Looking back at Peter Capaldi's time in the TARDIS
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So, the time is upon us once more: another Doctor’s reign is coming to an end.
For a long-time fan of Doctor Who like myself, this is always a momentous period. There is already a frenzy of speculation about who will be Peter Capaldi’s replacement in the time-honoured role - will it be a woman or a non-white actor for the first time in the show’s history? Do we know them well?
Whoever gets the role, they will have a lot of weight on their shoulders. They will be coming into the show at a period of great change, with current showrunner Steven Moffat leaving the programme in the hands of sometime contributor Chris Chibnall, most famous for his work on Broadchurch.
More than that, however, they will be taking over the TARDIS from Peter Capaldi, who has been a fantastic Doctor. On the eve of Capaldi’s final season of the show, it seems like a good time to look back over his time at the helm.
Firstly, Capaldi’s time has given us some wonderful characters and changes in the show. We have the glorious Missy who (spoilers!) is the first female incarnation of the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master. Michelle Gomez in this role is amazing, and it has been a pleasure to watch her interact with Capaldi’s Doctor. Then, of course, there is Clara. Many people aren't too keen on Twelve's first companion, but I would say she has been one of the best companions in a long time. She received so much development and was proven to be an equal to the Doctor (indeed, her prominence in the show is one of the reasons she has been disliked). Jenna Coleman did great things with the character, and her death scene is one of the most poignant and beautiful moments in the show’s history.
Then, of course, there have been the wonderful stories. We have seen fantastic new villains and the glorious return of old ones, like the Master and Davros. We have seen horror stories and comedy pieces; fantasy tales and thrillers. We have seen experimentation, character development and broad story development with the return of Gallifrey and the Time Lords in the 2015 season finale, Hell Bent. And all of that without mentioning one of the finest episodes of the programme in all of its history: Heaven Sent, in which Capaldi performed with (almost) no other characters present. The acting, in this episode alone, should have won the man many awards. It is a testament both to the strength of the writing and the acting that this risky episode went down so well.
Capaldi’s debut as the Doctor marked a stark difference in the lead role of the show. Gone were the days of the dashing young man as the Time Lord; here was an actor the same age as the original Doctor, William Hartnell. He was the oldest actor to take the role since the programme’s return in 2005, and, as Mark Gatiss once noted, it is interesting that casting an older person is now such a revolutionary thing to do in TV.
The Twelfth Doctor (yes, he is number twelve, despite the rather convoluted numbering problems thrown up by John Hurt’s War Doctor and David Tennant’s half-regeneration in 2008) has had two fantastic seasons so far. His first season marked a change in the Doctor’s characterisation - he was moody, curmudgeonly, ruthless and pitiless at times. He sacrificed people for the greater good. He was, altogether, a darker incarnation of the Doctor. This has been met with criticism - but I say bravo to it. It's something different and fresh, and an altogether fascinating take on a millennia-old alien being who has seen and lost so much during his long life.
The Doctor spent his first season finding himself, wondering whether he was a good man. He found the answer in the end - no, he was not a good man, or a bad man, but an idiot passing through and helping. Capaldi’s acting throughout the season was fantastic, but that moment in the season finale, where he gives the speech to Missy about who he is, stands out as the best among many moments.
Capaldi’s second season was markedly different - still the same, edgier Doctor, but with a more light-hearted and funny tone, which allowed Capaldi to show off more of his range. As mentioned above, his solo episode allowed him to truly shine, and the season finale reintroduced some vital aspects to the show’s mythology. The two Christmas specials that have followed have been somewhat average, but even then there are shining moments, such as the Doctor’s final night with River Song.
All things considered, Peter Capaldi’s reign has been tremendous. He is a fine actor, and the show will miss him, and Steven Moffat. Nonetheless, here’s to the future. After all, everything changes.
Doctor Who returns on Saturday 15th April at 7.20pm on BBC One.
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