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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