Ladies, gentlemen, undecided and uncategorised; we have lived through the first third of the Twelfth Doctor’s debut series. Peter Capaldi is the first new Doctor of the second 50 years of our show (or “Phase II” as it’s known round here). What do we make if him so far…?
A wee while before the Twelfth Doctor was dislodged from a dinosaur’s tonsils and landed on the banks of the Thames, I suggested this wide-eyed Scot might bring us some of the “fire and ice and rage” that we’ve been promised since 2005. Now, after four action-packed episodes filled with snarling eye-brows-on-a-mission, what are our impressions?
I happen to be one of the Classic crowd who are more comfortable with an older actor in the role, though Matt Smith did an incredible job of playing an ancient alien in a young hipster’s body. But with Capaldi’s alarmingly slim silhouette and aggressive eye-furniture, he looks *wonderful*. He can do more with those eyes and a bit of silence than a page of monologuing. There’s something dangerous, clever and exciting behind those eyes…
We’d expected a very different take on the character and it seemed as though the dynamic between Clara and the Doctor would have to change given the underlying flirtation with the Eleventh and the Twelfth visually looking a generation older. That was tackled head-on with his older appearance being described as an act of trust and the Doctor ‘lifting the veil’ to his companion and the world around him. Moffat has embraced the more mature Time Lord Capaldi brings and made it part of the character. There’s a sense of returning home – at least for those of us well-acquainted (read ‘besotted’) with the Classic era.
I’m not especially interested in direct comparisons to Classic Doctors but there’s certainly a tetchiness and intolerance of fools (or “puddingheads”, viz. all humans) and we’ve seen him be almost contemptuous after a soldier’s death in Into the Dalek. This Doctor is unpredictable, dangerous, rude and you wouldn’t take him home to your mother. And thank goodness for that. The edginess ups the stakes a little and has made the relationship with Clara immeasurably more interesting. In fact that’s one of the things I’m enjoying most – Jenna Coleman is being given more to do and getting some character development she was denied as the “impossible girl”. The jovial bullying or complete lack of awareness the Doctor now has about her attractiveness is a damn sight more watchable than the Eleventh’s hinted lust (commenting gleefully on her short skirt). Lines like “you’ll just have to squeeze past” after parking the TARDIS in her bedroom and “oh that’s right keep your spirits up” regarding her looks are delivered with a cheeky aplomb from Capaldi. The cast look like they’re enjoying themselves and it’s infectious…
Quibbles? Well, okay. I get the feeling there’s a bit of a NuWho hangover. Some speeches and technobabble are delivered with a kind of aggression that seems a little misplaced. As though being a dynamic and exciting actor/ character weren’t enough, Capaldi sometimes seems –to me, at least– as though he’s having to shout and race to the end of the line. This happened a little with his predecessor and occasionally some dialogue is lost and not, as I understand is occasionally the case across the pond, because of his Scottish brogue. I’m hoping he’ll settle into things and hit his stride over the next four episodes and we can have eccentric rudeness without the hint of butch.
Ultimately our new Doctor is finding his feet and we have a lot more in store. The most promising thing for me is that a few times over the past four episodes, I’ve got that special tingle. It’s that jolt of excitement when someone says “Doctor?” There’s a tiny part of your brain that suddenly really believes it’s him – the renegade who tried to hide in a junkyard in 1960s London before taking us on the trip of a lifetime… It’s something that I’ve sadly not had a great deal with NuWho – whilst not every episode can be a winner, the writing and performances have now and again been truly wonderful, but that special feeling that my seven-year-old self had back in the ’80s has rarely surfaced. However I have inklings; now and again I see Capaldi and get that twinge of excitement that I’m looking at an ancient and bonkers freedom-fighter on an extended road-trip. The Doctor – My Doctor – might be back…
So that’s me. I’m chuffed with what we’ve seen so far and think I might be totally sold on the new Doctor. To needlessly paraphrase the Fourth, quoting the Bard, there’s a pricking in my thumb that something wicked this way comes – and that’s wicked in the Classic sense of *totally awesome*. Fire and Ice and rage. And the mystical Doctor from my childhood may be on the horizon!
But what about you, Kasterborites? How have you found Capaldi’s first four? Does he feel like the Doctor? Does the rudeness tickle you or turn you off? Are you missing Smith or have you forgotten there was ever anyone else in the role? And what are you predictions for the character and his relationship with Clara? Tell us below!
… And while you’re at it, head over the SFX – they’re looking for fan’s reactions to Capaldi to feature in their October edition.