Written by Andrew Tobia of ComicsVerse, a blog, podcast, and comic book community with an in-depth, analytical look at comics books, graphic novels, and comic book culture.
The world will finally get its first full-episode look at Peter Capaldi’s take on The Doctor today, when Doctor Who series 8 premieres on BBC America at 8 pm eastern (7 pm central).
I love Matt Smith. He was my first Doctor, so I will always love Matt Smith. But, truth be told, I’m ready for a new incarnation. It’s time. And I think Peter Capaldi is going to be fantastic. I have high hopes for him. I’m all excitement. Here’s why, in six handy sub-headings.
It’s a New Doctor
We’re getting a new Doctor. That’s tremendously exciting in and of itself. Even before Capaldi was announced, I had butterflies about the prospects of a new Doctor. And why not? A new Doctor is a gift. Its Christmas morning, pulling the wrapping off that big box, eyes wide, to find out what’s inside. A new Doctor is a clean slate — like that time a cop caught you doing that thing you don’t like to tell people about, but the judge gave you community service with expungement upon completion instead of jail time. A new Doctor is a fresh start.
No Unrequited Love
Listen, I like a good romance as much as the next guy. But the Doctor has had companion after companion harboring romantic or sexual feelings for him. To name a few off the top of my head: Sarah Jane Smith (implied), Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Bernice Summerfield (who appeared almost exclusively in prose stories, if memory serves), River Song (though not a companion, strictly speaking), Amy Pond, and possibly Clara Oswald have all had feelings for him. Smith’s Doctor could be quite flirty. If I’m being frank, though, it was all becoming a bit tiresome.
For a while a rumor was circulating that, shortly after being cast, Capaldi sat producer/head writer Steven Moffat down and said, unequivocally, “I’ll have none of this flirting business.” Both Capaldi and Moffat have since gone on the record saying that such a conversation never happened, but I do expect that the Doctor-companion romantics will be dialed back considerably, if not outright abandoned, moving forward.
Word on the street is that Capaldi has played a larger role in writing the Doctor than any of his predecessors. I haven’t seen anything official about this, either one or another, but let’s be honest with ourselves here — he’s an Oscar-winning writer, for goodness sake. Even if he hasn’t put pen to paper, he’s definitely had an influence on Moffat, his writing, and his plans. I’d put money on it. I make no secret of the fact that I believe the longer Moffat writes Doctor Who, the more derivative the episodes become. The same themes and treatments come up time and time again. So what will Capaldi’s influence mean?
A Darker, More Serious Show…
Just about everyone involved with Doctor Who — Capaldi, Moffat, Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara — have all been quoted saying that series 8 is going to be just that. And I don’t think it’s just been your standard pre-series hype. I think Capaldi came on board with the clear idea of taking the Doctor to places darker and more sinister than he’s been, and he’s made sure that the writing went in that direction. Like the Doctor says in the trailers: “I’ve made many mistakes, and it’s about time that I did something about that.” I think we can expect to see the Doctor with a lot of regret and in a lot of pain, making decisions with serious repercussions that he’s going to hold himself more responsible for than we’ve seen him do in the past.
That said, I don’t think we have only doom and gloom ahead of us.
Without Abandoning the Whimsy We’ve Come to Love
William Hartnell’s Doctor, the First Doctor, was not a nice being. He wasn’t. He was paranoid, rude, mean, bossy, and terribly arrogant. Since then, however, the Doctor has been played with increasing whimsy. Something like a youthful wonderment. He can be plain old goofy, at times. Smith would be the shining example of this, though Tenth Doctor David Tenant and most incarnations before them all gave their contribution to this side of the character. This whimsy is likely a large part of what the modern audience likes about the Doctor so much. I know it is for me.
And I think Capaldi knows this, too. He may be steering the Doctor down darker roads, exploring the pain or fury that we’ve seen glimpses of in the past, but I don’t think he would ever dream of abandoning that charmingly comical, whimsical side of the Doctor. We’ll still have that.
Need I say more? Case closed.