The Twelfth Doctor (Capaldi, not Grant)


If you’re puzzled by the headline, check here.

So, Doctor Who, new Doctor, episode 1:

(There may be spoilers. You know me. If you mind spoilers probably better not read reviews…)

Massive, massive brownie points for starting off by foregrounding a same-sex, mixed-race, mixed-class marriage. Yes, it’s a smart way to tick several politically correct boxes at once (hello Lt. Uhura) but it still lifted my heart.

It may also make the show unsaleable in a number of territories because it’s women behaving transgressively and not naughty twinkly Captain Jack, so that’s extra brownie points.

Demerit marks for the same old raggedy man/idiot savant intro. I was really hoping they’d let Capaldi come in like Ninth Doctor Eccleston – potent, charismatic, angry and in full control. It’s almost as if they wanted to make him less threatening than a real grown-up and more like a bumbling granddad. Let’s hope they improve on this in future episodes.

Brownie points for tackling the age issue head-on, and in terms the BBC’s target audience will understand. Hopefully they will build to a more nuanced understanding of the value of silver foxes and developed brains. (It’s no surprise that Clara couldn’t control her class, as shown in the flashback to her teaching career. If she’s so afraid and dismissive of grey hair, she couldn’t help but feel disadvantaged with an aggressive class allegedly six or seven years younger than herself.)

Demerit points for the usual incoherent screamy-shouty-runny-abouty presentation and the chaotic mishmash of the script. Also for the shameless appropriation of now-out-of-copyright Holmes tropes (although I really would like to see our gallant girl investigators get their own series.)

And more demerit points for making the Doctor so apologetic. It didn’t quite cancel out his acerbic snittiness – he’s got great snark potential – but it was a close-run thing.

Overall: interesting character with great possibilities, rubbish script ditto.

But what we must always remember, us old fans who started watching however many Doctors ago, is that this isn’t really meant for us. Readers of The Anime Encyclopedia may recall our authorial comments on the tropes of the pre-teen TV show in which the same giant robots, heroes and villains put on slight variations on the same costumes, get a new and marginally different name and rerun the same battles for the delectation of a new generation of kids. There are people out there for whom Capaldi will always be THE Doctor, their first Doctor, the first to save them from the Daleks and the Cybermen and make them wish they were his next companion.

They don’t care about any of the above. I think they deserve better, but what do I know? Too much grey to understand.


7 thoughts on “The Twelfth Doctor (Capaldi, not Grant)

  1. Do you think maybe they made the script feel so… stilted and awkward as a nod to the Doctor himself feeling not-himself? It bothered me, and about halfway through it I thought about that – maybe they were trying to invoke a general feeling of awkwardness?

    • I’d like to attribute such foresight and formal daring to the team, but in that case onl the Doctor’s POV would have been stilted and awkward, whereas really everyone’s was, most of the time. Only Vastra & Jenny came across as grounded and real throughout the episode. I’ve said right from their first appearance that those two should get their own series and it can’t come soon enough.

  2. I agree with you (and unfortunately I didn’t grow up with Doctor Who). I was naively hoping for a more determined, in command Doctor in Peter Capaldi and frankly found it annoying for everybody to be so apologetic about age… why? Is Moffat feeling old? But I still got my hopes for Capaldi, he nails it as an actor, now it just needs better, simpler, more subtle, cleaner and more sci-fi scripts.

    • I hope Capaldi doesn’t inherit the Curse of Matt Smith – a superb actor with the potential to be one of the greatest Doctors ever, let down by his scripts. Capaldi could be a thrilling mix of Hartnell & Eccleston plus extras of his own, if he only got the scripts. What is it about Doctor Who showrunners? RTD and Moffat are both absolutely superb writers but (IMO) they lose it when in command of Doctor Who.

      • It’s the dazzle of the TARDIS lantern, maybe… but I still prefer RTD’s writing as a show runner and Moffat’s as an episode writer, definitely not as a show runner. I’m with you in the hope there won’t be any “Curse of Peter Capaldi” in this one. We’ll see, only one episode yet, although one of the weakest show starters since 2005, in my mind.

      • I’m concerned that they feel the need to haul in the Daleks as early as episode 2 – but delighted that the Fatboy Daleks have been replaced by proper ones.

      • “Fatboy Daleks” is really funny!
        But at least with the Daleks it’s almost always a hit, unlike some of the “new” monsters. I’ve always felt The Silence being a rip off of my favourite Buffy, The Vampire Slayer episode (“Hush”, in season 4)… uncanilly similar.

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