DOCTOR WHO: How Does Peter Capaldi Measure Up As The New Doctor?

It happens after every regeneration.

A new face. A new attitude. A new Doctor.


And with every incarnation, we have to make adjustments to what or who we thought The Doctor was and is, and so it is with Peter Capaldi. Actually, more so with Capladi. For after nearly ten years of a younger, hipper Doctor, the Gallifreyan, renegade Time Lord is starting show his over 2000 years. The new face is older, ‘angrier’ and more unlike any Doctor since, well, ever. And, as it always is with the change, the question that we hear over and over again usually gravitates around how the new actor rates against everything that has come before.

Capaldi and William Hartnell were both picked to play THE DOCTOR at the ripe age of 55!
Capaldi and William Hartnell were both picked to play THE DOCTOR at the ripe age of 55!

But, is that the proper question?

After watching the first two outings by Capaldi, we’ve been served up everything from a confused, nearly Alzheimer-like groping in the dark to the fear of an old enemy that outs him as being exactly who he claims to be. As I mentioned in my first article, we experience this new Doctor through the eyes of the saddened, maddened and spellbound Clara. She was his impossible girl, and to her, it seems like we have lost him. She has to be convinced much like the current fan base. But he doesn’t look like the Doctor. Act like the Doctor. Speak like the Doctor. Really? Can we, like Clara, step up and dare to look into his ancient eyes and see all of his past selves shine through? After all we have seen and been through, can we simply dismiss this man?

So, what is the question?

Is it, ‘What does the Doctor look like?’  For, if you have been around long enough, you know the magic of who the Doctor is explodes partially through his ability to morph like a chameleon and show different parts of himself though each and every regeneration. I remember my first real Doctor.  It was a disheveled, scarf wearing, googly-eyed enigma that blew in with his blue box and robotic dog to save the day and confound you on a weekly basis.  Played by Tom Baker, The Doctor wore curly locks, sucked on jelly babies and was never at a loss for words or a plan. So, when the change came and the Doctor became a sauvé, blonde haired no-nonsense kind of guy, it took me back a step.  Suddenly, it wasn’t the Doctor I was used to.  That brash realization and college saw me breaking contact with the Doctor for years!

The transition between Tom Baker and Peter Davidson was almost night and day
The transition between Tom Baker and Peter Davidson was almost night and day

That will surely happen with some fans today. When they see that the Doctor is no longer the eye-candy he once was, some will flee the show.  He’s funny, but not in the same way as Tennant and Smith. He has a brash, Scottish humor that goes with those ‘angry’ eyebrows and tends to insult everyone he comes in contact with. Unlike 10 and 11, this new Doctor needs to learn.  He is no longer the part Jesus, part Gandhi figure that always makes the right decisions and will always save the day. Now, he leaves his companion behind to improvise and sometimes needs a good smack to the face along with a lesson on what being the Doctor means.

Maybe, as we experience this new face through the eyes of Clara, we will also be the ones in need of a smack and a lesson on just who the Doctor is.

I believe the question is definitely NOT whether this actor plays a good Doctor. Capaldi is a masterful actor and commands the screen in any role. He can absolutely BECOME the Doctor. Maybe the question that rules the day amongst many disgruntled fans, especially those who jumped on with 2005 reboot, is simply does Peter Capaldi play a good Matt Smith or David Tennant? Because it seems that is these expectations that have been squashed. Superficial fans who have followed the story for the boy toys that commanded the role during the last three incarnations. Now, am I saying that the ‘boy toys’ (Smith and Tennant) were bad Doctors?  No way. I loved each and every minute of their tenure. They, like so many Doctors before them, brought a bit of the Doctor to light.

Doctor Who tardis

And that’s the point, isn’t it? If you have given the first two episodes an honest look, you would know that the tone and theme of the Capaldi’s Doctor is actually about his true identity and him feeling more comfortable and safer around us.  Comfortable enough to let us see past the veil (thank you, Lady Vastra). No more pretenses. No more prettying up the truth. We have finally gotten to the point that the Doctor begins to let us inside. He lets us see the man behind the curtain. The great and terrible OZ!  He wants to reveal himself to us all. And we will either walk away or stand by his side like Clara.

But being that close to the Doctor also means taking the dark with the light; the good with the bad. He’s digging deep into his very essence and even he’s not sure he wants to know who he is. You can see it in his eyes. He’s unsure how far he wants to dig. Then, we go with him into the heart of the enemy and see him offer a peak into his very soul for a chance to change everything only to find out that the Doctor has darkness deed down. That much like all of us, we can’t see ourselves making it to Paradise (Who is Missy?). Too many questionable things done in our past. Too many sins.

But, the struggle continues doesn’t it?

"Am I a good man?"
“Am I a good man?”

We’re not done on our journey any more than the Doctor is with his.  Two episodes in and we can’t simply know the answer to the all important question from the latest episode, INTO THE DALEK. “Am I a good man?”  We must simply answer with Clara, “I don’t know.”  But this is a season riddled with questions isn’t it?

“Am I a good man?”

“Are you capable of Murder?”

“Is it worth it?”

These questions have to go unanswered for now.  But, we MUST also add a bit to our simple answer of ‘I don’t know’. If we have been paying attention, we will continue to answer with Clara, “You asked me if you were a good man. And the answer is, I don’t know. But I think you try to be. And I think that’s probably the point.”

So, is Capaldi a good Doctor?  I have to say that I don’t know.  But he’s trying masterfully to be a good Doctor and that’s probably the point. Stay tuned.

Will we discover with Clara just how good Capaldi is?
Will we discover with Clara just how good Capaldi is?

“One day you meet the Doctor. And of course, it’s the best day ever. It’s just the best day of your life. Because…because, he’s brilliant, and he’s funny, and mad, and best of all…really needs you. The trick is – don’t fall in love. I do that trick quite a lot, sometimes twice a day. And once you start running, you start to forget; slowly, after a while, you just stopping asking. Who are you? Where are you from? What set you on your way and where are you going? Oh…and what is your name? You get used to not knowing. I thought I never would. I was wrong. I know who he is. I know how he began and I know where he’s going. I learnt the truth about the Doctor and his greatest secret the day we went to Trenzalore.”

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  • Ginger Crawford

    I wish people would stop lumping Ten and 11 together, they were pretty much polar opposites. The He Man Woman Haterz Club would have you think people only liked Tennant for his looks. They could not be more wrong.

    • Jacked UP

      I came back on board with Tennant and loved what he did. I loved Smith. AND I LOVE Capaldi. I didn’t mean to sound shallow in my description. They are very different, yet they are both eye candy. There’s more to them than that, but they are younger than Capaldi and the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe I will delve deeper…

      • FoxySonia

        I love Tennant and Smith, and the fact that they were younger and good looking probably helped, but they are also great actors and their portrayal of the Doctor was what made me become a Doctor Who fan, I love their personalities. This new Doctor’s personality I can barely stand, leaves too much to be desired and makes it very hard to like him. I find him boring and too much like a grumpy old man that’s seen too much and has let himself become too numb by all he’s seen and no longer wish to feel. I love the 10th and 11th Doctor’s humanity, both have big hearts, and their love of humans–how they thought everyone count and can make a difference–how they considered everyone to have the potential to be someone special in the universe; and I loved their quirks. 11th seems to me to have ADHD which I thought made him funnier. I really enjoyed them as the Doctor and miss seeing them, so it’s hard to give a new Doctor a chance, but I’m trying. Out of series 8, I only liked 2 episodes, including the last one/Christmas special, which I think was the best one of this season. Let’s hope series 9 will be better.

  • John McCubbin

    So far I’ve been loving Capaldi as the Doctor (as my reviews on the site have reiterated), and I can honestly see him becoming one of the best Doctors ever.

    • FoxySonia

      I think there are 2 groups of people, those that like/love Capaldi as the new Doctor, and those that don’t like him/can’t stand him/hate him.

  • Starbuck Severin Avon

    Peter had me hooked before I even saw him as the Doctor. Call me a Capaldi Faithful Fangirl.

  • julia

    I’ve loved Eccleston, Tennant, AND Smith (I’m sad to say that I’ve only watched a few classics, so I can’t really make a judgement on those), and so far I’m loving Capaldi, too. He’s not portrayed as quite as capable as the others, but that’s the hilarious bit 😀

  • Aly

    I’m loving Capaldi. As a kid, my favorite was 4 (his were the only episodes we had for a long time, lol!), and then David Tennant swept in took the top spot.
    But I think 12 has now taken the crown. I hope the naysayers will continue with him, give him a chance.

  • Love Pancakes

    I’m hating Capaldi. Too boring. None of all five episodes got me hooked. Dull as hell. I’m afraid I won’t keep watching Doctor Who if things keep this bloody boring way.

    • FoxySonia

      He is a bit boring, a lot less exciting and likable than the other Doctors of the new series (Doctor 9 though 11), but I’m trying to give him a chance, give it time to see if his acting and the writing will improve. Maybe on series 9 we’ll like him better. As a new Doctor Who series fan I don’t want to see the series get cancelled.

  • CovertRain

    Simply can’t stand him. The least fun, least charming and least likeable version of the Doctor in modern times. Can’t wait for the next regeneration.

    • FoxySonia

      That’s what I’m afraid off. Haven’t seen any of the episodes from series 8 yet. Will give it a chance and try my best to like this new Doctor, but it’s so hard to when he appears to be so lacking in charm. BTW, I thought this was the Doctor’s last regeneration, actually a surprise one, since he’s only supposed to have a total of 12 and I believe this was his 13th.

      • CovertRain

        They addressed that at the end of Matt Smith’s turn as the Doctor. The Time Lords renewed his regeneration energy giving him more regenerations (possibly endless).

        Also, as an update I will say they toned down Capaldi a bit by seasons end. They finally stopped making him out to be a crank. Having said that I still don’t like him.

        • FoxySonia

          Yes, I understand that he got his regenerations renewed, but didn’t understand if it was the Time Lords that did that, how did they, if they are frozen/lost somewhere, and why did they do that?

          I just finished watching the last episode of series 8. Finally a good episode, sadly it had to be the last one. The Doctor seemed to have mellowed out a bit or become less cranky, so I dislike him less. I’m still willing to him him a chance and hope he’ll be better on series 9. I liked Clara and will miss her, but she was a much better fit for the 11th Doctor. She doesn’t have the same on screen chemistry with this older, less likable Doctor. Maybe an older woman, or a man, would make a better companion for him. I just hope the writers give us better stories.

          • CovertRain

            If I recall correctly it was the Time Lords that granted it to him. I am not sure how they did it exactly. They really never explained that other than it was them giving him more “time”.

  • Ebolavirus

    is the next regeneration within the next episode? Capaldi is a stinker , somethings missing i cant even sit thru an episode without falling asleep.

    • FoxySonia

      David Tennant and Matt Smith were the most likable Doctors and leave shoes that are very hard to fill. Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor might seem boring, less emotional and more grumpy, but according to fans of Classic Doctor Who, he’s more like the older Doctors in the series. I haven’t watched the Classic series, except for a handful of episodes when I was much younger, but have watched all the epsiodes of the new series (from 2005-2014). This Doctor is harder to like, but I’m trying to give him a chance, hoping that the acting and the writing will improve. Maybe in series 9. As a new fan I don’t want to see the series get cancelled.

  • TimeyWhimey

    Being from across the pond (USA) I started watching when the series was re-launched. I got hooked on the storylines and the actors. The first 3 all had their own take of the doctor, with help from the writers I would assume. Tenant and Smith were the most entertaining, Eccelson was good also in a more subdued way. Smith and Coleman were my favorite in how their characters interacted and the storyline from the writers had such potential. All 3 saw the good and bad in humanity from the beginning and always tried to bring out the best. They got frustrated at times and even angry at times which is the underlying basis of the Doctor. With all that said, I am not seeing or feeling the same with the new Doctor. Seeing humans as pudding heads and in some way less superior or worthy. I remember Capaldi in the 3 musketeers and was great in that role. He is just not a good fit as the Doctor, maybe the writers haven’t helped either. Like many have said he is more of a grumpy father who is always disappointed. Todays viewers are younger and are use to an actor more like them and entertainment that is more engaging on a personal level. As you can guess, I am not a fan of the new Doctor or the storylines the writers have developed. I have tried to watch the two seasons, and it has been very difficult. I much rather have Clara stay and the regenerate. Continue her role as the Impossible girl and expand on that with a Doctor that can evolve along that premise. I am afraid that the series will meet with the same fate as the original (cancelation) if a new doctor is not introduced. If a change is not made, I for one can not continue to watch this boring wondering around show. I beg the BBC to return back to the pre-Capaldi vision of the show (2005-2013) with a new Doctor.