nerve for their computer. They intend to reach “the promised land”. Clara realises the Doctor is still in the chamber with her. She summons Vastra, Jenny and Strax to come to their aid, but the Half-Face Man uses the booth to ascend to the restaurant: the ship’s escape capsule. The Doctor follows by clinging onto the booth, leaving Clara and the others to battle the robots.

The restaurant turns out to be attached to a hot-air balloon made of human skin. It ascends across the rooftops of London. The Doctor and the Half-Face Man struggle in the doorway and the Half-Face Man falls, landing on the spire of Big Ben. But did he jump or was he pushed?

The other robots are deactivated. The Doctor and Clara travel in the TARDIS to the present day, where Clara takes a phone call. It’s the Eleventh Doctor, asking her to help his next incarnation.

The Half-Face Man awakes in a beautiful garden. He’s greeted by Missy, who informs him that he’s in Heaven.

Sinister customers with mechanical movements in Mancini’s Family Restaurant.


How would you feel about being Doctor Who?” was the question posed by writer/producer/actor Mark Gatiss to actor/ director Peter Capaldi. The date was Monday 25 February 2013, and the two men were standing in a recreation of the Fault Locator Bay of the original 1963 TARDIS set, constructed at Wimbledon Studios for Mark’s drama An Adventure in Space and Time, a production created to tell the tale of Doctor Who’s beginnings. Both men were lifelong fans of the series who had established awardwinning careers in various fi elds; Mark had written for and appeared in the show, and one of the greatest delights of Peter’s career had been his guest role as Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii (2008). At the age of 54, Peter commented that he believed that any chance he would have of playing his childhood hero was now rather remote. “Oh, I don’t know,” ruminated Mark…

Peter Capaldi as Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii (2008).

T he day after his set visit, Peter was announced as playing the villainous Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers, a new BBC One adventure series inspired by the works of Alexandre Dumas; a fi rst series of ten episodes was to be fi lmed in the vicinity of Prague and Doksany in the Czech Republic from Monday 18 March to Tuesday 8 October, with hopes for a second series to be made in 2014.

Meanwhile on Doctor Who, although Matt Smith’s departure from the role of the Doctor had been discussed by the actor and production team during 2012, the fi rst major rumour in the press was on Friday 22 March, when The Sun ran the story Matt’s all folks by Leigh Holmwood. The following months would see numerous names put forward as the actor’s replacement.

Executive producer and lead writer Steven Moff at had been considering what sort of actor he would cast as Matt’s replacement. Because Matt had been a comparatively young Doctor, Steven’s inclination was to cast an older actor as his successor. Certainly the new Doctor needed to be compelling and attractive in a striking, off beat way. And Steven believed that these qualities could be off ered by Peter Capaldi. “I’d known Peter for quite a few years,” explained Steven at the British Film Institute (BFI). “When Doctor Who had come back [in spring 2005], The Thick of It [a BBC Four political comedy] was just starting and Peter came looming up to me in a sinister fashion at a party. And I thought, ‘Oh fantastic! That’s the bloke from The Thick of It. I can talk about The Thick of It.’ He wouldn’t let me. He kept going on and on about Doctor Who.”

David Bradley, playing William Hartnell as the Doctor, in An Adventure in Space and Time (2013).
Chris Addison as Ollie Reeder and Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker in the satirical BBC comedy The Thick of It (2005-12).

Deep Breath

Peter Capaldi as John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth (2009).
Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu in the first series of The Musketeers (2014)
Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, the writer of Deep Breath.
Writer and actor Mark Gatiss on the set of An Adventure in Space and Time in 2013.

Peter had been one of the actors Steven had considered in 2009 when he was casting David Tennant’s successor, but the incoming showrunner felt that he was not right for the stories he had in mind. Knowing that Peter was a considerable fan of the series, Steven worried that it could be a missed opportunity for the series if the actor had always wanted to play the Time Lord, but never got the chance simply because nobody ever asked him.

O ne of the fi rst people with whom Steven discussed potential Doctors was Mark Gatiss, his fellow executive producer on BBC One’s Sherlock. When Steven asked Mark whom he would cast, Mark responded immediately: “Peter Capaldi.” Steven admitted that this was also his favourite choice, but asked Mark to draw up a more extensive list of suggestions.

When Mark responded a week or so later, his long list was topped by Peter’s name with the comment ‘He’s the perfect choice. Does that rule him out?’ after which there was a big gap until his other proff ered candidates. The more Steven considered his options, the more he thought of Peter Capaldi’s striking eyebrows…

Towards the end of production on the 50th Anniversary Special The Day of the Doctor (2013) in late April, Steven started to have discussions about casting Smith’s replacement with his fellow executive producer Brian Minchin, who had just joined the BBC Wales team. Both men were agreed that they wanted a Doctor who was unpredictable and off ered more danger than his predecessor. Brian thought that Peter would be worth sounding out as a very diff erent Doctor, having immensely enjoyed working with the actor on the spinoff mini-series Torchwood: Children of Earth in 2008. However, the production team feared that the BBC might believe that an older Doctor would not attract a younger audience for the family show.

While attending the British Academy Television Awards ceremony at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 12 May 2010, Steven was reassured to hear the warm, positive reception from the audience when Peter Capaldi was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his role in BBC Two’s drama The Hour and Best Male Performance In A Comedy Programme for The Thick of It. By now, Steven felt that Peter had to be the team’s prime candidate for Doctor Who; the actor was also in the list of favourites suggested by casting director Andy Pryor, and so Peter’s agent was contacted to see if her client would be interested in discussing taking over from Matt.

Over in Central Europe, Peter Capaldi had been speculating on who would be the next Doctor since he heard the rumours of Matt’s departure while on set for The Musketeers. “I was curious as to who they were going to get when Matt was leaving, but it never occurred to me that it would be me,” he explained on Australian TV show The Project. Back in 1995, he had had discussions regarding being put forward for casting on the TV movie co-produced with Universal but felt that it had not been the right point in his career to be considered. This time, however, he was delighted to know that he was under consideration, believing that there were numerous other candidates…

Although on Saturday 18 May, The Sun TV Magazine misinterpreted some of Matt Smith’s comments to deduce that he would be staying for the 2014 series the formal announcement of Matt’s departure in the Christmas Special was made by the BBC on Saturday 1 June.

Because Matt Smith had been a comparatively young Doctor, Steven’s inclination was to cast an older actor as his successor.

On one of his visits back to London during production on The Musketeers, Peter was invited to Steven’s London home to record an audition on Wednesday 19 June; the private venue was selected after fears that news about the casting of the Eleventh Doctor had leaked because auditions had been conducted at a London hotel. The producers decided not to inform Peter that he was their only choice, as this would have placed him under pressure.

Capaldi shaved off the beard he wore as Cardinal Richelieu before he auditioned for Doctor Who.
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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine continues its in-depth chronicle of the show’s production with a volume dedicated to the first four episodes of Series 8: Deep Breath, Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood and Listen. Andrew Pixley’s unparalleled behind-the-scenes coverage – reproduced in magazine format for the first time – examines every aspect of the stories’ development, from scripting through to transmission and beyond. Richly illustrated with rare and previously unseen images, this is the essential guide to the series that took Doctor Who in a remarkable new direction…