Meeting the Doctor… Again

Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor has debuted. So what’s the verdict? How does the future of Doctor Who look?

Well, we’re only two episodes in, and that doesn’t supply enough information to render final judgment, but here’s my initial impression:

The Doctor is a captivating jerk.

unnamedCapaldi’s performance is superb. He commands the viewer’s attention, and like all great actors, his character seems to have quite a bit going on beneath the surface. Tremendous screen presence.

He’s the oldest Doctor of modern Doctor Who and especially older than the 10th and 11th incarnations (David Tennant and Matt Smith, respectively). As wonderful as his predecessors were, that’s a nice change of pace. Less running around, more mature speech patterns. I doubt we’ll hear him invent phrases like “timey-wimey.”

“Old” doesn’t mean “weak” with this Doctor. Quite the opposite. He exudes formidability and intelligence, turning longevity into a strength (appropriate for a series that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary). If the world was in danger, you’d want his help.

But he’s also a harsher Doctor, which is troubling. Whereas past Doctors might have lapses into unintentional rudeness as they’d get lost in their own heads, the new Doctor seems entirely cut off from any empathy. In the premiere episode, “Deep Breath,” he leaves his companion Clara to fend for herself in a dangerous situation, and in “Into the Dalek,” he displays no remorse when someone dies right before him.

Doctor_Who__Peter_Capaldi_favourite_to_replace_Matt_SmithThis detachment renders the Doctor’s behavior downright alien. And though he is an alien, he’s also a character in what was originally conceived as a children’s show. Doctor Who has grown up into a series that can appeal to many different age groups, but my feeling is the Doctor should always remain a good role model for younger viewers. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he should continue to hold all life in the highest regard, maybe show some warmth and understanding once in a while. Maybe he’ll mellow out and get there, but so far, this isn’t a Doctor I can recommend as a role model.

But for the adult viewer, he’s still a fascinating character, and I’m curious to see what happens to him. Capaldi’s performance has my attention.

Daniel Sherrier

Daniel Sherrier is a writer based in central Virginia. This is the guy who writes the "Earths in Space" and "RIP" book series, which you’ve doubtless heard much about. Occasionally, a play he’s written gets performed somewhere. He graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2005, where he earned a degree in the ever-lucrative fields of English and Theatre. Recently, he achieved his black belt in Thai kickboxing. And there was that one time he jumped out of an airplane, which was memorable. For more about his work, see sherrierbooks.com.