Okay I’ll admit this is more of a subjective title as after all I’m sure that the Capaldi era has its fans. Also the Capaldi era technically is not over yet as it still has one season to go.
However I think overall its fair to say that the Capaldi era has been a failure. Its viewing figures have dropped every year, fan reaction has been mostly negative, its been snubbed by major awards ceremonies that the show used to win big at. Also personally I think that the quality of its stories is overall lower than any previous era in the shows history.
Thus even if series 10 is the greatest series in DW’s history (which given its two predecessors is unlikely) Then sadly most of the Capaldi era has still been a big let down for me and it seems most fans and mainstream viewers too.
In this article I am going to explore why I feel this era didn’t work, what mistakes were made, and how they can hopefully be rectified for the New Doctors era.
Note: Nothing in this article is a dig against Capadi’s performance as the Doctor. I think Capaldi has been the only good thing about his era. He was an inspired choice for the Doctor, and his dedication to the role was as great as any of the previous 11 leading actors.
Much like Colin Baker before him, poor old Peter I think was just the Doctor at the wrong time, wrong place. Hopefully like Colin he’ll get better material on Big Finish later (though even then I still wouldn’t say anything in Colin’s time approaches the worst in Peters era)
1/ His Companion
Now I do not dislike Clara as a character overall or Jenna Coleman as an actress. I loved her with Matt Smith, but sadly I feel she just didn’t click with Capaldi.
I tried to find a way to appreciate Clara and 12. Before I looked at it from a point of view of “maybe they were going for an odd couple vibe with them?” but ultimately in hindsight now that Clara’s story is over I just feel that she and 12 were a mess.
To start with Clara and 12 had 0 chemistry with each other. I’m sure Jenna and Peter got on well with each other in real life, but on screen they didn’t gel.
They weren’t a natural fit for one another. They had nothing in common with each other, and came from totally different backgrounds. Jenna’s a 20 something millenial who comes from a middle class English background, she also was famous when she was a teenager. Peter meanwhile is pushing 60, and comes from a poor, working class Scots background.
Peter’s acting style is also always quite intense and angry, Jenna’s meanwhile is very laid back, humorous, and bubbly.
Thus as a Doctor and companion who were just friends, then they didn’t mesh because they were too different. This was made all the more apparent by how well Jenna and Matt gelled with each other. Matt did come from a similar background to Jenna, had a similar acting style of being more light, silly, cheery, (Steven Moff even said that he cast Jenna because she was the only actress who could speak as quickly as Matt) and he was ages with her too. They were a perfect fit in every way, as friends, love interests etc.
Not only did Jenna and Peter not work as friends like 11 and Jenna or Sarah and 4, but they also obviously couldn’t go down the romance route like they did with other companions such as Rose and 9, or 10 and Martha either.
At the same time they also couldn’t have the Doctor being a father figure to Jenna either, like 2 and Zoe, Jo and 3, 7 and Ace, as it had been established that the Doctor wanted to shag Clara in 11’s era.
Thus their only option was to make their relationship strained, but there were several problems with this. First of all it didn’t really fit Clara’s character to be so nasty to the Doctor.
What had made the 11 and Clara relationship so wonderful was the way Clara and the Doctor genuinely loved each other. It was always such an affectionate, warm relationship whether that was Clara throwing herself into the Doctors timeline to save his life, or even just little moments like Clara helping an elderly Doctor pull the cracker.
To suddenly rewrite Clara into being a bossy, aggressive, controlling narcissist who would violently smack the Doctor, or threaten to hit him so hard he would regenerate just didn’t feel like the same character at all.
Also Clara suddenly having a problem with the Doctor looking old felt a bit odd too. Not only did Clara have experience of all the previous Doctors but there was also a scene in The Day of the Doctor where she meets the War Doctor and says that she can tell he looks younger than her Doctor. Now whilst this might seem a bit of a daft thing to say at first, I actually quite liked this line as again to me it showed how well Clara knows and loves the Doctor. Regardless of whatever face he is wearing, Clara can see who he really is underneath.
Even if he’s wearing the face of a 70 plus year old man, Clara can still tell he’s younger as he doesn’t have the look of weariness and guilt on his face that the 11th Doctor with the face of a 20 something had.
However once again this was tossed out of the window when 12 showed up and Clara had a problem with him looking old. In fact Clara was ready to abandon the 12th Doctor until 11 had to phone her and convince her he was the same man!
To be fair they did try and soften the relationship between Clara and the Doctor in season 9 which I think was a brilliant idea, but even then I don’t think it really worked.
Suddenly Clara and the Doctor loved each other so much the Doctor was willing to destroy all of reality to save her? Now obviously Clara and the Doctor care about each other, but really I don’t see any reason he would care about her more than every other companion he has ever had.
And he does. He never went back to change history when Adric was blown to pieces, or when he believed Peri had died a slow, agonising death, or when Amy and Rory were taken from him, or when Jack was shot by a Dalek, or even when he believed Rose was vaporised in Bad Wolf!
So Clara it seems outranks all of these people? Why? Again what build up was there to this? Its not even like 12 was meant to have romantic feelings for her?
Its a shame as it might have been interesting in series 9 to see Clara and 12 after their rough patch in series 8 become a lot more genuinely close, but sadly I think they jumped a bit too far in the finale with the silly hybrid storyline which left the whole arc feeling like a mess.
Added to that I feel that Clara began to take over the show far too much, with many of the stories revolving around her, her place of work, her boyfriend, her influence on the Doctor etc.
I think it would have been better if Jenna had left at the end of series 8. I understand why they kept her to ease the transition from Doctor to Doctor, but really after series 8, Capaldi should have gotten his own companion.
Ultimately he was saddled with a companion who was really cast and written for 11 throughout almost the entirety of his era which was a shame.
2/ Weak Enemies
The 12th Doctor had relatively weak enemies. There were certainly no strong new foes introduced during his era like Davros, Sil, The Weeping Angels, or even the Silence.
Added to that many of the one off enemies were boring, one note or ineffective like the Lion man, or the clockwork droid.
Worse than that however all of the Doctors classic rogues were weak during this era too.
The Master, the Doctors archenemy lost all menace during 12’s era. Leaving aside the controversial and pandering gender change, Missy is the worst version of the Master anyway.
To be honest I actually think that if Missy were played by a man then more people would view her as the worst incarnation of the Master. As it is I think most people are scared to say that out of fear of being called sexist. Don’t get me wrong Michelle Gomez is a great actress and she does play the role well, and I am not saying that there are no genuine fans of Missy, but consider the following factors.
Missy in her first appearance actually hands victory over to the Doctor. She has an army of unbeatable Cybermen who can convert those they kill and she hands it over to her mortal enemy with no way of taking it back?
Imagine if Lex Luthor devised a weapon that would allow him to take over the entire world and just when he was on the cusp of victory he handed it over to Superman in the hopes that Superman of all people would go evil and use it to rule the world?
You’d think he was a pretty lame supervillain. Added to that it is revealed that Missy brought the Doctor and Clara together because she hoped the Doctor would love Clara so much he would destroy the universe for her.
Leaving aside how ridiculous that is. How could Missy know that the Doctor would even like Clara? It also not only doesn’t work, but ironically is responsible for the creation of the universes greatest heroes.
Think about it, its Clara who not only saved the Doctor in every story, but who also helped the Doctor conquer his fear as a boy which ultimately resulted in him becoming the hero he was.
Thus no Clara, no Doctor. This technically makes Missy responsible for all of the past Master defeats at the Doctors hands too. On top of that it was also obviously only because of the Doctor that other heroes such as Jack, and River Song came into being. Finally Clara ends up becoming arguably a greater hero than the Doctor himself. Not only does she get a TARDIS, but she also becomes completely indestructable and has a sidekick who has lived throughout most of the universes history.
So Missy in her attempt to make one hero go bad, created at least 4 great heroes, one of whom can’t be killed and can travel to any point in history and another who thwarted her at every turn.
Finally in her second appearance what does Missy actually do? Seriously? She just bums about a bit on Skaro and is mean to Clara. What’s her villain plan? What does she actually accomplish in either of her appearances.
Its true that the old Masters didn’t always have the most well thought out plans, but at least they were proper villains who tried to conquer the universe and who the Doctor actually had to battle against.
Compare Missy with even just her immediate predecessor.
Simm’s Master’s plan is to create a new time lord empire in his first story, and to free his people from the time war and then enslave them in his second.
In his first story he manages to trick the Doctors companions family into betraying him, dupes the UK into voting for him as Prime Minister, outfoxes UNIT, Torchwood and the Doctor for many months, as he hides in plain sight from all of them. He also conquers the entire earth, slaughters billions, and captures the Doctor and Jack and tortures them for a whole year, before nearly successfully waging war on the rest of the universe and changing the entire history of the Universe.
Its takes the Doctor an entire year of torture, as well as Martha wandering the earth for a year to take the Master down. In his second story meanwhile technically the Doctor doesn’t beat him. Its Rassilon that reverses the Master race.
The only villainous thing Missy does of any note is kill Osgood but that’s it in 4 episodes. Imagine if she didn’t do that. What menace would she have posed in Dark Water/Death in Heaven? She would have shown up, kissed the Doctor, created Cybermen and then handed them over to the Doctor, where he could have just ordered them to blow up. And then in her second episode she would have actually done nothing but help Clara find the Doctor, and save the Doctor and Clara from the Daleks! I suppose she does kill one more UNIT lackey and one of her own minions, but again that’s not really much for one of the Doctors greatest foes. Osgood’s death is the only major moment of villainy for Missy.
You can’t say that John Simm’s Masters villainy rests entirely on one scene. If he didn’t say kill the President then he would still have have his conquest of the earth (both times), his manipulation of the British people, his attempt to free the time lords etc.
And all of this is before we get into the fact that she lusts after the Doctor which only further demeans the Master by turning him into more of a jealous ex of the Doctor than his archenemy.
Sadly the Cybermen didn’t fair much better in Capaldi’s time either. They were reduced to being nothing more than Missy’s mooks before being vanquished by the power of love. Also much like Missy the Cybermen do bugger all in their big two part finale.
They just stand about get some people taking selfies with them and then fly away, before clomping about in a graveyard. We do see them briefly attack an airplane. Again though that’s not really much for one of the shows greatest monsters. Take a look at Doomsday for instance. By no means the Cybermen’s greatest appearance, they still slaughter millions of people on earth and destroy Torchwood 1.
The Daleks meanwhile fared slightly better. Their first story Into the Dalek was brilliant and really treated the monsters as a legitimate menace. However sadly their season 9 appearance was I think the weakest Dalek story in New Who.
I enjoyed it at the time sure as it was nice to see the different Dalek variants and Skaro again. Still much like with the Cybermen and the Master the problem is what do the Daleks actually do in that story? They just hobble about a bit in their main room, fail to kill two people, get compared to dodgems and then are beaten by a clogged pipe.
Added to that there was also some bad rewriting of Dalek lore and history. In Genesis of the Daleks it was established that the Daleks have no concept of pity as Davros removed it from them.
In this story however in a direct contradiction of that defining moment in Genesis here we discover that actually no they do, and have always done thanks to something 12 did when Davros was just a boy.
Finally Rassilon, a major character from Classic Who, who was practically portrayed as the God of all time lords, who when he previously appeared, threatened all of reality, and vaporized people just for peaking up against him. Is portrayed as a helpless old man who the Doctor beats practically by staring.
During 12’s era Moffat didn’t treat the Classic era villains with any kind of respect. He just rolled them out for commercial value, but didn’t bother to try and do anything with them. They were often just there, and he even took the piss out of them at various points too and changed key aspects of their characters such as making the Master in love with the Doctor, or revealing that Daleks suddenly have pity after all.
Too Much Focus On Continuity
There were far too many references to previous Doctors and even archive footage of them in 12’s era. I felt this was a mistake for many reasons.
One, it alienated new viewers who were unfamiliar with the shows past. Two, Moffat often rewrote the continuity he revelled in which naturally displeased the fans.
Also finally I think that focusing too much on a long running shows history it kind of looks like you don’t have faith in the current set up. You have to keep telling people “its the same show, its the same show” rather than trust people will still watch it.
Too Much SJW Pandering
Okay I know I have gone on about this before but it is true. Steven Moffat I feel started to pander the feminist fans who slandered him unfairly as a sexist, racist etc and personally I think the show suffered for it.
Clara was given for too important a role for what is ultimately a side character, Michelle Gomez was only cast as the Master because she was a woman (and Steven Moffat wanted to lay the groundwork for a female Doctor.
Gomez was not in the role of the Master on merit. She could have been the Rani,a female archenemy of the Doctor that she would have been perfect for, and had Moffat been casting actors based on who is right for the role, rather than box ticking then Gomez would have been the Rani and a male actor would have been the Master.
Added to that there have also been more anti men jokes in the show. I don’t mind them in principle, but its just that it feels like a double standard when its all one way, and on top of the fact that the show is replacing all of its male roles with women essentially, the Master, UNIT, possibly the Doctor himself makes it clear which audience its going after.
Identity politics is divisive and takes over whatever franchise it latches itself onto. Look at the recent flop of a Ghostbusters movie for another fine example of how identity politics can sink a major franchise. Personally I think this has been one of the biggest problems of the 12th Doctors era.
Peter Capaldi was a damn fine Doctor, but sadly his era was hampered by many other factors.
I think the lessons that can be learned here are as follows. 1/ For the next Doctor find a companion that fits them and their personality. 2/ Don’t let the companion overshadow the Doctor. 3/ Don’t re use classic era villains unless you have a great idea for them. 4/ When you use them, make sure that they are treated with respect. No jokes, let them cause lots of damage, don’t undermine them for other villains, and write them in character. 5/ No more continuity porn. I don’t mind the odd reference, but keep it in moderation. 6/ No more pandering to feminist fans or identity politics. Keep that divisive bullshit that only a tiny section of the audience appreciates out and cast actors on merit rather than because you feel you need more women or black actors in the show.
If Chibnall does all of these things for 13’s era there is a chance that Doctor Who might be able to crawl back from the abyss its been dragged too.
I said I wasn’t going to do any more articles about the problems of New Who, but I felt I had become too focused on the identity politics side of it. There were other problems to be fair and so that’s why I decided to talk about these here, though obviously I couldn’t not mention the identity politics side of it either.
Let me know what you think about my points, if you agree with them, or if the 12th Doctors era is a favourite of yours in the comments below.