Is The Twelfth Doctor As Grumpy As He Seems?

Peter Capaldi is over halfway through his first season, so now is a good time to talk about what kind of Doctor he’s going to be. Or not.

Our season opener showed us a Doctor that was, if possible, even more messed up from regeneration than he is normally. Usually he can sleep it off – but not this time, it seems.

There are some very nice lines – where he’s examining the door in Deep Breath – “Not Me!” and the window “Me!” – and there is some definite navel gazing going on, but we don’t get that much of a sense of who he is, limited by the strange post-regeneration hyperness.

He steals a coat from a tramp – treating him quite nastily as he does so. He walks away from Clara while she is in a life-threatening situation, not even giving her the sonic screwdriver to help get her out – giving her one the lamest lines a Doctor has ever given his companion – “But I might need it.” I think we can all agree this is lame lame and lame some more.

And then he proceeds to persuade a robot into committing suicide – or so we are lead to believe – and it seems that the regeneration is done and he’s supposedly ‘fully baked’.

Next up, we see him curious about the inside of a Dalek, and the great conversation he has with the damaged creature, attempting to make it understand it’s own motivations, and in doing so, revealing some of his own. And it’s not pretty listening. But then the Doctor has always been damaged, right? That’s OK; it’s fine to be damaged, it’s what you do about it that counts, and the Doctor has Always Done The Right Thing so far, sometimes only because of the baggage he’s carrying around. Which is essentially, the entire message of the 50th anniversary episode.

In terms of us understanding who this Doctor is, we don’t get much from Robot of Sherwood. Just cynicism and sarcasm.

Then the Doctor gets thrown into a confrontation with a fictional character – who seems way too groomed to really be running around Sherwood Forest – and there are some definitely amusing scenes. The one-upmanship, and the Doctor’s flat refusal to believe that Robin Hood is real. Again, some great lines – “Do people tend to punch you in the face when you say that?” “Not really.” “Good thing I’m here then” – very… Scottish. The entire premise is more farce than anything, with some interesting nods to the swashbuckling genre, but in terms of us understanding who this Doctor is, we don’t get much. Just cynicism and sarcasm.

Listen gives us more – a Doctor who is bored, and basically inventing things to be worried about. His relationship with Clara starts to become clearer – he’s definitely now a patriarch figure rather than potential love interest, and that’s fine. We’re back to what the Doctor has always been and it’s clear Mr. Capaldi wants to go down that road, and probably rightly so. I’m not sure that 7pm on a Saturday evening is quite ready for a May/December relationship of Clara lusting after Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, or worse still, the other way around. But what’s less clear now is the attitude the Doctor is displaying toward Human Kind. His apparent lack of concern and complete un-awareness of some of the social niceties doesn’t really ring true. The whole point of regeneration is to bring a new body – and some new attitudes – but it’s still the same character and same memories.

The Doctor has always understood social situations before – witness the Third Doctor dealing with a wake in Frontier in Space or the Tenth having Christmas dinner with Rose. He at least understood and could and would fake it if he didn’t totally believe it himself. This Doctor does not, and it doesn’t really ring true – where did his memories go? Why is it that he used to be able to see, recognize and take part in social interactions, and now, all of a sudden, he can’t? How far can he go in acting completely differently but still purport to be the same person?

Angry Man Shout!

Angry Man Shout!

The Doctor knows what rudeness is, and now he just doesn’t seem to care. This is so contrary to what the character represents in recent years that it seems quite a departure. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is behaving like an ADD child with some Aspbergers symptoms – eager to please but fundamentally doing the wrong thing on an emotional level. And even when it’s explained – when the opportunity for the viewer to go “ooohhh, I see. He was doing this because of that…” comes around and we can all nod and say “He’s not a jerk, he just looks like one”, it’s not taken. We are just left with a socially clueless, sometimes angry but always rude Doctor.

For someone who spent an entire second part of the regeneration episode asking Clara to stick around, because he was afraid and needed her, he sure doesn’t seem to be taking anything she has to say to heart. He’s ignoring her, doing things to actively piss her off and never really explaining himself. After eight episodes, it’s becoming clearer why he needed to make such a big deal of asking her to stay because she clearly wasn’t going to, based on his basic behavior, unlike Rose and the Tenth Doctor.

So we move on to Time Heist, which again, is more about the story than the characters. We do at least get the whole “Wait wait wait…” thing, where the Doctor works out what is going on (as originated by David Tennant). At least some things are the same. But this is okay. It’s nice to see the Doctor being the Doctor instead of Emo Confused Time Lord, and the adventure as a whole is pretty fun.


And then along comes The Caretaker. Pretty much the first episode where you couldn’t see how the story would have progressed, had any other actor been the Doctor. For the first time, we see Peter Capaldi’s Doctor as his own, rather than amalgamations of other actors Doctor – responding in ways that, even if they aren’t the best, they are at least understandable. We see him actually trying to do what the Doctor does – sort out tricky and potentially dangerous situations.

He’s trying to go incognito and getting things wrong, but in charming ways and above all, he’s not trying to be nasty to anyone. Oh, PCap’s Doctor is still in evidence. Quick to be annoyed, treating humanity more like a pet than a species, and generally marginalizing anyone else’s abilities or needs and being very pissed off when his carefully laid plan to deal with the villain of the week is upset by Clara’s new boyfriend. But at least he’s not actively being an ass for the sake of it – his responses are, at least, believable (and explained), if not totally agreeable.

For this author, it’s at this point that I think we’ve all begun to see that some of the aspects of this Doctor really are facets of a couple of the life facts of the actor who plays him. He’s an angry, sarcastic Scotsman with a superiority complex and a total disregard for other people’s feelings. In a word, a misanthrope.

He’s an angry, sarcastic Scotsman with a superiority complex and a total disregard for other people’s feelings. In a word, a misanthrope.

That’s not to suggest Peter Capaldi is personally those things – just to point out that he does come from Scotland, and if you spend anytime in Scotland, you’ll see a lot of older men who display behaviors very like this. It’s definite and very specific throwback to Hartnell’s Doctor, and an interesting/scary avenue to take, given he’s a) a new Doctor and b) not young or cute like David Tennant or Matt Smith. They, at least, had the eye candy aspect going for them in terms of being initially accepted. Peter Capaldi does not, and he’s also coming on board right after people who did, so going off into the Angry Older Man territory is a huge risk. If you are going to have an older man in the role, at least give him something for the audience to want to relate to. Not doing so takes a risk of a new Doctor and doubles it. But The Grand Moff is nothing but a risk taker, that’s for sure. Sometimes it works – New TARDIS Interiors for example – and some times it doesn’t.

New iDaleks, anyone?

Then we come to Kill The Moon, and we are right back to Deep Breath Behavior. Marginalizing the other characters, working things out from first principles (apparently) and then running away the moment an actual decision needs to be made, leaving Clara in the lurch when she needs him most. Again.


Now there are arguments to be made that the Doctor already knew the outcome, he just needed the women to come to that conclusion themselves without his interference. And that’s a valid point of view, although it’s also worth asking “Why?” – just because those three women came to the decision they did by themselves doesn’t actually mean that much in terms of humanity going forward. It wouldn’t really have mattered if the Doctor advised or not, in terms of the ultimate result. Whether or not he decided, or they did, the creature would have been born and humanity set on it’s way, regardless. So the whole “Not My Planet” argument doesn’t hold as much moral weight as it otherwise might.

But I guess my personal point is less what he did and more how he did it. He was, frankly, an ass about the whole thing. I know that’s how Hartnell was, but this isn’t 1963, and you cannot get away with a lead character who is based on actor who reportedly called Indian food “Foreign Muck” any more. If I was Clara, I would have said exactly the same thing to him at the end of the episode, and got as angry with him as she did.

Lastly – to date – we have Mummy on the Orient Express, in which he appears to be channeling Tom Baker again, down to offering Jelly Babies. Mummy is more of a romp, but we are also back to the almost cavalier disregard for Human Life. Instead of truly trying to stop the mummy killing people, he’s more interested in what there is to be learned while it’s doing it. Again though, while it’s scientifically justified and required as a plot device, he never really shows that much remorse or concern for those who’ve just died.

Jelly Babies are GOOOOOD

Jelly Babies are GOOOOOD

So, at this point, what have we got?

We’ve got a Doctor who does active research, which we’ve seen little of before. He’s got blackboards everywhere and he’s actively thinking about things – Listen is a good example of that, even if what he’s thinking about turns out to be bogus.

We’ve got a Doctor who apparently appears to have lost pretty much all knowledge of social niceties – or if not, simply doesn’t care about them, and they don’t appear to occur to him until pointed out. He’s very unafraid of being rude to people – not caring or in some cases, knowing he’s doing it and doing it anyway.

We’ve got a Doctor with a decidedly superiority complex to Humanity – we got hints of it with Chris Eccleston, but the exact opposite of what we got with Tennant and Matt Smith.

We’ve got a Doctor who can still make the big decisions, but is often more interested in making this some kind of learning experience rather than just swooping in and solving everything for everyone. This is interesting behavior, since the Doctor has always made people more than they were, but usually it was in terms of example rather than forcing them into it. It looks like Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is going for the same effect but going about it in a radically different fashion.


We’ve got a Doctor who has redefined his relationship with Clara in a rather blunt way – and left her to come to terms with it – and since then, has not really reached out to her emotionally, apart from showing up and saying, “Off we go then!” What she has to deal with now is not interaction, but lecture. He’s telling her “This is who I am, deal with it or not”. There’s little back and forth any more, and what is there indicates a man misreading emotional cues to a degree that character hasn’t for quite some time before. Yes, Matt Smith’s Doctor did it in The Lodger (and to a lesser degree, in Closing Time), but in those cases it was little amusing mis-reads and fish-out-of-water examples – not situations where he was genuinely pissing off the people that are supposed to be the closest to him. Having a character mildly annoyed because the Doctor is the better footballer is one thing, leaving your companion at the crucial moment to make an unknowable decision about the future of mankind is quite another.

We’ve got a Doctor who behaves in some very un-Doctor ways – leaving his companion in the lurch in terrible circumstances more than once – something not even Colin Baker’s Doctor would have contemplated.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that most of us don’t know quite what to make of him. He’s very unpredictable, he’s rude and frankly there’s not that much to aspire to or relate to. That may well be the point Moffat is trying to make – this man is an Alien who lives far longer than we do, has a huge brain and can think thoughts and sense things we cannot. By definition he’s not as relatable as you’d think he should be, even if he does look human.

But it’s also a tightrope of creating a character that most of your current viewership simply doesn’t like very much. And from where I am sitting, he’s right on that cusp. It’s one thing to get away from what has been done for the past few years, and quite another to take it in a direction where you actively don’t like the character particularly, and it’s fairly clear to me that we are getting precipitously close to that right now.

It's all about the Eyebrows!

It’s all about the Eyebrows!

This Doctor, it has to be said, is interesting, with a capital I. But there’s only so far that you can go with dismissive attitudes as he’s currently displaying. While, as mentioned earlier, this is how the Doctor started out, it’s coming on the heels of eight years of a very different take on the Doctors character, and it’s quite jarring and, dare I say it, upsetting in terms of “This is who he his now?” In the words of my twelve year old daughter – who has followed Doctor Who since it’s return – “Why is he so angry and rude, and why does he feel like he’s going to tell you to get off his lawn all the time?”

It feels very much like Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is getting away with this behavior – for now – more because of audience history with the show and the desire to watch the idea of Doctor Who, rather than any degree of empathy or relating to the actual character any more. And that will only succeed for a limited amount of time, but perhaps that’s part of the story arc for this season we are seeing? A molding of the angry older man into a more agreeable character over time and by his interactions with Clara.

I’m really curious about where this Doctor is going, and when we are going to see more of what the overall Doctor’s character – as defined by years and years of story telling – revealed. If at all.

Time will tell.

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  1. Colin McDonough. says:

    My view on this is that it is part of the “reset” prior to the regeneration. This is a “new” Doctor but in a way is also in a sense the First Doctor too. The character is returning to first principles and the character arc is the eventual softening of the Doctor’s rough edges to arrive at a more sociable personality. Personally I’m loving the direction the series is taking at the moment, a change of tempo and tone was needed.

  2. Ranger says:

    I agree with your comments to a point, Jake, but where I diverge is that I like this Doctor. Most of the Doctors to one degree or another have shown anti-social tendencies: Hartnell obviously; Troughton’s criminal interference in The Tomb of the Cybermen; Pertwee’s cutting remarks to everyone; Tom’s callousness in Pyramids; Colin’s arrogance; Sylvester’s manipulativeness; Eccleston’s moodiness; Tennant needing Donna to stop him going too far; Smith prone to temper tantrums, deceit and secrecy. All these facets are coming out in Capaldi’s characterisation and I am loving it and a lot of “old” fans are telling me the same thing.

    Maybe his personality will mellow as he goes on – as did Hartnell’s.

  3. Jon says:

    I am enjoying the Twelfth Doctor enormously. I completely disagree with the notion that you can’t get away with a lead charcter who is ‘an ass’ any more. What about Sherlock? Gregory House? Wolverine? Any number of anti-hero charcters. There seems to be a perception throughout your whole article that the Doctor has never been like this before but, while this is the extreme end of the spectrum, we’ve seen various Doctors display a shocking lack of social niceties, many times. Just because the last two Doctors have been all nice and cuddly, doesn’t mean the show has to continue in that veing, as it was getting rather stale IMO.

    I haven’t found his rediscovered harshness at all unconvincing, as you suggest. Rather, I find 10 & 11s smug politeness and overemoting much more disingenuous. This Doctor is much more honest about his feelings. He cares much more about adventuring and saving lives than he does about being liked, and doesn’t waste time crying when everyone is still in danger. Although the way he speaks to people is usually rude, it is usually done in a way that is amusing for the viewers – often laugh out loud funny, in fact. As for his actions, I find that if you think about them they are all doen for good reasons – especially what he did in Kill the Moon. The decision needed to come from a human with no special knowledge of the situation to have a real impact on the way humanity reacts to alien life, and the unknown in general.

    This Doctor has already shown more depth of character than most other Doctors have in their entire time o nthe show. Deep Breath, Into the Dalek, Listen, and Mummy on the Orient Express all gave us tremendous, profound insights into how this character thinks and feels, and The Caretaker and Kill the Moon gave huge insights into his relationship with Clara. You only have to closely watch Capaldi’s bravura performance to notice signs of hidden conflicting emotions under his brusque exterior.

    Twelve is not getting away with his behaviour simply because we want to watch Doctor Who. Many people actually like him, a lot. And I dearly hope there isn’t a limit to how long they can sustain this approach to the character, because I think the is the best, and bravest era of New Who by miles.

    • rickjlundeen says:

      Bravo Jon, I agree completely. Well said and I reall do hope that Capaldi continues as he is. I think he will as he has become somewhat established now as far as his personality goes. I like his honesty and I think Capaldi, as a more seasoned veteran actor, will continue to amaze us even more as time goes on.

    • Alyssa says:

      Jon, I completely, totally agree with you!
      (And, going back to “Deep Breath,” the Doctor DIDN’T abandon Clara. He was right there, all along, disguised. In fact, he was the one who carried her after she’d passed out from holding her breath.)
      I appreciate the fact that Moffat and Capaldi are challenging us. When shows start giving us exactly what we think we want, they become lifeless. Having grown up on U.S. network TV, I cannot tell you how much I enjoy watching a show that assumes its audience is intelligent.
      Finally, the Doctor just spent 1,000 years on Trenzalore. A millenuim not traveling, watching everyone around him live out their natural lives, and assuming that he, himself, was going to die, as he was on his last regeneration . That’s gotta give you a shift in perception, lol!

    • R.J. says:

      Nice one, Jon. You’ve put into words what I was thinking. I’m enjoying the new approach. 10 and 11 had some great moments and both actors did a good job, but both incarnations felt often a bit too over-the-top in their efforts to be liked and live up to their own hype. 10’s smugness and swagger could be annoying and 11’s clumsy child act wasn’t always endearing. 12’s honest, brusque, no-nonsense approach is a breath of fresh air and often laugh-out-loud funny. Capaldi brings real depth to the character and what he can convey with a Look! The long convoluted monologues of his predecessors are not needed here.
      I like this new Doctor a lot.

  4. Bradondo says:

    I agree somewhat with the Colin’s comment above but I also feel that a lot of what we’re seeing is a result of his soul-crushing losses and especially the weary 900 years on Trenzalore, fighting a battle basically alone and with the expectation that he ultimately couldn’t win. The fact that he did (in a deus ex machina manner) doesn’t erase the weary years of war and waiting, all the while becoming more and more isolated from the rest of the universe. I think some of what we call humanity and warmth are returning slowly. This is a Doctor who suffered more personal losses in the previous four incarnations than he had ever experienced before and coupled with a long period of morally draining war and exile (tho self-imposed) on a single world with little hope but to merely continue until death have left some very dark and deep marks on his soul.

    • Bar says:

      I am really appreciating a grown-up Doctor that doesn’t need everyone to like him all the time, and is more about thinking than superficial feeling. Very old-fasioned I know, but why not try something no-one else is doing on telly?
      It seems Clara is being written to give fans an outlet for their feelings about this Doctor, their slow coming to terms with him.

      It’s the confidence Moff and Capaldi have in letting him develop slowly that I value, revealing the truth behind the grumpiness, the passion behind the coolness. You have to take your time, look twice, beneath the surface. As Beverly Sills said: ‘there are no short cuts to any place worth going.’ And I’m sure Capaldi’s Doctor will turn out to be the place most worth going than anything done this century.

      Maybe it is a risk letting the audience decide, slowly, as the Doctor does with Clara at the end of MOTOE, not forcing anyone to keep travelling with him. He even offers her an excuse to leave – ‘would it make it easier for you (if you believed that I was cold and heartless)?’

      Again I wonder, are they specifically going for fandom rather than mass audience and ratings? If so, I admire their courage/integrity in the face of a vocal and enormous fandom and a mass media with the attention span of a stunned herring.

  5. Al says:

    The Seventh Doctor calls Ace an “emotional cripple” in order to manipulate her emotions in Curse of Fenric. Twelve has a LONG way to go before he reaches that level of bastardom in my opinion.

    • Bar says:

      True, but 7 was doing it to break her trust in him, therefore the baddie’s hold over them, therefore defeat it. Just as 12 lied to Clara & asked her to lie so that GUS heard what the Doctor wanted him to hear.
      It’s a matter of whether you think the end justifies the means or not. Whether you can still trust someone when they are in a postition to harm you… indeed is it trust at all if they never give you reason to doubt?

  6. DonnaM says:

    An interesting piece, although I find myself disagreeing with most of your salient points, sir 🙂

    On the surface maybe he’s a rude, arrogant, patronising git. However, increasingly I’m seeing the Twelfth Doctor’s defining characteristic as… honesty.

    Yes, I know the Doctor lies. He lies to get things done, to make people do what he wants and all that jazz. But Twelve, thus far, is brutally honest in certain fundamental areas. He’s absolutely truthful about who and what he is.

    He’s not able to save everyone. He knows it, and he’s not going to sugar the pill or wring his hands and wobble his lip while wasting their last few moments of life apologising for it. He’s a genius and incredibly arrogant, and he doesn’t argue when people suggest call him out on it. He’s not human and – much to my personal joy – he’s not going to cut his cloth to fit us. No more “Please please plleeaase everybody like me! I’m cute/cool/funny/sexy (delete as applicable)”. He is what he is and he’s not going to accommodate the small hypocrisies we humans employ to make life run smoother. He’s also – if your humour runs to the gallows type, darker, cynical and more acerbic – very, very funny, from where I’m watching at least.

    I agree he’s reckless; some of his actions have been shocking. However, I would suggest Moffat and Capaldi are testing us here: how much do you really trust The Doctor? He abandoned Clara! Twice! With a lame line!

    Yes – and then he found a way to be there when she needed him. Twice. In fact you could almost see his actions, in both Deep Breath (loved it) and Kill The Moon (didn’t!) as evidence of his absolute trust in her abilities and judgement. There’s nothing handed on a plate with this Doctor.

    Yet he offers a hand when Clara’s struggling to climb up through Rusty’s innards. He (most likely) talks a mass-murdering former robot whose friends are currently trying to murder his friends into ending it, the only way it can. He doesn’t pause to consider the consequences of helping a damaged Dalek recover, and maybe I was alone, but I heard a definite despair in his “No, no no no no!” when those consequences became apparent; a disappointment that emerged as bitterness that there never was a good Dalek, just a damaged one. He can’t get why Courtney’s hurt that he doesn’t think she’s special… then whisks her away to the Moon. Actions, perhaps, speak louder than words with the Twelfth Doctor. That’s how I judge people, what they do not so much as what they say. We all lie. We just don’t all admit it that readily.

    Perhaps Capaldi’s slight changes of expression and inflexion are being missed by that “most of the audience” (a sweeping statement, like the “eye candy” one that I’m not seeing among my friends, or their kids) that aren’t liking this particular take on the character.

    Oh, and Robin Hood – I was with The Doctor every step of the way. Irritation to the max, whether he’s a “legend” or not 🙂

    • Bar says:

      Donna you’re reading my mind as usual – except do I infer from your post that you DON’T think this Doctor is sexy?

      • DonnaM says:

        To be honest Bar, I think he sexier than his immediate predecessor, which is the point I wanted to make 🙂 Not that it’s saying much, because I never got the “eye candy” thing from Matt at all. Fine actor, seems a charming chap, but totally lacking the “It” factor (if it’s not being sexist to use that term!) for me.

        • Ranger says:

          I agree with you Donna, I never got the eye-candy thing with Matt either, but I put that down to being old enough to be his mother and a lot closer to Capaldi in age. To me Eleven is the whinging schoolboy who has evolved into Twelve’s adult.

  7. vidarraven says:

    Do you recall how Tom’s Doctor reminded Sarah that he may look human he is an alien and thus will not always react in a human way. I think this Doctor is more like Hartnell’s due to the fact he was the most Galifreyan than the others in emotional response I.E. he is aloof detached and arrogant

    • calliarcale says:

      I agree. And another of my favorite bits from that era:
      Fourth Doctor: You humans have such limited little imaginations. I don’t know why I like you so much.
      Sarah Jane: Because you have such good taste!
      Fourth Doctor: Well, that’s true!

      You could get him to compliment humans by stroking his ego. 😉 Well, there was also his magnificent and unprompted speech in “Ark in Space” about the indomitable human race, so though he clearly is often disappointed by us, there’s something in us he really does genuinely admire. And this is probably why we drive him so nuts; we don’t always live up to his expectations of us.

  8. TimeChaser says:

    I do wonder how much of this Doctor’s rougher personality is real and how much is just bluff. There’s that moment in Robot of Sherwood where Clara tries to compare the Doctor to Robin, saying that he’s just like a legendary hero in real life, and the Doctor finds the idea uncomfortable and immediately deflects it with “I’m just passing the time.”

    He still can’t stop traveling, he can’t stop interfering and trying to help people, but it seems he’s no longer comfortable with being put up on a pedestal by anyone, including his companion.

  9. Jeffrey Miller says:

    I agree with you totally. While he is alien we need to be able to relate and I currently can’t do that with this Doctor. He is a jerk and I wouldn’t want to and have avoided these types of people in my life. I’ve loved the show for over 35 years and the Doctor has always been able to temper his bad moods with good ones that meant you were still having fun and wanted to travel with him but not this one. I wouldn’t want to travel with him and I certainly would never introduce a new viewer to the show in it’s current format or to this incarnation of the Doctor. What became of the fun of travel? What became of the fun of the character? He does indeed to seem to have totally forgotten what it is like to care for and love the people he meets and I am having trouble dealing with anyone who seems to feel the ends does justify the means.

    • TimeChaser says:

      I don’t think he’s all that much different to the Sixth Doctor at the very beginning, the same kind of quick flashes to anger, not caring what anyone thinks about him or whether or not anyone likes him, but still capable of the same compassion and caring that we associate with the Doctor, only coming out in different ways.

      It’s not as if this is a completely unknown way for the Doctor to behave, it’s just not one most people are very used to because this kind of Doctor has always been a more controversial interpretation than others.

      • Jeffrey Miller says:

        Agreed that previous Doctors have had “quick flashes” of a nature that bestows an alien no one else from Gallifrey, other than the Master and Rani, have shown as complete a disregard to the “lesser” species of the universe. I think this interpretation of the character is way off base from what we have seen for the last 51 years of the show to be at the heart of the character. History of film and tv have shown if you reinterpret a character too far from what has become the heart of the shows hero the show is doomed to fail.

        • Jon says:

          I just don’t interperate things the same way at all. I really don’t see this as being ‘way off base’ the heart of the Doctor. If anything, it was Tennant and Smith who altered the character, and Capaldi is returning to the character’s roots. Just because he is grumpy and rude, doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about people. I think his actions consistently show that he does care, such as in Mummy on the Orient Express, making the mummy target him instead of the woman.

          • Jeffrey Miller says:

            But his actions in Mummy seemed more a scientific move rather than a compassionate one. He himself said he didn’t know how things would turn out and he would stand by and watch one person after another be picked off till he found a solution. His actions just seemed to be a statistical calculation that he might find the solution in the 66 seconds afforded him if he took the place of the girl. Not a motivation of self-sacrifice. While Hartnell and Eccelston had their darker moods they knew when to relax and just enjoy life and the nature of adventure. This version seems to relish in the disaster and how he can involve himself not how he can help and save. His whole sense of fun is gone. A polar opposite of any of the other doctors as a whole. Yes, if he calms down over time I will revise my opinion but considering I had such high hopes for this older version I just wouldn’t want to be friends with him.

        • vidarraven says:

          Just because he isn’t weeping and wailing over deaths doesn’t mean he doesn’t care he is returning to his Time Lord training and being a scientist. Why must he be emotional to prove he cares or why he needs ro prove it at all?
          The fact he saves people should be all the evidence we need,

          • Jeffrey Miller says:

            But the best part of this character was the fact he had long since rebelled against his Time Lord training. If he is becoming a Time Lord he may as well go back home. And without the emotional input of the character he has always been, this scientific detachment will “alien”nate everyone he meets and he will soon become one of the very enemies he had always vowed to fight.
            His actions of the ends do justify the means are running in par with Davros and the Cybermen.
            Emotions! Love! Pride! Hate! Fear! Have you no emotions, sir, hmm?
            Anyone can save someone but to do it just for scientific reasons is sad.

          • James Lomond says:

            Jefrey Miller, the scientific thing to do would have been to wait longer until there had been more deaths to observe and study to give him a better chance of defeating it. Taking a gamble and going for it before the Mummy came for him and in a way that removed the woman from danger was not motivated by science – it was motivated by a desire to save as many lives as possible. Yes he didn’t say gentle, nice things to people who found themselves in the firing line, but because he expected them to value the others’ lives as much as he did and devote themselves to the combined effort of trying to save everyone like he did. Then there’s the mystery and more uncomfortable intrigue of how much is motivated by his narcissism and need for adventure – but that’s no different to any other incarnation. Am hoping that the hero in him will become more obvious later on – but it’s definitely there…

          • Jeffrey Miller says:

            Clara : So you were pretending to be heartless?
            The Doctor : Would you like to think that about me? Would that make it easier?
            and than later he adds about Maisies death.
            “There’s a good chance that she’d die too. At which point I would have just moved on to the next and the next until I beat it.”
            The Doctors words not mine. So even he himself implies he is heartless and would watch each person die to achieve his scientific goal not a life saving one. I do agree with most of what you say just hope more of the hero and fun of the show returns as these are just dark times and even darker shows.

          • Except, of course, that he didn’t let her die.

          • Bar says:

            VIDARRAVEN were you deliberately quoting Kerr Avon?

          • James Lomond says:

            Nope Jeff- you’re saying he was *only* doing it out of scientific interest. He was saying he had no other choice than to keep going *trying to save ppl* until he got it right. “Some times the only decisions you can make are bad ones” – he recognised and was saddened by the situation and that lives were being lost – he was trying to save as many ppl as possible and was trying to do it quickly – the “heartless” bit was not being kind to a condemned person – his priority was the bigger picture of trying to save as many ppl as possible and fighting the bad guy and the intriguing fault/ eccentricity in this Doctor is that he doesn’t keep saying “Sorry, I’m so sorry” (thank goodness).

            For the record I’m confused about the “heartless” line – (and maybe you can help me out) …the obvious reading of it would be that he was saying “would it be easier for you to leave me if you believed I was actually a heartless monster, which I’m actually not” but I did wonder (and I think this is what you’re suggesting was the case) whether he meant “would it be easier for you in general, whether you stay or go, to believe that I was pretending to not care about an individual’s feelings just before they die while trying to save everyone and that actually I would have been all nice and gentle to Maisey if GUS hadn’t been watching”…

            Losing myself a bit – so I wondered whether he was saying either “I care lots and was only mean to an individual because GUS was watching” or “I am rude and won’t be nicey-nice to dying ppl if there’s a bigger task of saving more lives at hand i.e. I am ‘heartless’ but also heroic”. I’d prefer it was the former one but I actually am really unsure.

            Either way his motive was still saving ppl and not scientific interest.

          • Jeffrey Miller says:

            I can’t say I understood the comment at all either. But I certainly didn’t like the implications that he is heartless in favor of some ulterior motives.
            I fully complied with Claras speech at the end of Kill The Moon when she railed on him on how insensitive he is being and he seems to keep stressing the bigger picture. But the love of the character had always been his ability to see the small details and the even smaller people sometimes.
            Still not quite understanding Claras motivation to continue to travel with him as she herself said she doesn’t much like him or trust him any more. How does one travel with anyone they don’t trust or feel safe with?
            You bail on me like he did and I wouldn’t be back. Even if he did come back to save me in the end.
            And Clara has been so reduced to something akin to a time travel junkie. She too is just along for the thrill of one adventure to another. This seems rather odd as she was one of the most important people in the Doctors timestream when she sacrificed herself to be splintered all through his timeline.

          • James Lomond says:

            Yep sorry I’m explaining that really badly – I’m not clear on whether he was saying…

            Either: “would it help you to think that I AM heartless if you’re going to leave me (because I’n actually not heartless, you see”…

            Or whether he was saying: “would it help you to think that I was PRETENDING to be heartless whether you stay or go – because, actually, being nicey-nice doesn’t interest me any more and I will be a git to ppl if I’m under time pressure trying to save loads of others.”

            Yeah think that’s what I’m stuck on. Thoughts? :/

          • vidarraven says:

            Of course it was the logical response 😉

          • James Lomond says:

            Yeah – like a few people have commented before I think Clara’s character has suffered from starting out as a plot device. She initially was introduced in Asylum (yes a splinter but essentially the *same* character if not the same set of memories and experiences) as someone with a sense of adventure who wanted to be “shown the stars” and then a governess who was both adventurous, curious but also wedded to the idea of caring for others, then she was again someone who wanted to see the world but got stuck caring for the kids of a family who had just lost their mother (striking a cord with her particularly I guess)… she’s then had this slightly unclear tension between being fascinated by travel and adventure but also being a control freak who wants to be a bossy maternal figure to others – partly the Doctor. She promises that she’ll stay to help/ take care of the 12th + have adventures + have a second life as a controlling, caring teacher. All of this does kinda ring true in a way but *feels* a bit disjointed like her motives (and so her characte) are inconsistent rather than being a believable conflict that an individual is struggling with.

            Her rant at the Doctor was a funny one. I’m not sure the writer even knows what was going on. One imagines that the Doctor didn’t realise how abandoned and pressured she’d feel. But also one imagines that he’s trying to avoid becoming a god-like figure as he nearly has before which is pretty valid. The bigger argument against him making the decision, rather than not being a native of the planet (weak given that Clara isn’t a native of that time), is that he can see some timelines (or causal nexuses or whatever) that humans can’t, he’s been around in his time machine for millenia already and will continue to be around for as long – given that you could make a pretty good argument that he should not simply make arbitrary moral choices and people more embedded in the time and place at hand should do them. Still doesn’t quite convince though, like you say.

            A better argument would be that the poor guy has already held his hand over a big red button in the Time War and sorta did, sorta didn’t kill all his own people and the Daleks to save the universe… on that basis you could argue it was MASSIVELY insensitive of her to have a go at him.

            Still begs the question of why Clara and the shool girl should be left there with Hemione’s character. Why leave them? Why not drop off a whole contingent of ethicists?? Think the writer had a bit more work they could have done. Not that delivering on all of Who’s requirements and quirks is easy…

            Not impressed that Clara threatened the Doctor with violence. Really not impressed.

            And Danny-voice-of-reason-Pink didn’t tell her that the Doctor was wrong *at all*. Not entirely sure what we’re supposed to think nor what the Doctor’s real motives were tbh.

  10. Margarethe says:

    Capaldi’s Doctor is deliberately an anti-dote to the pretty boy doctors and his initial rudeness and apparent callousness are designed to make us draw a line from the previous era. This is particularly to distinguish him from the line of more human New Who doctors who went before him and to show that Moffat and Capaldi are seeking to return to the original character of the doctor – the unknowable, unpredictable alien who doesn’t spend all of his time worrying about the petty concerns of humans, in fact sometimes he actually despises them but they do amuse him. That is how the doctor has been until the reboot sought to humanise the character to attract a new audience less familiar with the vinegar flavour of the character. Tennant was taken on board to bring in younger (female) viewers and although Matt Smith played a doctor much more in line with classic doctors (less emo soap opera actor and more a mad man in a box), I think his youth always worked against his nailing the part completely. Put simply, New Who is no longer divided into the RTD and Moffat eras, we should be more properly be talking about the pre-Capaldi and Capaldi eras.

    Having an actor as great as Capaldi and as steeped in Who history has allowed Moffat to give us the doctor I think he always wanted to – a beautiful balance of all of the previous regenerations but with his own distinctive voice. Capaldi in return has shown as a character evolving and developing each week. Clara is gradually bringing out the empathetic side but the Doctor remains slightly dangerous. As Capaldi has mentioned, Clara has learned she can’t totally trust this doctor yet. I imagine the finale will show us exactly how much the doctor really cares and why he has been toughening up Clara and testing her mettle. Capaldi also has a delicious spikiness and the banter between him and Jenna is sparkling. The Caretaker was a wonderful laugh out loud episode which showed the spark but also the genuine affection between the characters. This kind of witty dialogue is miles ahead of the silly zaniness which both 10 and 11 were given by way of humour.

    The other great thing about Capaldi’s doctor is that the writing has stepped up to meet his acting capabilities. The stories this year are tighter than we have ever seen and there are no lazy resolutions or handwaving. More importantly there are consequences and real deaths, not cop outs we have become so familiar with since the reboot. Last week was a near perfect episode of Who and one of the best since 2005. While Capaldi was his usual sensational self, he was only the cherry on top, as what made it truly great was the writing, production, pacing and direction. That is partly down to having Capaldi on the Tardis I believe – everyone has stepped up their game to meet him.

    Ratings are on the way up again after last series, with a show with much broader appeal for the entire family than any of the previous series, AIs are strong and Capaldi has met universal acclaim from critics. As someone wrote recently, this really is the Golden Age for Who and by some margin both the best series since 2005. For me, Capaldi has already passed Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker as the greatest of all doctors and I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of this series more people will be saying the same. Capaldi continues to best his performance each week and with series 9 being the first written entirely for him, the show is likely to hit greater highs than it already is and that really is something for Who fans to crow about.

    • Bar says:

      Yes to everything you say Margaretha; I will never see the initials CE and BCE the same again. In religious terms they stand for ‘common era’ and ‘before the common era’ (more inclusive than ‘Before Christ’ and ‘Anno Domini.’) The Capaldi Era is suiting me just fine; long may it continue. Maybe he’s not so much vinegar flavour, as fine wine; matured with age and full of subtle nuances, worth taking time over. But some people will always prefer something fizzy that rots your teeth.

      All that ‘I am not your boyfriend’ stuff was just the manifesto; I like your suggestion that season nine (CE2) will be even better, when he’s been at the helm long enough for the writers to revel in his skills and characterisation, and really push what he – and the show – can do.

      Given this Doctor’s actions tend to speak louder than words, it’s interesting to watch with the sound down; read all that’s going on in his expressions. Interesting though that reading expressions/character is of the things it’s supposed to be hard for autistic people to do, but WHO is blessed by lots of autistic fans, who loved 11’s aspergers. I hope they are finding other ways to discover what’s going on inside 12’s head. Must ask my autistic God-daughter.

    • Aly says:

      Oh, Margaretha, I love every bit of this review! You hit it right on the head! <3

  11. James Lomond says:

    There’s something not quite right at the moment, that’s for sure, though I think, *hope* it turned a corner with MummyOTOE and we’re going to get the fun adventure/ hero element shining through our moody misanthrope…

    Briefly- not sure that the ADHD/ Asperger’s comparison is justified.

    But the thing I’m finding weird is how (and it’s happened for me a little) the fun, eccentricity and joy of this Doctor is being forgotten along the way. Because I think it is all there – just a bit difficult to see with the *new* misanthrope guise the Doctor is in…

    In Deep Breath one of the key things he says to the clockwork droid in the “escape pod” is that he will go to extraordinary lengths to defend human beings and they are “never small” to him- these are the words/ mindset of a heroic defender despite the “I might need it” line to Clara earlier in the episode. I tool that whole abandoning of Clara to be setting out the fact that he was still the same heroic, reliable Doctor who would have your back and save you (as he DID) but he wasn’t going to be nicey-nice and constantly reassure you along the way. “I might need it” was a deliberately “lame” line to scare us and Clara and make us wonder who this guy was before returning minutes later as DEFINITELY the same caring, courageous heroe he’s always been. “I might need it” turned out to mean “I might need it while I find a way to get us both out of this and save the whole city” rather than “I might need it and I don’t care what happens to you”. That was surely the whole point of that scene?…

    Then the cynicims and sracasm with Robin Hood – well it wasn’t all cynicism and sarcasm. First off the sarcasm was genuinely funny and worked beautifully with Hood’s thigh-slapping earnestness. And he wasn’t cynical the whole time – when they were chained up he engaged in a genuine, childlike competition about who could live longer and said with an eager grin on his face “yeah but it would be me wouldn’t it?” to Clara – this is a character who actually wants to play, wants to engage and is having fun no matter how grave and grouchy he comes over most of the time.

    And then the lack of understanding of human interactions/ social niceties…. afraid I can’t agree with that. Matt Smith’s Doctor had no unerstanding of social niceties – air-kissing twice when greeting people in a flat-share in England and turning up to Clara’s Christmas dinner naked. This was ridiculous comedy but reliant on a character who really had no idea about normal human social interactions. He was just *nice* with it. Capaldi’s Doctor clearly understands social interaction – he just doesn’t care. Which I find refreshing and feeing – though also, granted, uncomfortable at times. But as another poster said it’s no obstacle to having a hugely popular and engaging character viz. Sherlock. The whlole point is with this kind of moody loner angry-man character, they *do* care and things *do* matter to them but the drama and intrigue lies in watching them try to isolate themselves and *pretend* things don’t matter to them.

    Capaldi’s Doctor is *so* hurt when Clara rejects him. When she first indicates she’s upset at the end of Kill the Moon, he drops the books and comes down the stairs with real concern in his voice – she *matters* to him and he didn’t want to hurt her. He either misjudged it hugely or didn’t explain himself to her well enough (script’s fault, I’d say) – surely not wanting to become an all-powerful event-manipulating time God (as 10 nearly did) who has been around for centuries before Clara and centuries after is a good enough reason to bow out of making that decision. He’s also made a similar if not vastly more difficult decision in the 50th special which firstly should have been touched on in the script (ridiculous that it wasn’t) and secondly makes Clara incredibly insensitive for not having factored that in.

    Personally – while Coleman is giving a stunning perfomance – I find Clara far less likeable than the Doctor. Not impressed that she threatened to hit him so hard he’d regenerate.

    Anyway – hoping and expecting that more of the fun, eccentricity and suppressed warmth will shine through the cracks and those not feeling the love will come back on board.

  12. Hoopconjecture says:

    The 12th Doctor is refreshing.
    His reaction to humanity is how I feel after a week at work empathising with the masses.
    The comfort factor of the programme has reduced which is no bad thing. If you want comfort TV there are re runs of Heartbeat on ITV4

  13. ramberg2013 says:

    There were points made throughout both Eccleston and Tennant of how Rose helped with dealing with the emotional fallout of the time war and Donna acting as his conscience. Remember how Donna convinced him to save just one family in the Fires of Pompeii. I would also guess a thousand years of post traumatic stress being on the Christmas planet ( without Clara for the most part) would make someone pretty grumpy. I am still in a wait and see mode this season. The shaky science of Kill the Moon was really disappointing but I found Mummy to be a rather nice bounce back. Time will tell I guess

    • TimeChaser says:

      I’m waiting to see if that decision the save Caecilius’ family from Pompeii will come back as some sort of significant character epiphany, since Moffat seems determined to make a point that the Doctor has this particular face for a reason.

  14. Chris says:

    I have to agree with the comments here.Not to take anything away from David Tennant or Matt Smith as I thought they were very good but I think Peter Capaldi is superb,I just hope he stays for at least another two seasons.Watching him every week has been a complete pleasure.My 7 year old nephew likes him too even though he liked all the others he has seen,though he does refer to Matt Smith as the “Boy Doctor”.

  15. I think, and it barely feels necessary to add anything to the superb comments already made (Jon, Donna, Margarethe), that as Alyssa says, this Doctor has just been through hell on Trenzalore, truly living the human experience of saving people he knows will die, knowing he too will die.

    So far there have been three clear emotional arcs I can identify, the “Good Man” arc, which I feel was resolved just fine within the episode, and the less clearly resolved “Not my Decision” (covered very nicely by James above) and “Pain is a gift” arcs, and the new series was a natural time to show us a person wishing to reject the set of circumstances which led to pain and loss (articulated at the “Heartless”speech) only to discover at the end that in fact “Pain is a gift”, with some real exploration of heartlessness along the way.

    However I think the thing with arcs is you really have to signpost the journey you are taking the audience on to ensure you get the full impact of the resolution.

    But to be honest, this is Doctor Who, and a new one to boot, and while it would be nice to go on that journey, we also had to like the new guy first, so the heartlessness/no stabilisers was actually a little more tempered than it could have been. This is a long running show, so it must be incredibly hard to tread the line between drama and driving the 2000 year old alien up dramatic cul de sacs which require reset buttons to resolve. So on the whole, loved it all, respect the writing, maybe now that we know 12, a bit of pencil sharpening to ensure those payoffs really feel like we earned them.

    Final unresolved arc (for now), and maybe someone will correct me: does the Doctor even know why he regenerated rather than dying? That’s a doozy of an emotional impact if it comes, which I would LOVE to see Capaldi perform, and which either gets resolved at Christmas, or means we shouldn’t be done with Clara yet. Xx

  1. October 22, 2014

    […] Jake Simpson, at Kasterborous, asks whether the twelfth Doctor is as grumpy as he seems: […]

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