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The twelfth Doctor Who


When Peter Capaldi was announced as the twelfth Doctor, I was surprised but very happy. He'd had a successful career in British film and television for thirty years, including a couple of guest spots in Doctor Who and Torchwood, and it was known that he was a long time Doctor Who fan. It certainly seemed to me that he would make a more traditional Doctor figure than some of his immediate predecessors, older and perhaps sterner and more acerbic. And yet the casting was very divisive. This was exemplified by the "reaction video" that appeared on YouTube, wherein a young, female fan expresses horror at the new Doctor being "old" and "ugly" and declaring that she was finished with the show, which I guess says more about the differences in fandom than in the show itself. It seems to me that Capaldi probably embodied the older character that Steven Moffat had originally been looking for before Matt Smith had burst onto the scene. So it's a little ironic that Capaldi's characterization was most let down by the inconsistency of the writing. His persona was seemingly different with each series - but it isn't that the character developed, just that it suddenly changed each year. Initially, he was played as I expected: acerbic, grumpy and seemingly often uncaring. It was a very harsh take on the Doctor, although to an extent, this was seeded in the programme by his being the start of a new life cyle - the implication being that he needed to learn again what it meant to be the Doctor, presumably mirroring the way that the first Doctor has to learn to trust his companions in the very early days of the show. But the idea of the Doctor gradually becoming humanized was lost in his second series when he was given a new wacky persona - he wears a hoodie, "sonic" sunglasses and plays an electric guitar. I think the intention was probably to reverse Matt Smith's portrayal of an old man in the young man's body, but it comes across more as someone's dad having a mid-life crisis. For the final series, the Doctor has calmed down a lot, having been in residence as a University professor for many years. He displays caring and kindness, even if he buries it beneath his rough edges, and has a teacher-pupil relationship with his new companion Bill. It seemed a shame to me that it took so long to nail the persona of the twelfth Doctor - and that just as he got there, Capaldi was leaving the show. So at the end of his tenure, I found myself regarding Capaldi's Doctor as something of a missed opportunity. But hindsight is a wonderful thing - after a few years and a chance to rewatch his episodes, it's obvious that Capaldi is just magnificent. Yes, the introduction of the "bad dad" persona is still a bit jarring, but it seems more of an extension of the concept of the Doctor trying to figure out who he is, and simply overcompensating for his initial harshness. In just a few episodes, he's giving the defining performance of his era: in the episode The Zygon Inversion, he confronts extremism and war in an impassioned speech that is simply electrifying. (And amazingly, broadcast one week before the Paris terror attacks - Doctor Who has never seemed so relevant...) In The Doctor Falls, Capaldi delivers another speech that defines the Doctor's philosophy so perfectly. I'd opine now that he was the best Doctor of the modern era - (yes, even edging out Matt Smith) - and a contender for the best of the entire series. I just wish he'd stayed around for longer.

Best and worst TV stories

Adventures of the twelfth Doctor Who