Now those of you who follow my blog will probably know that I was not happy with series 8 of the new Doctor Who. I feel that there were too many stories set on earth, and in particular within Clara’s place of work.
Doctor Who is a series about a man who can travel anywhere in time and space after all, so you’d expect him to travel to somewhere other than bloody Coal Hill School.
However one thing I have enjoyed about series 8 is Peter Capaldi’s performance as, and also Steven Moffat’s characterisation of the 12th Doctor.
For me the 12th Doctor is already one of the most well realized Doctors on screen even only after 1 season.
Capaldi is always able to elevate the quality of his stories through his performance like every actor before him in the role. Whilst there may be many things I am unhappy with about Doctor Who nowadays, I am thrilled that the 12th Doctor has turned out to be as excellent as I had hoped he would be, and in this article I am going to run down the reasons why I feel he has been such a brilliant Doctor.
Now initially I wasn’t too happy with how Moffat was writing the 12th Doctor. Even though I had always praised the way Moffat had written 11 I felt he was stumbling a bit on 12 as he seemed to be writing 12 like 11. I was scared that Moffat having become so used to writing 11 would be unable to adjust to Peter’s personality quite as well.
In all fairness I still think there are a few moments where 12 is written too much like 11. Like the end of Time Heist where 12 flaps his hands everywhere and flirts with the attractive female villain. You could easily substitute Matt in those scenes and you wouldn’t notice the difference. In fact it would make more sense for the friendly and sociable 11 to be flirting with the villain, than the grumpy 12 who doesn’t like any kind of physical contact with anyone.
However this is actually fairly common in a Doctors first year, the writers will often still be stuck on the previous Doctor to an extent where they will sometimes write the new Doctor in exactly the same way.
However looking back on it I feel that whilst there were a few hiccups Moffat managed to adapt to Capaldi’s personality rather quickly and can now write for him every bit as well as he could for 11.
I think that Capaldi much like Matt has been given a lot of freedom in the role by Moffat. I have mentioned this before that I feel that the actor playing the role must be given as much freedom as they possibly can. Not so much that they are given the run of the show, which happened during Tom’s final years to some extent, but enough so that they feel comfortable with the character and are in many ways able to really shape the character, with the writer just following their lead.
Capaldi has been allowed to pick his own costume, decide that his Doctor will be less sociable and more cold and Moffat has gone with that as opposed to the other way around.
The 12th Doctor is definitely a much darker interpretation of the Doctor than either of his two predecessors.
In his first episode he is perfectly willing to kill his enemy and though Moffat leaves it open ended as to whether or not he did actually push the Half faced man to his death, it is still established that even if he didn’t actually kill him he still talked him into killing himself.
Either way its still quite a dodgy thing for the Doctor to do and its very bold of Moffat and Capaldi to have the new Doctor do something like this in his first ever episode.
On top of that the 12th Doctor, seemingly abandons Clara a few times throughout the series including in his first episode “Deep Breath” and “Kill the Moon”. He also is shown to have very callous reactions to people’s deaths like the soldier who is vaporized in “Into the Dalek” or even Danny himself in “Dark Water”.
The 12th Doctor is definitely a colder, harder figure than either 11 or 10. You definitely could not imagine either of them reacting in the same way that 12 often does. Compare 12’s reaction to the soldier dying in “Into the Dalek” to 11’s having to leave Octavian to die in “Flesh and Stone”. They are literally polar opposites. 11 knows there is nothing he can do to help him, but stays because his emotions get the better of him and tears swell up in his eyes as he has to leave him, whilst 12 meanwhile makes no attempt to save the soldier as he knows its pointless and casually dismisses his death to the point where Journey Blue has him up against a wall and is ready to punch his lights out.
11 and 10 would probably be outraged at some of 12’s actions.
Fortunately the writers never go too far with 12 however. That’s what makes him such a favorite of mine. All of his more callous and ruthless actions are understandable.
When he dismisses the soldiers death he is not just being cruel. He is just not messing about. Deep down he is probably just as upset as 11 is with Octavian or Angel Bob, except the difference is he knows he can’t afford to mess around and cry. He is very much a no nonsense Doctor which makes sense really when you think about where the Doctor is in his life.
He now has a purpose. Up until now The Doctor has only ever just been a wanderer journeying his way through the universe interfering when he wants and occasionally being asked to help. However now he knows his planet is out there and that it will be his job to free it.
Thus he is not messing about anymore. The time for just doing what he wants is over, well okay not completely over, but you know what I mean he has grown up in many ways.
He has his people to think of, he is at the start of a new regeneration cycle having come closer to genuine death than ever before, and he has also been through a 900 year war where he has had to see anyone he may have bonded with on Trenzalore either grow old and die or be killed in conflict.
It makes sense that the Doctor would no longer care about looking young or trying to fit in any more after going through all of that. Now he is just being honest with himself that he is an ancient alien who doesn’t always see things the same way human beings do, and also at the same time he knows he can’t let his emotions get the better of him.
Therefore he will not waste time when trying to help people crying over a fallen soldier, he will not hesitate to kill someone who threatens his friends and he will not care if people even Clara think he is being cold with them. He knows he can’t rescue Danny without creating a paradox so he is not going to dress it up and lie to Clara, he is going to be honest with her about that right away.
Even his leaving Clara in “Kill the Moon” can be seen this way. Here he leaves it up to the human beings to decide their own fate for once rather than stepping in and deciding it for them. He isn’t treating the human race like his children and wanting them to look on him as being their hero like 11 was with Amy Pond. He thinks he is doing the right thing and showing them respect and its brilliant seeing how Clara just doesn’t see it that way. Ironically she sees it completely the reverse and storms out in rage. Though I am no fan of “Kill the Moon” I think this scene was brilliant as it showed how alien the Doctor truly is. Even after all this time he still doesn’t understand human beings completely and he is genuinely shocked when Clara looks on his actions as a betrayal. You can’t help but almost feel sorry for 12 even though what he did was awful, as he really has no idea that he did anything wrong. Capaldi plays this scene perfectly as he stands there with a look of total confusion as Clara storms out, totally unaware of what he did wrong.
Thus whilst 12 may seem somewhat more callous and ruthless ultimately his actions are still understandable and make perfect sense when you consider where the Doctor is at this point in his life.
They never make the 12th Doctor seem cruel, or crass or just plain nasty. He is practical to a degree where he might seem quite cold and he lacks tact, but its never in a malicious way.
Even when he is just being rude its often presented in a more comical way than an outright nasty way, such as when he threatens to hit Dr Chang with his shoe.
Also many of his more callous actions are not so out of character for the Doctor anyway. Is his callous reaction to the soldiers murder any different to 4’s callous reaction to Lawrence Scarman’s death? Is his possible murder of the half faced man any different to 4’s murder of Professor Solon, or even his immediate predecessors murder of Solomon the Trader or 10’s murder of the Scyrocrax or 7’s attempted murder of Davros?
At the same time the writers also wisely give us plenty of little moments that show a kinder, sweeter more tender side to the 12th Doctor too.
I think this is an important thing to do when you have a darker Doctor. Obviously there is a limit to how dark you can make the Doctor. You can’t have him just be a totally unsympathetic and ruthless character. He still has to be likable to a certain extent as after all he is the main character of the show that we are supposed to root for.
With the 1st Doctor we saw what a sweetheart he was to Susan his grand daughter. With 9 we saw how much he cared for Rose. Even when she betrayed him in “Fathers Day” he still goes through hell, even tries to change time itself to save Rose and her father.
With 12 meanwhile, whilst his relationship with Clara has been a bit colder than either 1’s with Susan or 9’s with Rose (which we will get to later) there are plenty of moments with other characters that show what a big softie he is underneath.
When he interacts with Osgood who is a much more vulnerable character (even the Master and the Zygons notice how low her self esteem is) he is less blunt, more caring and sensitive around her than he normally would be.
I also loved his interactions with Maebh in “In the Forest of the Night”. Now “In the Forest of the Night” was my least favorite 12th Doctor episode. It just isn’t the type of story that works in Doctor Who. Its too light. Still I love the moments with 12 and Maebh. I love the way Maebh doesn’t ever look remotely scared of him. No matter what he does even when he is pointing at her and being angry and strict she still looks completely unscared.
I have never seen a child look so unscared in anything. The reason for that is because she can see what a softie he is underneath. She knows that his bark is worse than his bite. All she would have to do is just cry or not even cry, but just look a bit upset and he would cave. He would spend five minutes telling her he was sorry and then probably take her to Disneyland and spend the rest of the day spoiling her just so she wouldn’t cry again.
Him and Maebh remind me of the characters of Sully and Boo from the movie Monsters Inc. Boo the little girl is never scared of Sully because again even though he is supposed to be a scary monster, she knows how sweet he really is which is why she always runs up to him to hug him.
I’d say 12 is probably the best attempt at doing a darker Doctor on tv since the first Doctor. Now I love the 6th Doctor and Colin Baker to me is every bit as good as any one else in the role. Sadly however the 6th Doctor on tv was let down by a number of factors.
It was not by Colin’s performance not at all. It was by the writers who went too far in trying to make 6 dark. Unlike 12 they had him do nasty things without reason. Also they virtually never showed off his softer side either and worst of all they actually dressed him in that awful costume apparently to show how tasteless he was to make him seem more unlikable!
It was a stupid idea and its a shame because Colin was excellent and he had brilliant ideas for his character and the costume he wanted 6 to wear would have been excellent (its not too dissimilar to Capaldi’s Doctor’s costume, and indeed many of the ideas Colin had for his Doctor are not too dissimilar to what we see on screen with 12) and fortunately he would get a chance to develop the 6th Doctor properly in the Big Finish Audios.
Still on television, though I think Colin does rise above them and always gives an excellent performance, the 6th Doctor nevertheless suffers from all of these problems to quite a large degree.
The 9th Doctor meanwhile I think suffered from being too rushed. Though both the writers and Christopher Eccelston did a good job in the one year they had, the fact that it was only one year I think means they had to rush through 9’s story arc perhaps a little too fast.
With 12 however they have got everything down right in my opinion. Unlike either 6 or 9 they have given the actor the necessary freedom in the role. They have also wisely not gone too far in trying to make him dark and shown his more sympathetic side from time to time, making him appear as a more well rounded character. And finally as Capaldi has been conformed for at least another year they have been able to take their time more slowly with developing him and not had to rush anything.
I also think 12’s costume reflects his personality too. It is a much more stripped down costume which suits his no nonsense attitude, but its not too stripped down. Its not like the 9th Doctors which I think looked too ordinary. 12 does still have a certain old fashioned look to him and he does still stand out. He doesn’t just look like a guy down the pub, but obviously it is a bit more toned down than say the 4th Doctors.
I think it has been quite funny the way 12 seems too look on his previous incarnations costumes with disdain. Referring to 11 as hipster because of his bow tie and 4’s costume as impractical. However at the same time I also thought it was a nice touch the way 12 actually seemed to quite like 11. Normally the Doctors don’t like their previous incarnations. 4 felt he was vast improvement on 3. 6’s first words were to slate his predecessor “changed my dear and it seems not a moment too soon”, whilst even 11 called 10 “vain”.
However 12 in contrast referred to 11 as a “dashing young time traveler I used to know”. I think it would be quite funny to see how they would get on should we ever get a multi Doctor story with the two of them, though I’d leave that a while. Not until Capaldi’s last year in fact so as not to undermine him during his era.
Whilst the 12th Doctor has been mostly perfect for me, there have been a few things about him I have been unhappy with.
I disliked his problem with soldiers. To me this was out of character for the Doctor. He has worked with soldiers before and also it seems silly for the Doctor to hate soldiers. I get it that he hates war, but soldiers are really the last people you should hate in a war. Soldiers are not the people who start the wars or build the weapons that slaughter millions of innocent people or even order their use. Soldiers are often young men who are drafted into pointless conflicts to protect their loved ones at home.
Obviously yes some soldiers are murdering sadistic assholes, but since when has the Doctor looked on people in such a sweeping way. Is he gonna hate 14 year old boys dying and fighting in the Trenches of the First World War simply because they are soldiers? I understand Moffat wanted there to be some form of conflict between the Doctor and Danny without it just being the usual romantic rivalry, like Mickey and 9 and 10 and even 11 and Rory to some extent, but the Doctor hating soldiers was a big misstep in my opinion.
I also initially was not entirely happy with 12’s relationship with Clara. I have often commented on how I don’t feel there is any chemistry between Capaldi and Coleman. Not like there was between Smith and Coleman. I actually felt that Capaldi had better chemistry with other characters such as Osgood and Journey Blue.
Osgood I think 12 could have had something of a fatherly relationship with, as she greatly looked up to him and he seemed to have some affection for her too. I would love to see this type of dynamic return to the Doctor companion relationship actually. A lot of people think that its dated and sexist, but I don’t think so. As long as it’s done right then I think it could be interesting. Remember that Buffy and Giles had this type of relationship and it certainly wasn’t sexist.
12 and Journey Blue meanwhile I felt could have had a more genuinely tense relationship. I felt that 12 and Clara were just being written to fight with one another even when there was no reason too as the writers just simply wanted there to be conflict between the Doctor and his companion. 12 and Journey Blue meanwhile there would be more of a natural conflict between them due to their different methods. 12 and Journey Blue I can see having a 3 and Brigadier and 4 and Leela type of dynamic.
However I have now changed my opinion about Clara and 12. I actually quite like them together. I think that perhaps the subtleties of their relationship and the way Capaldi and Coleman acted off of one another were lost on me the first time I watched it.
Looking back on their relationship and also taking the Christmas special “Last Christmas” into account I can now see what they were trying to do with 12 and Clara and I rather like it.
12 and Clara have been very cold with one another. You almost wonder why they keep travelling together and I didn’t like it for that reason. However I now see that that is the point.
Clara clearly can’t take to 12 and his more unpredictable nature. The Doctor she is used to is a young, dashing, sweet affectionate character. That was one of the most likable things about 11 was the way he would take such unbelievable likings to people like the Ponds and Clara, and he was always hugging Clara too.
Even the past Doctors she worked with closely in “The Day of the Doctor” were more friendly than 12.
Tennant was another dashing young hero, very easy to get on with, whilst even the War Doctor, though much older was much more gentlemanly than 12.
12 however is obviously difficult to take to. He abandons Clara during their first story, and is very cold and rude to everyone around him, and where as 11 would give her a big warm hug every time he saw her, 12 doesn’t even seem to care when her boyfriend has died.
Thus not surprisingly Clara doesn’t really like 12, but she still stays with him almost out of habit more than anything else. However ultimately Clara learns to accept the new Doctor and ironically after the events of “Dark Water/Death in Heaven” we see Clara and 12 become much closer than 11 and Clara ever were. Their friendship is pushed to its limits and Clara sadly fails as she betrays the Doctor.
12 does forgives her however right away and on top of that he agrees to help her without a seconds hesitation. This shows that 12 still underneath his gruff exterior cares for her every bit as much as 11 did. Clara is genuinely touched by this to the point where she is reduced to tears and she is overwhelmed with guilt at having betrayed someone so close to her.
After this as they both suffer at the hands of the Master and Clara loses Danny again their relationship reaches a new level as they both lie to one another so as not to spoil what they think is the others chance at happiness. Clara tells the Doctor Danny is still alive as she doesn’t want to stop the Doctor going back home whilst The Doctor lies and says that he has found his home as he doesn’t want to ruin her chance of living a normal life with the man she loves. Thus though they are lying to each other, this shows how much they both care for each other that they are prepared to live in misery and silence so as not to spoil the others happiness and we see how Clara has changed from the woman who betrayed the Doctor to now not even letting him know that Danny is dead so he can go off home.
Later in “Last Christmas” when they both find out about the others lies their bond grows stronger as now they can relate to each other more and I must admit I found the moment with 12 and the old Clara to be one of the most moving Doctor companion moments I have ever seen. Far better than any moment she had with 11.
I am now glad that Clara is staying on for series 9. I think they have a chance to really show us how far Clara and the Doctor have come since 11’s time.
We will have seen Clara and the Doctor start out as friends who like each other, but ultimately have a very shallow relationship in 11’s time. Even the romantic undertones to the relationship are quite shallow. They just fancy each other, that’s it. Its not like 10 and Rose. 10 goes on about Rose making him a better man from the Time War, 11 goes on about Clara’s short skirt!
Then however in 12’s time we see the dynamic completely shook up. The Doctor changes into this difficult, awkward, angry character and Clara doesn’t really like him and really only stays with him out of habit. However after she betrays him she is overwhelmed with guilt when she sees just how loyal he is to her and after they both endure lose and suffer thanks to the Masters scheme they grow closer, enough to actually lie to one another in order to help the other.
Following this however when they reunite and discover that the other one lied they end up becoming much closer than ever before. Unlike in 11’s time Clara’s relationship with the Doctor is now fully fleshed out. She has seen the very worst aspects of his personality and he has seen the very worst aspects of hers, but they both remain friends. That’s what true friendship is founded on, and that’s why the Doctor and Clara post “Death in Heaven” have the closest bond of all. They have now seen what the other one is capable of in every respect, but they still want to be together, and they have also now been through so much together, that the other one is the only other person who can really understand.
I am really looking forward to seeing where they will take their relationship next year. Ironically Clara might very well in my opinion have the most developed relationship with the Doctor of any companion in the shows history. How many companions will we have seen go from a potential love interest to his squabbling sort of friend who regularly shouts at him, slaps him and then betrays him to finally becoming his closest and dearest friend. That’s quite a development and I can’t believe I didn’t see it that way before. I simply looked on it as 12 and Clara not getting along so that must mean that Coleman and Capaldi must not have that good chemistry. I just didn’t realize that that was the point that we were supposed to be seeing the darker side to their relationship this year before seeing their bond get closer than ever before.
I also like the fact that Clara will have been with the 12th Doctor for so long too. To me it reminds me of Sarah Jane and the 4th Doctor. I growing up in the 90’s always saw Sarah with 4 on the videos my parents bought me, and I remember how weird it was when I first saw a video of 3 and Sarah together. I like to think it will be the same for a kid in twenty years time who always thinks of Clara as being 12’s companion, and then it will seem so odd when they see 11 and Clara together in a DVD their parents buy them.
12’s relationship with Clara was definitely my biggest problem with his character for a long while, but now as you can see I actually rather like the way they have developed their relationship and the way Capaldi and Coleman play off of one another too.
They do bicker and fight, but once again they never go too far, and the scene in Dark Water where the Doctor agrees to help Clara in spite of her betrayal is one of my favorite moments with 12 and both Capaldi and Coleman are excellent in that scene. I love the way once again we see what a softie 12 actually is as he can barely stand to look at Clara crying because he knows he will start crying soon too.
The only aspect of 12 and Clara’s relationship I still dislike is all of this Clara is becoming more like the Doctor rubbish. I am sorry but I just don’t like that angle at all and I hope it doesn’t ruin the potentially strong bond Clara and 12 could have in series 9. They have already done the whole Doctor having a negative effect on his companions in 10’s time with Rose going from a likable character to a selfish bitch, and the whole “you make your companions into weapons” subplot in series 4 and to be honest I think stories like that always end up undermining the Doctor anyway. So I hope they just junk that storyline and make Clara and 12’s a very close relationship next year like we saw in the scene with the aged Clara in “Last Christmas”.
If they do that ironically Clara and 12 whom initially I wasn’t that keen on together, could very well end up becoming one of my all time favorite TARDIS teams and certainly one of the most well developed.
Overall as you can see 12 has fast become one of my favorite Doctors and I hope that Peter Capaldi stays in the role for 5 years. Three years is definitely too short for any Doctor, 5 is just about right and I think there is a lot that Capaldi can bring to this character having already packed so much in in his first year already.
What I want to see for the 12th Doctor in Series 9
- No more undermining Peter Capaldi: I think that the 12th Doctor much like the 9th and the 10th has been undermined for his companions too much. Jenna Coleman’s name even came up first before Peter Capaldi’s for “Death in Heaven”. I know it was meant as a joke, but still it seemed a bit too much. I think the Doctor becoming secondary to his companion often happens when you set too much of the series in the companions home. It becomes their show all about their life rather than the Doctors. With Danny gone hopefully this wont be a problem and we will see more stories on alien worlds rather than in Coal Hill School. Also I think that the whole female Doctor debate has kind of overshadowed Capaldi’s time too much. Everyone keeps talking about will his successor be a woman. Who cares who his successor will be, lets just focus on him right now. Though I realize that’s a complete cheek coming from me who has been involved in many a female Doctor debates.
- More Dalek Stories: Now I know a lot of fans are sick of the Daleks. Personally I still love them, and I want to see them again in 12’s time. 12 plays brilliantly off of them and “Into the Dalek” is one of my favorite Dalek stories, its an all time classic and a large part of it is because it is 12 that’s the Doctor in it. I could not imagine any other Doctor being in this story. Of the Doctors three main enemies The Daleks, The Cybermen and The Master, the Daleks are unquestionably the ones he works best with. I also want to see more of both Rusty and Journey Blue both of whom I feel have real potential.