Peter Capaldi: The kind of Doctor we didn’t realize we wanted.


Saying goodbye to a friend is always difficult. Many of us carry this romantic notion of what should be said, which sometimes ironically results in an awkward exchange that speaks more than words. This is no different for the followers of Doctor Who. After the always charismatic 11th Doctor (portrayed by Matt Smith) departed for a new Doctor, this source of inspiration and companionship morphing into something else left fans heartbroken. Yet, Doctor Who has always been a series that thrived upon change. As memorable as the eleventh Doctor is; the 12th Doctor (played by Peter Capaldi) has so far offered enough to interest old and new viewers alike.

At times, Smith’s run felt like a fairy tale that centered around a figure who managed to be both playful, yet old. In contrast, as someone who immediately comes across in a fiercer, less sure and concerned manner; Capaldi’s introduction blazes with personality. Despite all of his differences, Capaldi, in recognition of how important these elements are to the character, manages to bring new life to previous Doctor traits. Scenes such as one involving the Doctor defending his police box with a spoon presents the show’s absurd nature while still shedding light upon the character through universal themes.

The Doctor is back, with a new face, and new personality. Graphic from Tumblr
The Doctor is back, with a new face, and new personality. Graphic from Tumblr

Just like previous seasons of Doctor Who, the appeal of this new Doctor partly relies upon the character challenging showrunners through narrative ideas. From an early point in this current season, Capaldi’s Doctor resonates with a sense of moral uncertainty. The inner tension and stories that draw upon this cater to the strengths of Steven Moffat and other showrunners. Much of Moffat’s previous episodes are marked by unexpected moments that cycle back to previous character-defining situations. One scene involving a location used in the 50th anniversary special not only adds more potency to what the Doctor represents, but allows for history to be suggested without ruining the character’s mystery. Some may find the partly answered questions that follow this annoying, but it reconfirms the many effects this series is capable of creating.

The addition of companions for the Doctor is yet another time-honored tool that affects how the Doctor behaves, and how he is perceived by others. Clara, as she was with Smith, offers an almost maternal presence to the Doctor. Ignoring instances that feel kind of forced at the moment (such as her fondness for another character), she assists the Doctor from a literal and metaphorical perspective in ways that can be surprising at times. In addition to the moral ambiguity mentioned above, much of this season breaches heroism, even questioning it at times. This is not only a natural turn after considering the events of the 50th anniversary special, but further revitalizes the character through contrast to Smith’s Doctor.

With all of the differences and similarities to Smith that Capaldi brings, Doctor Who once again extends its hand to viewers, welcoming them into a world of magic with passion and understanding.